The Mystery of Seagrass Island (Chapter 20)

The sun was just rising above the palm trees and a gentle breeze moved the tablecloth as Margie lifted her sweet coffee to take a sip.  “I missed this,” Margie said.

“What?” Lloyd asked. “They didn’t have any pumpkin spice lattes in Rome?”

“No, silly. Well, yes, but that’s not what I meant. I missed you. I missed having coffee with you and spending time with you.  I wouldn’t ever want to be away from you for very long.”

“Well, that works out well, because I wouldn’t let you,” Lloyd said as he reached out and touched Margie’s fingers gently.

Lloyd began talking but the roar of a motorcycle pulling up beside the coffee shop drowned out his voice.

“How loud and annoying,” Margie said.

“Well, at least it’s a nice motorcycle,” Lloyd said with admiration.

A middle-aged man with thinning dark hair and an unevenly grown beard dismounted from the large bike.  He wore a leather jacket that wouldn’t close over his rounded middle. Margie tried not to laugh when the man slowly waddled up the steps as if saddle sore.

“Mid-life crisis, would be my guess,” Margie said.

“I say newly divorced and had to spend the cash so the ex-wife wouldn’t get it.”

“We could both be right then,” Margie said.

“Touché,” Lloyd said.

“Back to the situation we were discussing, there’s nothing more that we can do now except wait for someone to make the next move.  I asked Bess to keep an eye on the accounts at the Vatican that Butyrumpiscis was dumping money into. She said she would and I didn’t ask how she was going to do it.”

“Okay, then,” Lloyd said. “I think I will go wander down by the docks and see how my fishing buddies are doing.  And you?”

“I’ll go to the Art Center and snoop around…I mean see if I can help with Anna’s festival,” Margie smiled coquettishly.

As Margie pulled in to the Arts Center, she couldn’t help but notice the same motorcycle guy from the coffee shop was having a heated discussion with Brandy in the parking lot. Margie quickly shut her motor off and rolled her windows down while pretending to check her text messages on her phone.

“Why have you come back, J.J.?” Brandy asked. “Your mother is gone.”

“Why not? Is there something you don’t want me to see?” J.J. replied. “I got a job offer anyway.”

“Doing what this time? Driving a bus, working in an amusement park, being a Methodist preacher, trying to get yet another doctoral degree? You change your mind so much you make me dizzy.”

“Working as a counselor. Would you like my card? I’m giving them out to family for free.  I probably have enough business in my own family to start a practice of my own.”

“Very funny. I thought you were in Alaska anyway?”

“It didn’t work out,” J.J. said.

“Yeah, and how long will this work out? I doubt you planned this very well either.”

J.J. stared off into the distance with a vacant look in his eye. “Anyway, how is Dawn?”

“You stay away from my daughter.”

“Do you mean my cousin? What do you care? Last time I checked you weren’t going for mother of the year, either.”

She’s still my daughter and I can tell when you are up to no good, just like when you were seven years old and hiding things in your house so that you could lie to everyone and say that Dawn stole them to get her into trouble.  I knew what you did.  I was watching.”

“You didn’t help her.”

“She had to learn how to take care of herself.”

“Well, how about now?”

“It’s too late.”

“I think I will go visit her, just the same,” JJ announced.

“You tread carefully,” Brandy said as she pointed her finger and raised one eyebrow.

JJ turned his motorcycle around and spun some rocks on the nearby cars as he left the parking lot angrily.

Brandy walked inside the Arts Center with her head down deep in thought, and Margie followed.

Margie had to remind herself that Anna had no idea that she knew about her meetings with Richard and Brandy. She plastered a smile on her face as Anna carefully walked across the floor in her stiletto heels to meet her.

“I’ve missed you,” Anna said as she hugged Margie.  “Lloyd said you were visiting Bess in Atlanta.  How is she?  Is she still loving her job?”

“Oh, yes,” Margie said thinking on her feet. “It was wonderful to get to see her in action. How is the festival planning going?”

“Wonderfully.  We are getting very close to being ready.  Are you here to help?”

“Yes, of course.  Put me to work,” Margie said with a smile.

Later that evening back at home, Margie told Lloyd all about the preparations for the festival and the conversation that she overheard in the parking lot.

“That was J.J.? Wow, that beard changes how he looks a lot,” Lloyd said.

“Well, yes, and the fact that he must have put on fifty pounds since we saw him last,” Margie added.

“I wonder what he’s up to?  Why would he move back here after his mother has passed away and what does he want with Dawn?” Lloyd asked.

“Those are the million dollar questions. How was your day?” Margie asked.

“Oh, it was pretty uneventful, except that I am beginning to worry about Corey and Cindy.”

“Oh, why?” Margie asked.

“I can’t prove it, but I think Corey may have an alcohol problem, and that would be bad for him and for his wife.”

“You are right about that,” Margie said. “Any addiction problem is a problem for the entire family. How about if I go check on Cindy tomorrow?”

“I think that would be great,” Lloyd said as he squeezed his wife’s hand. “Meanwhile, a good night’s sleep is in order.”

To be continued…