The Ring Bling, Part Five: The Catch
Want to re-read Part One? Find it here.
Grandma Lougheed and I stood by the window, waiting for another glimpse of Detective Roland Magnussen, but none was forthcoming. Then we heard footsteps on the stairs. Quiet but firm, just like him.
“Fudgsicles,” I said.
“Cop?” Grandma asked.
“Yeah. We’re gonna get so busted!”
She gave me a shove and pointed to the hallway, and we went into G-ma’s room and got in the closet.
“This is the best you could come up with?” I whispered as she pulled the sliding door closed.
“Shush. He’s not supposed to come in here either, don’t forget. This is just a precaution.” It was very dark in the closet, but I could see her unzipping her purse with a steady hand and pulling out a small pistol. I just about fainted.
“You can’t shoot him!”
“Did you ever ask to see his ID?” she countered.
“He gave me a business card …”
Delphine let out a sigh. “Oh, Griffin. Such an amateur move.”
Now that both of my grandmothers had each proclaimed me an amateur, I decided it was definitely time to reevaluate my life choices. Or find a good therapist.
The doorbell rang twice, and Rolly knocked a few times after that. Then it went silent and thirty seconds later we heard a car start up and drive off.
Delphine and I got out of the closet and sat down at the dinette table to figure out what to do next.
The Blingsters hadn’t left too many clues behind. At least I assumed they hadn’t, since Grandma Delphine had come back from her room searches empty-handed.
“Where could they have gone?” I asked.
Delphine remained silent, turning the box of bullets over several times in her hand, seemingly lost in thought.
“I mean,” I continued, “a box of .9mm bullets doesn’t exactly scream ‘I went to a party in Palm Beach,’ does it.”
“Clearly you haven’t been to any parties in Palm Beach,” said Delphine.
“True.” But not helpful. My stomach growled. All the sneaking around was increasing my appetite.
“My sentiments exactly,” said my grandma. “What’s good to eat around here?”
“I have no idea.”
We spent the next twenty minutes driving around, Delphine at the wheel while I searched on the Maps app for food near me. The only thing we could come up with that would work for both of us was a vegan taco truck—this was the day I learned my grandma had been vegan for twenty years. I was pretty sure this wasn’t the last new thing I was going to learn about her on our trip.
After a surprisingly delicious meal of marinated tofu street tacos, we got back in the car and I volunteered to drive.
“Where to?” I asked.
Delphine got on her phone and tapped away like a pro. I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel.
“Just checking on a few things,” she mumbled.
“Should we keep driving around aimlessly?” I felt frustrated. I wanted to do something but had no idea what.
Delphine was silent. It sure did seem like I was having to ask everyone questions all the time. Why was I the last to know everything? It was frustrating, to say the least.
“Did you get some bad news on your phone?” I asked, just to see if she’d start talking. “Aliens took over the Senate, perhaps?”
“Hmm? No,” she finally said. She looked up from her phone and I watched her eyes dart across the windshield and then meet mine. “Make a U-turn and head toward the freeway. And step on it.”
We should have taken G-ma’s Mercedes, for as fast as Delphine made me drive. I felt bad for the rental car—the thing didn’t seem to be built to be driven above 45mph. When we passed under a freeway sign pointing to Key Biscayne, I started to get worried. Well, more worried.
“Do you have that nice policeman’s card?” Delphine asked.
“You mean the one you called dangerous looking? Yeah, it’s in the front, medium-sized, left-hand pocket on the outside of my purse.”
“Goodness, that’s a lot of pockets,” she said, fishing out Rolly’s business card. Within seconds she was tapping away at her screen again.
I had no clue as to what was going on. I hoped Delphine did, and it seemed like it, as she kept giving me directions. After a few more miles we exited the freeway and drove down a well-tended road with palm trees lining the median.
“Turn there.” Grandma pointed to a street leading into a residential area. A minute later, we were parked on a street lined on both sides with huge mansions. I could see glimpses of the ocean behind the houses on our right, the waves sparkling with moonlight.
“These houses are incredible,” I said.
“Not exactly Palm Beach, but nice,” agreed Delphine. “What else do you see?”
We’d parked my rental car in between a late-model Alfa Romeo SUV and a vintage Porsche 911.
“Not a lot of on-street parking?”
“Someone is having a party.”
Right on cue, a couple walked past us on the sidewalk, the woman in a beaded evening dress and the man in a tux. They looked to be about G-ma’s age, or slightly younger.
“Unless we’re kitchen staff, we’re underdressed.”
“We’ll just go for a stroll down the street,” said Delphine.
“Yeah, well, I think we’re underdressed for that too.”
We got out of the car and Delphine took my arm as we followed a respectable distance behind the fancy couple. About five houses down, they turned onto a walkway and through an open iron gate, behind which was the largest house on the street. We kept walking.
“This doesn’t look good,” I said, always ready to state the obvious.
“No, it doesn’t.”
At the end of the street, we came to a marina and stood looking out at the yachts.
“Must be nice to have a life like this,” I said.
Delphine shrugged. “That’s what they want us to think.”
I thought of my husband Brian, and how over the last few years he’d seemed to become obsessed with having a life like this. His insistence that we buy a house way too big for the two of us (and would still be way too big even if we had five kids—which was definitely not on my to-do list) was troubling to me, and the brand-new BMW he’d just purchased seemed an unnecessary upgrade from his five-year-old Infiniti. I was perfectly happy in my Subaru, which I expected to last until I retired. Which was kind of an irrelevant marker of time these days, since I was out of work and had nothing to retire from.
It all would have been tolerable, I supposed, if his demeanor hadn’t also changed. All he seemed to talk about was money. We were both accountants, so we talked about money a lot anyway, but he was obsessed with getting more. More, more, more. I looked around at the houses again. Maybe it wasn’t so great here after all. Still, I wondered how far the diamond in my hotel room safe would get me.
Delphine let out a little cough, and I realized she’d been watching me as I’d gotten lost in my thoughts. I smiled, embarrassed at getting caught daydreaming. “So I’m assuming G-ma is in that house back there with her roommates, right?”
“Seriously, how do you find these things out? I can’t believe you have the means to do it. What agency are you working for?”
My grandma dipped her chin and looked me in the eye. “I’m retired, remember?”
I snorted, and she laughed. “Okay, okay,” she said. “I wish I could tell you that I used my mysterious connections to get us here. But in this case, it was pure luck.”
All mirth left my face and I stared at her, uncomprehending.
She sighed and put her hands on my shoulders, turning me around to face the way we’d come. “See that car right there?” She pointed over my shoulder to the opposite side of the street from the side we’d walked down.
And there was Roland Magnussen’s car. With Roland Magnussen in it.
“Apparently he likes vegan tacos too,” said Delphine.
I wanted to slap myself on the forehead. I wanted to curse very loudly at my complete obliviousness. Instead I just stood there.
Delphine giggled like a schoolgirl. “I really thought you’d notice, but then it became a challenge to see how long you wouldn’t notice.”
“That we tailed him all the way here and then walked right past his car just now.”
She giggled again. Well, at least I was providing her with some entertainment.
“So now what?”
“We can’t get into the party,” said Delphine, putting a finger to her lips in thought. “But let’s go see what Mr. Magnussen is up to.”
We started walking back on the side of the street where Rolly was parked. His Crown Vic was wedged in between a Range Rover Sport with dealer tags and a Mercedes G-Wagon.
“He has to be law enforcement to drive a car like that,” I said.
“One would hope,” said Delphine as she unzipped her purse and walked the rest of the way with her hand resting inside it, no doubt gripping the handle of her pistol.
“I was an accountant for the FBI,” I confessed. I wasn’t sure why I felt the need to defend my occupation to her. Maybe it was because as we walked among cars that cost more than what I made in a year, I wanted her to understand that I’d chosen a profession that helped others instead of putting the pursuit of wealth above everything else. Or maybe I was simply trying to make myself feel better about the choices I’d made.
“Yes,” said my grandma. “And we’d had such high hopes for you too.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snapped.
By this point we’d made it to Rolly’s car, and I heard the door locks release. Delphine got in the front seat; I got in the back.
“Rolly, meet Delphine Lougheed, my grandmother. Delphine, meet Rolly. Maybe a police detective.” I may have had a little snip in my voice.
Roland shook hands with Delphine and reached into his coat with his free hand. Delphine tensed, but when he took out his badge, she removed her hand from her purse and zipped it back up.
“It’s Roland,” he said, shooting me a look of disdain. “Nice to meet you, Delphine.”
“Nice to meet you too. So what’s going on in there?”
Before he could answer, we heard a commotion from farther up the street. Two white-haired ladies, a large redheaded woman, and a tiny black-haired imp rushed down the walkway from the party house and turned our way.
“Whirlpool side-by-side!” said Rolly, touching one ear with an index finger, just like they did in the movies.
I was about to ask why he was so excited about refrigerators, but suddenly he leapt from the car and ran toward the women. In about ten seconds, five other men dressed all in black and sporting bulletproof vests had joined him, trapping the ladies on the sidewalk.
“G-ma!” Before I knew what I was doing, I’d opened the back door of the car to run across the street.
Delphine’s sharp rebuke stopped me cold. I looked at her, amazed at what I was hearing. Didn’t she want to help? What if it was all a big misunderstanding, or G-ma got hurt?
“There is nothing we can do here. Let’s go.” Delphine opened her car door and helped me out of the back seat. We walked slowly, arm-in-arm, back to the rental car.
I could only hear snippets of conversation coming from the cluster of people on the other side of the street until Smitty clearly yelled with a lion’s roar, “I want a lawyer!”
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Copyright 2022 by Andrea C. Neil