Skip to main content

Entertaining myself - ch 12 of PROTECTION FOR HIRE

I was re-reading Protection for Hire the other day because I’m planning to start work on book #3 in the series soon. Then I read the Fat Burger scene, and just could NOT stop laughing. I couldn’t believe I wrote that!

Captain Caffeine looked at me rather strangely when I was sitting there giggling to myself but I couldn’t even stop laughing to explain to him what I was laughing at.

And then when I finally could explain it to him, it just sounded dumb. Go figure.

Anyway, here’s the scene, which was from chapter twelve (I think … correct me if I’m wrong since I don’t have a copy near my desk to check).

Tessa, my heroine, is at her mom’s house with her client, Elizabeth St. Amant, and Elizabeth’s three year old son, Daniel (who owns a pink-polka-dotted stuffed dog named Slasher, which is a story in itself). Tessa has never had a great relationship with her older sister, Alicia, and hasn’t been much involved with Alicia’s 13-year-old daughter, Paisley, since Tessa was in prison for the past seven years, but she’s trying really hard to strengthen family ties. Alicia isn’t as interested in doing that, and has always resented Tessa for her illegal doings for their mob-boss uncle (which was why she went to prison). Alicia’s also stressed because she’s in the middle of divorcing her husband, Duane.

Chapter Twelve

“This is all your fault!” was the first thing Alicia said when Tessa picked up her mom’s landline phone.

The accusation was like a glass of lemonade thrown in her face—startling and stinging. “What’s my fault?” she demanded.

Elizabeth looked up from where she was playing with Daniel on the living room floor.

“Everything!” The crack of hysteria in her voice clued Tessa in to the fact that Alicia was even more high strung than normal.

When she listened closely, she could hear Paisley sobbing in the background. Tightness gathered just under her breastbone. “What happened?” Her tone was still tense but she tried to soften it by speaking low and slowly.

Alicia didn’t answer, which always drove Tessa stark raving nuts. She listened to the symphony of crying (Paisley) and wailing (Alicia) for a full two minutes while Elizabeth alternated between playing Slasher-the-valiant-pink-dragon with Daniel and shooting Tessa What in the world is going on? looks. Tessa gave her I don’t know! looks back.

Suddenly in the background she heard an aggravated voice shout, “What you do, lady? Aiyahhhh, poor didi …”

Alicia raised her voice to shriek, “What did I do? This is a hazard! You should be sued!”

The slam of a car door, then the sounds of two voices arguing over each other with fighting words like “You hit my didi” and “Your stupid monstrosity” and “You in big trouble” and “You don’t know what trouble is, mister.”

Finally she heard Paisley say, “Mom, give me the phone. … Hello? Aunt Tessa?” She sounded small, but her voice didn’t wobble.

“Paisley, what happened? Are you two all right?”

“We’re …” She took a deep breath, and her voice was steadier as she continued, “We’re fine. Mom got into a car accident.”

“Is anyone hurt?”

“No, we’re fine. Mom hit a …” She gulped.

An 18-wheeler? A tractor? A dump truck?

“… a Fat Burger Boy.”

Tessa rattled a finger in her ear. “What did you say?”

“You know, those big plexiglass boys in front of the Fat Burger restaurant, the ones wearing a sombrero and a kimono and wooden shoes.”

Oh, that’s right.

Elizabeth tugged at Tessa’s sleeve, and Tessa mouthed, “Auto accident,” and gave her a thumb’s up to show they were okay. Elizabeth nodded and sighed in relief.

The argument in the background had ended, and Tessa could hear Alicia’s heaving sobs (sounding more frustrated than traumatized) punctuated by an occasional, “It’s all her fault!” She also heard what sounded like a solid kick to a piece of plexiglass, followed by an “Ow!”

Tessa relaxed a little. Alicia must be okay if she was attacking shattered Fat Boys. “How’s the car?” she asked Paisley.

“The front bumper looks like it’s frowning, but other than that, I think the Fat Boy got the last fry in the Happy Meal.”

“I don’t think he’s happy with you mentioning his competition.”

“He can’t be happy anymore about anything,” Paisley said dryly. “His entire head is gone.”

“Did your mom call her auto insurance adjustor?”

“No, she called you first.”

“Check in her wallet for her insurance card.”

She could hear Paisley rummaging through Alicia’s purse. She knew it was Alicia’s purse because she could hear all the gigantic brass buckles clanking—Alicia had a neurotic thing for buckles.

“I got it.”

“Call the number on it and let them know what happened. You’re probably also going to have to get the car towed. Does she have AAA?”

“I don’t see a AAA card,” Paisley said.

“Oh.” Tessa didn’t have AAA anymore.

Then Elizabeth tugged on her sleeve again. “I have AAA,” she said.

And they were flush with cash. “Paisley, where are you?” She took down the address then told her, “Call the insurance adjustor. Elizabeth and I will come as soon as we can to pick you up and help you get the car towed.”

Tessa called a cab company and had the driver pick them up a few blocks from her mom’s house. Within twenty minutes, they were being dropped off at Fat Burger. Luckily, Alicia had chosen to assault a fast food restaurant nearby their home as opposed to across the Bay Area.

“What took you so long?” Alicia demanded, tottering toward them on her pumps. “It’s all your fault!”

Tessa knew Alicia had just been through something terrible, she knew Alicia was probably worried about Paisley, she knew Alicia didn’t handle stress well (that was a gross understatement), and she knew Alicia worried about the money to fix the car and the Fat Boy now that she had started divorce proceedings. But Alicia’s habit of always accusing Tessa was wearing her down, and Tessa found herself responding the way she usually did.

“Brilliant driving, Dale Earnhardt.”

Alicia’s eyes were jade spikes. “What are you talking about? And this—” She swung her arms in wide circles to encompass the headless Fat Boy. “—is all your fault.”

“Excuse me, but this—” Tessa swung her arms in identical circles at the Fat Boy. “—was caused by this—” She swung her arms to include Alicia’s dented SUV. “—which was driven by this.” She swung her arms in a giant circle to frame the picture of Alicia’s dementedly mad figure.

Only then did it register to Tessa that her sister was in a business suit. She dressed up just to pick up her daughter from school?

“I knew you’d be completely insensitive,” Alicia said. “You’re making jokes while your niece is in hysterics.” She flung a hand out toward Paisley, who was leaning against the car and braiding a lock of her straight brown hair.

“Yes,” said Tessa. “I can see she’s practically incoherent.”

“I talked to the insurance adjustor, Aunt Tessa,” Paisley said without looking up from her braiding. “Her name was Linda Teng and she was really nice. She talked to the restaurant owner and got his information. She says it shouldn’t be a problem to cover the cost of didi, here.” She jerked her head toward Headless Boy.


“The restaurant owner’s name is Bobby Wong. He calls the Fat Boy didi, which Linda told me means ‘younger brother.’”

“Well, that’s appropriate.”

“Are we done talking about statue nicknames?” Alicia said acerbically. “Where’s the tow truck?”

Elizabeth handed Daniel over to Paisley, who promptly showed him Fat Boy’s head on the ground and got him to start bopping him on the nose, while Elizabeth called AAA and got a tow truck.

“It’s all your fault,” Alicia said to Tessa while they waited.

Okay, this repetitiveness was going beyond Alicia’s typical, “It’s Tessa’s fault just for existing” sort of rant. “What do you mean, it’s my fault?” Tessa braced herself—after all, she was asking for it by just voicing the question.

“If stupid you hadn’t been doing all those stupid jobs for Uncle Teruo, stupid Duane wouldn’t have had any grounds to sue for custody.”

Tessa clenched her teeth at the excessive use of the word stupid, but by judicious intake of oxygen, let it slide. “How can he sue for custody?”

“He said that since I was living with my sister, who had been accused of murder and gone to jail, I was an unfit mother to expose my child to such a questionable influence.”

“So him living with his stripper girlfriend is a better influence?”

“Your memory is like a strainer—the stripper left him already. He’s with an airline attendant now.”

“So it’s better to expose a thirteen-year-old to a stewardess dressed in whipped cream?”

“Rather than an ex-convict?” Alicia snapped. “What do you think?”

What could she say to that? Despite Alicia’s normal level of unreasonable-ness, Tessa couldn’t deny that her conviction had deeply impacted so many more people than just herself.

“He’s only doing this to annoy me,” Alicia said. “His girlfriend can’t stand Paisley.”

“That’s ’cause the last time she left her bra hanging in the bathroom, I punctured her water cups,” Paisley called from Fat Boy’s head.

Tessa and Elizabeth both stifled their laughter.

“You’re not supposed to be listening,” Alicia shot back.

“Then stop talking like I’m not here,” Paisley retorted.

“You muzzle that attitude, missy, or you’re grounded,” Alicia said.

Paisley pouted, but kept her mouth shut.

“I was so upset when I got the phone call, it was like I went blind,” Alicia said, and her voice cracked.

That twist in her sister’s voice caused a twisting in Tessa’s gut. Regardless of Alicia’s complete lack of common politeness to Tessa, she really did love her daughter, and Duane wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on in this custody battle if not for Tessa’s past involvement with the yakuza and her incarceration.

“And that stupid statue jumped in front of me,” Alicia said. “The next thing I know, I have some Chinese man yelling at me that I hurt his poor didi. How am I supposed to know what didi is? At first I thought he was upset I had disrupted the place’s feng shui.”

Tessa eyed Fat Boy’s sombrero, dented on one edge, which rolled near his wooden shoes. “I don’t think Fat Burger cares much about feng shui.”

“And now I’ll have to pay the insurance deductible. How am I supposed to raise a daughter while dealing with Duane the moron and trying to pay a deductible with money I don’t have?”

“You might get that job you interviewed for today, Mom,” Paisley said.

Hence the business suit. Tessa should have guessed. “You went for an interview today?”

“Do you think I dressed like this just to pick Paisley up from school? Of course I had an interview,” Alicia snapped, but then she rubbed her forehead with her fingers. “I can’t even apply for a Biologist Four position because I’ve been out of the industry for so long. I’ll be lucky to get a Bio One position that pays absolute dregs.”

Tessa wanted to say, “Trust in God to take care of you,” but the words glued her mouth shut like a lump of salt-water taffy. On second thought, her atheist sister’s raging temper might make her spit the words right back at her.

But Tessa did send a quick prayer Heaven-ward: Jesus, please help my sister find a good job. Please take care of her and Paisley.

And a weird, strange answer in her head: Don’t I always?

Somehow, that voice calmed her and enabled her to say, “I can pick Paisley up from school for you, if that’ll help with your interviews and any job you might land.”

“Fine.” Alicia crossed her arms and didn’t look at Tessa.

Her gratitude was truly overwhelming.

Then again, she hadn’t expected it. Knowing how Alicia typically treated her, if she’d said “Thank you,” Tessa would have been more likely to faint dead away.

But Paisley caught her eye and gave her a grin. Things had been awkward between them for the first three months after Tessa got out, since her last memory of the girl had been of a rowdy six-year-old, but she was starting to like her niece, who seemed to have Tessa’s adventurous spirit and the determination of a nicer version of Alicia.

She hadn’t been very Christ-like in her interactions with her sister, and of all her family, she didn’t want Paisley to get the wrong impression of how Tessa’s new faith had changed her—or not changed her, as the case might seem. This might give her a chance to connect with her niece better and also start exercising that love she seemed to be utterly and completely lacking in when it came to her family. She had pink cloud-framed visions of explaining the gospel to her niece and having Paisley come to Christ amidst a choir of angels singing in the background.

Okay, well, maybe not.

But she could at least become a good enough aunt that Paisley wouldn’t be ashamed to bring her to school for “Aunty Day.” Did they even have Aunty Day?

Oh, and all this while protecting Elizabeth and Daniel from a man who might or might not have hidden motives for tracking them down.

No sweat. She could multitask.

(C) 2011 Camy Tang


  1. Ah yes, I remember that one. As I wrote in my review of it:

    "Nobody does lunatic families like Camy Tang does lunatic families; one wonders how she gained her expertise...."

    Perhaps at the family reunions she is no longer invited to because people have started to recognize themselves in her books?

    What I best remember from that book though was the valiant but ancient Toyota Corolla Tessa was forced to use that never quite let them down. I was driving a valiant but ancient Toyota Corolla (1999) at the time, am still driving it today, and will continue to drive it until I finally get that good job. It has handled rural paper routes ("turn off the paved road"), torrential rain and marble-sized hail turned into 6 inches of frozen slush in a state that owns no snow plows, creek beds humorously labeled as "roads", an endless succession of tires driven on until the steel belts show through where the tread used to be (in fact the doughnut spare was put back on yesterday), slow leaks in oil and brake fluid topped up as needed, door handles that snap off leaving one to open them by grasping pieces of broken plastic, warning lights that never go off anymore, keys worn down until they had to be replaced by looking them up on the computer, and 136,000 miles, but the darn thing still rumbles to life. If it doesn't actually kill me, I shall be a little sad to see it go when it finally goes.

    A little.

    1. Now that's a story! I never had a Toyota Corolla, but I did have a Ford GT that was surprisingly similar to Gramps.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts

Laura’s Apricot Shell Shawl knitting pattern

I usually have a knitting project in mind when I write it into one of my books, but Laura’s apricot-colored shawl just kind of appeared upon the page as I was writing the first scene of Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 4: Betrayer , and it surprised even me. I immediately went to my yarn stash to find a yarn for it, and I searched through my antique knitting books to find some stitch patterns. I made her an elegant wool shawl she could wear at home. The shawl ended up tagging along with Laura into the next book, Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 5: Prisoner , where it imparts some comfort to her in her trying circumstances. The two stitch patterns are both from the same book, The Lady’s Assistant, volume 2 by Mrs. Jane Gaugain, published in 1842 . A couple excessively clever and creative knitters might have knit these patterns in the Regency era, but they would have only passed them around by word of mouth or scribbled “recipes” to friends or family, and it wouldn’t have been widely use

No Cold Bums toilet seat cover

Captain's Log, Stardate 08.22.2008 I actually wrote out my pattern! I was getting a lot of hits on my infamous toilet seat cover , and I wanted to make a new one with “improvements,” so I paid attention and wrote things down as I made the new one. This was originally based off the Potty Mouth toilet cover , but I altered it to fit over the seat instead of the lid. Yarn: any worsted weight yarn, about 120 yards (this is a really tight number, I used exactly 118 yards. My suggestion is to make sure you have about 130 yards.) I suggest using acrylic yarn because you’re going to be washing this often. Needle: I used US 8, but you can use whatever needle size is recommended by the yarn you’re using. Gauge: Not that important. Mine was 4 sts/1 inch in garter stitch. 6 buttons (I used some leftover shell buttons I had in my stash) tapestry needle Crochet hook (optional) Cover: Using a provisional cast on, cast on 12 stitches. Work in garter st until liner measures

Keriah’s Pyrennees Shawl knitting pattern w/ @knitpicks Palette

Why I knit this shawl: I wanted to knit the sunset-colored shawl Keriah was wearing in chapter 5 of my book, Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 2: Berserker , so I looked for an antique pattern that might have been used during the Regency era. This one caught my eye, even though it was published in a knitting book a few decades later than the Regency era. The Spider-Net border pattern was most definitely in use in the Regency period, but it’s also remotely possible that the Alice-Maud stitch and the lacy border stitch patterns were also in use during the Regency, being passed on from knitter to knitter via hand-written receipts, by verbal instruction, or with knitted sampler squares (like how many Shetland lace patterns and Bavarian cable patterns were shared). My/Keriah’s version of this shawl would have been lacy but warm because it is knit with fingering yarn on small needles. Since Keriah was cold, I think she would have grabbed this shawl rather than something more elegant and airy.

Narrow Escape contest for January!

I’m so excited because my January Love Inspired Suspense, Narrow Escape , is now available! Here’s the back cover blurb: KIDNAPPED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT Arissa Tiong and her three-year-old niece are snatched off the street by members of a notorious drug gang. Having lost her police officer brother to a drug bust gone bad, Arissa knows the danger she's in. But she has no idea why they want her. Desperate to protect the little girl, Arissa escapes and runs straight to Nathan Fischer. She knows the handsome, weary former narcotics cop hasn't told her everything about the night that ended her brother's life and Nathan's career. But he's all that stands between her and dangerous thugs who are after something she doesn't even know she has. This is the 4th book in my Sonoma series , but each book is stand-alone. The hero is Nathan Fischer, who had a minor role in the 3rd book, Stalker in the Shadows . To celebrate, I’m giving away 10 copies of Narrow Escape ! Her

New contest!

I haven’t had a contest since October! Here’s new one just in time for Christmas. I’m picking 3 winners to each be able to choose 10 books from my Christian book list! And yes, that list includes my books! 1) You get one entry into the contest when you sign up for my email newsletter at . If you already belong to my email newsletter, let me know! 2) You get a second entry into the contest if you Like my Facebook page: . If you already Like my Facebook page, let me know! 3) You get a third entry into the contest if you join my Goodreads group: . If you already belong to my Goodreads group, let me know! 4) You get a fourth entry into the contest if you follow me on Twitter: . If you already follow me on Twitter, let me know! 5) You get extra entries into the contest if you get someone else to join my email newsletter. Just email camy {at] c

Toilet seat cover

Captain’s Log, Supplemental Update August 2008: I wrote up the pattern for this with "improvements"! Here's the link to my No Cold Bums toilet seat cover ! Okay, remember a few days ago I was complaining about the cold toilet seat in my bathroom? Well, I decided to knit a seat cover. Not a lid cover, but a seat cover. I went online and couldn’t find anything for the seat, just one pattern for the lid by . However, I took her pattern for the inside edge of the lid cover and modified it to make a seat cover. Here it is! It’s really ugly stitch-wise because originally I made it too small and had to extend it a couple inches on each side. I figured I’d be the one staring at it, so who cared if the extension wasn’t perfectly invisible? I used acrylic yarn since, well, that’s what I had, and also because it’s easy to wash. I’ll probably have to wash this cover every week or so, but it’s easy to take off—I made ties which you can see near the back of the seat. And

Chinese Take-Out and Sushi for One

Captain’s Log, Supplemental My agent sent me an article from Publisher’s Weekly that discussed this incident: Chinese Take-Out Spawns Christian Controversy And here’s also a blog post that talks about it in more detail: The Fighting 44s This is Soong-Chan Rah’s blog: The PCS blog In sum: Apparently Zondervan (yes, my publisher), who has partnered with Youth Specialties, had put out a youth leaders skit that had stereotypical Asian dialogue, which offended many Christian Asian Americans. In response to the outcry, Zondervan/Youth Specialities put out a sincere apology and is not only freezing the remaining stock of the book, but also reprinting it and replacing the copies people have already bought. I am very proud of my publisher for how they have handled this situation. The skit writers have also issued a public apology . (I feel sorry for them, because they were only trying to write a funny skit, not stir up this maelstrom of internet controversy. I’ve been in youth work long enou

Year of the Dog serial novel

About Year of the Dog : A month or two ago, I remembered an old manuscript I had completed but which hadn’t sold. It was a contemporary romance meant for Zondervan, titled Year of the Dog . The book had gone into the pipeline and I even got another title ( Bad Dog ) and a cover for it, but eventually my editor at the time decided she didn’t want to publish it, for various reasons. She instead requested a romantic suspense, and so I cannibalized some of the characters from Year of the Dog and thrust them into the next book I wrote, which was Protection for Hire . Honestly, I didn’t take a lot from Year of the Dog to put in Protection for Hire , aside from character names and a few relationship ties. I was originally thinking I’d post Year of the Dog as-is on my blog as a free read, but then it occurred to me that I could revamp it into a romantic suspense and change the setting to Hawaii. It would work out perfectly as (yet another) prequel to the Warubozu series and introduc

Wasabi Wednesday – Year of the Rat mug

Captain's Log, Stardate 01.09.2008 Get free short stories and info on exclusive book giveaways when you subscribe to my newsletter! The winner of Abandoned Identity by Tamara Tilley is Amanda Congratulations! Blog book giveaway: To enter to win today’s book, leave a comment on this blog post, giving your name and saying you want to enter. International readers are welcome to enter! Please leave a WORKING email address or website where I can contact you (please use this format with the brackets--you [at] something like that to prevent spammers from trolling for your email address). Please make sure your email address works—I’ve had several winners where my email to them bounced and I couldn’t get hold of them. It is the winner’s responsibility to check to see if you won and to email me if you haven’t yet heard from me. You have a week to comment--I'll pick a name out of a hat on Wednesday, January 16th. (BTW, you can post a comment and NOT enter, too.) Doing s

I’m a Book of the Year winner!

Captain's Log, Stardate 09.22.2008 I won first place in the Debut Author category of the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year awards! Here are all the winners! Debut Author Sushi for One? (Camy Tang) Zondervan, editor Sue Brower Bayou Justice (Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll) In Between (Jenny B. Jones) Contemporary Novella Finally Home in Missouri Memories anthology (Deborah Raney) Barbour Publishing, editor Susan Downs Moonlight & Mistletoe in A Big Apple Christmas anthology (Carrie Turansky) Remaking of Moe McKenna in Race to the Altar anthology (Gloria Clover) Historical Novella Love Notes in Love Letters Anthology (Mary Davis) Barbour Publishing, editor Rebecca Germany Beyond the Memories in Missouri Memories anthology (DiAnn Mills) The Spinster & The Tycoon in The Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner anthology (Vickie McDonough) Lits Splitting Harriet (Tamara Leigh) Multnomah Books, editor Julee Schwarzb