The Mystery of Seagrass Island (Chapter 14)

“What a gorgeous morning,” Margie said as she admired the pink-tinged sunrise from her front porch.

“Cheers,” Lloyd said, clinking his coffee cup to hers. “I think I’ll swing by and pick up Corey and introduce him to my fishing buddies today.”

“If you’re going fishing, that will leave me unsupervised,” Margie said playfully. “I guess I will see if Cindy wants to come along with me to the Arts Center.”

Lloyd gathered his fishing gear while Margie donned a pair of jean capris, a comfy t-shirt and a floppy hat.  Margie walked out the door first as Lloyd was trying to corral his wieldy fishing rods. She backed out of the driveway and Lloyd quickly stowed the rods in the trunk of his car and hurried to catch up with her.  They both pulled into Corey and Cindy’s driveway and walked to the front door together.  When Margie knocked, Cindy opened the door while pulling her pink fluffy bathrobe together.

“Good morning, Cindy. How have you been?” Margie said.

“Fine, Margie.  It’s awfully early, isn’t it?” Cindy said as she shielded her eyes from the morning light.

“No, not really. I love getting out when it’s still a little cool in the mornings.  How would you like to go with me to the Arts Center?  Have you been yet?” Margie asked.

“No, actually I haven’t, but I have been planning to,” Cindy said.

“Great,” Margie said.  “You have a lovely swing in your front yard.  I’ll just wait for you there with Lloyd.  Lloyd was wondering if your handsome husband would like to go fishing?”

Lloyd tipped his fishing hat full of lures at Cindy and smiled.  She looked a bit confused.

“Corey doesn’t like to get out much lately,” she said.

“Well, sounds like this would be just the thing. Is he awake yet?” Lloyd asked loudly.

The sound of a cough came from within.

“Sure sounds like he is. I hope we didn’t wake you up, Corey,” Lloyd yelled around Cindy who still stood in the doorway.

Corey appeared behind her, unshaven and bare-chested.  “Listen, I appreciate the offer, Lloyd, but I’m just not a fisherman,” Corey protested and started to walk back inside.

“Oh, that’s too bad. Your Uncle Ralph was really hoping you would enjoy it,” Lloyd said with a smile.

Corey stopped in his tracks.  “My Uncle Ralph?  How do you know him? Oh,” he said as realization dawned. “You used to work in Charleston.  I forgot.  Well, okay, but I don’t expect I will be good at it or that I will like it.”

“Just for the record, you don’t have to do both. One or the other works fine for most of us,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd and Margie didn’t have to wait very long before Corey and Cindy both emerged from the house.

“See you later, Lloyd.” Margie gave him a quick kiss as they parted and Cindy waved goodbye to Corey.

“I’m really glad that you guys came by. I’ve been worried about Corey.  I think getting out will do him good,” Cindy said.

Margie smiled in reassurance. “It’s good for all of us sometimes. So, what kind of arts do you prefer? We have a lot of painting and some sculptures at the center.  We also have music classes, arts and crafts, local writers and every once in a while, a visiting poet comes to see us.”

“I’m more of a spectator in the arts,” Cindy said.

“Ah, we’ll find something for you, I’m sure,” Margie said confidently. Margie parked the car and she and Cindy strolled into the center.

“Wow, this is pretty nice,” said Cindy as she admired the skylights in the high ceiling which lit up a large open space filled with tropical plants and separated into areas for the different arts.

“Yes, Anna has been redecorating.  Let me introduce you,” Margie said. “Anna!” Margie called to her from across the room.

Anna turned from the artist she was watching paint a seashell to the sound of Margie’s voice.  A smile spread across her face.  “Good morning, Margie.  So glad to see you.” She closed the space quickly between them and her heels clicked across the concrete floors.

“I’ve brought someone new with me.  Anna, this is Cindy Buttrell.  She and her husband moved to the island right before the hurricane,” Margie said.

“What a welcome you received from Mother Nature,” Anna said jokingly.

“I know, right?  We weren’t sure if we wanted to put our house on the market again or come back after we evacuated,” Cindy said.

“Well, we are glad that you decided to give us another chance,” said Margie. “Oh, by the way, Anna, I brought you something.”

She walked into Anna’s office and dumped the contents of a plastic bag of dark chocolates into Anna’s candy dish.

Anna followed her in and looked into the dish, “My favorite.  Who do you want me to kill?”

“That’s hilarious, Anna. I don’t want anything.  I just wanted to say thank you for all that you do,” Margie said.

“Aw, you are the sweetest, Margie.”  The seashell painter began waving at Anna to get her attention.  “You both just look around and enjoy yourselves. Let me know if you need anything, anything at all,” Anna winked playfully at Margie as she walked off to attend to her patrons.

Margie reached down to pick up a stray chocolate and place it into the bowl on the desk and couldn’t help but notice the paper laying on top.  It was an invoice from Seagrass Memory Gardens for a mausoleum. She must have looked just a little too long as Cindy cleared her throat.  Margie looked up and grinned, “Old habits die hard.”

Cindy laughed. “I bet.”

“What do you say we check out what’s on the calendar?” Margie said.

After they had reviewed the center activities calendar and Margie had successfully talked Cindy into signing up for a beginning watercolor class, Margie invited Cindy to the local coffee shop.  Their pumpkin spice lattes were a perfect addition to the morning.

“I love these,” Cindy said.

Margie smiled.  “Then we shall have to do this again soon. They sell this flavor for about 4 months out of the year now.”

Margie’s phone buzzed. “Do you mind if I take this Cindy?  It’s my daughter, Bess.”

“Of course, please do,” Cindy said as she sipped her warm drink.

Margie hit the green circle and answered, “Hello, Bess.  How are you?”

“I’m fine, Mom.  I need to tell you something,” Bess’s voice crackled as Margie moved around trying to find a better connection.

“What is it, dear?” Margie asked.

“I accidentally deleted a file today and when I ran the recover program to find it, I uncovered some more files that had been deleted from my computer while I was out. To make a long story short, one of them was information regarding Bettina’s financial records.”

“Really,” Margie said with interest.

“Yes, she was into something big.  Large amounts of cash were flowing into and out of her accounts. And get this…her largest account was with the Vatican Bank in Rome! There were deposits from…got a pen? Write this down: B-u-t-y-r-u-m-p-i-s-c-i-s.” Bess spelled the word out.

“What is that?” Margie asked as she finished writing it.

“I have no idea. That’s your job, Mom.  Gotta run.” Margie could hear Bess talking to someone as she hung up the phone without waiting for a response, and she recognized Bess’s “hiding something” voice from when Bess was a teenager. Hopefully, whoever was there with her, didn’t know her as well as her mother did. Margie sighed, worried that her daughter was going to get into more trouble.  Meanwhile, Cindy had finished her coffee.

“Is everything okay?” Cindy asked.

“Of course. Just the normal worries that kids cause. Nobody will notice a few more gray hairs on me anyway. Shall we go check on the guys?” Margie asked, trying to keep her tone light.

Margie and Cindy strolled down to the dock just as the fishing boat was pulling in. “Great timing, honey!” called Lloyd as he hopped out of the boat like a man half his age and began pulling the boat in with the heavy rope.  Margie smiled with pride.

Corey looked as if he had lost ten years off his face too.  The fresh sea air must have been good for him.  He joked around with the other men as he got off the boat and Cindy looked amazed at how happy and relaxed her husband seemed. “This was a great idea, Margie. Thank you,” she said quietly as Margie nodded in agreement.

They all said their goodbyes and Lloyd and Margie headed back home.  Later that evening as they sat on their couch enjoying the ambience of their gas fireplace, Lloyd asked Margie about her day.

“Well, I had a good day with Cindy.  I even got her to sign up for a painting class,” Margie said.

“Well, good for her,” Lloyd said.

“Yes, and I saw something interesting on Anna’s desk but I don’t know if it’s important.  She had a receipt for a mausoleum in Seagrass Memory Gardens.  It just seemed strange to me since she isn’t very old.  Most people don’t think about those sort of things at her age,” Margie said thoughtfully.

“True, but she is rather odd and nitpicky. Maybe she just wants to make sure everything goes according to her wishes even after she’s dead.”  Lloyd grimaced like a zombie.

“Maybe,” Margie said, rolling her eyes at her husband’s antics.  “Anyway, the most interesting info came from Bess.”

“Bess?” Lloyd asked.

“Yes, she called while Cindy and I were having coffee.  She said that she uncovered Bettina’s financial records and Bettina had an account at the Vatican Bank in Rome. How weird is that? She even gave me a name for the depositor of the account so we can try to trace it.”

“Wow,” Lloyd said. “Nothing I found out today even close to compares to that.  Corey is really wound up tight.  I think today was helpful but it’s going to take some time for him to get over whatever he saw overseas.  I did hear some more gossip but you can only give it the weight that gossip is worth, not much. The guys were saying that Bettina was after Richard because of his money but couldn’t compete. When I tried to find out who the competition was, they all clammed up on me. Guess I’m not completely trustworthy as a newcomer.”

“Or it could be because you’re a cop,” Margie said.

“Retired cop,” Lloyd said.

“Retired cop who is a paid consultant for the police department,” Margie said.

“Okay, I give,” Lloyd said. “That could be it. Not to change the subject and, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for our date tomorrow!”

Margie smacked Lloyd on the knee. “You did change the subject but I agree.  I’m ready too!  I wonder where Anna is going to lead us.  We can NOT get caught though.  Do you hear me?  I do not want to make Anna mad at me.”

“No worries. I got this.  I’ll admit that it has been a while since I’ve tailed someone but I haven’t lost my touch,” Lloyd said.

“Okay,” Margie said.  “Let’s get some rest. We’re going to need it!”

To be continued…