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“I’m outside your apartment right now and you’re not here,” he said, his voice a tightly restrained growl. “Please tell me you’re just out getting your hair done or your lip waxed or something.”

Hey! What did he mean, “lip waxed”? I scrutinized my upper lip in the reflection of the brass lampshade.

“Look, call me when you get this, Maddie. I mean it.” Clearly an order. Not a suggestion.

I thought about calling him back. For about half a second. I mean, who did he think he was? He’d gone for six whole weeks without calling me back. Besides, that wax comment hit below the belt.

I deleted the message, still smooshing my face around in the lampshade reflection, checking for dark hairs.

“Dana, give it to me straight. Do I have a mustache?”

Dana paused, pulling a pair of running sneakers from her suitcase. “Of course not.”

I squinted at my reflection. “I mean, you’d tell me if I did, right? You wouldn’t let me walk around looking like Groucho Marx, would you?”

“Groucho who?” Dana gave me a blank stare.

“You know, that guy with the glasses and the big nose.”

“Maddie, your nose is totally not big.”

“Mrs. Rosenblatt said I had dust on my upper lip.”

Dana put her hands on her hips. “Mrs. Rosenblatt says she sees dead people.”

She had a point.

I gave it up, watching Dana unpack instead. She pulled three gym suits out of her bag. Then a curling iron, jumbo can of hairspray and a cell phone.

“Ooooh, stylin’ phone, honey,” Marco said, skipping out of the bathroom. “Is this one of those streaming video ones? I so want one of these.”

I narrowed my eyes at the cell. It didn’t have Dana’s usual pink polka-dotted skins. Uh oh. Wasn’t that…

“Marco, put it down-”

But I was too late. Marco made a little gurgling sound, then his eyes rolled back in his head and he hit the ground.

“Dana!” I yelled, falling to Marco’s side. I felt for a pulse.

“Don’t worry; it’s just a little jolt. He’ll be fine.” Dana picked up the cell, pushing a red button and buzzing the stun gun to life. “See? Rico said it’s virtually harmless.”

“Virtually” being the key word here. Marco’s pulse was steady, but a little stream of drool was forming at the side of his mouth.

“What were you thinking, bringing that thing?” I yelled. I slapped Marco’s cheeks to wake him up. His head kind of lolled to the side, his tongue falling out like a golden retriever’s.

“Uh, hello?” Dana answered, making her best “well, duh” face at me. “Your dad was shot by the Mob! I couldn’t pick up my LadySmith for another seven days, so this was the best I could do.”

I closed my eyes. I counted to ten. I did a little prayer to Saint…well, okay, I couldn’t honestly remember one saint from the next as I’d been pretty preoccupied in Sunday school by Bobby Tanner, who sat two seats in front of me. He’d had an uncanny resemblance to Kirk Cameron and wore his dad’s Old Spice at age twelve. But I was pretty sure there was a saint somewhere who granted patience to those whose best friends insisted on carrying concealed weapons around in their purses.

“Dana, just put that thing away, okay?”

She shrugged. “Fine. But I’d think you’d be glad one of us thought of bringing protection.” Dana tucked the cell back into her purse. “We’re talking about the Mob, Maddie.”

I enunciated very slowly. “There is no more Mob in Las Vegas.”

Dana shook her head. “Maddie, you are so naive.”

I searched my brain for a comeback, but was spared the need as Marco started to come around.

“Uh appen oo ee,” he mumbled, his tongue still lolling to one side.

“You zapped yourself with Dana’s stun gun.”

“Uhn un?” His eyes grew wide. “What uhn un?”

I helped him into a sitting position as he slowly jerked his limbs back to life and wiped the drool from his chin. Dana got him a glass of water from the bathroom and after ten minutes of rapid blinking and twitching, he was almost back to normal. Well, as normal as Marco got.

“Is my mascara running?” he asked.

I decided it was kinder to lie. “Nope. You look great.”

“I changed my mind. I so do not want one of those.”

That made two of us.

Once Marco recovered enough to stand, he decided he needed to walk it off. Preferably in the Soho Village shopping center downstairs. As tempting as that sounded, I was eager to start crossing Larrys off my list.

I made Dana leave the stun gun in the room, and we got back into the seafoam Mustang. The first Larry on our list was L. Springer who lived in South Vegas and apparently didn’t believe in answering machines.

South Vegas was populated with apartment and condo complexes that had spas, swimming pools, and more palm trees than Florida. We pulled up to a gated complex in muted orange, dotted with palm trees, (of course), birds of paradise and two bubbling fountains.

Unfortunately, our L. Springer turned out to be Luanna Springer, a black woman with the longest, most intricately painted nails I had ever seen. She said she worked at Wynn’s as a cocktail waitress and had never heard of “this Larry dude.” Apart from the name of her manicurist, Dana and I came away empty handed.

We pulled back onto the 15, going north until we merged on the 215 toward Vegas’s nearest and dearest suburb, Henderson. Henderson was one new, dusty beige housing development after another, punctuated by the occasional strip mall and Home Depot. We passed two parks, both with fields of perfectly green grass that must have been watered ten times a day to grow that uniformly in the desert. The road was dotted with minivans and SUVs full of carseats, and khaki seemed to be the fashion color of choice. All in all, the perfect family neighborhood. (I’m sure I don’t need to add there was no sign of the Mob anywhere. I think Dana was a little disappointed.)

We turned onto Arroyo Grande, and into the Desert Sands Oasis housing development. We took a right on Warm Sands Road, then wound around to Hidden Sands Court, going left onto Sand Storm Way, and finally pulling up to the 319 Sand Hill Lane. It was a nondescript two-story stucco in pale taupe colors that looked like-you guessed it-sand. The yard held a rock garden, interspersed with tall grasses and lowmaintenance succulents sprouting tiny pink flowers.

I stared. The house looked exactly like the kind of place that bred soccer moms and Big Wheels. It didn’t fit my image of either CIA Dad or Rock Star Dad. It looked more suited to Family Guy Dad. Which begged the question, did Larry have another family? Had he started over with a new wife once he’d left Mom and me? Worse yet…new kids? I bit my lip, my Gucci boots suddenly feeling like they were made of lead instead of Italian leather.

“You okay?” Dana asked, laying a hand on my shoulder.

No. “Fine. Great. Let’s go.”

Before my overactive imagination could get the better of me, I forced my feet out of the car and up the flagstone pathway to the front door. I rapped three times, steeling myself for the sight of adorable little towheaded kids in matching jumpers. Luckily, none appeared. Dana shifted from foot to foot beside me and rang the bell. We waited as the dull, muted sound chimed through the house. Still nothing.

“Now what?” Dana asked.

I bit my lip, trying to see past the lacy curtains into the house. If my dad were laying dead by the phone, he wasn’t in the front room. What I could see of the living room-dining combo was void of people, just your average oak dining set and an oversize sofa in floral patterns.

“They’re not home,” a voice called.

Dana and I turned around to find a man holding a garden hose in the next yard over. He was short, balding and had the skin of a shar-pei. I put his age somewhere between eighty and a hundred and fifty.

“Car’s not in the drive,” he explained. “They always park in the driveway.”

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