The Mystery of Seagrass Island (Chapter 15)
When Lloyd and Margie woke up, they were not in any hurry. They knew that Anna wasn’t going anywhere early on Friday because she had to be at the Arts Center from nine to five. It was a luxurious day of relaxing for them. Lloyd mowed the lawn and puttered around the house with repairs and Margie did a little cleaning and some painting. But at 3 o’clock, Margie looked at Lloyd and said, “It’s time.” Lloyd put on a suit and Margie put on a black dress with a jacket, in preparation to blend in almost anywhere.
Lloyd picked up the cooler full of snacks that Margie had packed earlier. “Wait for me on the porch. I have a surprise,” he said.
Margie stood outside waiting and heard a strange vehicle pulling around the side of her house. Lloyd pulled up to the front porch steps in a sleek black sports car. “Would you like a ride m’lady?” he asked with a smug smile.
“Oh, Lloyd, when did you rent this beauty?” Margie asked.
“This morning while you were painting. It’s always easier to tail someone if they can’t recognize your car.”
“Good point; and you picked such a fun car, too. It has a sun roof!”
Yes, and a bunch of tech gadgets for you to play with.”
“Yay!” Margie happily walked around and got inside. “Oh and I love the tinted windows too! Are they legal?”
“Just barely.” Lloyd tried to restrain from revving the powerful engine in glee as he pulled out of the yard.
When they arrived at the Arts Center, Lloyd drove around once to see if Anna was still there. When he spotted her vehicle he parked down the street far enough away that she would not notice them.
“Well, it’s four o’clock,” Margie said. “Now the waiting begins. Anna isn’t scheduled to get off from work until five.”
“I wouldn’t want to wait with anyone but you,” Lloyd said.
Margie smiled. “Me too.”
Lloyd played with the satellite radio and Margie turned on her cell phone. “What are you grinning about?” Lloyd asked.
“Oh, just a tech gadget for me to play with. See?” Margie said as she turned the screen to Lloyd.
“What? Is that a tracking app?”
“Yep,” Margie said.
“Yesterday, when I was at the Arts Center, I might have dropped a GPS tracker inside the bumper of Anna’s car accidentally,” Margie said.
“You sneaky, marvelous thing you,” Lloyd said with admiration. “Wait, there she is.” Lloyd pointed at the Arts Center.
Margie bobbed her head up quickly and saw Anna just as she was getting into her car. Lloyd started up the motor. With the GPS tracker working, there was no reason to stay too close and chance getting caught.
“I think I prefer to always tail my suspects like this from now on,” Lloyd said. “You are spoiling me.”
“That’s my intention,” Margie said and popped open a bag of trail mix for them to share.
“Do you think she’s going back to her apartment?” Lloyd asked.
“No, that’s in the other direction. I have no idea where she’s headed,” Margie said.
After about ten minutes of driving toward the opposite side of the island, the red dot showing Anna’s car on the GPS tracker slowed down and came to a stop at Seagrass Memorial Gardens.
“How very interesting,” Margie said.
Lloyd pulled up on the back side of the cemetery and cut the motor. They could see Anna clearly. She was dressed in a short red business suit, holding a red purse tight to her side as she walked quickly up the path toward one of the new mausoleums. Looking over her shoulders in both directions, Anna checked to see if anyone was following her. After retrieving a key from her purse, she put it into the door and pushed it open. She was only inside for a minute or two before she emerged with nothing in her hands other than the key and the purse that she walked in with.
“Wonder what that was all about?” Lloyd said.
“It’s very odd,” Margie said. “Very odd indeed.”
Anna got back into her vehicle and drove off. Lloyd circled around from the back of the cemetery and they followed Anna at a distance. “Well, it looks like she’s on her way somewhere now,” Lloyd said as they followed her across the bridge into downtown Charleston. After turning onto the highway heading north, the miles began disappearing beneath them. “Turn on some tunes, baby,” Lloyd said playfully and Margie switched on the radio. After they had been driving for almost two hours, Lloyd said, “I think she may be headed to Myrtle Beach.”
“Could be. That’s the next big thing,” Margie said as she watched the GPS carefully. “She just got off the highway,” Margie said. “She is turning down Minnow Avenue towards the intercostal waterway and now, she stopped.”
Margie punched the GPS location into the dash controls for Lloyd to follow. They turned down a street filled with small houses that looked as if they could use a coat of paint. Trash was scattered everywhere and dogs ran loose in the middle of the road.
“I’m not sure about this neighborhood, Lloyd,” Margie said.
As they got closer to where Anna’s car was parked, they realized they had driven into the traffic for the casino. “Parking for the Big M Casino Here” boasted the brightly painted signs.
“Well, this should be interesting,” Lloyd said. “Do you feel lucky?”
“Oh my. I feel a bit overdressed,” Margie said as she noticed the short skirts and loud Hawaiian prints combined with jeans and polo shirts and khakis adorning the figures of the locals.
“You just look classy. Now let’s get a little less classy,” Lloyd said while removing his tie and jacket and rolling up his sleeves.
“Okay,” said Margie as she took off her short jacket and loosened her hair from the bun she had it in.
“Now you look great,” Lloyd said with approval.
They had no idea where Anna was, just the location of her car, so they approached the building carefully. “Do you think she’s inside already?” Margie asked.
Lloyd looked around at the shady looking characters hanging around the outside of the building. “I would think so. If she is meeting someone here, it would be safer to do that inside.”
As they walked up the boarding plank to enter the small cruise boat that housed the casino, they had to show an id. “Just use your driver’s license,” Lloyd said quietly. “No reason to alert them that we’re anyone except people wanting to give them our money.”
“I agree. We don’t know who we can trust here. It’s best to keep our cards hidden.”
“Oh, good pun,” said Lloyd. “I’m proud of you.”
“I didn’t even mean to do that,” Margie said and laughed. “I think it’s been twenty years since we’ve been in a casino.”
“At least,” Lloyd agreed, “and it doesn’t look very different than it did back then, does it?”
“No, just a few more lights,” Margie said.
It was still early in the evening. Some older couples sat at the slot machines holding buckets to catch the winnings they hoped for. A group of young men were hovering over the roulette table as the ladies who came with them sang out words of encouragement. But most of the crowd was either sitting at tables or refilling their plates from an enormous buffet. Margie spotted Anna first. “Look, on the far back right side. Do you see her?”
“Yes,” Lloyd said, “Back up before she sees us.”
They quickly moved behind a video poker machine. “Who is she with? Can you see?” Margie asked.
“Hang on,” Lloyd said as he peeked around. “It’s Richard Normandy and someone else I don’t recognize. A lady about the same age as Anna with shoulder length brown hair.”
“Let me look,” Margie said as she pulled Lloyd back and took his place. “Oh, wow. I know who that is. I haven’t seen her in years but I recognize her.”
“Well, who is it? Don’t leave me in suspense,” Lloyd said.
“Brandy,” Margie said.
“But you don’t drink,” Lloyd said quizzically.
“No, silly. That’s who it is. Brandy Harris. Bettina’s sister.”
“Dawn’s mother?” Lloyd asked.
“The very same,” Margie said.
“This just keeps getting more complicated,” Lloyd said.
“Yep,” Margie agreed.
“Why would Anna be meeting with Richard and Brandy at a casino in Myrtle Beach?”
“They’re on the move,” Margie said. “Looks like they’re walking toward the back of the boat.”
“We’ve got to try to follow them,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd and Margie tried to stay behind the other guests and keep their heads lowered as they walked toward the cabin area where the trio had disappeared. As they got closer, the lighting became much more subdued and it was difficult to see clearly. Lloyd held Margie’s hand as they walked down some steps and followed the voices. Suddenly the voices got very loud as if they had turned around. Margie tried a door behind them and it opened into a dark room. She pulled Lloyd in with her and closed the door quickly.
“That was slick,” whispered Lloyd.
“Shhh,” Margie said as she strained to listen.
Soon the three were standing right outside the door and their voices were as clear as if they were right beside them. “What did you do with the last batch?” Anna asked.
“What do you care?” Richard said. “The environment was never your concern.”
“I do care about evidence,” said Anna, “and who goes down for all this.”
“Well, I care about the money,” Brandy said. “My sister died for it and someone’s going to pay for that.”
“You never cared about your sister,” said Anna. “You hated her.”
“She was family. You wouldn’t understand that,” Brandy said.
Anna drew a swift intake of breath.
“Ladies,” Richard said. “Let’s focus on the issue at hand and you can kill each other later. Did you bring the stuff, Anna?”
“Yes, it was exactly where Bettina left it in her usual spot. I have no idea what I’ll do with a mausoleum now since Bettina’s gone. I don’t know why she insisted on using the cemetery for our exchange location. We should have buried her there,” Anna said.
“Don’t be morbid. And who knows?” said Richard. “It may yet come in handy for other things besides hiding bank account numbers. Give the info to Brandy.”
“Why does she get to go to Rome to do this? Why should we trust her?”
“Well, we all know too much to rat each other out, and no one will suspect her,” Richard said.
“Fine,” said Anna, “but only because I trust you, Richard.”
“Brandy, stay in contact with us. Let us know when you arrive in Rome, and once your mission is complete.”
“Will do,” Brandy said. “I have no reason to cross either of you as long as I get my share.” There was a shuffling sound as Brandy departed.
“Do you think we can trust her?” Anna asked.
“No,” said Richard. “But we don’t have to. We just have to control her, and as long as she thinks she is going to get what she wants, she will follow the carrot.”
“Speaking of getting what we want,” Anna said, “we might as well enjoy ourselves. There’s nothing else we can do at the moment.”
“Agreed,” said Richard.
Margie and Lloyd could hear them walking away from the door but they waited for five more minutes before they dared open it, just in case.
“Let’s figure out a way to get out of here,” Margie said as they slipped out of the room and back down the hall.
They had just walked around the buffet table as Lloyd spotted Richard and Anna leaving the blackjack table and walking directly towards them. “Turn around quickly and stand in front of me,” Lloyd said.
Margie did as he instructed and could hear Anna’s laughter right behind them as they passed by.
“That was too close. Let’s go,” said Lloyd, taking Margie’s hand and pulling her towards the exit. It was dark outside when they left the casino and walked to the car. The sounds of music and laughter drifted through the thick night air. Margie was glad to feel the cool air from the car vents as Lloyd turned on the engine and they drove away.
To be continued…