Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…come on, why aren’t you guys saying this with me?” Paige McCarty complains. She cocks her gorgeous blonde head to the side and stares us down with her big, crystal-blue eyes.
“Because this is dumb. We do not need to chant our motto every time we get together.” I signal the waitress for another round of drinks.
I need booze. Lots and lots of booze to get through this meeting. I love my best friends, but sometimes, I want to punch them in the face. Lovingly, of course.
“Yes, we do, Kennedy O’Brien. We started this company because men are scum-sucking pigs who deserve what’s coming to them,” Paige says with an angry huff as her bright-pink fruity drink is set down in front of her.
“Thank you so much, you’re a doll!” she exclaims to the waitress.
Not only is Paige insanely beautiful, she can flip her moods faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. At thirty years old, her face has graced the cover of every beauty magazine in existence and she’s got the charm of a Southern belle, but don’t cross her or she will cut you. And this, folks, is why we are friends.
“I, for one, need to be reminded of why I abhor all things male,” Paige tells us as she blots her lip gloss with a cocktail napkin. “All of the money I made modeling was blown on Andy’s secret gambling trips. This motto reminds me of how I felt the day I walked into Jimmy Choo and all of my credit cards were declined, and the sense of satisfaction I felt when I went home and set fire to all of Andy’s clothes on the front lawn.”
A dreamy sigh escapes her heart-shaped mouth when she thinks back on the inferno of revenge, and it reminds me to never get between a model and her need for shoes. Ever. Underneath all that beauty is a brain that is fast thinking, conniving, and perfect for our business.
“I’m certain we will never forget that men are lying, cheating imbeciles.” Lorelei Warner brushes off an imaginary piece of lint on her black suit pants. “Gary sent me his wedding invitation yesterday. ‘We hope you can join us for the joyous celebration of Gary and Doug as they pledge their endless love to each other.’ Can you believe that rat bastard actually invited me?”
Lorelei, my other best friend, means business when she swears. Sure, “rat bastard” isn’t up there on the swearing chart, but it is for her. She’s actually the type of person who will say, “Cheese and rice!” instead of Jesus Christ.
“See? Lorelei is swearing. The world is coming to an end,” Paige laments to me. “If we don’t stick together with this motto, she might forget about coming home to find Doug sampling some sweet Italian sausage.”
Lorelei makes a gagging noise and covers her mouth with her hand. Unfortunately, Paige isn’t talking about food. She’s talking about Nuncio, the hot waiter at Villa Macri Ristorante—the place where Doug proposed to Lorelei and where they celebrated their anniversary every year.
Lorelei met Doug at Harvard Law and once they both graduated and were well established in their respective law firms, they tied the knot. I always suspected Doug played for the other team. He was too pretty. And do you know any straight men who have hair pomade shipped in from Paris?
“What cases do we have on the schedule this week?” I ask as Lorelei pulls out a few files from her leather briefcase now that she’s composed herself after remembering the night her ex-husband became a gay man.
“We’ve got a bail jumper, a cheating spouse, and a subpoena delivery. Who wants what?” Lorelei asks as she sets the files down in the middle of the table so we can flip through them.
“I do believe I’ve had enough of cheating spouses, so count me out for that one.” I grab the bail-jumper file and flip through it. I was trained by Uncle Sam in the army, so firing a gun at bad guys and being in the midst of danger is what I thrive on.
“Speaking of cheating rat bastards, have you talked to Alex lately?” Paige asks as she tests her froufrou drink and finds it to her liking.
“Ha! Yeah, right!” I reply with a snort. Finishing off my Bud Light Lime, I slam the empty glass back onto the table with a clunk. “He was supposed to pick up the girls last weekend and never showed or called. I hope his penis falls off. I hope it rots and falls off inside of Miss Teen USA, therefore causing her perfect, twenty-two-year-old vagina to rot and fall out of her thong when she sneezes.”
Paige and Lorelei stare at me with open mouths once I finish with my tirade.
“Wow, tell us how you really feel,” Lorelei replies sympathetically with a pat to my arm.
“It’s okay. It’s fine. I’m perfectly FINE with the fact that while I was fighting for our country, he was fighting to singlehandedly ruin our marriage. What’s NOT fine is the fact that he’s ignoring his daughters. How did I not know he was a worthless human being when I met him?” I ask with a disgusted shake of my head.
“How did I not know Andy was playing ten-thousand-dollar hands of Texas Hold’em instead of going to software conferences? How did Lorelei not know that Doug likes to play slap and tickle with balls instead of boobs? Because men are rat bastards, that’s how,” Paige explains.
“Rat bastards,” Lorelei and I agree with a nod of our heads.
Continuing my quick scan of the case file, it looks like this should be a pretty easy one to handle. The guy tried to rob a house while the owners were still home. He panicked when he saw them sitting in the kitchen, dropped the laptop he had in his arms, picked up their Chihuahua instead, and bolted out the front door.
He got out on bail and then skipped his court date. Which is a no-no when you use a bail bondsman to help you get out of jail. You should never piss off a bail bondsman. It will always end badly.
In this case, Martin McFadden pissed off my father, who owns Buddy’s Bail Bonds, his pride and joy after he retired from the army. All the men in my family served in the army. My grandfather, my Uncle Wally, my two cousins Beaver and Ward (my Aunt Janet loved the TV show Leave It to Beaver—don’t ask), and both of my older brothers, Bobby and Ted. (Bobby, Ted, Kennedy. Go ahead and get it out of your system now. My Irish-American mother always wanted to be Jackie O, sue me.) My mother died when I was a baby and since I was the only girl, army was all I knew. I enlisted right out of high school just like everyone in my family. Unfortunately, I didn’t really do it to make my family happy; I did it to make a boy happy. THE boy. Alex Bradford, my high school sweetheart. I met him in twelfth grade when his father retired from the army and they moved to our small town. We were in gym class together and when I was assigned to his dodgeball team, he leaned down and whispered, “Don’t worry, I won’t let anyone hit you with any of the balls.” It melted my heart and pissed me off all at the same time.
According to the file, the Chihuahua Martin snatched is a two-year-old named Tinkerdoodle that I could punt like a football. He took her from her comfy, pink, bedazzled dog bed, and the owners haven’t stopped crying since then. No, he didn’t go back for the TV, the jewelry, or the artwork; he went back for a yappy, ankle-biting dog. What an idiot. This will be an easy paycheck for the week, I can feel it.
Sliding into the front seat of my silver Ford Explorer, I get the SUV started just as my cell phone rings. My dad starts complaining before I even say hello.
“Your uncle is pissing me off this morning. Pick me up a black-cherry slushie on your way in.”
While most people need coffee to function properly each day, Buddy O’Brien needs black-cherry slushies from Circle K, the best convenience store in the entire world. I know for a fact that he picks one up every morning on his way to work, so if he’s calling me for a second one, it must be bad.
“What did he do now?” I ask with a sigh as I back out of my driveway and head toward Granger, a suburb of South Bend, Indiana, where both of our offices are located.
“He messed up all of my fucking files. I don’t know where a GD thing is in this place. Fucking hell.”
Word to the wise, my father is a tough guy, but he is Irish Catholic. He will find a way to add the word fuck into every single sentence, but he will never, ever take the Lord’s name in vain. Hell hath no fury like my father if he hears you say Goddamn. When it rains, I can still feel the sting of his hand when he smacked me upside the back of my head the one time I said it when I was twelve and Scooby-Doo didn’t end the way I wanted it to.
“Why don’t you just tell him to stop touching your files,” I suggest as I turn onto Heritage Square Drive and make my way to Circle K.
“Is that Kennedy? Tell her you’re being unreasonable and that I can’t work under these conditions!”
I roll my eyes at Uncle Wally’s shout in the background and the fact that my father completely forgets that he’s on with me and yells back.
“Do you want to take this outside, Wallace? I will kick your ass into next week!”
“Don’t you use that tone with me, you old bastard. You couldn’t kick the south side of a barn!”
Finding a parking spot right in front of the store, I set the phone down in the front passenger seat without hanging up. I grab my father’s super-size black-cherry slushie and a hazelnut coffee with hazelnut cream for myself. Normally, I drink my coffee black. When you’re in the army, you have to get used to the bare essentials. But something tells me I’m going to need a hell of a lot more than just the basics to get through this morning.
Climbing back into my car, I can still hear my father and uncle shouting through the phone line. My father is two years older than Uncle Wally and I have never seen two people fight more, aside from my brothers. Whatever made them think they should work together is beyond me. When my father retired from the army, he opened Buddy’s Bail Bonds. Two years later, when Uncle Wally retired, he cashed in his pension, invested the money into the business, and became my father’s partner. Once a week, they argue about changing the name to Buddy Wally’s Bail Bonds. You would think that since they share the same last name, one of them might be bright enough to make that suggestion. O’Brien’s Bail Bonds has a nice ring to it. But that would mean the two of them would have to come to a compromise and that’s not happening anytime this century.
I find a spot on the street in front of Buddy’s and thank the traffic gods that I didn’t have to drive around for twenty minutes looking for a place to park. With my coffee and my dad’s slushie in my hands, I take a fortifying breath before opening the glass door to the office. I immediately have to duck as a stapler comes flying through the air and crashes into the wall.
“I’m not the dumbass who doesn’t know how to alphabetize!”
“Call me a dumbass one more time. Go ahead, do it!”
Setting the cups on the nearest desk, I rush in between my father and Uncle Wally as they charge toward each other in the middle of the room.
“All right, that’s enough! Back to your corners!” I shout at them, pointing in the general direction of their desks, which are on opposite sides of the room.
“He started it,” Uncle Wally complains under his breath as he turns and stomps back to his desk.
I swear to God it’s like having two more children dealing with these two. A few years ago for Christmas I bought them each a set of boxing gloves. When it gets really bad, I make them go out back and duke it out. This is actually one of the milder arguments and I think we can skip fight club today.
“I need the rest of the information you have on Martin McFadden,” I tell my dad as I hand him his slushie and he begins gulping it down while he sifts through a pile of files on top of his desk.
“If your father would have started using my new filing system, he could have e-mailed you that information in three seconds,” Uncle Wally muses from his desk.
Dad slams down his cup and starts clenching his fists.
“Can it, Uncle Wally. Dad, just drink your slushie.”
With a heavy sigh, he starts slurping through the straw, just to annoy my uncle.
My dad has a few part-time bounty hunters on his payroll and in the past when he got slammed with requests, before I opened Fool Me Once Investigations and I wasn’t busy with army duty, he’d have me fill in for him. I love the thrill of the chase and the rush of adrenaline when you find your man (or woman) and slap the cuffs on him (or her). After my marriage went down the shitter six months ago, I decided not to reenlist with the army so I could spend more time with my girls and they wouldn’t feel like both parents abandoned them.
“Ahhhh, here we go,” my dad states brightly as he finally finds the McFadden file and hands it over to me. “His last known address is in there as well as a list of all of his relatives. I haven’t had time to dig any deeper into his criminal background, but I figure Lorelei can pull some strings for you and get whatever else you need. Speaking of Lorelei, how are she and Paige? And when are you going to stop being so stubborn and just come work for me full time instead of just taking a case for me every once in a while?”
I sigh and shake my head at him. “Lorelei and Paige are fine. And we’ve gone over this a thousand times, Dad. I appreciate the offer of a full-time job, but I need to do something on my own. I need to keep busy so I don’t continue filling up notebooks with all of the ways I can remove Alex’s penis from his body. While fun, it’s not very constructive. Or healthy. Fool Me Once is the perfect distraction for me.”
Grabbing the file from my dad’s hand, I lean over his desk to kiss his cheek.
“I get it. You need to be independent. Just know, you’ll always have a job here if you decide adding things to the penis-removal list is more worthwhile,” he says with a smile.