The Ring Bling, Part Six: The End?
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At approximately 2 a.m. I fell asleep in a chair in Detective Magnusson’s tiny office, while Delphine and I waited for him to come back from filing some paperwork, or whatever it was that detectives did once they got their man. Or in this case, four female, senior, alleged jewel thieves. Not even the overpowering smell of stale Fritos and Dial soap—which he insisted wafted in through the vents and was not a reflection of what he ate or bathed with—could keep me awake.
About thirty minutes later, Grandma Delphine woke me up with a gentle shake to my shoulder. I was totally disoriented but when I was finally able to focus, she was smiling at me.
“You can go see her.”
“Do I have to?”
Her eyes went wide.
“No, sorry. I didn’t mean that. I’m just tired.”
“Well buck up, kiddo, and go take your grandma’s mind off her predicament.”
That would be hard, I reckoned, considering she was sitting in a jail cell. “When can we spring her from the joint?” I asked as I got up and stretched.
“I’m working on it.”
I nodded and left Rolly’s office, and a uniformed officer escorted me to see my G-ma in her cell. More things I’d have a hard time explaining to my parents.
“How are you holding up?” I asked as I stood outside her tiny cell.
“How do I look like I’m holding up?” she snapped. I looked her over more carefully. Her mascara had run, giving her raccoon eyes, and her hair was “styled” as if she’d taken a long drive in a convertible. She was also missing one shoe, and she looked sort of … damp?
“Jeez, what did the police do to you?”
“They didn’t do anything.” She sounded disappointed and I must have looked confused because then she explained. “I was kinda hoping to get frisked by that Detective Magnusson. He’s a real hottie!”
Oh lord. “G-ma, why do you look so, um, disheveled?”
“Would you believe all this happened at that stupid party? Smitty threw me in the dang pool.” She picked up the hem of her evening dress and wrung it out, leaving a small puddle on the cell floor. “I don’t think I can put this thing in the dryer,” she said.
“It’s time to be straight with me, old lady. Did you guys steal jewelry tonight? What the heck have you been up to?”
G-ma looked around, as if to make sure no one would overhear us. We were alone in the room; the other ladies must have each had their own holding cells. She got up and came toward the bars, motioning for me to come closer too.
“Well, I guess those three ladies are real live jewel thieves,” she confessed. “I suppose I knew on some level, but I was just having so much fun, going to fancy parties and whatnot.”
“I can’t believe my grandma is a criminal,” I mumbled.
“I said they are thieves! I never actually took anything myself. I was what you call one of those duck decoys.”
“It’s just decoy, I think.”
“Right! Sure. See, they would use me as a diversion, on account of my good looks. I would just flirt with the men a little bit, you know? Laugh at their jokes, show them a little leg, that kind of thing. Then their wives would get so jealous they’d be distracted, and whoosh! One of the Blingsters would sneak up and take whatever they could. They’ve got surprisingly nimble reflexes for their ages!”
I tried to picture Big El sneaking up on someone—anyone—and couldn’t.
“Tonight we got our wires crossed,” continued G-ma. “And I might have misread one of the signs, and Smitty pushed me in the pool as a last-ditch distraction. Then we had to leave, of course, since I was wetter than a submarine with screen doors. On the way out Smitty said it was one of their best hauls ever, but then Detective Hottie McHotterson shows up with his goons, and now I’m ruined!”
It was possible G-ma was crying, but difficult to tell with her smeared mascara.
“Oh Griffy, how did all this happen? All I wanted was to take a little cruise, maybe eat a whole lot of free shrimp and dance with a retired car salesman or two. Now everything is a complete mess.” She sat down heavily on the bench in her cell.
“Did you tell Hottie—sorry, Rolly—all this?” I asked. “I mean the part about you not being very involved?”
“Yeah, and Delphine too.”
“She sat in on your interview with the detective?” Of course she did, because she was omnipotent.
“Uh-huh. What the heck is she doing here, anyway? Hard to believe she just happened to be in Florida on vacation.”
“Wait here, I’ll be right back.” I turned to leave.
“Where the heck am I gonna go, Griffy?”
When I got back to Rolly’s office, he was sitting behind his desk having a staring contest with Delphine. I sat down in the chair next to her.
“It sounds like she was only an accomp—” I started.
“Griffin, please go get your grandma a crappy cup of coffee from that vending machine over there.” She jerked a thumb toward the room outside Rolly’s office without breaking eye contact with him.
I knew she didn’t really want coffee, so I left and just milled around the desks in the common area as I watched the proceedings in the office. The two of them sat there staring at each other, not saying a word, until Delphine picked up her phone, spoke to someone for half a minute, and handed the phone over to Detective Magnusson. He glared at her while he talked to whoever it was and when he was done, thrust the phone back at her.
G-ma, Delphine and I sat under a shade umbrella by the pool of the Fancy Resort Spa Place. They sipped mojitos, I sipped San Pellegrino. It was approximately three in the afternoon, and it seemed that all of us had recovered fairly well from the previous night’s excitement.
“There are no cute guys here,” said G-ma, pulling down her sunglasses to look at the people in the pool. “That was one nice thing about hanging out with the Blingsters. We never had any trouble getting dates.”
I thought of Bird Poop Man and laughed to myself. If he was their idea of date material, I wasn’t impressed.
“Yes, well, those days are behind you,” said Delphine in a clipped voice.
G-ma raised both hands in surrender. “Oh, don’t I know it! I’m heading back to Oklahoma just as soon as I can.” She looked toward the outdoor bar along one side of the pool. “Maybe.” She got up and walked to the bar where she shimmied her way onto a barstool next to a white-haired gentleman wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
“She’s incorrigible,” said Delphine. I had to agree.
“Hello there,” said a voice from behind us. Which sounded a lot like Rolly’s. Speaking of incorrigible.
“Hello, Detective Magnusson,” said Delphine.
Without waiting to be asked to join us (which didn’t bother me, but I could tell Delphine was slightly affronted), Rolly sat next to me at the table and placed a tall glass of beer in front of him.
Delphine looked at G-ma, who was laughing hysterically, presumably at something her new friend had said, then turned back to our visitor. “How is everything back at the station?”
“Fine,” he said, clearly not feeling fine about it since he’d started to turn red.
“And by fine, you mean what, exactly?” she asked.
I was enjoying watching the game of verbal tennis so decided to remain a spectator.
Rolly sighed and leaned back in his chair. “She’s free to go. She’ll have to come back to appear in court as a witness against the other three, but for now she can go home.”
Delphine nodded with satisfaction.
“The car has been impounded, and you’ll need to get her things out of that beach house.”
“We’ll take care of that tomorrow,” I said. “I don’t think she had much there, and we won’t take it all back with us anyway.” It wasn’t like she would need very many evening dresses in Enid, Oklahoma.
They were both silent now and I watched the two opponents size each other up. I could learn a few things from those two.
Suddenly Roland leaned forward in his chair and gave Delphine a sharp look. He seemed to puff up with irritation. “I don’t like this one bit and I don’t know what strings you pulled, lady, but I really hope I don’t run into you again.”
My grandma smiled sweetly. “Likewise, Rolly.”
I almost spit out my Pellegrino.
“How long are you staying in Florida?” he asked her.
“I thought I’d treat Griffin and Marge to a few days here at the resort before we all leave. I’d like to try one of those hot stone massages, and maybe a yoga class.” She glanced in my direction.
“Yes to the massage, hard pass on the yoga.”
Rolly looked at me for a long moment, then said, “Well, just stay out of trouble.”
“No guarantees,” said Delphine, and when he turned to look at me again, I smiled innocently.
G-ma came bouncing back to the table, her new friend in tow. “Everyone, meet Willard. Willard, meet everyone.”
Willard bowed. The man actually bowed. “Hello, everyone,” he said, but he didn’t take his eyes off G-ma.
“Me and Willard are going out to dinner tonight,” said G-ma with a big smile. “He says he knows a place where they sell fresh clams by the gallon!”
The confused look on Rolly’s face matched my sentiment, but no one said anything.
“Pick me up in the lobby at 5?” she asked Willard.
“Make it 4:30,” he said, winking at her before bowing to us again and leaving the pool area.
G-ma sat down with us and sipped from her mojito. “Pretty cute, huh? And from what I can tell, those are his original teeth.”
“A definite plus,” said Delphine.
G-ma did in fact go to dinner with Willard, that night and the night after that. We’d spent the following day picking up the rest of her things from the beach house (the Mercedes was gone, and she was understandably sad about it), getting massages, swimming in the pool, and eating delicious food. The three of us shared my room—my grandmas got the two beds and I slept on a hideaway bed that was quite comfortable. And I didn’t mind, as it was nice to spend time all together. Although G-ma hogged the bathroom getting ready for her dates.
When she got home from her second date night with Willard at around 8:30, we decided we should go ahead and pack to get ready to leave the next day. But as I started refolding my clothes in my suitcase, G-ma made an announcement.
“Me and Willard are getting married!”
I dropped the pair of shoes I’d been holding. “Excuse me?”
“Yeah, next month. But I’m moving into his townhouse tomorrow. It’s not far from here. In fact, it’s real close to the Blingsters’ beach house.” She pulled her bag from the closet and started shoving in the pile of clothes that had accumulated on top of her bed.
“I’m not sure it’s a good idea to live so close to them,” I said, starting to feel a bit panicky. We—or should I say Delphine—had just gotten her out of trouble, and here she was jumping right back in again.
My head spun. Up until now, I had thought Willard was a visitor to Florida, like we were. Or at most, he was here on a trip from another part of the state. I’d figured he and G-ma would have a couple of fun dates before everyone went their separate ways, back to their separate lives. It had never occurred to me that he was local. I looked at Delphine for guidance, and she nodded her head in a way that told me she’d handle this. Of course she would.
“I would normally agree with Griffin,” said Delphine, “but I happen to know that the Blingsters are no more. Their house was a rental and they’re all in jail, likely for some time.”
G-ma dropped her arms to her sides for dramatic effect. “They could be living right next door to Willard and me for all I care. I’ll never be tempted to do anything illegal ever again. You won’t even catch me getting a parking ticket. Which reminds me, I’m sure gonna miss my Benz.”
Delphine’s knowledge of the Blingsters’ breakup and G-ma’s declaration made me feel somewhat better, but we still knew nothing about darling Willard. Vern, Smitty, and Big El had looked harmless enough too, until you got up close. Willard could be a smuggler, or a sociopath, or a dentist.
Delphine placed a neatly folded pair of pants into her meticulously packed carry-on bag. “Your Oklahoma family will miss having you around, Marge.”
G-ma sighed. “And I’ll miss them too. But this is true love, ladies. And I’m running out of time to have some fun, you know?”
“I do know,” said my other grandma.
I still had so many questions, but if Delphine seemed to be okay with this, maybe she had her reasons and I just didn’t know what they were. Like maybe she’d already done a background check on Willard. In fact, I was sure she had. So I continued to pack in silence.
As I put my UCLA sweatshirt in my suitcase, it reminded me of the little item I’d stashed in the hotel safe. It wasn’t ideal to retrieve it while my grandmas were around, but I wasn’t sure when I’d be alone again, so I decided to just play it casual. I went to the closet and put in the combination, and when the safe opened I took my socks out.
“That’s a strange thing to keep in a safe,” Delphine said from right behind me.
I began to panic, for two reasons. First, what would be a good cover story for putting socks in a safe? And second, the socks felt way too light. About one large diamond too light.
“You’re right. I guess it wouldn’t have fooled anyone,” I said.
“What wouldn’t have fooled who?” asked G-ma, walking up to us and peering into the empty safe.
“Griffin put a pair of socks in the safe.”
I held them up and gave my grandmas a weak smile.
“Oh yeah? What didja put in them?” G-ma asked. “No wait, let me guess! Your cocaine stash!”
“Haha,” was all I could manage.
Delphine gave me a long look. “Jewelry, perhaps?”
“Oh, of course, that would make a lot more sense. Show us what you’ve got there, Griffy!” G-ma clapped her hands.
I took a deep breath. “Okay.” I had squeezed the socks into a tight ball in my fist and when Delphine held out her hand, I dumped them in her palm. They sprung open and expanded, bounced out of her hand and landed on the floor without a sound.
G-ma picked them up and turned each one inside out. “There’s nothing in these!”
“That’s right,” I said. “I just put them in there for no reason.” My mind raced. Where on earth had the diamond gone? Was conventional wisdom correct and hotel staff really did steal things from guest rooms? I looked at my bouncy G-ma and the ever-observant Delphine.
I was screwed.
I couldn’t tell them about it. I couldn’t tell the hotel management that someone on their staff had stolen from me, either. I couldn’t do a single thing except try not to look too disappointed and go back to packing.
Even though I knew I shouldn’t, I felt sad that my unusual find had disappeared. I still couldn’t pinpoint exactly why I’d taken it. But every time I’d held it, it had given me a little thrill. Like I had a secret that might have been a little dangerous (or a lot?) but also exciting and definitely compelling.
Maybe I needed to get out more. Maybe there was some legitimate excitement I could add to my life. But could I find that in Fort Worth? With Brian?
The next morning, we checked out of the resort. Delphine and I put our bags in my rental car to go to the airport, and G-ma put her things in Willard’s Buick.
Willard, Delphine, and G-ma said their goodbyes, and Delphine got in the rental car to wait for me while I had a moment with G-ma.
G-ma and Willard stood side-by-side as I shook Willard’s hand. “Take good care of her,” I said, grinning. “Because if you don’t, I’ll come back and kick your ass.”
Willard’s eyes went wide with surprise but recovered nicely. “Oh, you betcha, Griffin, I’ll take real good care of this little spitfire here.” He did something to G-ma out of my line of sight to make her jump with surprise and let out a loud laugh. I was just thankful I hadn’t seen whatever he’d done.
“I called your father earlier this morning to give him the good news, so they already know,” said G-ma, giving me a hug.
“I know. I’ve gotten thirty texts from him in the last hour.” I gave her a big hug back. “Be careful, okay, G-ma? No more jewelry thieving, or thieving of any kind.”
She nodded solemnly. “Of course not. I’m on the straight and narrow.”
“Are you?” I asked.
“Well, sure I am!” she exclaimed, putting one hand on her heart. “I left you your socks, didn’t I?”
T H E E N D
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Copyright 2022 by Andrea C. Neil