This week featured The Garden Party from Denny S. Bryce and Memory Garden by Kerri Carpenter. Recently, we corned our fellow mermaids in the lagoon and got the story behind their stories.
(Mermaid Note: If you haven’t already, please read The Garden Party (Part One) first.)
Jeesus. Guilty as sin and still he flirted. “Nope, won’t miss you one damn bit. I will, however, get a full weekend of sleep for the first time in two years.” It was her turn to grin at him. “I told you not to come back here, but your ego made you careless. You think you can steal from the Garden as if it was your neighborhood candy store.”
His half-gaze followed her as she paced compulsively for a moment. The Fedora still draped at the same angle showed only one smart-mouthed eye. Suddenly she couldn’t resist the urge and flipped the hat off of his head.
He sucked in a breath. “Why’d you do that?”
She reared back. “Do what? Tell you the truth. Too tough to hear? Or are you threatening me? That’s not a smart move considering you’re cuffed to a rail in a plant museum surrounded by a dozen armed guards, and at least a dozen squad cars parked outside, hoping you try something stupid.”
“You talk too much when you’re mad. That’s how I caught you in Chicago.” He winked, devilishly, and leveled his gaze. “Or are you mad because I let myself get caught?”
Shayna refused to fall for his nonsense. A penetrating gaze wasn’t going to make her suddenly dumbfounded. “Stop with the flirting and the sexy voice and the hard body. What did you do? Crunches until I walked in so your abs would pop through your T-shirt?”
He licked his lips; fighting the grin she saw threatening the corners of his mouth.
Then there was the Garden. Dark and hot, it smelled like jungle or what Shayna Marigold imagined jungle smelled like when jungles still existed.
A steady stream of wet fell from sprinklers planted in the glass ceiling. Fake rain, they spewed a hot clingy mist that seeped into Shayna’s every open pore. It made her skin itch as if tiny wet ants marched over her flesh. Then the wind, blown by propeller-sized fans tossed fallen leaves and dirt in her face. Thankfully, there were no fake bugs or neon sunlight. She scratched her nose and wondered why scientists bothered to create keepsake gardens for the wealthy anyway. When a world collapsed might as well let the soon-to-be extinct things die. Better to wallow in reality than make-believe.
Washington, DC, was a sea of broken concrete, cracked monuments, and pools of black mud. The earthquakes, volcanic ash and acid rain had made a mess of the city and the rest of the continent, leaving a killer atmosphere, no plant life and little food. Shelter was bleak, too, unless you had a government job. Just wasn’t much left worth its weight other than what the well-to-do and the scientists stowed away in mausoleums like the Garden.
The domed building with a half dozen rooms, or chambers, overflowed with exotic plants and other remnants of extinct ecological systems. The rich and powerful kept their newest version of antiquities, the plants that no longer grew outdoors, safe and secure in the Garden. So yeah, it might look like a jungle, smell like a jungle, but it was Noah’s Ark without a sea to sail.
Shayna, special agent in charge of the FBI’s New Environmental Crimes Task Force, walked into the middle of the Garden’s atrium, wiped the water from her brow and looked around. A short janitor in a gray jumpsuit, with a bulging gut, rushed to the nearest wall and a metal switch box. Opening it, he flipped the switch up, then down, and an instant later the water and wind stopped hitting her in the face. She sighed, relieved, and gave him a nod of thanks.
Shayna then shrugged out of her heavy overcoat, but a last morsel of dust flew into a nostril, and she sneezed so hard her eardrums popped. She hated working the Garden beat. The moist heat, flying bits of dirt and indoor plant life pushed her allergies into overdrive. She should be at home, comfy in her hermetically sealed apartment, hiding out for the weekend, safe from the atmosphere, beat cops and dust.
But she drew the short straw—supposedly—and forced to work the crime scene of the biggest heist attempt in the Garden’s history. She also got to interrogate the primary suspect, currently handcuffed to a banister in the Orchid room. She smiled smugly. No way was she going to miss out on this chance, not for all the Benadryl in the District.
After a quick swipe of her itchy nose, she handed her coat to the closest beat cop. He guarded the tapeline in front of the Jungle, the largest chamber in the Garden.
“I’m FBI Special Agent Marigold,” she said to the officer.
“Wow, ma’am, you got here fast.” The cop, a bald-headed boxer-type in a poorly fitted uniform, tucked her coat under his arm as he lifted the yellow tape.
Shayna slipped beneath it. “Headquarters called me on my PDA. I live up the street.” Answering his question fast was best. She didn’t want him treating her silence as an opportunity to chitchat.
They stood in front of the unmoving electronic doors without speaking for a long moment. The doors weren’t working. Shayna glimpsed the handyman in the jumpsuit dash around a corner, searching for a different wall switch to jimmy the doors open. She hoped.
Waiting not so patiently, she gathered her locks into a ponytail and stretched her neck to the side to relieve some of the tension. Faced with another opportunity to go head-to-head with this particular thief thrilled and disturbed her all at once. He was the architect behind more than a thousand successful cons up and down the Atlantic Coast and in the Midwest. Now here he was a hundred feet away on the other side of the sliding glass doors in handcuffs.
It was about damn time.