the early years the friends the family the mom the wife the TV producer the ham the driver

Chapter I - The Open Drawer

“A penny for your thoughts,” Laura i-m’d Nancy Sue. “You’ve been off the computer nearly two hours!”

A moment later, Nancy Sue appeared next to Laura’s desk with her hands resting on the top of her plaid skirt. All the women in the office had come to work dressed as schoolgirls after going to a strip club with the star of the show the night before. Nancy Sue looked exasperated.

“George,” Nancy Sue said. Laura didn’t know why she called her George but she didn’t complain. She was used to Nancy Sue’s mysterious ways. “George, did you come back to the office and steal cab chits?”

“Of course not!” Laura said indignantly. Laura often said things followed by adverbs. “Is one missing?”

Nancy Sue nodded as if she had expected the question, then sat on the edge of Laura’s desk, hiking her skirt a little higher up her leg. Suddenly Laura was worried that dressing like schoolgirls was a bad idea. A plaid skirt was the type of thing that could throw off the star of the show for the whole day! He might forget to read the monologue. He might forget to prep for the guests. He might forget to act like a professional! Crazy star. She closed another button on her white blouse and pulled up her suede knee-high boots a little higher.

“Don’t say anything but …” Nancy Sue leaned closer. Laura could smell toast on her breath. Nancy Sue liked toast. “It’s very mysterious but three cab chits are missing from Jeni’s desk ...”

“That’s a federal offense!” Laura said excitedly. Everyone knew how tight Nancy Sue was with money. A cab chit might be punishable by … well she didn’t know how it would be addressed. It probably depended on who was stealing. In Show Heights everything depended on where you lived -- above the line or below the line. And who controlled the line? Well, Nancy Sue, of course.

“Listen, George, I have an idea.”

“Sue, you’ve always got an idea.”

The young sleuth laughed at this remark shaking her hair down her back. She removed her glasses and cleaned the lenses with a lens cleaner. It was an admirable trait. She was always well-equipped. The whole staff understood that behind that pretty natural blonde hair was a furiously working brain, working on at least three problems at one time. One morning Laura was walking across the street from the parking lot to work when she saw Nancy Sue standing on the sidewalk with a perplexed look on her face. She was staring down the block. Laura knew that she was trying to determine if it was faster to walk through the stopped cars and risk getting caught in the middle, which would take longer, or walk further down the block and cross at the light. Walking to the light would take longer but she would get all the way across so in the end it might be faster. And besides the light was red, which meant that by the time she got to the corner, it would be green. But because the light was red, she could probably scoot through the cars and before traffic turned onto Davenport from Yonge. Laura knew that’s what Nancy Sue was thinking because she was thinking the same thing herself. That’s why they were friends.

“George, meet me after the show,” Nancy Sue said. “We’ve got sleuthing to do.” Sue went back to her desk and within minutes the i-m box popped up on Laura’s screen.

“Found the address; it’s in Etobicoke. Called cab company for confirmation.”

Laura admired Nancy Sue’s use of the semi-colon for a minute before typing. “Good work Nancy Sue.” Laura was happy about the invention of i-m because it meant that the pencil Nancy Sue assigned her at the beginning of the season would last longer. She hated asking for a second one. Nancy Sue didn’t like giving out pencils willy nilly. Not even to writers and producers. Laura could just hear her.

“I got you the computer you asked for. And now you are asking for another pencil…’

The i-m box blinked. “Meet me at the parking lot at 9.”

“ok” Laura typed, then erased it and typed. “Okay.”

Nancy Sue was stickler for spelling. Laura went back to worrying about to finding a guest for that night’s show. Nancy Sue, she knew, was in the other room thinking about cab chits.


Chapter II The Smell of Rubber


Later that afternoon, the i-m box popped up again.

“The star of the show goes to Etobicoke twice a week. I know because he sends his transponder bill to the show and I see his highway tolls. Twice a week like clockwork. Usually after 1:00 am. He obviously has a girl there so I thought he might be stealing them to send his girlfriend home in a cab at the show’s expense.”

This, Laura knew, would disappoint Nancy Sue. She could not do much about the star of the show. Nobody could. Not even God. Nancy Sue continued typing. Laura could see the words pop up at the same time she heard Nancy Sue tap tap tapping. She was trying to reverse look up the phone number on the cab chit. She had a name but neither girl recognized it.

“But a chit was gone this morning and he was with us at the Brass Rail.”

“If you find the person, do you think they would come on tomorrow's show and talk about it?”

Nancy Sue’s laughter wafted in from the other room. Laura was desperate for guests. She was often desperate for guests. In the other room, she heard the star of the show kid Nancy Sue about her skirt. He was trying to tease Nancy Sue. He made a lot of money trying to tease people. Laura got up and watched from the doorway that connected their offices. The star of the show was standing in front of Nancy Sue’s desk sucking on a cigarette. Nancy Sue was making a wry face, informing him that by law he was not allowed to smoke in the office and canceling his house insurance with a click of the button. Laura went back to her desk and looked out the window. Maybe someone from Canadian Tire could be a guest. Canadians liked Canadian Tire. Except Nancy Sue. She said every time she entered the smell of tires made her want to pooh.

Chapter III - A Long Drive

At 9:00 pm sharp, the locks on Nancy Sue’s Mercedes clicked open and both girls climbed in, careful to tuck their plaid skirts beneath them.

“What’s the address?”

“123 Gristmill Parkway.”

“Where’s that?” Laura asked.

“Etobicoke,” Nancy Sue answered.

“Where’s that?” Laura asked.

“Did you eat onions for supper?” Nancy Sue revved her engine. It was February and cold.

“No. I had Honey Nut Cheerios with you.”

“Onions, I smell onions.” Nancy Sue was a super taster and a super smeller. You couldn’t get anything past her. Laura admitted to eating a Thai shrimp salad for lunch.

“You know, George, your guests might not—”

Just then the star of the show walked out of the studio and climbed into his car.

“Should we follow him?”

“Nah,” Nancy Sue said confidently pulling out into traffic.

“He’s not our guy. He’s just going to meet his agent.”

“How do you know?”

“I saw it on his assistant’s calendar.” The night before she had followed him to a bar in an obscure part of town. Five minutes after he parked, another car pulled out and a female staff member got out and kissed him. She had finally given in to his stalking! Nancy Sue knew everything. She was like a medium, a soothsayer, an oracle. Laura briefly considered booking Nancy Sue for the show but re-considered. She’d already booked her son and her budgie. Canada could only handle so much Nancy Sue. The Mercedes turned onto the highway.

“Look at that. Won’t let me in the lane. No never let anyone in the lane. Why would you do that. The worst drivers!”

The seat felt warm under Laura’s bum. She was glad her kilt was wool.

Chapter IV - Satisfying Conclusion Followed by Wine

Thirty minutes later the girls were driving down a dark street in a neighborhood Laura hoped she would never see again. A convertible raced up the street toward a burning building. That was the kind of thing that happened around Nancy Sue. Convertibles. Burning buildings. You just never knew where she would take you. They rounded the corner onto a small cul-de-sac.

“We’re here,” Nancy Sue announced triumphantly.

“Which house is it?”

“I don’t know.”

A single globe lit the street.Nancy Sue flicked on the light to read the chit and crept the car along the side of the road.

“3456, 3458, 3460! That’s it.”

It was a small gray bungalow. Nancy Sue pulled up outside and took down the license plate of the van in the driveway.

“Who do you think lives there?” Nancy Sue whispered.

The way Nancy Sue said it, Laura wouldn’t have been surprised if Liberace himself lived there. Maybe he would come on the show. Maybe he would give her a pencil. Just then a light went on and a neatly dressed black man in his late twenties appeared on the porch. Nancy Sue snapped off the light and the two women sat in the dark, mortified. They watched as the man walked to the van, opened it up and took out a dry-cleaning bag. As he walked back inside, he turned to look at the two women watching him.

“George, I know who borrowed the cab chits.”

“Borrowed?” Laura asked skeptically.

“Yes. It was the building manager.”

“How do you know?” Laura said with trepidation -- the building manager was black too.

“That’s his brother.” Laura laughed too loud.

“Will you confront him, Nancy Sue?”


Laura was relieved. The building manager was one of the good guys at work. No one wanted to get him in trouble -- even

Nancy Sue.

“I’ll just hide the cab chits somewhere else.” Nancy Sue was nothing if not practical. “Now let’s get back downtown. Sue flicked on her blinker and pulled the Mercedes away from the little bungalow lit by a single globe. The two women laughed like crows and sped off back toward the glittering towers. It was time for a drink.



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