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Once upon a time, Naomi noticed someone posting as her on the Internet. Ordinarily identity theft would be a problem; however, identity theft proved a disaster in Naomi’s case. Her catering supply business ran into danger. While the Internet offered new business pipelines, her catering supply business pipelined into the area catering—parties, dining, receptions for bored brokers and bankers. When High Frequency Trading HFT had been moved from Wall Street and installed in the Middle West United States, Naomi’s catering business moved along with High Frequency Trading. High Frequency Trading profit jumped. Naomi’s business profit jumped. Unfortunately, impersonation and hacking jumped with it.

Thoroughbred though she was, Naomi wanted impersonation stopped. As soon as she noticed the identity theft, she started having nightmares about lakes. Figuratively underwater bubbled into her waking hours: soon her business would be underwater. One day she woke up and decided she and her identify theft could generate business for law enforcement. High Frequency Trading. Catering. Law Enforcement. Who knew? She was worried about diverted web traffic. After a day, Naomi hired a retired law enforcement agent who now worked as a private investigator and went by the screen name Beauty Pageant Queen.

Naomi glanced around her first bored brokers and bankers party of the season. Less bored, thanks, to Naomi. Carrying her clipboard and checking all was well, Naomi was at a reception when she felt her tablet ping. “Rodolfo,” she said, “cover for me.” She turned quickly and headed to the female logo on the restroom door. She stopped. Someone had removed the logos. She considered going to Family Restroom, for ultimate privacy since no families with children were attending this reception, but she headed into what she recalled was the ladies room. Frowning, she couldn’t wait but speeded into the closest stall on the end. She was savvy enough to listen for other patrons. If she had to, she could leave in two steps on the tile, make a sharp turn around the corner, open the door, and make the hallway. She would remember to ask about the missing logos and punched a reminder into her tablet.

Two trainees from the world’s smallest ISP confronted each other. Although further down the row, they were in separate restroom stalls, their conversation connected them through the ether.

“You’re a liar.  You have a chance at my husband.”

“You’re husband is a kind, intelligent man, who deserves better than you.”

“Listen to that second word, ‘husband.’ You are right.  He is my husband.”

“Who deserves better than you.”

“Listen.  My husband.  Keep your hands off.  You have a chance to marry Jacob.  Marry him.  He’s a good man.  Keep your hand’s off my husband.”
“Are you finished?”


29Jul2014 The two women whirled the toilet paper spindles. Inside her own stall, after suppressing a sigh, Naomi punched her cell phone as twin toilets cranked and flushed. She closed her eyes and willed herself not to hear the two trainees from the world’s smallest ISP snapped their thongs and then banged open the toilet stall doors. The twins in the twin stalls clicked their way out of their stalls, cell phones or stilettos, Naomi didn’t want to know. Each walked to a black granite basin to wash her hands. Naomi closed her eyes to the thought of those fingers on keyboards.  The two trainees clicked their wash basin levers on, off. One ripped a paper towel. One punched the hot air dryer. The two left as one.

Naomi stayed in her stall, in her world to give them time to leave.  Just as in her dream, a dark lake floated at the center of Naomi’s thoughts. Are the two trainees who just left stalking her? The private detective would find out. With that, Naomi remembered her meeting this morning with Beauty Pageant Queen was the only name the private detective and Naomi used to communicate. Beauty Pageant Queen said, “Look, doll, here’s the story: What is the conflict? Impersonation. Get it?”

Naomi stared.

“Imperson,” Beauty Pageant Queen paused.  “Nation. Two words”

Beauty Pageant Queen’s assistant said, “Weird, but your case will be solved. It’s how BPQ works.”

“Then what do I do?” Naomi asked.

Beauty Pageant Queen said, “I’m work on it. I’m following the trail.” Beauty Pageant Queen said, “Like some automatic brewed tea?”

Beauty Pageant Queen’s assistant said, “I’ll make more.”

Naomi shook her head no.  Beauty Pageant Queen said “Dee LISH ous. Brewn broon broom. Working on it.”

Naomi had asked, “And when can I expect to know who is posting as me on the Internet?”

Beauty Pageant Queen said, “One doesn’t believe her. One deceives her. Tell me again what you remember?”

Naomi shuddered and told Beauty Pageant Queen and the assistant everything she remembered.  The strange Red Heart of Onion. The obsessive lists Naomi found in her email: The name Patron Jameson repeated.

Beauty Pageant Queen nodded, “Red Heart of Onion.” She wrote it down on hotel stationery. She had looked up at her assistant and then at Naomi. “Never mind the hotel stationery. Saves you cost. Patron Jameson.” Here Beauty Pageant Queen paused. “Do you sit at bars much?”

Naomi shrugged. “Sure. Why?”

“Those are just two whiskey names. Next time you sit at the bar, not in the stall or booth, just look at what’s behind the counter. Whiskey bottles with labels. That’s all.”

The Assistant to Beauty Pageant Queen piped up, “This is how BPQ works on cases.”

Naomi had nodded. “Did you figure out the list I gave you?” Naomi remembered every item on the list she had created especially for the High Frequency Trading, First to open in the Middle West:


Pimento cheese on thoroughbread (bad joke but the new HFT from the Midwest wanted it)

Pimento cheese frozen loaf

Pimento Cheese meatloaf

Pimento Cheese stuff olives

Pimento Cheese bread

Pimento Cheese omelet with bourbon and butter toast

Pimento Cheese cranked on back porch.


Naomi had sworn CJ swore he could taste the difference. Crank mounted on Ootsie’s back porch since time immemorial. No box graters, no food processor blades or steel knives expensive from trade shows Naomi attended. Few microprocessors.

Naomi stopped remembering and looked up. She could tell the Assistant to and the Beauty Pageant Queen were reading the same list. Naomi could see the list in reflected in their eyes. The Assistant to Beauty Queen Pageant said, “I can only think of two ex-husbands and mother-in-law. One had taken her for every cent. The other had been her mother. Full time. Borrowed her last dime from her brother to take him to the movie show and make him watch adult movies. She couldn’t afford a baby sitter, so he never had one. It was why BPQ became a private investigator.”

Beauty Pageant Queen said, “Let me tell you the old ways.”

“I have to be back at work,” Naomi said.

Beauty Pageant Queen’s assistant said, “Weird, but your case will be solved. It’s how BPQ works.”

“Just listen, doll.” Beauty Pageant Queen put her automatic brewed tea on the warming pad. The mug had a digital read out of the temperature. punched a bottom to size of a pin head to set the mug’s thermostat. She then took off her tiara and laid it on a velvet pillow and put a lead No. 2 pencil behind her ear.

Naomi stared.

“Mixing tech helps me think. Hear me out. Did I tell you about the oddest body I ever found?”

Naomi shook her head no.

“Forget the Vicks under the nose. This crime scene was full respirator. Abandoned trailer in the middle of nowhere. Summer. Full respirator and suit. I arrived at the crime scene. No electricity. I opened the door. All I could see by the flash light is this wave on the floor. The dead body had decomposed and dripped into the trailer floor, which was cheap particle board. Missing body fluids. Decomposition. The waves were maggots infesting and eating the body.”

Naomi stared.

“Stench. I was upset that anyone could lay undetected for a week and have no friend to call about her.”

Naomi said, “You said detected. Can you tell me about my case? Someone is posting as me on the Internet and compromising my security and my business. I need help.”


“Another story. Once was a group of men who sat around an old general store and drank hooch. I know this doesn’t have anything outright to do with your crime but hear me out.  There was an old woman, a crusader, really, who wanted to clear up a den of sin.  Her sons were spending too much time there. She complained to Uncle Billy. Uncle Billy, a mischievous man, talked her into blowing up the den of sin with a stick of dynamite.  He took a paper tube, painted it red, filled it with mud. Even stuck a fuse in it. He gave the stick of dynamite to the mother.  She lit the fuse, threw it into the middle of the den of sin. Some man picked it up, threw it outside, hitting the old woman with it.  She immediately picked it up, fuse still burning, and threw it back in, where it rolled under the pot belly stove. The men scrambled to get out so fast that they knocked over the pot belly stove. The building burned down.” Beauty Queen grinned. “You can go now. I’m working your case.”

Naomi said, “Look at your tablet. It pinged.”

“Thank you, doll, as I was saying,” Beauty Pageant Queen pushed a button the size of a pinhead and put the tablet back down. “As I was sayin,” Beauty Pageant Queen heard another immediate ping. She picked up the tablet and stared at it.  Naomi couldn’t see, but thought the Queen must have launched the virtual keyboard and was watching orders.  In the pupil of one eye reflected an email. Beauty Pageant Queen growled at the screen, typed two more commands, then satisfied, put the tablet back down on the desk.  She picked up the tablet once more, stared into the screen so long Naomi felt obliged to clear her throat.

Naomi said, “You’re working on my case? When do you expect to have a solution?”

Beauty Pageant Queen’s assistant said, “Weird, but your case will be solved. It’s how BPQ works.”

Beauty Pageant Queen smiled a lustrous smile, “Sure, doll, soon.”

“Thank you,” Naomi got up and left. “Want me to shut the door?” but she saw Beauty Pageant Queen staring at the tablet, her tea mug already in hand. Naomi closed the door and walked to the elevator. Rodolfo pinged the event was over; he finish up the details. A short elevator ride later, Naomi exited into the lobby of the office building. She decided to order a latte; she swiped her cellphone to pay for it, and decided to sit down. Naomi stared into space. “Who was posting as me on the Internet?” Naomi put her tablet away. She stared into space. Than her tablet pinged.

Look out the window.

She knocked over her latte. Under the table, the cup drooled next to a pimento cheese crust. She looked at her tablet screen:

The two, they’re not women. Imperson Nation. Wo Men.  Men.  The two have just been arrested, doll. Look out the window. XXX Beauty Pageant Queen.

Naomi jerked her eyes to the front of the lobby. Through the glass window, out in the street at the curb, she saw the blue light flashing and the two trainees from the world’s smallest ISP in handcuffs.


Brief publishing history biography: Jennifer D. Riley has published two short stories on the Deep South web site. She has self-published two ebooks on Amazon. She is a member of the Triangle Writers Critique Group.



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