* * * * *
The six o'clock alarm stabbed Peri's temples as she flung her hand about, trying to stop the beeping. Skip was already up. She walked past him to the bathroom, then returned to stand in front of her closet, willing herself a new wardrobe. If she had to follow Nikki Keller into any highbrow places, she didn't own anything that would meet their standards.
"Up early Doll?"
He paused at the shower door, looking at her. "And you don't have a thing to wear, I suppose."
"Hmm, you could say that." She reached in and selected a pair of olive slacks and a beige top. If I can't be stylish, she thought, I'll at least be invisible.
Skip emerged from the bathroom as she pulled her cement-colored ball cap over her hair.
"See you tonight?"
He shook his head. "Teaching class tonight. How about tomorrow?"
Peri drove two blocks before she realized he didn't kiss her good-bye. Or was it her who didn't kiss him?
Once parked outside the Keller enclave, she didn't have time to think about her love life. Nikki was out early, her convertible flying low, around the corner and across Alta Vista Street, to the country club. Peri hung well back, staying outside the gates until she saw the little blonde dash into the building. She parked her Honda in between two grey sedans and waited.
I need to get in there and see what she's doing, Peri thought. This waiting outside will not get me any information.
She watched the maintenance workers move about the club. Sturdy Hispanic men in green work clothes and massive boots, they raked at gardens, carried trash barrels, and walked around with leaf blowers to clear the refuse out of the parking lot. A man drove a golf cart around the clubhouse and left the gate open.
"Too bad I'm not a cleaning woman anymore," Peri said. "Looks like the only way I'd get in here."
A black cat slunk from under the bushes. It stopped and glared at her, and then dashed away. With a few graceful leaps, it crossed the pavement and disappeared onto the golf course. As she watched it, Peri thought about Mr. Mustard and had an idea. She got out of the car and walked toward the open gate.
Nobody seemed to notice her as she slipped onto the grounds. She stayed on the path, taking slow steps and looking for Nikki. By the time she had reached the corner of the clubhouse, she spotted her target.
They were almost completely obscured by a grove of silver-barked trees, but Nikki appeared to be having an intimate conversation with a man, punctuated by lengthy kisses. Peri wished she could take out her camera and use the telephoto lens, but she had left it in the car, thinking it might look too obvious. She could possibly take a picture with her cell phone, but they were too far away.
A few golfers were just beginning to populate the greens. They gave Peri pleasant, if confused, smiles as they passed. She knew she didn't have much time before someone asked her where her clubs were and, by the way, what was she doing there. Continuing on the path, she kept the clandestine couple in her peripheral vision.
Finally, she saw them come up for air, and with one, last kiss, they parted. Peri turned to move back down the path, away from Nikki's advance, and ran into the golfer behind her. He was an older man, in crisp chinos and a striped jersey polo, pulling a wheeled cart full of golf clubs. She planted her feet and put her hands forward against his shoulders, to steady them both. The golf cart rattled, but stayed upright.
"I'm so sorry," she told him.
"No problem," he said, then looked her in the face. "Are you a new member?"
"Actually, no, I'm looking for my cat. I saw her jump over the fence here, and they said I could take a quick look for her. I get so worried about coyotes, you know."
"Oh, I hope you find her."
"Thank you, sir."
"I hate cats." He continued down the walkway. "They crap in the flower gardens."
Whatever, she thought, and looked around for Nikki's mysterious kisser. The cat-hating man had actually done her a favor; Mr. Kisser had just reached the path in front of her. Peri stepped forward with her best "help me" smile.
"Excuse me, but I'm looking for my cat. Did you see a little black kitty run past here?"
He was young, somewhere in his twenties, tanned and cute in that boy band way. His hair was dark, his eyes were hazel, and his teeth nearly blinded Peri when he opened his mouth to speak.
"I have seen a black cat around, but I haven't seen it today. Is it yours?"
"Yes, I live around the corner and he keeps getting out."
"I'd love to let you look around more, but we've reached our tee times and I can't let you out on the course. You might get hit by a ball."
"Oh, okay. Do you work here?"
He smiled again. "Yes, ma'am, I give lessons here."
"Oh, you're the golf pro?"
He stretched himself up a bit taller. "I have been certified by the Professional Golf Teachers Association of America."
"I'm sure you have." She smiled back. "You know, I've always wanted to learn to play golf. Where would I go, if I couldn't afford the greens fees here?"
"I'd try the Birch Hills Golf Course. It's public, and the instructor there is a friend of mine. Tell him Tyler Garvey sent you."
"Tyler Garvey," Peri repeated. "Thanks, I'll tell him."
She followed the path back to the side gate, but it was locked, so she turned around to find a door into the clubhouse. The walkway was deceiving; it looked as though it followed the curve of the building, but it took a turn away and wound up and around a putting green, before settling back to the exit. Peri didn't want to get caught on the path, but figured she'd be in more trouble if she traipsed across the well-manicured grass, so she kept moving along the paved trail. At the top of the slope, she stopped to look at the course.
It really was lovely, for a golf course. Rolls of emerald green carpet with outlined patches of beige, and rounds of lighter green, punctuated by flags. Off to the right was a pond. Peri thought she saw a fountain spray in the middle of it.
She was enjoying the view, when she heard the whooshing sound of an object cutting through air. A sharp pain at the back of her skull pushed her onto her knees and into darkness.
* * * * *
Ouch! As I said before, this was an important chapter for me. As I was writing it, all according to my outline, I got bored. And I thought, if I'm bored, I'm certainly boring my readers.
That's when I hit Peri in the head with a golf club. Of course, she doesn't know it's a golf club, unfortunately. In my first draft, I ended the chapter with the following: "She didn't see the golf club until it hit her."
Totally cool sentence, except I'm in Peri's POV (point of view), so she wouldn't know what hit the back of her head, would she?
Another fine use of language, pissed away.