“Kids. Over here, and don’t mind the gawkers. They just want a chance to hear the fresh gossip. Come on, everyone, make like the Red Sea and part so Moses can get through! Don’t fret about missing something on the podcast ’cause it ain’t started yet!”
Lily pulled JJ along in close tow. Jo right behind him giggled as Lily observed, “You’re a handsome thing.” Once inside, Lily became all business. “Juan Rodreguiz and his lady JoAnn Wagner, correct? You didn’t say married but never you mind, I’m not some prude who doesn’t understand what some people do to be together. And no, I won’t send a thank you card to your address that might be read by the real Mrs. Rodreguiz. I’ve only made that mistake once.” Barely taking a breath she continued, “Sorry about the podcast crowd. Our leader, Mary Lou Fight used to head up the Crimson Hat Society, but it disbanded some time ago. She was injured and is doing therapy to get out of that chair permanently. Our Pod-Team goes from business to business for important issues like this Mateo Hernandez character. He erected an eight-foot wall around his recently acquired ranch. The secrecy makes this a popular topic so small businesses in town fought for the right to host the broadcast from their shop for the advertising. Ever since my husband passed away, I’ve been trying to make this B&B earn its keep. Mr. Rodreguiz, you didn’t say much about your line of work or Miss JoAnn’s. You’re not wanted by the authorities, are you?”
Surprised at the pause, JJ was impressed by the woman’s non-stop conversation and noted the skepticism in her question. “Please, call me JJ. As I said when I made the reservation, we’re looking for some quiet time. We’re not married, but we love one another. I’ve no wife in hiding. I do work in customized security. We’ve had a long trip. We’d like to check in and enjoy your lovely establishment.”
Undaunted, Lily leaned close to JoAnn. “I get it, sweetie. He wants to marry you but hasn’t asked yet. You’re pretty, so he’s likely scared you’d turn him down. He’s a hunk. You look like a nice couple. Don’t fret about him getting away. Do you need beverages or snacks to take up? I can provide wine and beer if you’d rather.”
JJ loved the rosy glow growing on Jo’s cheeks as she seemed enthralled with their innkeeper. This black-haired fireball knew all about the U.S. filibuster process. Cute, independent, and feisty.
Lily reached her hand out with the key and room number when the podcast team in the dining area exploded with multiple shrieks of anguish. Lily pushed their room key into JJ’s hand and clutched her hand to her heart as a podcaster cried, “No! No! No! This can’t be happening! Not now, dammit!”
Lily rushed around the counter and faced the four women as JJ watched. “What’s wrong, Mary Lou? You’re almost ready to start, aren’t ya? The listeners are counting on our queen bee of community information for the straight scoop today.”
Mary Lou straightened up and bellowed, “Our computer equipment’s poisoned. Look at this ugly note on the screen demanding Bitcoin tokens to unlock our equipment. If my computer won’t work, there’s no podcast today.”
Lily strode into the room and bent down nose-to-nose with Mary Lou. “No, you can’t! I need the advertising boost for my business. I have my latest B&B meal deals to share with the listeners. Don’t give up. You can fix it.”
JJ started toward the stairs holding Jo’s hand—when she stopped. “JJ, you might be able to help. It’s okay if you try. We’ll have fun when it’s fixed, and you won’t pace about it in our room.”
He looked up the stairs, shook his head, then started toward the group of older women. “Lily,” he said as he walked toward the group. “I might be able to do something, I’m good with computers. Miss Mary Lou, may I please take a look?”
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