4:38 p.m .— December 10
“ T his is just too cool! I can’t believe I’m getting paid to shop!”
Savannah Reid stood inside the cramped cubicle, generously called a fitting room, and watched while her friend and fellow private detective, Tammy Hart, wriggled into a size zero pair of jeans. Being an overly voluptuous size fourteen herself, it was all Savannah could do not to urp the double chilli-cheeseburger and triple thick chocolate malt she had consumed for lunch.
Jealousy was an ugly emotion.
“You aren’t getting paid to shop. You don’t get to keep any of the goodies,” she grumbled as Tammy admired her own teeny-tiny butt in the mirror. “You’re getting paid to catch a rapist... which we aren’t likely to do in the ladies’ dressing room, since his m.o. is to nab his victims in the parking lot.” Tammy’s enthusiasm for life was only briefly dampened. Bottom lip protruding, she slid out of the jeans and dumped them on the floor. Savannah tried not to notice that the younger, slimmer, disgustingly cellulite-free woman was “not quite” dressed in a purple paisley G-string.
“Have you ever tried wearing a thong?” Tammy asked brightly, pulling on a pair of leggings.
Savannah scowled and shook her head. “Nope. I can’t say that I have.”
In the mirror Savannah saw two women who couldn’t have been more different: an abundantly dimensioned brunette and a blonde with sadly diminishing assets. That was the way Savannah chose to classify them. Savannah was determined to embrace and adore her flesh—all of it—out of sheer rebellion toward an anorexic society that tried to make her feel less than gorgeous because she was thirty pounds over what their charts said she should weigh.
That was her motto, and she lived by it.
“Oh, Savannah , you should try wearing thongs. They’re wo-o-onderfully comfortable.”
“Thanks for the tip, but the idea of butt floss doesn’t appeal to me.” Savannah picked up the jeans and began to fold them while Tammy slipped into her blouse.
“No, really,” Tammy continued, undaunted by Savannah’s lack of enthusiasm for the subject. “They make your rear look so cute and—”
“They make your rear look cute, Tam. Buttocks the size of mine should not be allowed to flap freely in the breeze. It constitutes a public hazard.”
She shoved the jeans and Tammy’s purse at her. “Are we about ready to go, or what?”
“Sure. Let’s boogie out to the parking lot!”
Tammy “boogied” everywhere. And she never-—well, almost never—took offense. Long ago, Savannah had decided those were Tammy’s two most endearing qualities... and her most infuriating ones. Sometimes Savannah genuinely wanted to offend this perky, effervescent assistant of hers. But no matter how dark the insult, Tammy Hart continued to shine. With her golden California tan, glossy blond hair, and Miss U.S.A. personality, the girl was the quintessential sunbeam that sometimes required U.V. protectant shades.
Rarely, but once in a while, Savannah hated “perky.” Especially when she was dead tired, like today. This gig was “wearing her to a frazzle” as her Georgian grandma would say.
“Did you buy enough loot to look like a serious shopper when you’re walking through the parking lot?” Savannah asked.
“Yeah, if I get these jeans, too. They fit really great, don’t you think?”
Savannah searched Tammy’s face for some sign that she was operating in reality mode. No indication was immediately visible.
“Tammy, it doesn’t matter if the jeans fit or not. As soon as we catch this guy, the job’s over, and we have to return all this stuff to the mall. That’s why I told you to be sure and save all your receipts. We’re undercover here, trying to catch a rapist. It’s fake shopping. Got it?”
Tammy sighed and pulled back the cubicle’s curtain. “Of course I understand, Savannah . Do you think I’m a bimbo, or what?”
Following her out of the dressing room, Savannah chose her words carefully. “No. I don’t think you’re a bimbo. But I think that maybe you think you are, because sometimes you... well... you sorta act like one.”
Tammy stopped abruptly and Savannah nearly crashed into the back of her. “What kind of psycho-babble is that?“
“See. That’s what I mean. A real bimbo wouldn’t use the term psycho-babble.”
“Gee, thanks. I guess.”
At the door they were stopped by the fitting-room
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