Chapter One – Scene One
Yeah, it was a No Parking Zone. Tootsie Goldberg knew that. Everyone in the village of Glen Allyn knew that. But she was only making a quick drop-off—three sweaters, not even that dirty—at the dry cleaners. Two minutes, what was the big deal? But two minutes was all it took for him to be there writing the ticket.
She rushed outside. “Oh, c’mon, Brian! Do you have to?”
He didn’t bother to look up, just kept writing. “No parking means no parking, Toots. That’s the law.”
A gust of frigid January wind tore straight from the North Pole to New Jersey and spiraled around Tootsie’s legs, raising goose bumps from her ankles to her knees. “Today of all days you’re writing me a ticket? Today’s my birthday.”
“Well, I am a cop, and part of my job is to write tickets for people parking in No Parking zones. Even if they happen to be celebrating a birthday.”
“Well, doesn’t that already make today one hell of a celebration.” She shifted from one foot to the other, not just cold, now. Freezing. “You can’t cut me a little slack?”
“I might. If you weren’t always parking in no parking zones. Besides which, I’m already writing. You know what that means.”
Brian was short enough she didn’t have to reach too far to poke his shoulder. “Oh yeah. There’s no question about that one.”
“You’re breaking the no-touching-the-cop rule, Tootsie.” He stopped writing. “And what do you mean there’s no question about that one?”
“It’s the end of the month.”
Giving her a look out of a pair of pale blue eyes framed by wire rims, he raised his sandy-blond eyebrows. “Which means…?”
“You haven’t written enough tickets. You haven’t filled your quota yet.”
“That’s low even for you.” He began to write again.
“You’re going to deny there’s a quota?”
He sighed, shook his head, and kept writing. “Yes I am. Because there isn’t one. Except in your fevered brain.”
Again the wind whooshed in and reached under her skirt all the way to her tush. Last month, as if in anticipation of the birthday barreling toward her, her biological furnace decided it was time to flare to life. But would that same furnace warm her poor legs on this cold winter day? Of course not. That would have made menopause worthwhile.
Tootsie fidgeted. “Okay, whatever. But can’t you write faster? I have to get to the radio station. I have a premonition.”
“Lately all you have is premonitions about that place. You said so the last time I wrote you a ticket.” He looked up.
“Which was last Monday. Or was it Tuesday?” He shrugged. “I can’t remember.”
“Maybe you can’t, but I can.” She held up a hand, fingers spread. “Five, Brian. Five. That’s how many tickets you’ve written me, just this month.”
“Every single one of which you deserved.”
Yes, she did, not that she’d ever say that out loud. It was a good thing the town court judges were understanding. Otherwise she might have long ago ended up in jail after all those parking tickets. “Okay, then, chop-chop. You made your point. Bad me. But I still need to get to the office.”
“Patience, Toots. Patience. I’m getting there.” He paused. “And let me tell you what too many people won’t in this little town of ours.”
“Really? Too many people? Are you speaking of Glen Allyn, where not only does everyone know your name but your personal business?”
“Don’t distract me from what I was going to say, which is this job of yours? It’s a nice station. If you like classical music. But from what you’ve told me, they don’t appreciate you there.”
She made a scoffing sound. “Some do. Although, you’re right. My boss doesn’t.”
Brian made his own scoffing sound. “I don’t know why you don’t walk away from him and the job. It’s not like you need the money.”
“Money has nothing to do with it.” It didn’t. Not since her ex won the lottery. Pride , on the other hand, did. And having the sense she was doing something good with her life. Or at least it had. Until recently.
“Meanwhile…” Brian smiled and handed her the ticket. “Add this to your collection. This time, try to pay it so we don’t have to issue an arrest warrant for you.”
Tootsie yanked it out of Brian’s hand. “Thank you so much. This one is as beautiful as the last one you gave me.” She folded it in half, and stuck it in her coat pocket.
Brian stowed the ticket book in his back pocket. “Oh, listen. Tim’s Boy Scout chapter is raising money for St. Brigid’s fund for indigent seniors. Can you help out?”
Tootsie pulled her car door open and slid into the seat of her late model white MINI Countryman with the red stripe…which Brian spotted any time she drove downtown. No doubt. “If I wasn’t so crazy about your family and especially Tim, I’d have no problem telling you to stuff it. But we both know that’s not going to happen.”
Brian placed a big palm on the top of the door and leaned in. “That’s a yes, then?”
“Of course it’s a yes.” She pressed the ignition button and the engine came to life. “Bring Tim by the house this evening. I’ll sign his form. And next time, do me a favor. Give someone else a ticket.”
Brian stood away from the door and grinned outright. “Where would the fun be in that?”
Tootsie gave Brian a grudging smile in return. Closing the door she began to pull away from the curb, but stopped when he knocked on the roof.
She powered the window down. “What, you’re impounding my car now?”
Brian leaned in the opened window and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Happy birthday, Toots.