The Mystery of Seagrass Island (Chapter 19)

Sunlight streamed through the hotel window and Margie lay there, enjoying the early morning quiet.  She could just barely see the top of St. Peter’s Basilica from her viewpoint, on the fluffy pillows which propped up her head.  Her thoughts wandered back to the evening before.  Taking the evening tour of the Vatican museums worked out well since most of the tourists were out enjoying the other nightlife that Rome provided in the form of copious nightclubs located on every corner. The Sistine Chapel was breathtaking in the muted lighting with two violinists playing a duet in the background. She was so pleased with herself for having picked up the most wonderful gift for Lloyd in the gift shop. Hopefully it would make up for him not getting to go on this trip.  When she called him last night, he seemed a little down, or maybe he was just tired. She made a mental note to not forget to arrange a mini vacation for them together when all this was sorted out.

Margie still couldn’t hear any noise coming from Brandy’s room next door so she decided to go ahead and take her shower and get ready.  When she was finished and had put her wig and glasses back on, she looked in the mirror and could hardly recognize herself.  That is the point, she thought.  The phone ringing next door disturbed her scrutiny of her reflection.

The ringing was insistent and finally, there was a thump; Brandy must have awoken, reached for the phone and dropped it.  Margie could hear her moaning and groaning in discomfort.

Well, that’s what you get for drinking an entire bottle of wine. And on another note, thank goodness for the paper thin walls, Margie thought as she pressed her ear as close as she could. Margie could hear Brandy’s voice clearly as Brandy fumbled to check her missed calls and return the last one.

“You called me?” Brandy asked.

Pause.

“Yes, I’m awake. It’s only 9 a.m.”

Pause.

“Yes, I have the check.”

Margie could hear Brandy fumbling in her purse and her little sigh of relief when she located it.

“Okay.  I can do that.  I would rather not carry this check back on the airplane anyway.”

Pause.

“Yes, I’m writing it down now.”

Margie could hear Brandy fumbling again, this time obviously for a pen and paper.

“Via Castrovillari. Yes, yes, I got it.  Take bus 3 at San Pietro and walk from Tuscolana.  Yes, I will use my GPS.”

Margie wrote it down as well. When she heard Brandy’s shower begin running, she headed downstairs to get a cappuccino and an Italian pastry.  She sat in a strategic position so that she would see Brandy the moment she descended the staircase.  Twenty minutes later, Brandy showed up dressed in a suit that looked almost identical to the red one that she wore yesterday, but in a startling blue.

Easiest tail ever, thought Margie.  It would only be easier if she wore a flashing light.

Brandy took her breakfast to go this time and Margie sauntered out behind her, leaving enough space to keep from drawing attention to herself.  Margie noticed that Brandy was putting the address in her cell phone, and Margie pressed go on hers, as she had already put the address in and checked the bus stop info.

There were several people waiting for the bus at the San Pietro stop so it was not difficult to stay out of Brandy’s way.  Margie was one of the last to get on and this time sat in the front. Occasionally she would powder her nose, and check Brandy’s location, with the tiny compact mirror that she kept in her purse.

When the bus stopped, Margie got off quickly and stepped around the corner in the opposite direction.  After Brandy disembarked and started walking, Margie caught back up to her but stayed far enough behind not to be noticed.

After about 10 minutes of walking they arrived at a rather large, ostentatious-looking villa.  The ancient stone facade was covered with vines which extended down the fence and above the entrance gate. The top of the villa was designed with the kind of parapet you would see on a castle.  The only thing missing is a turret with a damsel in distress, thought Margie.

Margie was surprised to see Brandy unlatch the gate and walk right up to the front door to ring the bell.  Not much security, she thought.  Good for me.

A housekeeper dressed in all black with a white apron showed her in.  Margie waited just a moment, then slipped into the gate and around the side of the building into a small side garden.  Several of the windows were open allowing fresh air to enter the drawing room.  Margie squeezed into a sitting position on a tiny garden bench with a stone cherub resting beside it. The occupants’ voices wafted on the early morning breeze.

“Signora Harris?” a deep voice said.

“Yes, and you are Ray Normandy?”

“Very well, now that we have completed the introductions, you have something for me?” Ray asked.

“Yes,” Brandy said. Margie could hear the sound of Brandy fumbling in her purse again. “Here is the check.”

“You will need to endorse it. Use my pen,” Ray offered quickly, obviously hoping to hurry this along.

“Here you go,” Brandy said.

“Did you close the account?” Ray asked.

“I guess so.  I drew out all of the money,” Brandy said with a snort.

“If you did not tell them to close the account, it will remain open, you foolish woman. We cannot risk sending you back.  Perhaps since there is no balance, it will not matter.  Why would my brother ever do business with someone like you?”

“Now, wait a minute,”  Brandy started. “I am just doing a favor for him.  My sister was the one he was all la-la over.”

“You deceive yourself. My brother had no real interest in your sister.  She was a pawn, just like you.  And a stupid pawn at that.”

“I wasn’t going to insist here, but now I am.  Where is my cut of this money?” Brandy asked indignantly.

“Here, take this and leave.” Ray threw some paper money at her feet.  “My brother will have to deal with you.  I do not.” Ray snapped his fingers.

Margie couldn’t stand it any longer and peeked a bit through the window that was open just in time to see a large man with white gloves taking Brandy firmly by the elbow.  It just so happened that the maid saw her and gasped. Ray turned to look and caught a glimpse of Margie.

“This is ridiculous. I need these front gates secured,” said Ray.  “Get out the tourist trash that has wandered into our side garden again. This is not a public garden, you must go,” he yelled slowly and loudly to Margie who kept her head down and grasped her hat. She was thrown out only minutes behind Brandy.  Luckily, Brandy was too distressed to notice anyone else.

Margie followed Brandy back to the hotel and was glad that Brandy went straight to her room.  She could hear her next door making arrangements for her return to the states and decided to do likewise.  Margie did not really care whether her flight coincided with Brandy’s for the return but just in case it did, she knew she would need to continue wearing her itchy disguise until the very end.  A real Italian meal might be just what she needed before she started back.  She grabbed her room key and set off to enjoy her last day in Italy before her flight home.

The first restaurant that Margie encountered was Osteria dei Pontefici.  What a lovely sounding name, thought Margie as she walked into the beautiful dining room.  The tables were laid with white cotton cloths covering larger scarlet cloths.  Each table had wine glasses turned upside down and the usual table wine provided.  Multiple chandeliers softly lit the room and made the rich wood cabinets and recessed ceilings look even more ornate.  This is very nice, thought Margie as a server approached her.

“Are you meeting someone, Signora?”

A tinge of disappointment at not being able to share this with Lloyd crossed Margie’s face, but she pushed her shoulders back and said with a smile, “No, just me.”

The server smiled indulgently and led her to a window table that provided a charming view of the outdoor seating and the quaint cobblestone street.

“What does the name of this restaurant mean in English, please?” Margie asked.

“Ah, Tavern of the Popes,” the server said as he waved his arm around to point out the many portraits of popes covering the painted red walls.

“This is my last night in Italy.  May I have a traditional meal?  And would you choose the menu for me, please?”  Margie asked.

“Yes, it would be my pleasure, Signora.  I will bring out your antipasto shortly.  Would you like some wine?”

“No, thank you.  Just water please,” Margie said.

The antipasto was a small bowl of marinated olives and some bread with oil for dipping. Next she was served a plate of creamy pasta which the server informed Margie was the primo or first dish.  Roast pork with garlic was the secondo or main course and it was served with a salad or contorno as the server called it. The dolce or dessert was a small bowl of fruit and a tiny cake.  Margie felt that she might possibly burst if she ate another bite.  She was given a small expresso to finish her meal.  As she sat there feeling satiated and completely Italian, the server brought a crystal cup and offered her a bright yellow liquid.

“Would Signora like to complete her meal with the traditional digestivo?”

“Digestivo?” Margie asked.

“It aids with digestion,” he said.

“It looks like lemonade,” Margie said.

“Yes, yes, it is like lemonade. You will like it. I promise,” he said.

Margie thanked the server and made a mental note to give him a good tip before she left for the traditional Italian meal experience.  She sipped the sour lemon digestivo and asked for one more because it tasted so good.  He looked at her kind of funny but brought it anyway.  Margie paid the bill and tipped her server.

As she was walking out of the restaurant she noticed that her head seemed to feel light and fuzzy.  She sat down at a bench and called Lloyd.  After she filled him in on the details of her adventure so far, he asked her if she was tired.

“Yes, a little,” said Margie with a hiccup.

“I wondered because you sound a bit sleepy.”

“Oh, no,” said Margie. “I just had this wonderful traditional meal and my head feels a bit funny.”

“How so?” Lloyd asked, beginning to sound concerned.

“Nothing serious, just fuzzy,” Margie said.

“Tell me what you ate,” Lloyd said.

Margie recounted the delicious details of the meal and when she reached the part about having the second lemon digestive, Lloyd started laughing.

“What? What is so funny?” Margie asked.

“You had Limoncello,” Lloyd said. “You’re drunk.  That is why you sound sleepy. You aren’t supposed to have a second digestive.  Even the Italians don’t do that.  It’s 30% alcohol.”  Lloyd continued to laugh. “And you don’t drink!”  He kept laughing.

“I don’t think that’s very funny, Lloyd,” Margie said, feeling a bit embarrassed.

“I think it’s time for you to pack and come home, Margie.  I miss you!  Next time we’re going to Rome together so I can take care of you.”

“Go ahead and laugh now; I’ll be home soon,” said Margie with a mischievous tone in her voice.  “I miss you too!  Ciao, baby!” Margie said.

“Ciao, baby, to you too,” Lloyd said. “See you soon!”

To be continued…

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