It was almost 7
pm Friday night and Ski and I were about to leave the Santa Barbara Beauty Contest
Committee meeting when one of the organization volunteers rushed into the conference room.
“We have a problem, Director. The chaperone’s
had to ask, confused.
“It’s a liability thing, Commander,”
Director Gladys Duff answered. “Sometimes the girls in these types of contests
don’t complain about being encouraged to put out a bit more than what’s expected. I’m sure you know what
I mean, no offence. Not as if you and the other young man would be guilty of
anything like that. Just call having a chaperone a kind of insurance for the program.
Without one, well, the Chamber of Commerce may advise we scrap the whole
thing. It’s not as if we’re the Miss America Contest’ with a large number of contestants. We can’t
afford a bad rap for our little contest, as it were.”
“I see,” I began, actually relieved that I
might not have to be a judge after all.
“Sir?” Ski whispered, “I gotta’
perfect solution. Miss Angie.”
“Angie?” I gasped.
“And, who is this Miss Angie?” Ms. Duff asked.
“Admiral Nelson’s secretary,” Ski began,
“and she wouldn’t hesitate to shoot the balls offa’ anyone that came close to well, you know…suggesting
or doing anything with your girls, especially if it was Mr. Morton or…er…anyone.”
“Can you get her?”
“Wait a minute!” I interrupted, “for
starters, she’s an Administrative Assistant, not a mere secretary, and she hates the very idea of beauty contests on
the principle of the thing. There’s no way she’d…”
“The job pays, though, doesn’t it? ” Ski interrupted.
“We might be able to provide a small stipend,”Ms. Duff admitted, “but I’m sure it’s nowhere near what she earns
“You just leave it to me and Mr. Morton, ma’am.
We’ll get you your chaperone. What time do you need her?”
“Eight am Saturday morning. We need to know tonight, however, if she can’t. There are contestants and families flying in…”
“Well, if not her, maybe Miss Lola.”
“Lola?” I hissed. “Are you insane?”
“What’s wrong with this one?” Duff asked.
“She’s the Skipper’s girlfriend, ”Ski
answered before I could. “And,” Ski waved his arms in a parabola, “she oughta’ be a contestant herself…”
“That’s the point,” I glared. “She’ll
give Lee, er, Captain Crane hell for not suggesting she enter. And then he’ll give us hell for that!”
why don’t you boys settle it between you, which to choose. Here’s
my cell number. Call me. And if you can swing it, perhaps both young ladies?
Yes, that would be ideal. One to cover backstage, the other for the dressing room. Evening, gentlemen…”
As the group departed, I took Ski aside, “And just
how do you plan on pulling off this little miracle? Angie and Lola? They’ll
skin us alive!”
“Yeah, but don’t you worry none, sir. They’ll
do their duty. After all, it’s a PR thing for the Institute, isn’t it?”
As I drove Kowalski
and myself back to NIMR I toyed with the idea of making Lee do it .After all, it was all his fault I was in this mess.
Well, sort of. Okay, it was Nelson’s. Technically. I knew if I asked Lee, he’d take on the challenge with both
women. But me giving it to him would be the coward’s way out.
And so, after calling
both Lola and Angie at their respective apartments to a private dinner to ‘discuss something important’,
(knowing Lola would think it had something to do with Lee since my invite didn’t include him, and Angie that it had
something to do with budget cuts) I made sure the boxes of chocolates and bouquets of flowers were in my hands the moment
I got out of the car.
There was just one problem. I forgot the earplugs.