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Authors: Peggy Dulle

Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Romance - Kindergarten Teacher - Sheriff - California

Peggy Dulle - Liza Wilcox 03 - Secrets at Sea (7 page)

BOOK: Peggy Dulle - Liza Wilcox 03 - Secrets at Sea
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He opened his door as another attendant opened mine. I grabbed my purse and stepped out. Tom joined me on my side, handed the attendant his keys, and took my arm.

“No, dear, you’re not fine. That’s the first ten minutes I’ve had of peace and quiet since I met you. It was scary.”

I tilted my head and said, “Oh, it was, was it?”

“Yes.” He leaned down and kissed me gently on the lips. “Let’s put our name in at Chili’s and see how long the wait is.” He glanced at all the people wandering around. “It’s got to be at least an hour. We can walk by the water and you can tell me what’s got your mind racing.”

“What a wonderful idea.” I linked my fingers in his. “I love walking and talking with you.”

He smiled. “Stop buttering me up, Liza. You’re going to tell me what’s going on, remember?”

I nodded.

While Tom went inside to check on the wait, I sat on the bench outside the restaurant. The weather was warm and many people were out walking. Teenagers were riding skateboards, and I saw a few cops on bicycles going down the walkway by the water. Tom should get those for his men, I thought. Some could sure use the exercise.

A yacht pulled into the dock, and I stood to get a better look. It was a beautiful boat with a center mast that had to be at least fifty feet tall. I felt someone bump me from behind. I turned, it was a teenager on a skateboard.

“Sorry,” he said.

I smiled, “It’s okay.”

He grabbed my purse and took off. As he ran he dug through the purse, probably looking for my wallet.

I screamed and ran after him.

Chapter 7

I chased him down the walkway, screaming at him the entire way. People were stopping and staring, but no one helped! The two cops I’d seen earlier on bikes turned around. They headed toward the running boy. Finally, some help.

The boy threw my purse to someone in an idling boat who caught it and took off.

One cop grabbed the kid and the other got on his cell phone.

My heart tried to pound its way out of my chest by the time I got to the cops.

The cop holding the boy opened his eyes wide, “Are you alright, lady?”

I took several shallow breaths and worked on slowing my heart rate. The police officer’s nametag said “Johnson”. “I’m fine, Officer Johnson. I’m just not use to running after my purse.” I scowled at the teenager.

The cop on the phone glanced over at me and said, “I’m contacting our guys on the water. They’ll try to find that boat.”

The teenage boy struggled and the cop held him, yanked him up. “Stand still, Ben.”

“You know his name?” I asked.

“Yes, Ben is a regular around here,” Officer Johnson said with a scowl on his face.

“No, I’m not!” the struggling boy said. Ben was a tall, gangly youth, with severe acne and curly blonde hair.

“I’m sorry about your purse, Miss.” Johnson said as he tried to hold on to Ben.

I stuck out my hand. “It’s Liza, Liza Wilcox.”

The officer who’d been on the phone now stood by me. He took out his notebook and wrote my name down. His name tag said Riley.

Both officers stiffened as Tom came running up, “What the hell’s going on?”

I pointed toward Tom. “This is my boyfriend. He’s a cop, too.”

They all shook hands and introduced themselves. Tom told them about our vacation and they told him about all the problems they had on the pier with purse snatchers, although the use of the boat seemed like a new addition to the scenario.

Finally, Tom turned to me. “Which purse was it?”

Hadn’t he watched me grab my purse and sweater at the inn? He wasn’t very observant for a cop. “My striped one.”

“A Guess knock-off.” Officer Riley shook his head.

“I’m a teacher; I can’t afford the real thing,” I told him.

Officer Johnson yanked Ben to his feet again. “You always go for the name-brand purses, don’t you Ben?”

Ben shrugged. “They usually have good stuff in them.”

“What was in your purse?” Tom asked.

“The usual stuff.”

“What about your wallet?”

“Of course.”

Officer Johnson shook his head and scowled at Ben. “You’ve ruined these people’s vacation. She can’t go on a cruise without her wallet.”

“Sure, I can,” I said.

All three men looked at me.

“My driver’s license, credit card, and passport are back at the hotel in my little suitcase.”

“Why would you leave them at the hotel?” Tom said.

“I didn’t need them. You said you were buying dinner. I distinctly heard you say, ‘wake me when you get hungry. I’ll buy you dinner.’”

Tom looked at the other two cops and shrugged. “She’s right, I did say that.”

The three men laughed.

“Was there anything of value in your purse?” Officer Johnson asked.

“Not really… some makeup, a notebook, and,” I scowled at the teenager, “my calendar.”

“I’ll fill out the report, if you’ll come down to the station,” Officer Riley said.

I shook my head. I wasn’t going to any police station, not on purpose anyway. “There wasn’t anything of value in my purse and the purse itself was only worth ten bucks.”

Ben struggled again. “Then can I go?”

“Nope,” Officer Johnson said. “I’m taking you home.”

“No!” Ben’s eyes widened.

“Oh yes. Your dad and I are going to have a long talk about community service for the next month.”

“You can’t make me do it!” Ben shouted.

Officer Johnson said, “I know, but your dad will.”

Tom shook hands with the two officers. Officer Riley walked both bikes, while Officer Johnson hauled Ben, squirming, up the path.

I watched them go, then turned to look at Tom.

He shook his head.

“What?”

“A murder and a mugging and we’ve been on vacation less than twenty-four hours. I’m afraid to go aboard the ship, it might sink.”

I punched
him on the arm and rolled my eyes. “How long is the wait at Chili’s?”

“About thirty minutes.”

“Let’s walk,” I linked my arm in his.

“You didn’t get enough exercise chasing the purse snatcher?”

I leaned my head on his shoulder, while we walked on the path by the dock, going into a few tourist shops. There was an entire store filled with chili pepper items. They had chili pepper salt and pepper shakers and ten different kinds of chili pepper sauces.

“You should have a chili pepper theme to your new kitchen,” I told Tom. He just remodeled his house in Gainesville.

“I don’t have a theme to any room in my house.”

“I know, but I do. I have lighthouses in my living room, apples in my kitchen, and flowers in my bathroom.”

“It must be a woman thing.” He shook his head.

“Did you ever buy any curtains for your kitchen windows?

“Nope.” He shook his head.

I frowned. “I thought you were going to.”

He shrugged, then smiled. “I’m waiting for you to do it.”

“I bet we can get some pretty ones in Mexico. What about a Mexican theme for your kitchen?” I held up the chili pepper salt and pepper shakers. “These would look cool in it.”

“If I let you decorate my kitchen, will you spend the rest of the summer with me?”

“The whole summer?”

“Yes, from the time we get back until you have to go back to school.”

Tom knew the kids didn’t come until the end of August, but I started getting ready around the 15
th
. I wouldn’t be able to stay as long as he thought. “Sure, I’ll come up until it’s time for me to get ready for next year’s kids.”

“Great,” he took the shakers. “I’ll buy these and we can leave them in the car while we’re gone.”

“Wait,” I held up my hands. “Let’s get a few other things.”

I picked out an apron, some hand towels, and three small chili pepper dishes. Tom bought them all.

Afterward we walked back to Chili’s. We were seated in a few minutes. It wasn’t like I would be able take the leftovers home like usual, so we decided to share some baby back ribs.

The waitress came over and got our drink order. Tom got a beer and I had my usual, Diet Coke.

Tom took a long swig of his beer when it arrived, practically draining the glass.

I frowned. “Our vacation isn’t going exactly like we planned, is it?”

“Not exactly.” He took another sip, then continued, “Unless you planned on finding a dead body and getting mugged.”

“No.” I shook my head. “It was lucky I moved my license, passport, and credit card to my suitcase.”

He nodded. “That’s true or we’d be headed home. You couldn’t get them replaced fast enough to get on the ship tomorrow.”

“So our luck is changing.” I lifted my Diet Coke. “I predict no more incidents for seven glorious days.”

Tom smiled. “From your mouth to God’s ears, Liza.”

“When did you get religious?” I asked.

“Since I’ve met you, I’ve done a lot of praying.” He laughed.

The service was a little slow, but we weren’t in a hurry. Eventually the waitress came back and took our food order. Tom was afraid a half a rack of ribs wouldn’t be enough so he ordered a salad to go with it. The ribs were wonderful and Tom let me have the cinnamon sugary apples. They reminded me of apple pots. So yummy!

When his coffee and my tea arrived, he said, “Okay, we’ve talked about everything else. Tell me what’s going on.”

“Don’t you want to wait until we get back to our room?” I suggested with a slight smile.

“No, because you’ll be able to distract me there and I won’t get any answers.”

My smile broadened and I twisted my fingers around my hair, “I’m a distraction?”

He chuckled, grabbed my hand, and kissed it, “Oh yeah.”

I pulled my hand from his. “Okay, what do you want to know?”

“Tell me how this started.”

I told him about the date on the emails and how Justin and I couldn’t find anything that happened on the date like we had the last two times. The first time, it had been a child’s kidnapping which echoed an event from my own childhood. I’d located the child and brought her home. The second was a kindergarten teacher’s death. I’d solved the case and brought down an entire drug ring.

“So the only thing you and Cyber Brat could find was your parents’ plane crash.”

“You better not let him hear that nickname. He likes Super Cyber Sidekick, but he won’t like Cyber Brat.”

Tom ignored my comment about Justin. “Tell me what you know about your parents’ crash.”

“My dad piloted the Cessna and Mom was the only passenger. They used to fly all over the place. My dad was a great pilot. He flew that plane to a different place every week. The other lawyers in the firm were actually better lawyers but dad was better at getting them new clients.” I grinned, proud of my dad and his easy way with people.

“Were they coming back from this cruise?”

“No, they’d been back a few weeks. I’m not sure where or why they took another trip. I just got the phone call from the Benton Police Department about the crash.”

“Did you go down there?”

“No, I got the crash pictures from a detective down there. I don’t remember his name but it’s written down someplace at home.”

“Did he say there was anything suspicious about the crash?”

“No, he said the plane was caught in a freak electrical storm which probably short circuited the instruments on the plane. My dad actually made it to a small airport in Benton but the runway was too short for the Cessna. The plane crashed into a building and exploded.”

“And what about Adam?”

“He ate something that made him sick, Betsy said. Someone, I assume it was the nurse or doctor on the ship, gave him something to settle his stomach. He had an allergic reaction to it and died.”

“Damn.” Tom frowned. “That’s a hell of a way to die.”

“Worse than being shot, like his wife?” I asked.

“Actually, yes. Betsy probably never saw it coming and was gone quickly. Getting sick, lingering, and then having your throat close up or having a heart attack from an allergic reaction, would be long and painful.”

“Either way, they’re both dead. That makes five dead.”

“Five?” Tom raised one eyebrow again.

Why don’t I think before I open my mouth? I didn’t know enough about the fifth death to satisfy myself, let alone Tom.

“Liza? What do you mean five deaths?”

“The last time my parents stayed at the Nordic Inn a woman was found dead in one of the rooms.”

“Who was she?”

I shrugged.

“Liza?” He frowned.

“No, really. I don’t know anything about her. I didn’t even know about her until Ramon told me.”

“Well, normally I would call the local PD and ask about her, but that’s probably not a good idea.”

I nodded. “You’re right there.”

“Why don’t you give Justin a call? See what he can dig up on the dead woman.”

“Now, that’s a great idea.” I reached for my purse, then looked at Tom. “My phone was in my purse. Damn, I just put all my numbers into the address book before we left.”

He handed me his cell. “Call the phone company and get them to stop your service. You don’t want to have to pay for calls to Pakistan.”

I nodded, called the phone company and then Justin.

He answered on the second ring. “Hi, Teach. What are you doing using the Sheriff’s phone?”

Caller ID, sometimes it’s a wonderful thing and other times, it’s not.

“My purse was snatched down here and my phone was in it.”

“Oh, that’s lousy. Are you still going on your cruise?”

“Yes, my identification was in my suitcase in the inn.”

“Too bad, Shelby’s driving my mom nuts.”

“Why? What’s she done?”

“She ate two pairs of Mom’s shoes, dragged the laundry all over the house, and is constantly herding David. I think it’s hilarious but Mom doesn’t.”

David was Justin’s five-year-old brother. “She’s not nipping at him, is she?”

“Oh, no. She just uses her nose to make him move.”

“I’m sorry, Justin. Why don’t you take her back to my house?”

“And miss all this chaos and fun?” he laughed, then continued, “so besides getting mugged, how’s the vacation going?”

I told him about Betsy.

BOOK: Peggy Dulle - Liza Wilcox 03 - Secrets at Sea
6.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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