Today's Reading

I doubted any amount of java would fix him. "What do I do?" I turned to Dane.

"Pray he sobers up enough to do his job." He shrugged.

"You're a policeman. Do something."

"He hasn't done anything wrong."

"Yet," I snarled and checked on the tables set off to one side for folks to work on puzzles. On the makeshift stage, the band set up. Hopefully, nothing else would go wrong.

By seven the party was in full swing. People danced, laughed and chatted over puzzles, took pictures by the Cadillac, and strolled among the vintage vehicles. With no sign of Elvis.

"Have you heard?" Annie waved an electronic tablet in front of my face. "A puzzle went missing from Elvis's estate. A collage of all his movies."

"Really?" I quickly scanned the article. What were the odds a puzzle disappeared the very night of our party? "Why a puzzle?"

She tapped the screen. "Signed by Elvis himself."

"That'll be the main topic of conversation tonight." I glanced to where Dane strolled among the attendees.

The police department had sent only him to keep a very large group of people under control. So far, so good. He smiled and laughed at something a young woman said. My heart did a somersault.

"You still like him," Annie said.

"I never stopped." With a sigh, I watched as my still very in love parents danced to a slow tune. I wanted what they had. God might have other plans though. "What do you think of our Elvis?"
 
"He's a disgrace. You said you hired an impersonator, but I had no idea it was Billy Baron. He spends more time sleeping off a drink than anything else." Her face hardened. "Don't you remember how he used to bully us in school?"

"Oh." I hadn't put the slightly overweight impersonator together with Billy. "I guess I was only thinking about checking another item off my list."

"The worst person you could have hired."

Loud voices drew me away from the dancing. I glanced at Dane. Seeing him busy consoling a child who had gotten separated from her parents, I went in search of the voices.

Billy and a man with his back to me exchanged heated words. All I could tell about the man was that he was bald and big. "I said I'd get it to you," Billy said. "I'm a little short right now."

"If you'd do what I hired you to do," I said, crossing my arms, "you'd have some money. No work, no pay."

The other man marched away without turning in my direction.

"I'll go pose for pictures." Billy didn't stagger quite as much but still leaned a bit to the side when he walked.

"You're supposed to put on a show at eight." I jogged to keep up with him. "Are you prepared?"

"Yep. Practiced with the band last night." He smoothed his pomade- covered hair. "Relax, little lady, I got this."

He'd better. I glared at his back then went to get a cup of coffee. Styrofoam cup in hand, I watched the clumsy Elvis climb onto the stage and grip the microphone stand as if it would keep him on his feet.
 
"At least he's up," Dane said, joining me.

"Barely." Fortunately, the guy could do a very good imitation of the King of Rock and Roll. He belted out "Jailhouse Rock," complete with hip moves. Those watching cheered and clapped. Some of the tension left my shoulders.

"You've done a good job here, Cee Cee."

"Thank you." I cut Dane a glance. "You didn't want to be a cop when you left here. Didn't you go to college to be an architect?"

"I did, but my roommate was jumped and killed one night walking home after a late class. They never found his attacker. So I quit and went to the academy to try and keep other murderers from getting away with their crimes."

"Not a lot of crime in Apple Blossom." I took a sip of my drink, my heart aching at his loss. I would have gladly consoled him if he'd asked.

"Maybe, but I wanted to come home."

I wanted to ask why a small-town boy with big-city dreams had wanted to return to the very place he couldn't wait to leave. Instead, I kept my mouth shut, excused myself, and strolled among the tables of puzzle workers.

"This is the most fun I've had in a very long time," Millie said. "Who thought putting together puzzles could be this entertaining?"

"It helps to get friends together," Sadie replied, placing a center piece of Elvis's face in place. "Good music doesn't hurt. You did good, Cee Cee. I hope you're managing to have some fun."

"I'm enjoying the night very much." I smiled, surprised at how true my statement was. Now that Billy was cooperating, the event was going very well.
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