"Virtual Memories" is book #2 of The Serena Wilcox Mysteries by Natalie Buske Thomas. Other titles in the series are available on Amazon.com ("The Serena Wilcox Mysteries: Books 1, 2 & 3", "Angels Mark", and coming soon "Covert Coffee").
Tull-tull clicked the candy. Tull-tull. He slurped the candy in one noisy sucking motion. Then back to the tull-tull, tull-tull. Stewart Lamont rolled the cherry candy with his tongue, clicking it against his teeth.
“Is it dangerous?” Elizabeth Miller asked. Her voice was soft and tentative. Over the phone she was sometimes mistaken for a child. In person, she was often underestimated. Lamont was underestimating her now.
“Of course not, Ms. Miller. It’s all ‘virtual’, which means that nothing is really happening to you in the physical world.” Lamont clicked his candy. Tull-tull. His eyes were slick, moist and dark, the pits of a rat. His eyes panned Elizabeth’s pale legs.
Elizabeth’s face flushed. Of course I know what ‘virtual’ means, you moron! Elizabeth worked on the computer daily. She was more than familiar with computer terminology. Aloud she said, “I mean, are there any side effects?”
Lamont laughed. “No, no. It’s pure entertainment, imagination.” He clicked the candy. Tull-tull.
Elizabeth studied the contract before her. It was simple enough.
She filled out the forms and rummaged through her purse for her elusive checkbook. She fumbled past her keys, a wadded Kleenex and a mess of gritty coins before her hand finally hit the vinyl case of her checkbook.
“Do you have any other questions, Ms. Miller?” Tull tull.
“No, not really.” Elizabeth made out the check to Virtual Memories for $150. It was a little steep for a birthday gift, but it was worth it for something so original. Jack would never guess this in a million years.
When she heard about Virtual Memories from a feature spot on the evening news she thought about Jack right away. He loved excitement. Elizabeth grinned, thinking about the anticipated reaction to her gift.
Lamont drummed his fingers on the black laminated counter top. He exhaled a hot cherry breath. Elizabeth struggled not to gag.
“When can he use this?” Elizabeth gently arranged the check and the contract on the countertop in an ordered stack. Her dark brown bangs fell across her eyes. She self-consciously brushed them back with a porcelain hand.
“The gift certificate has no expiration date, but I’d think he’d want to use it right away.” Lamont smiled at Elizabeth with his small square teeth. The infernal cherry candy was tucked behind his tongue.
“Okay then, thanks.” Elizabeth slipped the silver Virtual Memories bag into her purse. She’d wrap the gift certificate inside a large box later, to throw Jack’s guesses way off.
Elizabeth was more than happy to return to the fresh spring outside air. The heavy scent of lilacs was most welcome. Birds were twittering and a lawn mower droned in the distance. Jack would be so surprised, she thought with a smile.
Jack whistled a tune he was playing in his imagination while he tipped his chair back, a chair that was not built to recline. He thought about how Elizabeth never got the knack of whistling. Her whistle sounded more like an asthmatic wheeze. Jack laughed aloud.
“Did I miss something?” said Michelle. She lifted her eyes from the forms she was filling out in black ink to gaze across the office at Jack.
“I was just thinking about something, didn’t realize you were standing there.” Jack's voice revealed a twinge of embarrassment. He recovered quickly and flashed her a boyish smirk.
Michelle studied Jack for a quiet second. Then she gave him a manila envelope.
“You got it done?” Jack’s eyebrows shot up in mock surprise. He took the envelope and tossed it into a bin that hosted a stack of paperwork.
“As always.” Michelle wet her lips with her tongue and exhaled a long seductive breath. She let her blond hair dangle over her left eye, an eye that was made unnaturally vibrant blue from cosmetic contact lenses. But Jack was oblivious to her charms.