Full Scoop(8)

By: Janet Evanovich

The man sitting across the desk at Dan and Don's Clean Car Rentals took off his baseball cap and fanned himself with it. Sweat beaded his upper lip, and his forehead glistened. "Well, sir, he must've talked to my brother, Don," he said, getting up to check the air conditioner. "Reason I say that is because I know he didn't talk to me. And the reason I know that is because it's Friday. And on Friday I bowl in a morning league so I didn't take the call." He held one hand in front of the droning unit. "Blasted thing isn't worth junking," he muttered.

"Okay," Zack said. "So it was Don who screwed up the reservation. I still need a car. How about you get on the phone and check with one of the other rental agencies and see if they have something."

"They don't. The reason I know that is because they've called me asking the same thing. We've got an Elvis convention going on. The reason I know that is because we've had one Elvis after another come through that door the last couple of days."

Zack gave an enormous sigh of frustration. He paced for a minute. "Hell, I guess I'll have to buy a used car."

"You don't want to buy a used car in this town. The guy who owns Beaumont Used Cars is a shyster. Name's Larry Johnson. Not only will he rip you off on the car, he'll want to sleep with your sister."

Zack glanced at his watch. One-thirty. He gave an impatient sigh. "Look, Don—"

"Dan. My brother is Don."

"Okay. Dan. I have important business."

The other man looked thoughtful. "Well, I don't know if you'd be interested, but my old van is out back. Mind you, it's not a spring chicken, but it runs like a charm. I've had two engines put in over the years. Got a full tank of gas in it to boot," he added. "I'll rent it to you for half what I charge for my other cars."

"That'll work," Zack said. It beat walking.

"Just fill out this card. Oh, and I'll need to make a copy of your driver's license."

Zack handed him the license, grabbed a pen from a chipped coffee cup on the desk, and went to work.

Dan copied the license and returned it.

The door opened, and a tall, stocky man with black hair and chin-length sideburns stepped in. Zack did a double take at the sight of his shiny, royal-blue jumpsuit and matching cape. The cape had been lined with silver lame and rhinestone-studded stars adorned the outfit. He carried an old Samsonite suitcase that had seen better days.

"Your name must be Elvis!" Dan said with a hearty laugh. "My wife has a velvet painting of you in our dining room." Dan winked at Zack.

The man suddenly whipped a silver cell phone from inside the cape and, using it as an imaginary microphone, began singing "Jailhouse Rock," complete with swiveling hips.

Zack watched in silence. He'd landed in hell.

"I need a rental car," the Elvis twin said, once he finished his song. "The Holiday Inn is having a big whoop-de-do for us in half an hour. Don't want to miss out on free food and cocktails." He stepped up to the desk next to Zack.

Dan repeated the same spiel he'd given Zack. "You can use my phone here to call a cab if you like. The number is taped to the side."

"Appreciate it, pard-ner." He dialed the number and ordered a cab. "That long, huh? Well, I'll bet you can do better than that if I throw a big tip your way. I got a crisp ten-dollar bill; it's all yours if you can get me a ride sooner. And, I'll do one of my Elvis impersonations right here over the phone as an added bonus." He paused. "Oh. Well, okay then. My name? Lonnie Renfro." When he hung up he looked disappointed. "It's going to take an hour for the cab to get here," he said. "Guy said his drivers have been picking up Elvis impersonators all day, and everybody is sick of hearing Elvis impressions."

"Make yourself comfortable," Dan told him. He searched through a rack of keys and pulled a set from one of the hooks. "I'll be right back."

Zack followed Dan outside and to the back of the building. He arched one brow at the sight of a sixties-model van with fluorescent peace signs and big flowers on the side. "That's it?" he asked.

Dan smiled. "It's a classic, m'friend. It's got a lot of miles on it, but the new engine is only five years old. I know the exact date it was put in, and the reason I know is because that's when my ex-wife ran off with my brother-in-law."

Zack gave the man a sympathetic nod and opened the door on the driver's side.

"You can see it has the original green shag carpeting," Dan said. "And these beads hanging from the roof behind the seats can be pushed to one side so you can see out the back. They're just for privacy." He winked as he handed Zack the keys. "That's why I keep putting engines in it. Memories, you know?"