Bettie’s Akron clan gather once more for a big family event – only this time it’s all over to the Isle of Man for the funeral of her dearly departed third husband.
The day of Big Frank’s funeral was a mess. Monsoon weather. Caterer’s ferry sunk without trace. Less hotel space than Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. Unable to cope with any more family-related stress this side of the next millennium, I dodged the entire fiasco and went shopping with Mother. Luckily, she’d flown in that morning and was the only other person on the entire planet who understood that I needed to pick up a few essentials. Because, according to ma mère: “Anyone who tells you a new pair of shoes won’t change your life, say, ‘Go tell that to Cinderella’.”
Definitely the worst part of that afternoon’s interminable internment was when Mona and I shuffled up to the open casket. When we peered into the silk-lined interior, I found that Baz and Lionel’s promise to tart up the ol’ sonofabitch was certainly not idle.
“Who’s that?” asked my confused ex-maid, as she gazed at the pancake-faced corpse.
“It’s Big Frank!”
“Well… I hope when he gets to the Pearly Gates, St. Peter still recognizes him.”
Curtain down and cremation fires burning, I fled the crowd of invited Manx dignitaries, Hubby #3’s mafioso kith and kin, casino bigwigs and herds of paparazzi C-listers, sidestepped all three members of the Isle Of Man’s ‘Save the Whalebone Corset’ Action Group, and found myself alone in the candle-lit emptiness of the organist’s anteroom. Or so I first thought. Because when my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I saw three shadows over by the altar. And it sounded as if they were all having a heated hushed debate.
Mother: “How could you tell Bettie I was dead?”
USS Invincible: “Well, would you have preferred I’d told her the truth?”
Mother: “What, that you were a militant transvestite German bisexual assassin trapped in the USA – and in the wrong body – without hope of rescue, who was forced to declare oneself insane to avoid capture?”
USS Invincible: “Well, I guess when you put it like that…”
Dinkelïcker: “The international case is closed. That’s why I’m here to extract you both back to the Vaterland.”
USS Invincible: “Yes, we’re going on a World Tour!”
Mother: “Now, I know you’re crazy. No, I’m gonna stay with my daughters.”
USS Invincible: “Bettie and Muffy? Suit yourself.”
Mother: “Just one more thing before you go: how did you escape that high-security hospital?”
USS Invincible: “Well, who d’ya think smuggled those flesh-eating bugs into that Lake Erie nuthouse?”
Well hey, diary, fait accompli, anyone? You see, unfortunately for him, clever ol’ ma mère had her finger on the public address button. And Interpol on speed dial.
Admittedly, the attendance of the CIA, UN Police and New Scotland Yard at the wake buffet got a few odd looks, but ultimately the tequila slammers proved far, far thicker than water. Still, I don’t know what was worse: finding out my father was an international terrorist or that Muffy was my actual sister. So, with father and Dinkelïcker’s arrests over, that left just one thing on my last Jerinda-inspired to-do list. After losing my husband to the Irish Sea, next was my liver to the vicar’s single malt whiskey.
“In my humble opinion, Bettie,” said Father ‘The Octopus’ O’Leary at the end of the evening, while attempting to comfort me with both hands. “I just don’t think you’re gonna find another man like your late husband.”
Buster, who the hell’s gonna look?