I’d like to introduce you to John Tilbrook. He has goofy, curly hair and a badge. He’s a laid-back guy who digs green chile and ’70s big budget, all-star Disaster Movies like Earthquake, The Towering Inferno and Airport ’75. John’s the star of my September release, For Your Eyes Only.
Some of you may know John from A Basic Renovation. I liked him him so much when I wrote ABR, I decided he needed his own book. Here’s your chance to meet him:
John Tilbrook groaned inwardly. The last half hour in the car it had been the Canadian pop star singing Ska8erBoi and a cheerleader-esque tune called Girlfriend that was so much worse than the ‘80s one-hit wonder Mickey had ever been.
This had to be punishment for some sin he’d overlooked, retribution for some transgression he’d failed to address, like how he’d treated his older sister when they were kids.
Sofia reached for the stereo controls and said, “Oh, we gotta hear that again!”
John’s butt clenched the same time his jaw did. Yeah. Karma was laughing at him. “Do we have to? We’ve listened to it nine times already.”
“Na-uh, just three,” Sofia tossed her streaked blonde hair over her shoulder with the flick of her head, “but we can listen to Fergie too.”
The clenching happened again. It was his fault. He’d volunteered to drive his niece to this birthday party in Santa Fe, since she had the day off from school and it was on his way home, but what had he been thinking?
Just drive. It could be worse. It could be Taylor Swift. Ignore it and drive.
A haze of rain moved far off to the east. Up ahead in the distance, a blue sedan was parked on the side of the road. John kept both hands on the wheel and cast a sideways glance at his niece. She was seat-dancing like a chubby little kid, but the make up she wore, the streaks in her hair, and the off the shoulder throwback to Flashdance top that exposed too much skin made her look like a chubby little…
He shook his head and fixed his gaze to the road. In his book, eight was too young for hair streaks and makeup, yet Sofia had black eyeliner caked around her eyes the way Avril Lavigne did.
According to Sofia, anything Avril did was awe-some. John thought listening to Sofia and Fergie sing about ‘lovely lady lumps’ was aw-ful. Did his sister understand letting her daughter dress like a cheap hooker was provocative and inappropriate? He cut his eyes to Sofia again and thought about JonBenet Ramsey, Little Miss beauty pageants, and how stupid his sister was to let her eight-year old strut down the path of precociousness.
The realization was like a sudden slap. Music sucked and he was moaning about unsuitable clothing for pre-teen girls. Shit. He’d finally crossed the line into middle age. Next stop was liver spots, incontinence, and dentures, a room at the Aspen Ridge Lodge with round-the-clock nursing care, and picking out a headstone. He was as good as dead.
This had nothing to do with middle age. Sofia and Fergie asking him what he was gonna do with all the ass inside their jeans made it obvious this wasn’t a question of age. Some things were absolutely unacceptable for eight year-old girls, especially songs that were booty-call requests.
Repulsive stories and images of child exploitation and kiddie-porn he’d dealt with in the past filled his head for a moment. Whether he was behaving as a cop doing his job, acting like some kind of sensitive new age guy, or simply being a concerned uncle didn’t matter, a very grown-up responsible John reached over and turned off the music.
“Hay is for horses, Miss Sof.”
“It’s a Captain Kangaroo thing.”
“Nothing. Did your mom buy you that outfit?”
“Yeah. Put Fergie back on.”
“No. I don’t think it’s really appropriate to put Fergie back on.”
He sighed. “Well,” he began, “I thi…” Right genius, how are you going to explain this, tell her she looks like a hooker? Does the average eight year old know what a hooker is? Probably. Harrison is nine and thanks to TV he knows what erectile dysfunction is, so go with the you’re-growing-up-too-fast thing. “Ok, Sofia, it’s—”
“Oh, yeah, I see.”
“Well duh. It’s hard to miss with the way you’re looking.”
John made a face. Now he felt bad. “Ah, Sof, I know you want to be gro—”
“Mom says since you’re a detective you have three-sixty vision, which is way better than twenty-twenty, but I see pretty good too. I see the old lady there.”
“The old lady?”
“Yeah.” Sofia pointed out the windshield to the beat up blue Volkswagen just ahead on the side of the road. “I coulda told you her car was broken-down when we were like, ten miles away.”
Although he had been preoccupied by the negative influence Avril and Fergie were having on his niece, the VW had registered in his brain as they’d come down the hill about a mile back. He’d had the car in his line of sight as they approached, but somehow, even as they as they got closer, he’d completely missed the white-haired figure crouched beside the sedan.
He sure as hell didn’t miss her now.
Her dark red suit was vivid against the indigo of the car, as vivid as the hot pink Converse on her feet, but her sartorial choices and hair color weren’t what made her stand out. It was the way she was beating the crap out of the left rear tire with a lug wrench…