"The Golden Girls play Nancy Drew in their own funny and creative ways...colorful and Meshugeneh."-Mystery Scene
After schlepping all over New York City, senior PI Gladdy Gold is happy to be back on Florida turf. Especially now that she and Jack Langford are officially an item. But no sooner has the yenta brigade gotten back to their favorite routines, such as poolside stretching and kvetching-than the notorious outlaw, the "Grandpa Bandit," issues Gladdy's detective agency a direct challenge: Catch me if you can.
The dapper thief has hit six Fort Lauderdale banks and it's up to Gladdy and the girls to stop him before he robs another. But a bandit takes a back burner to murder any day-especially when a monster hurricane reveals a 50-year-skeleton at Lanai Gardens retirement community.
Gladdy and the gals are about to uncover a ruthless killer-if he doesn't kill them first!!
"Ms. Lakin pens an entertaining cozy mystery series with a set of lovable and oddball characters. The mystery has a puzzling plot with twists and turns that will surprise readers at the outcome. Retirement takes on a new meaning after spending time with Gladdy and her gladiators! Gladdy Gold and her screwball bunch of gladiators are out to solve another hilarious case." -Fresh Fiction
"This is a wonderful series for cozy-lovers of all persuasions."-Mystery Lovers
"Rita Lakin's delightful series featuring senior sleuth Gladdy Gold and her posse of kibitzing friends continues . . . full of humor and heart."-Mystery Scene
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.59(d)|
About the Author
Her many other awards include Writers Guild of America, MWA Edgar, and the Avery Hopwood award from the University of Michigan. Visit www.ritalakin.com
Read an Excerpt
Getting Old is a Disaster
By Rita Lakin
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
The airport van pulls up between the Phase Two buildings of our Lanai Gardens condominium complex. It's a mild September evening with just a bit of drizzle coming down. I'm home at last.
I sigh happily, getting out of the van. We are back from New York and I'm so glad to be on home ground again. At the same moment I wonder—where will we all go from here?
The girls and Jack pile out. I call them girls although there's not one of them under 73—my sister, Evvie, and our three friends, Bella, Sophie, and Ida. They're also my partners in our three-month-old private eye business.
My on-again-off-again boyfriend Jack Langford, now definitely on for good, graciously pays the van driver, since the girls manage to fumble through their purses long enough, with sheepish smiles, for Jack to take up the slack. He's immediately commandeered into lugging suitcases for each one of them. Suddenly my girls are helpless? Next year's birthday presents should be smelling salts in case they decide to take up fainting. But Jack good-naturedly carries Bella's bags, along with my sister Evvie's, up the elevator in the P building, to their second-floor apartments. Then he's down again and racing across the courtyard to schlep Sophie's and Ida's things up to the third floor of building Q. The girls are always one step in front of him, rushing tounlock their doors—their idea of being helpful.
I wait downstairs for the troop movements to cease. I can foresee that there will have to be some rules and regulations as to how much they use and abuse my guy now that we are officially an item. What a relief that the girls are finally happy about our relationship, after fighting it for so long. Or are they? We shall see.
Tiny Bella is all atwitter. "It's so nice to have a man around the house," she trills off-key, hanging over her balcony and waving down to me.
"I could get used to it," Sophie calls out from across the way, patting her skirt down, trying to smooth the creases out of her lime-green velour traveling outfit as Jack lugs her stuff into her apartment.
Ida insists on carrying one of her own bags, so she picks up her small carry-on. "I'm not helpless. Yet," she tells Jack as she grudgingly allows him to wheel the other case—which, from the way it is listing to one side, looks like she packed an elephant inside.
Some of our neighbors stick their heads out to see what's going on. Not a surprise. They always stick their noses into anything anyone does at any given moment. Newlyweds Tessie and Sol Spankowitz pop out of Tessie's apartment on the second floor of Q. Is it my imagination? The reluctant husband, Sol, looks like he shrank since he got married. Not like the Sol we knew as The Peeper, who scared all the women with his lecherous snooping. Super-sized Tessie looms over him, eating pistachio ice cream from a gallon carton.
Naturally Mr. Know-it-all, Hy Binder, appears in a flash, on the second floor balcony of P. And right behind him is his parrot. I mean his wife, Lola.
"Look who's finally blown back into town," he calls out. "So how was the Big Apple? Anybody get mugged?"
"Yeah," mimics Lola, "anybody get mugged?"
Bella, standing two doors away, beams at the two of them. "No, but we were in a parade and got a medal. We had a fabulous time."
Sophie has to chime in, calling across, "And look who we met up with in New York. Our very own Jackie."
Uh-oh, here they go. My entire life will now be spilled out of the girls' eager mouths into our neighbors' ever-inquiring minds. But what can I do? I love them even though sometimes I want to paste duct tape across their lips.
Years ago, our husbands all dead—or in Evvie's case, divorced—we formed a new family unit sworn to care for one another through thick and thin. Mostly it's more thick than thin. We are an odd combination—mixed nuts is what Evvie calls us. My smart, fast-talking sister is also my best friend. Then there's Bella, our sweet, diminutive shadow, who follows us everywhere; Roly-poly Sophie, who sees herself as a fashionista, mad about clothes; and last but definitely not least, Ida, our curmudgeon and self-proclaimed man-hater.
Bella is breathless in the face of everyone's attention. "Have we got a big announcement to make."
Even Ida is grinning.
By now Jack is at my side, puffing a bit, and as the new male alpha dog of our little pack, he decides to nip this bud off quickly. "Ladies," he calls out. "We've all had a very busy day. Time to get some rest."
"Yes," Evvie says with a tad of sarcasm, "let's get some rest." I can't believe my eyes. Immediately they scamper inside their own apartments, waving cheery good nights as they do. Doors one, two, three, and four—closed and not opened again. I hold my breath in case one of them changes her mind. Jack and I stand there and wait. And finally the looky-loos retreat, too. It seems as if the show is over. But I know better. They'll all be peering from behind their venetian blinds to see what we do next.
My very tall darling bends down to whisper to me, "I can feel their eyes burning holes in me."
"Not to worry," I tell him. "They'll get bored as soon as their favorite TV show comes on."
"What do we do now?" he asks. "Do you want me to come up with you?" A reasonable question since now we are officially a couple.
"It might be a better idea if we go to our own places alone. Let's meet tomorrow and figure out a plan of survival."
"Good idea. But I don't care if the yenta brigade is watching. I am going to kiss you good night."
I'm so lucky to have this wonderful man. For a brief moment I let myself think of the life-changing events that occurred when we were in New York. It will take a while for me to absorb the truth about my husband's murder so many years ago. But it was Jack who gave this truth as his finest gift to me. It has finally brought us together—forever more, I hope.
And Jack kisses me. Beautifully. Lovingly. I cling to him, not wanting the kiss to end.
From somewhere I hear a low smattering of applause.
Jack, suitcase in hand, walks to his building in Phase Six, his jacket collar turned up against the drizzling rain. He hears a sugary voice calling out to him from the third floor.
"Hi, honeybun. Up here."
He glances up to see Louise Bannister waving a handkerchief. His upstairs neighbor is a flamboyant widow in her sixties, who, because she's a bottle redhead, is under the illusion she's a Rita Hayworth lookalike playing Gilda. As she leans over, her Chinese red robe reveals—as Jack assumes she planned—much cleavage.
"Welcome home," she says breathily. "We missed you while you were away."
"Thanks, Louise," he answers quietly so as not to disturb the other neighbors. She's hard to take, his overwrought femme fatale neighbor, but Jack has to admit that Louise is a darned good bridge player.
His eye is caught by two men coming toward the building. Both are dressed in the Orthodox Jewish tradition: Black hat, suit, and vest; full beard and mustache.
Louise calls cheerily. "Abe, Stanley, look who's home."
To Jack, the two men, both in their eighties, seem an odd pair, but they're always together. Abe Waller squints, peering through his Coke-bottle eyeglasses, and nods in recognition. Stanley Heyer smiles openly and waves in greeting. Whereas Abe is big and burly, Stanley is small and feisty. Abe speaks rarely, and smiles little. Stanley is garrulous and upbeat.
"Well, gotta go, boys," Louise says, straightening. "See you soon, hon." She winks at Jack before turning to go back into her apartment.
"I can hardly wait," Jack says under his breath.
"Good trip?" Abe asks.
"Very," Jack answers.
"Just in time for some heavy rains," Stanley comments as he plucks a few dead leaves from a hyacinth bush nearby.
Jack smiles politely. Everyone knows that Stanley was one of the original developers of Lanai Gardens back in the late '50's. Apparently he liked it so much, he moved into one of the apartments himself when they officially opened.
The two men separate and go their own way. Stanley crosses the courtyard to building Y and Abe walks into his ground-floor apartment in Jack's building, Z.
Jack's finished gathering his mail and is about to head up the stairs when he hears another voice behind him. Dora Dooley pops out of her first-floor apartment. The petite eighty-one-year-old soap opera addict is always cold, and wears a bulky sweater and wool scarf no matter the weather. "It's about time you got back. My garbage has been piling up."
"I'll take care of it in the morning, Dora. I promise," he says in his usual patient voice.
Welcome home, he thinks ironically. Women to the right of me, women to the left of me. It's not going to be easy having some kind of life with Gladdy around here with all these clutching women.
The phone has already rung four times. Each of the girls called me to do what they always do; say good night, make plans for the next day, share last-minute thoughts of any kind. Bella is last. Finally, peace and quiet. It's wonderful.
The phone rings again. It's Jack this time. "I've been trying to reach you, but the phone's been busy."
I sigh. "It's a tradition."
"I can't stand not being with you. I wish it was morning already. Maybe I should wait until dark and sneak over. No one will see me."
"That's what you think. The native drums will beat your arrival. Got a better idea. Meet me at the bus stop at the main gate. Six-thirty a.m." This time he sighs. "Six a.m. all right. Until tomorrow, my dearest. I love you."
That night, I have a dream. In it, I see Jack sitting on the beach waving a Mai Tai at me. He's in swimming trunks wearing a big floppy sun hat and aviator sunglasses with a big grin on his face. He waves to me to join him. The girls and I are dancing around a maypole. All of them are sewed on to me with huge colored ribbons. As we dance I try to get their ribbons off. I want to pull free, but they won't let go of me. The music goes faster and faster and finally we all fall down.
I wake up in a sweat. I don't need Dr. Freud to tell me what that nightmare was about.
Mata Hari Explains It All
I am sitting at the bus stop in front of the main gate of Lanai Gardens, on Oakland Park Boulevard, at six-thirty a.m., waiting for Jack. It rained last night. Lucky thing I brought along a towel to dry the bench. But it's a lovely morning. It's been a long time since I got myself up this early. Nice to hear how quiet things are before the mobs of people start their day.
Someone has planted a new grouping of camellias in a wired fence in front of the big Lanai Gardens sign and I am enjoying admiring them. So far two buses have attempted to stop for me but I waved them on.
It's about a six-minute brisk stroll from my apartment to here, maybe ten from his. I look at my watch. I know Jack will be on time. Sure enough, here he comes at a sprint down the long road from Phase Six.
He hesitates at the strange sight of me. I give him a great big smile. He drops down next to me on the bench, puffing slightly. "Morning," I say.
"For a moment I thought it was Halloween. What's with the Mata Hari outfit?"
"You like the black hat with the veil? And the huge dark glasses? I picked them up at a garage sale years ago for a costume party."
"So, I take it you're in disguise?"
"You bet I am. I snuck out the back way behind the buildings. Nobody looks out those windows because all they'll ever see are the garbage trucks. You might consider the same route going back. If you want any privacy, that is."
"Is this the life you predict for us from now on? Sneaking around Dumpsters? Getting up at dawn? Meeting at bus benches?" He grins. "It's a little kinky, but if that's what turns you on."
He lifts the hat off my head and places it beside me. "The better to see you with, my dear," he leers. Then kisses me, and I kiss him right back. I feel like a teenager again, sneaking out to meet my boyfriend.
Another bus starts to slow. This time Jack waves it past. I didn't know we had such good public transportation around here.
Jack turns my shoulders so I am facing him directly. "I have an easy solution. Let's get married. After the girls get over the shock, everything will become wonderfully boring. They'll get used to us being together."
"Nice plan, but it won't work."
"Maybe that's what I'm afraid of—the getting-used-to part. See how fast the girls got you to pay the cab bill and carry up their suitcases? Soon you'll graduate to, 'Jackie, won't you please run down to Publix and get me a jar of Hellman's mayonnaise?' Or 'Jackie, I can't plug in my iron,' or 'Jackie, could you change a lightbulb for me? I just can't reach the socket.' Never mind they've been doing all these things for themselves for years before Mr. Easy Touch came to town."
Jack laughs and pulls me close and kisses me again. "You forget what I did last night. I just needed to snap my fingers and they jumped at my command."
I shake my head. "Foolish man. You just imagine you've got control."
"No, I know I have."
"You won't believe me? I'll prove it. We promised we'd have a celebration dinner when we got home. Okay. Tonight at the deli. It's what I like to call show and tell. After that, you'll understand what you're in for."
For a few moments we snuggle together, exchanging kisses and waving buses on. Early-morning traffic on the six-lane street is getting heavier. Maybe we'll die from the exhaust coming out of all those vehicles. Right now, I don't care. This is bliss.
"Yoo-hoo, Gladdy, Jackie!"
We turn around and, yes, here they come. My darling, predictable girls. They climb out of a car, thanking a neighbor for the lift to the main gate. They manage to pull a huge picnic basket after them. They are all smiles.
"You left so early, you didn't have time for breakfast," says Bella, placing the basket next to us on the bench. "So we put together a feast from all four of our almost-empty fridges."
Sophie says, "Just a little snack, a little cheese, some apples," as she pulls them out. "A rugallah or two. Some hard-boiled eggs . . ."
Ida adds, "Naturally a few bagels and cream cheese. Already schmeered." She removes these, along with plastic silverware and napkins.
Evvie grins wickedly at me, enjoying the look of horror on Jack's face. "We even brought a thermos of coffee and cute little plastic cups. Just like a family picnic in the park."
"Don't bother getting up, Jackie," comments Ida. "We're fine just standing here."
I add my own evil grin as I ask him, "Shall I pour, dear, or will you?"
He grimaces. "How did you find us?"
"Piece of cake," says Ida. "Tessie was vacuuming the venetian blinds in her Florida room and she saw Gladdy sneak out. You know what an early riser Tessie is."
Evvie had this to add: "Denny was driving back from the flower market with new plants for his garden when he saw Gladdy sitting at the bus stop."
Bella giggles. "Lola was beating her rugs on the landing railing when she saw Jack run by."
My sister smiles ever-so-sweetly at me. "So we put one and one and one together and we realized two people we know and love were up early and we thought how nice it would be to bring them breakfast."
"How kind," I say, tossing an equal dose of saccharin back at her.
Another bus pulls up and we hear the whoosh of the pneumatic door opening. I see the expression on my sweetheart's face as he eyes the lowered steps to freedom.
I say, "Don't even think about it . . . Jackie."
Excerpted from Getting Old is a Disaster by Rita Lakin Copyright © 2008 by Rita Lakin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is sadly the worst edited book I have ever read. I just encountered the number 2 smack in the middle of a word, and it is just one of many glaring mistakes. I also do so long for the old format, with brief glances through a looming killer's eyes creating suspense. Regardless, it's nice to spend some time with gladdy and the girls.
If you're looking for fun, suspense and a great cast of characters, this is the one for you. Gladdy and her unique group of senior sleuths will have you laughing, guessing, and coming back for more. The entire series is enjoyable...so read them all!! Rita Lakin has provided another excellent book in her "Getting Old..." series.