The Mystery of Seagrass Island (Chapter 6)

The next morning Lloyd and Margie worked on their strategy over coffee. “How about we divide and conquer?” Lloyd said.

“That sounds good,” Margie said. “I will stop by the Arts Center and talk to Anna since she mentioned she had something she wanted me to see anyway. I’m planning on doing it really casually.”

“I don’t intend to be so casual,” Lloyd said, pulling his hat down low on his head. “I get to play the bad cop today at the research facility.”

“Oh, Lloyd, you aren’t going to scare anyone,” Margie said.

“Fine, let’s get to work then,” Lloyd said as he swatted her behind as she stood up from the table.

“Oh, you!” she said accusingly and pointed at him with a smile.

When Margie arrived at the arts center, she noticed her old friend Bettina sitting in the corner hunched over one of the computers behind Anna’s desk. “Good morning, Bettina,” Margie said.

The agitated older lady mumbled something unintelligible in return.

“I’m sorry. What did you say, Bettina?”

“I said, good morning, okay?” she muttered.

“What on earth is wrong with you?” asked Margie.

“Oh, family problems,” she said and turned towards Margie, putting her hands in her head.

“Dear, dear,” Margie said. “Would you like to talk?”

“Yes, I would indeed,” said Bettina. Margie pulled up one of the blue plastic chairs and sat down. “My niece,” Bettina fumed. She was so angry, she could hardly get started. “My niece is the worst mother in the world and her children are the worst behaved children I have ever known!”

“Wait a minute,” Margie interrupted. “Is this the same niece that you always brag about how sweet she and her children are?”

“Yes, it is the same one but I was completely wrong about them. I shouldn’t have ever wasted my time being nice to them. They are just like my brother. That apple didn’t fall very far from that tree! I don’t ever want to speak to her again. I just finished blocking her on Facebook!”

“You blocked her?” asked Margie. “That is what you do to people who harass you like an ex-husband…not your niece! Don’t you think you may have overreacted?”

“No, I don’t! Not at all! I told my son too and he won’t talk to her either now. And I told my sister-in-law and she told me that she won’t talk to her even though she heard that my niece was having heart problems. In fact, she told me that she would be happy to post memes on her wall to try to make her feel bad. I love my relatives! Aren’t they the sweetest?”

“No,” said Margie quietly. “That’s not sweet. That is not even nice, Bettina. What did your niece ever do to you that could make you think she deserves this kind of treatment?”

Bettina faltered for a moment. “Well, it was nothing that she did I guess. But I just didn’t know what else to do. Her parents have been so mean to me. I am traumatized by them. I hide in the clothes racks in Wal-Mart when I see them coming so I don’t have to talk to them.” Bettina sobbed into her hands again.

Margie shook her head as if to clear the cobwebs. “What does this have to do with her parents?”

“Well, nothing I guess, but they just make me so mad I can’t think straight.”

“Okay, so your niece didn’t actually do anything to you and her parents didn’t actually do anything to you this time. So why on earth are you so angry with your niece?” Margie asked.

“I am just so disappointed in her. I thought she was a good mother but her son sent me a thank you card for his birthday gift.”

“And how is that bad?” asked Margie lifting her eyebrows.

“We could only afford to send him twenty dollars and I’m sure she thought it should have been more. He wrote, “Thank you for your generosity. Ha. Ha.” on the card.”

“No, how dare he? What a monster! Remove them all from your family!” Margie said, trying not to laugh.

“You’re making fun of me!” Bettina said, beginning to get angry. “You don’t understand. I have received a lot of thank you cards in my time and I have never, never I tell you, ever, received such a rude one!” Her wrinkled face grew as red as her ginger-dyed hair as she spoke and it looked as if her eyes might bulge out.

“Bettina,” said Margie trying to calm her back down. “Did you talk to your niece about this?”

“No, because I just can’t take the stress of talking to her about it. That is why I blocked her and talked to my other relatives.”

“Bettina, you and I both sit on the same pew in Palm Hill Church and you and I both know that this is the not the way that God instructs us to work out our differences with other Christians. Remember the instructions in Matthew 18? First you go alone to the other person to talk to them. Gossiping, is never an option, especially when you are using it to encourage other people to treat her badly also.”

“But I wasn’t! I just needed another opinion.”

“Really? Weren’t you really just making sure that you could find other people to back you up before you started punishing her? Let’s be honest about your motives. How would you like it if you were treated like this? You don’t even know what your niece’s son meant by this. You are just assuming. And you certainly aren’t setting a good example of how a Christian should react to adversity.”

“I don’t care!” shouted Bettina. She stood up suddenly and upset the chair she was sitting in. “Don’t tell me I’m not acting like a Christian! That is what my brother always says! Christians make mistakes too!”

Margie couldn’t take it any longer. “Yes, they do, Bettina! Stop being a hypocrite!”

Bettina grabbed her purse and ran out of the art center just as Anna walked in.

“Oh my goodness, Margie, what did you do to Bettina?” Anna asked.

Margie sighed. “I lost my temper. I just told her the truth and it wasn’t very comforting to her.”

“It’s the company you keep that makes the difference, I always say,” said Anna smugly while rubbing her fur baby, Kiki, under the chin. “You know Bettina has been thinking she is better than all of us since she started spending so much time with Richard Normandy.”

“Who is Richard Normandy?” asked Margie curiously.

“Oh, he works at that research facility on the other side of the island. I think she went over there to complain about the noise and he invited her in for coffee. She hasn’t been able to see straight ever since. Personally, I think he just offered her the coffee to shut her up and now he can’t get rid of her.” Anna slightly snorted as she laughed.

“That is very interesting,” said Margie as a thoughtful smile crossed her face. “Now, did you say you had something you wanted to show me?”

“Yes, yes, I do. Follow me,” Anna said mysteriously as she led Margie into one of the back rooms. “I found this note taped to the back of one of the paintings that was hanging in the museum with…the body.” Anna lowered her voice as she whispered, “I wanted you to read it first.”

To be continued…