Never guessing that their very lives might be in danger, well-to-do women come from all over the country to stay at guest ranches around Reno to establish the six weeks’ residency required for a quickie Nevada divorce in 1955.
When a Circle E Ranch guest dies after her Cadillac plunges off Mount Rose Highway, a mountain road between Lake Tahoe and Reno, Washoe County Deputy Sheriff Ben Cameron is assigned to investigate the accident. His inquiries lead him to question everyone at the Circle E, where he meets Mary, an attractive prospective divorcée from New York, who soon has an accident of her own. In the meantime, Ben’s case takes a turn as twisty as the Mount Rose Highway, and when Mary suffers a second accident, he quickly figures that someone is out to get her. Unless Ben can discover who’s targeting the out-of-towners, some of them won’t live long enough to have their day in court.
Mary and Shirley, each carrying a couple of large shopping bags, emerged from Gray Reid. Mary hadn’t intended to spend so much on her new swimwear, but Shirley’s infectious enthusiasm had rubbed off on her, and she’d purchased two swimsuits, a flowery cover-up, a wide-brimmed sun hat, a couple of beach towels, a bathing cap, and a large straw beach bag. She rationalized that she’d need some way to keep busy for her six weeks in Nevada, and since the Circle E had a nice pool and Shirley had offered to teach her how to swim, it made sense to buy swimwear.
“All you need now is some suntan lotion,” Shirley said. “We’ll stop at a drug store on our way back to the ranch and pick some up. Right now, I’m starting to feel hungry. Why don’t we stop for lunch at one of the casino restaurants? By the time we get back to the Circle E, lunchtime will be over. It’s usually just soup and sandwiches set out as a buffet at noon anyway. At the ranch, the big meal of the day is always dinner.”
“Casinos have restaurants, too? I thought they were only for gambling.”
“Most of them are hotels as well as casinos, and usually they have at least a couple of restaurants. They have big-name entertainment, too. Frank Sinatra played the Sky Room at the Mapes a couple of months ago, and Tony Bennett sang there just last month. Of course, it’s not New York or L.A., but, for a town this size, it’s something.”
“I didn’t realize that. Every time I’ve heard about Reno, it’s always been in connection with a divorce, and now here I am to get one myself. I can’t quite believe it.”
Shirley and Mary lingered over a long lunch in the bustling coffee shop at the Riverside. Walking through the casino had been like a trip through a foreign land for Mary as she gazed in amazement at the crowd of gamblers playing table games and slot machines. The gambling didn’t stop in the casino, either. It spilled into the coffee shop, too, where patrons could play keno while they were enjoying their meals. Short, stubby pencils and packs of keno forms were on every table in the coffee shop, and keno runners in black and white garb came by the tables periodically to collect the keno forms that customers were going to play or to return them after the numbers had been verified. Shirley, who had played the game before, explained to Mary how it worked. It was as simple as choosing numbers on the form that resembled a bingo card, then hoping that the numbers the house drew matched. Winnings could range from a dollar to several thousand dollars, depending on how many numbers were played and how many numbers matched those that the house drew. In every casino game, losers outnumbered winners, but gamblers’ optimism that they’d beat the house kept the Nevada gaming business healthy.
Shirley lost several dollars before giving up, but Mary won enough to pay for their lunch and leave their waitress a generous tip. Gathering up their shopping bags, they left, satisfied with Mary’s small winnings.
As Mary and Shirley emerged from the Riverside, they were surrounded immediately by a large crowd of tourists who had evidently just arrived by bus. They sidled their way through the crush—they were leaving while the tourists were clamoring to enter the casino. Finally, the tourists all passed, and the two women paused to recover from the jostling for a moment. The onslaught wasn’t over yet, though, as another tourist bus pulled up to the curb, and its passengers began streaming from the bus. Hoping to cross the street to get away from the throng, Shirley and Mary hurried to the corner where they had to wait for the red light to change. Mary turned to look for Shirley, but she didn’t see her new friend. Somehow, they’d become separated when the big group of tourists mingled with the locals outside the casino.
The temperature had risen considerably since Mary and Shirley had left the Circle E in the morning, and Mary thought it must be well above ninety degrees by now. She squirmed in her beige raw silk suit, which was stylish, but too heavy to wear in hot weather. The shopping bags felt like lead
weights, and her girdle felt constricting, as beads of sweat popped out on Mary’s forehead. People kept bumping into her, and she began to feel as though the whole world were closing in on her. Assuming that Shirley would catch up to her on the other side of the street, Mary inched her way forward until she stood right on the edge of the curb, and there was nobody between her and the street. Fighting lightheadedness, she took a deep breath. The red light seemed to stay on forever. If only she could reach the other side of the street, if only she could escape from the crowd, if only she could get out of the hot sun. The seconds ticked away, seeming like an eternity to Mary.
Suddenly, she felt a blow on her back, and she pitched forward, into the busy intersection. She heard screams, maybe from herself, maybe from Shirley or other people on the crowded sidewalk as a taxi screeched to a halt just inches from her. People rushed to help. The cab driver leaped from his taxi and picked up the scattered contents of Mary’s shopping bags while Shirley and a couple of cowboys held onto Mary as she struggled to stand. Throbbing scrapes covered her knees and forearms, and she had a large bump on her forehead. Her silk stockings were in shreds.
“Lady, you’re lucky you weren’t killed,” the cabbie said. “I sure burned rubber trying to avoid hitting you.”
Looking as though she might pass out at any moment, Mary moaned and swayed.
“Can she sit down in the cab?” Shirley asked. “She’s about ready to faint.”
“Oh, sure. Sorry, lady.” The cabbie flung open the taxi’s back door, and the cowboys guided Mary onto the seat.
“Lie down, Mary,” Shirley said.“You’ll feel better.”
Shirley turned to thank the two ranch hands who had helped, but they’d already disappeared into the crowd.
“Where you wanna go, lady? It’s on the house,” the cabbie said. “Maybe we should take her to the hospital,” he said to Shirley.
“I’ll be OK,” Mary said. “I felt like I was going to pass out for a few minutes back there, but I’m starting to feel better.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to see a doctor, Mary? You have quite a bump on your head.”
“No, let’s go back to the Circle E. I don’t want to be a bother.”
“All right.” Shirley gave the cab driver directions to her car. When they arrived, she offered to pay him, but he refused to take any money, repeating that the ride was “on the house.”
Shirley’s car felt stuffy, but at least it had been parked in the shade. Shirley and Mary rolled down the windows and enjoyed the rush of air, even though it was hot, as Shirley drove back to the Circle E. She whizzed past a drug store without slowing down before she remembered that she’d intended to stop so that Mary could buy some suntan lotion.
“Oh, shoot. I meant to stop at the drug store. I guess we’ll have to come back tomorrow. You’ll need to get those scrapes cleaned up as soon as we get back, anyway. I bet they really hurt, don’t they?”
“Oh, boy, do they! It reminds me of when I was a kid and fell off a curb while I was roller skating. I was really banged up then, too.”
“I’m sorry our shopping trip came to such a bad end, Mary. We were having fun until you fell and nearly got run over by that taxi.”
“Shopping was fun, but I didn’t fall. I was pushed.”
Thank you, Paula Darnell and R&R Book Tours
About the author
An instructor at five colleges over the years, Paula Darnell most often taught the dreaded first-year English composition classes, but she’s also been happy to teach some fun classes, such as fashion design, sewing, and jewelry making. Paula has a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and a Master’s degree in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Paula’s interest in DIY craft projects and fashion led to her writing hundreds of articles for print and online national publications. She is the author of Death by Association and Death by Design, both in her cozy series, the DIY Diva Mysteries.
Paula lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her husband Gary and their 110-pound dog Rocky, whose favorite pastime is lurking in the kitchen, hoping for a handout.
Author’s website– https://www.pauladarnellauthor.com/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/PaulaJDarnell
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/paulad0057/
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