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From Nursing a Grudge
I dialed Jill and got her voicemail, I pounded on my steering
wheel and let out a few choice swear words.
Laurie made a noise from her car seat.
I adjusted the rearview mirror and studied Laurie in the Elmo
mirror that was pinned to the backseat. “Sorry for the swearing, sweat pea.”
Laurie pointed at my reflection in her mirror and cooed.
I texted Jill.
R U OK? WHERE R U? I’M ON MY WAY TO UC.
Then I dialed my hubby, Jim.
He picked up on the first ring. “Great news, honey. Ramon is here,”
he said. He’s cooking up a storm—”
“What? Ramon? What’s he doing there?”
We’d met Ramon over the holidays when I’d been investigating the
murder of a reporter. Ramon catered for the television station the
victim had worked for.
My stomach growled. “Uh! Sorry I’m missing out. Hey listen,
Paula’s in labor. David’s flight’s been delayed so I’m on my way to UC.
Can you meet me there and pick up the kids?”
“I have to watch Danny. He’s not allowed into the maternity ward
and neither is our little jelly belly.”
“Oh,” Jim said. “Uh, the empanadas are nearly out of the oven
and I— ”
“Empanadas? Come on, Jim. I can’t take—”
“Well, it’s not only the empanadas. I have a sales call scheduled this
afternoon. I really worked for this one, so I’d hate to reschedule. Can I
call your mom? Maybe she can—”
A sales call, my foot! I knew he intended to dig into Ramon’s dish
unabashedly. But, okay, just because I didn’t get to eat lunch didn’t
mean he had to starve.
“Okay, call mom. If she can come, you can stay home and eat. And
try not to burn your tongue.”
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I pulled into the UC Medical Center parking lot like a chicken
with its head cut off. Thankfully, Laurie had fallen asleep on the ride
and she gave me no problems as I released her car seat from its base
and snapped it into the stroller.
I wheeled the stroller to the hospital entrance and looked for
mom. Instead, I saw my mom’s boyfriend, Galigani, who also
happened to be my boss and mentor, approaching.
Galigani was tall and dark with a thick mustache. He’d retired
from the San Francisco Police Department before I’d met him and
started his own private investigation service. Under his guidance, I’d
solved three crimes and had hopes of having a new career as a P.I.
“Hey, kid!” he said jovially.
“What are you doing here? It’s not your heart, is it?” I asked.
Three months prior, Galigani had undergone open-heart surgery.
He laughed. “If I keep hanging out with you and your mom, it
might be. I’m here in lieu of Vera.”
“Why? Where is she?” I asked.
He placed a hand on his chest as though he were crestfallen. “I’m
I leaned in to kiss his cheek. “No. I didn’t mean that. In fact, you’ll
probably give me less lip than Mom.”
“Don’t count on it,” he said.
I pulled my phone out and checked the display. No word from
either Paula or Jill.
“Come on. I need to get inside and check for my friends,” I said.
Galigani frowned. “I have to go inside? I thought I was just picking
up the kids.”
I turned to him. “Are you afraid of the hospital?”
He looked at me like I was the dumbest person on the planet.
“Never mind,” I said. “Do you have a car seat in your car?”
He shook his head.
“How are you supposed to take the kids then?”
He stroked his mustache and asked. “They need car seats?”
I returned his ‘you’re the stupidest person I know’ look. Galigani
simply looked back me, tilting his chin down so that he looked at me
through his eyelashes. It was his best ‘I only have disdain for you’
I whipped out my phone and sent a message first to Paula, then Jill
and finally Jim.
Galigani continued to look at me. “Are you hoping that if you tap
that thing long enough, car seats will appear out of thin air?”
“Funny,” I said, without looking up. “You can take my car.”
I dug into my diaper bag to retrieve my keys, while filling Galigani
in on my lunch.
He frowned when I told him about Jill’s last message.
“Let’s check and see how her boyfriend, Perry, is doing. Maybe he’s
here and she’s with him.”
“You want to go into the hospital with me?” I asked.
Before Galigani could answer, a yellow cab pulled up in front
My mother burst out of the cab in true Vera style. She wore a blue
and red striped knit cap that was somewhat reminiscent of a barber
pole with a feather sticking out of it.
I hate to admit that I hesitated before saying the word, “Mom.”
Mom on the other hand didn’t hesitate at all. She gleefully yelled at
us. “Hey, gang! I brought the lady of the hour.”
What was Mom doing in Paula’s cab?
Out of the cab jumped Danny, Paula’s two-year-old son, who
pulled on mom’s arm and said, “Mommy’s stuck.”
A clodhopper attached to a very swollen ankle poked out of the
cab and remained frozen in mid-air.
I left Laurie in her stroller with Galigani and motioned for Mom
to take Danny to the curb.
I peeked inside the cab. Paula was in a semi-reclined position,
wearing a flowered maternity smock and leggings, a hand on her
protruding belly and a miserable expression on her face.
I smiled at her. “Need a little help?”
“Help, yes, but you can save the forced gaiety. I won’t be happy
until this little sucker is out of my body!”
I grabbed her elbow and heaved her out. She was my best friend
and I loved her like a sister. I knew her well enough to know that even
if the contractions and labor pain were enough to put her in a bad
mood, worse was having to suffer the maternity smocks and clod‐
“You’re in the home stretch now,” I said encouragingly. “You’ll be
back to your fashionable self in no time.”
Paula grimaced while Galigani secured a wheelchair.
Paula seated herself. “Ah. Thank you. Who said chivalry was dead?”
I paid the cabbie and joined my crew at the curb. Mom had already
taken charge of the children. Danny clung to her leg while he fussed
with the wrapper of a lollipop that she’d no doubt just given him,
while Laurie squealed to be let out of the stroller.
“She was asleep,” I complained.
Mom laughed. “She’s a very smart girl. She knows when there’s
“How did you end up in their cab?” Galigani asked Mom.
“Oh, I saw those dreadful rates for the parking garage, and there’s
no way I was paying that! So, I had to hunt out a city spot.”
“She hailed us about five blocks ago,” Paula said.
Galigani handed Mom my keys. “Are you taking the kids, then? I’m
going to help Kate out with a few things.”
Mom’s eyes flashed with excitement. “A new investigation?”
“Labor here, people,” Paula howled.
I gave Mom directions to where I’d parked and wheeled Paula into
Galigani and I agreed that while I stayed with Paula, he would
poke around and see if he could get any information on Jill’s
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