Getting Old Is Très Dangereux: A Mystery

Praise for
THE GLADDY GOLD MYSTERIES

“This is one sassy and smart series with a colorful gang of senior sleuths.” —
Mystery Scene

“Beyond the skillful blend of Yiddish humor, affectionate characters and serious undercurrents … picks up speed and flavor with some
twists worthy of Agatha Christie’s archetypal dame detective, Miss Marple.”

Publishers Weekly

“What gives the book its warmth is the way Lakin has turned this group of friends into a family who are there not only for the fun and laughter but also for the heartbreak and tears.” —
Romantic Times


Young and old, Jewish, Protestant, atheist, all will love this tale
told with clarity, wit and interesting characters. This is a must-read mystery.” —I Love A Mystery

“An entertaining cozy mystery series with a set of
lovable and oddball characters. The mystery has a puzzling plot with twists and turns that will surprise readers
.… Retirement takes on a new meaning after spending time with Gladdy and her gladiators!” —Fresh Fiction

“Rita Lakin shows a real flair for comic mysteries ….
The plotting is expert, but the background color of life among older retired people is wonderful
(and sometimes very poignant).” —
Connecticut Post
Forum

“This is a
funny, warm, absolutely delightful
tale … a must read.” —
Mysterious Women

“An unforgettable romp … Lakin’s characters are zany, her writing is
witty and crisp
, and anyone who’s ever visited one can attest that her peek at life in a Jewish Florida retirement center is portrayed both accurately and tastefully.” —
Cleveland Jewish News


Wonderful dialogue and a touch of romance
enlivens this delightful breeze of a tale.” —
Kaw Valley Senior Monthly


Sassy, funny and smart
 … Lakin sprinkles humor on every page, but never loses respect for her characters.” —
New Hampshire Senior Beacon

“It is a tribute to Lakin’s talent that she is able to mingle comedy and murder successfully.”

Dade County Jewish Journal

“If getting old is this much fun, maybe I won’t mind!
Miss Marple, move over
.… Rita Lakin’s witty romp through a Florida retirement community is just the thing for what ails you!” —P
ARNELL
H
ALL
, author of the Puzzle Lady mysteries

“So who knew a retirement community could be so dangerous—and so much fun …. Lakin handles her characters with
dignity, compassion, and love
, while allowing them the full extent of their eccentric personalities.” —V
ICKI
L
ANE
, author of
Old Wounds

“A truly original voice.
Great fun from start to finish
. Plan to stay up late.” —S
HELDON
S
IEGEL
,
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Confession

Fate took R
ITA
L
AKIN
from New York to Los Angeles, where she was seduced by palm trees and movie studios. Over the next twenty years she wrote for television and had every possible job, from freelance writer to story editor to staff writer and, finally, producer. She worked on shows such as
Dr. Kildare, Peyton Place, The Mod Squad
, and
Dynasty
, and created her own shows, including
The Rookies, Flamingo Road
, and
Nightingales
. Rita has won Writers Guild of America awards, the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award, and the coveted Avery Hopwood Award from the University of Michigan. She lives in Marin County, California, where she is currently at work on her next mystery starring the indomitable Gladdy Gold.

www.ritalakin.com

ALSO BY RITA LAKIN

Getting Old Is Murder

Getting Old Is the Best Revenge

Getting Old Is Criminal

Getting Old Is To Die For

Getting Old Is a Disaster

Contents

About the Author

Other Books by this Author

Title Page

Introduction to Our Characters

Prologue: Paris Noir

Chapter 1 -
Oooh Là Là

Chapter 2 -
Croissants

Chapter 3 -
The Past is Present

Chapter 4 -
Mysterious Woman

Chapter 5 -
The Book Signing

Chapter 6 -
Aftermath

Chapter 7 -
The Snake Checks In

Chapter 8 -
Gladdy Detects

Chapter 9 -
At the Beach

Chapter 10 -
Ida Spies

Chapter 11 -
Getting Ready

Chapter 12 -
Ménage À Trois (Or Dinner for Three)

Chapter 13 -
Waiter, L’Addition

Chapter 14 -
At the Mall

Chapter 15 -
Missed Calls

Chapter 16 -
Jack Breaks the News

Chapter 17 -
The Morning After

Chapter 18 -
Getting Through the Day

Chapter 19 -
Watch Your Step

Chapter 20 -
Confessions

Chapter 21 -
Bella’s Gift

Chapter 22 -
Glorious Morning After

Chapter 23 -
A Secret Revealed

Chapter 24 -
Plans

Chapter 25 -
Ida’s Folly

Chapter 26 -
Wedding Day Minus Two

Chapter 27 -
Wedding Day Minus One

Chapter 28 -
Wedding Day Minus One Continued

Chapter 29 -
Here Comes the Bride and the Other Bride

Acknowledgments

Copyright

ON MARRIAGE:

Marriage is not just spiritual communion; it is also remembering to take out the trash
.

—Joyce Brothers

My advice to you is to get married. If you find a good wife, you’ll be happy; if not, you’ll become a philosopher
.

—Socrates

I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life
.

—Rita Rudner

Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then
.

—Katharine Hepburn

Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight
.

—Phyllis Diller

Love: a temporary insanity curable by marriage
.

—Ambrose Bierce

Do you know what it means to come home at night to a woman who’ll give you a little love, a little affection, a little tenderness? It means you’re in the wrong house, that’s what it means
.

—Henny Youngman

I never married, because there was no need. I have three pets at home which answer the same purpose as a husband. I have a dog which growls every morning, a parrot which swears all afternoon, and a cat that comes home late at night
.

—Marie Corelli

    And finally, to the 98 percent of my fans who voted to get Jack and Gladdy married:

Come, let’s be a comfortable couple and take care of each other! How glad we shall be, that we have somebody we are fond of always, to talk to and sit with
.

—Charles Dickens

    Maybe they will. And maybe they won’t.

                       

Introduction to Our Characters

GLADDY AND HER GLADIATORS

Gladys (Gladdy) Gold, 75
Our heroine and her funny, adorable, sometimes impossible partners:

Evelyn (Evvie) Markowitz, 73
Gladdy’s sister. Logical, a regular Sherlock Holmes

Ida Franz, 71
Stubborn, mean, great for an in-your-face confrontation

Bella Fox, 83
The “shadow.” She’s so forgettable, she’s perfect for surveillance, but smarter than you think

Sophie Meyerbeer, 80
Master of disguises, she lives for color coordination

YENTAS, KIBITZERS, SUFFERERS: THE INHABITANTS OF PHASE TWO

Hy Binder, 88
A man of a thousand jokes, all of them tasteless

Lola Binder, 78
His wife, who hasn’t a thought in her head that he hasn’t put there

Enya Slovak, 84
Survivor of “the camps” but never survived

Tessie Spankowitz, 56
Chubby, newly married to Sol

Millie Weiss, 85
Suffering with Alzheimer’s

Irving Weiss, 86
Suffering because she’s suffering

Mary Mueller, 60
Neighbor whose husband left her; nurse

Joe Markowitz, 75
Evvie’s ex-husband

ODDBALLS AND FRUITCAKES

Sol Spankowitz, 79
Now married to Tessie

THE COP AND THE COP’S POP

Morgan (Morrie) Langford
, 35 Tall, lanky, sweet, and smart

Jack Langford, 75
Handsome and romantic, Gladdy’s boyfriend

OTHER TENANTS

Barbi Stevens, 20-ish
, and
Casey Wright, 30-ish
Cousins who moved from California

Pat “Nancy” Drew, 60

Linda Rutledge, 72

Arlene Simon, 80

Merrill Grant, 77

Prologue
PARIS NOIR

“M
on Dieu,”
Pierre growls at his business partner, his rotund belly heaving with agitation. “For what possible reason do you call us to Paris at this late hour?”

“To this foul excuse for a café?” Oswald adds, his skinny arms waving about as he points to the sign reading “Café du Canard Mort”—a sign badly in need of paint. “To drink this vile
vin de table
reeking of vinegar?”

“Comme c’est bizarre!
Meeting here in the ninth arrondissement, where there are more houses of ill repute than patisseries!” huffs Hortense, overly rouged and heavily corseted, as she puffs away on her Gauloise
.

“And told to wear dark clothes?” Pierre adds as
he pushes up his fog-colored beret from his brow. “What is this Georges Simenon cheap mystery nonsense?
Ridicule!”

Gaston listens impatiently to the continuing list of annoyances and complaints from his two partners and a partner’s wife as they balance uncomfortably on spindly unmatched chairs at a minuscule cigarette-scarred wooden table with wrought-iron legs
.

Let them release their streams of vitriol, he thinks. In moments he will give them something real to whine about
.

He reaches into a huge basket at his side and pulls out his own bottle of wine, a corkscrew, four glasses, and a covered plate. He opens the wine and says, “I have brought from our own winery our legendary Pouilly-Fuissé
. Voilà,”
as he fills the new glasses. He then reveals a platter of foie gras and crusty bread. “With permission of the esteemed management,” he adds, indicating a stony-faced, stained-aproned owner glaring at them from the doorway
.

He snaps his fingers and the taciturn man removes the offending carafe of house wine
.

Gaston watches them greedily dig in. For a moment, his partners are appeased by swishing, sniffing, gargling, and finally sipping their famous winery’s award-winning vintage with sighs of satisfaction
.

To any outsider they would seem like three drab men of an indeterminate age and a woman who would rather die than admit hers
.

He gives them a moment for savoring their meal before he drops his guillotine. “A disaster is soon to come upon us.”

They look up. Pierre wipes goose liver from his lips. Hortense squeezes her husband Oswald’s arm. Oswald blinks rapidly
.

Gaston reaches down into his basket again and pulls out a book. He slams it on the table
. “Regardez le visage de la diablesse
—Look into the face of the she-devil!”

All three stare down at the image of a glamorous redheaded woman in a shimmering gold lamé evening gown. Below her décolleté is the name Michelle duBois. Above her diamond tiara is a title:
“Bonbon, Non Non!”
And in smaller letters
, “Un Crime du Chocolat!”
They are puzzled
.

“So?” Oswald peers down to look closer
.

Pierre asks, “So?” as he returns to his delicacies
.

Hortense raises an eyebrow. “She looks familiar.”

Gaston sneers. “She ought to. She spent three months thriving on our generosity.”

Pierre snarls. “And where was I? I never met such a woman.”

Gaston pokes his finger again and again at the visage on the cover. “Take away the gorgeous red
curls. Substitute brown hair the color of pigpen mud.”

Oswald is annoyed. “Get to your point already.”

Gaston smiles nastily. “Remove those drop-dead gorgeous green eyes that dazzle and replace them with dull brown contacts and large ugly horn-rimmed glasses. Ignore jewels we never saw. Think tacky, badly fitted clothes from off the rack.”

Hortense begins to comprehend. “It can’t be!”

It finally dawns on all of them. “Mademoiselle Angelique—whose
grand-père
left her a vineyard in Provence,” remembers Pierre. “Who came to us and begged us to teach her the business.”

Hortense says ominously, “That is not the name on this book—and why is she writing a book, and what is it about?”

Gaston faces his partners. “Michelle duBois is a famous writer who publishes her filth all over the world. As they say in
Les Etats Unis,
she is a ringer of bells, a whistle-blower! She inserts herself into businesses and digs up their dirty little secrets and then she exposes them, ruins the owners, and becomes rich doing this.” He turns the offensive book over and his long fingers point to the list on the back cover. “This exposé is about a renowned chocolate factory in Belgium. Before that was her celebrated bestseller, which exposed
La Vache Qui Pleurait. The Cow Who Cried.”

His partners gasp in horror at that well-known scandal involving
fromage
in Brittany
.

Gaston administers the coup de grâce: “And before that a fatal attack on an olive grove in Tuscany with the horrible American title
, It’s the Pits!”

“Disgusting,” says Oswald
.

Pierre’s head shakes from side to side as if to dislodge this bad news from his mind
.

Hortense lights another Gauloise, puffing madly
.

Oswald grabs the book, skims a paragraph
.
“They put sawdust in the Belgian chocolates? Who could imagine?”

Hortense reads over his shoulder. “The Bretons outsourced their Brie from China? Making people sick to their stomachs?”

Gaston pulls the book away from them and pounds his hands on the table, finally allowing his rage to boil over. “Never mind them! Think about what she found out about us. We are doomed and the fault is yours!” Gaston pokes Pierre in his fat belly. “You son of a gluttonous goat. You brought her to us. You believed her lascivious lies.”

“Not my fault, yours,” Pierre spits back at him as his fingers beat a tattoo along the outside of his knee. “It was you who agreed to let her in. She fluttered those long eyelashes and you dissolved into a pool of melted
beurre!”

“Her fault,” hisses skin-and-bones Oswald as
the traitor pinches his wife in her flabby neck. “Hortense said she was to be trusted.”

Hortense blows cigarette smoke up her husband’s nose. “You were to check up on her but it was her fluffy curls and sprightly bosom you inspected, you lust-crazed
cochon.”

It is long past midnight and the café is empty. Now all the waiters fuss and hover to the side, flapping their unstarched and deplorably ragged white aprons, signaling their desire to close up and go home
.

“Assez!
” shouts Gaston, half standing, as his liver-stained
serviette
falls onto the ground. One of the many cats from the nearby alley rushes to claim the tasty crumbs. “Enough of the accusations. Now that we know who she really is, the question is what to do!”

All four once again glower at the author’s glamorous photo on the cover, as if their looks could burn her image away. “And we are next!” pleads Gaston. “Our turn to be skewered. On the back page she hints that she will announce her new exposé at some cursed book conference she is attending in Florida. And it is about wine!”

Oswald pulls at his frizzy hair in fear. “She wormed her way in and we talked and talked and talked … ”

Pierre nervously pops another bit of foie gras down his gullet, oddly resembling a gulping goose
eating its young. “Now the entire world will know the truth about how we make our wine.”

“Not if we stop her.” The look on Gaston’s face is crafty. The others turn to him
.

Hortense shakes her head mournfully
. “La chienne,
she will be merciless. Relentless. And worse”—she sighs—“impossible to bribe.”

Gaston’s voice drops a few decibels as he leans in closer to all. “That is why I called our little meeting. I have something in mind. So that she will never blow her whistle again. Something of a more permanent solution.”

Hortense rears back in horror. “You don’t mean—”

Gaston straightens the excited woman’s chair before it topples over. “I do mean … ”

“How?” gasps Oswald as he tries to grab his wife’s hand
.

“Traitor!” She shoves him away
.

“I do not know the how, but I know the who,” says Gaston
.

“Who is the who?” asks Pierre with great curiosity
.

“None else
. Mon oncle
twice removed from my aunt’s sister on my father’s side of the family.”

“Non!
” gasps Hortense
.

“Oui,”
insists Gaston proudly. “That
assassin du monde,
the one they call The Snake!”

The three pull back in shock, their minds assessing, conjuring. Dare they hope?

Finally Oswald asks, “Would he do it? I heard he was retired.”

Pierre is puzzled. “That was thirty years ago.”

“And never caught. Not once. An impeccable record,” Gaston states proudly. “Now living on his yacht somewhere off the coast of Monaco.”

“But he must be in his nineties by now,” comments Oswald
.

“And from what I hear from my
tante
Evangeline, he’s still in the pink,” Gaston boasts
.

“Surely he would not help us?”

“But of course he will. It is a matter of family honor. He cannot refuse.”

There is silence for a few moments. Gaston looks to each of them. “Are we all agreed?”

Hortense fans herself with her
serviette
in one hand as she grabs Gaston’s wrist with the other. “Make the call.”

Gaston smiles. “I already have
. Fini.
He is, even as we speak, on his way to the Fort of Lauderdale and once and for all, the world will be rid of
la belle dame sans merci.

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