Tour’s Books Blog

June 11, 2014

Carly and the Tango Instructor – Part 3 and Part 4

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 1:03 am
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“We should get some lunch.  Alex Benson agreed to talk to us at his house after 2PM.”

RF pulled herself back unto the car and turned to stare at Trey.  When he made oh so casual statements like that, something was going on.  “What?  What aren’t you telling me?”

Trey and Rupert exchanged a quick glance and both stayed silent.  “Should I remind you how badly I react to surprises?”

“No.  Believe me, I remember that very well.  It ranks right up there with what happened when cousin Petunia tried to make you eat a veggie burger with fake cheese when you asked for an Angus burger with cheddar.  I think your whole clan remembers that.  I still can’t believe you dumped that bowl of coleslaw on her head.”

“It had SUGAR in it, so much sugar it was sweet!  Coleslaw is not sweet.  And she deserved it.”

“Yeah, but you turned her into a pygmy rat too.”

“Well she kept arguing with me!  Petunia always was kind of stupid that way.  And why are you trying to side track me?  What’s going on?”

“It seems your presence in the area has made it through the restaurant grapevine.  You have about 2 dozen invitations to meals.  I explained we’d be leaving tomorrow or the next day and that threw gas on the fire.  It turned the whole thing into a frenzy of offers for meals and all kinds of pastries from every bakery between San Diego and LA.”  Trey paused and glanced at her.  “Rupert can give you a list.”

She waved him off before he could start.  “I want Mexican food.”

Rupert checked the list – the very long list.   “ummmm …………… most of these places are pretty upscale.  There is a place called La Sirena Grill on the costal highway in South Laguna.  Will that be OK?”

“Mexican?”

“Supposedly the best in town.”

“That’s the place then.”

“You’re sure don’t want one of the fancy places?”

“Absolutely certain, but if we see a good bakery on the way from Benson’s to Caryn’s dance studio, we’ll stop.  Desserts at Mexican places are pretty limited and I was never a big flan fan.”

“You serve flan at the Bakery!”

“Of course I do.  I serve a lot of things I don’t especially enjoy.”

“Like what?”  Trey sounded genuinely puzzled.

“Like pea soup.”

He was honestly shocked.  “You make the best pea soup I ever had!  I take it frozen to my mother.”

RF rolled her eyes and makes gagging noises.  “I’m not fond of banana cream pie, either, though the Bananas Foster version I make is almost good.  And I also don’t like chess pie.  Or coconut custard.  Or Shoo-Fly pie.”

“I’ll give you the chess pie.  I never liked it either.  But your banana cream pies are to die for.  So are your coconut custard pies.”  Trey paused.  “Shoo-fly pie is probably an acquired taste.”  Trey stopped talking for a moment and glanced at RF.  “Wait a minute.  You don’t like custard at all, do you?”

RF shrugged, “Not really.”

Rupert looked confused.  “But all those things are very good, RF.  And I’ve watched you make them.  Why make food you don’t like?”

“Other people like it.  I keep my customers happy.”

“Is that why we’re eating a Mexican restaurant?”

“No, we’re eating that because I want good, simple food.  Not some over-wrought dish with an engineered wonder of potato foam or liquid nitrogen frozen prune essence or some other pretentious nonsense.”

Trey just laughed.  Rupert appeared somewhat mollified, but still puzzled by her dislike of foods she not only made, but made really well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After a blackened salmon taco and a carne asada burrito, RF groaned in contentment as she finished her lemonade.  Even Rupert approved after eating 3 burritos – carne asada, carnitas, and chicken – because, “It’s hard to choose!”, though he was disappointed there was no goat on the menu.  Trey had a carnitas burrito, and it was excellent.  The manager stopped at the table to check on them and make sure all was well.  She looked at RF for a long moment and asked, “Is it true?  You are the High Priestess of Tortum?”

RF nodded.  “Mama will be so disappointed she missed you.  She always wanted to meet you.  She said she tried your flan years ago and never had better.”

Trey just grinned as his partner shifted in her booster seat.  “I’m glad she liked it.  I’ll be happy to send her the recipe.  Like you, I use mostly organic ingredients.  I use a Blue Cattle Vanilla in the flan, but Madagascar vanilla in my crème brulee.  I use Tahitian bourbon vanilla in most cakes.”

“I will tell mama.” Suddenly she blushed.  “I have forgotten my manners.  I am Jasmine.  And many thanks for your dining here.  We feel honored you chose us when you were invited so many places more …….. refined than ours.”

RF smiled.  “Refined can he highly overrated.  Good food, well prepared with care is some of the best there is.  Never doubt that.”

Jasmine blushed again, offered more thanks and her mama’s email before they left.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As they drove up to the address that Alex Benson provided, they found themselves at a gated estate – where the gates were standing open.  “Well, maybe he’s expecting us,” suggested RF, but a chill went over her.  Trey drove slowly up the long curving drive and they all sat in the car looking at the house, not making any effort to get out.  There was a brand new Ferrari in bright yellow parked to one side and a large Mercedes sedan right behind it.

“OK, I’m officially creeped out here.  That front door isn’t really closed, is it?”  RF shifted from paw to paw.

Trey looked at it a moment longer.  “No, that’s not really closed.”

“Maybe we should just push it open a bit and call him.”

“OK”  But all three still sat in the car.

“This is silly.  I’ll go in and see what’s happening.  What will the police do?  Arrest a groundhog for trespassing?”  RF got out, crossed the drive and easily climbed the few, shalloe stairs reaching the door.  Rupert and Trey had followed, but she stopped and sniffed the air.  She put one paw on the door and gave it a gentle push.  It barely moved before it hit something.  She discretely backed away.   “Let’s call the cops.  Something is dead in there and it’s really recent.  Like they might still be here recent.”

Trey swept her up, hit 911 and gave them everything they had including the fact that the perpetrators might still be there.  Sirens could be heard in under a minute.  That’s when they saw them.  A panicked man and woman running around the corner of the house.  The couple saw Trey and Rupert and the flashing lights coming up the drive.  The woman threw something into the bushes, screamed, “YOU RUINED EVERYTHING!”, and suddenly ran crying into middle of the driveway.

The first cop out was drawing his gun as she starting screaming, “They killed my husband,” dramatically pointing at Rupert, Trey, and RF.

RF smiled.  She held Trey’s iPhone.  “I took a video of them when the turned the corner.  Including what she threw away.  Here, show the cops.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It took hours, and a call to Big Daddy for a good attorney, to get everything straightened out.  Trey and Rupert got handcuffed and RF got stuck in an animal cage – which really worried Trey.  A handcuffed djinn and a caged RF was a really bad mix likely to turn into a disaster.  The only upside, Alyssa Benson and the man with her were cuffed as well.

Alex Benson was dead, very recently dead, and the gun that killed him was the one in the shrubs that his wife threw away – clearly seen on the now #1 piece of evidence, the video RF shot with the iPhone.  The only prints were hers and she tested positive for GSR.  The man was the missing Raul AKA Ricky Andretti.  Both refused to talk to the police and all RF had was guesswork, so she kept thoughts to herself.  Rupert AKA Zaranthu Soulis turned out to have a solid Greek passport and was just visiting his friends in the US. (He was propositioned by 4 police women and 2 men.)  Trey explained about 20 times he wasn’t George Clooney and even the FBI agreed with that – however reluctantly. (He was propositioned only by the police women, plus 3 female clerks.  He wasn’t sure if he should be insulted or relieved.)  Everyone was immediately uncuffed, apologized to, at their new lawyer’s insistence, and their car delivered to the police station.  Trey lost his iPhone as evidence, which seriously annoyed him – and RF, though she also laughed at him.

R. Jason Rutledge (‘You folks just call me RJ.’) was a handsome man, about 10 years older than Trey, in very good shape for someone who  mostly sat at a desk, with thick, prematurely grey hair, the profoundly kind countenance of favorite uncle that masked the heart of a shark, and a Texas accent he never quite lost – or maybe never wanted to.  RF assumed he left his hair color alone in youth crazed California to encourage the image he so carefully cultivated.  His eyes were shrewd and sharp as he regarded his erstwhile clients.

“Why don’t I take you folks to my favorite steakhouse and we can have a drink and I can get the full story.  There was a whole lot you weren’t saying in there and I might be able to help.”  He looked at RF.  “Besides, Big Daddy old me about you and I’ve been wanting to meet you ever since.  You and Mr Dupress here have been having some interesting adventures.  I don’t mind telling you my curiosity is getting the better of me here.  I won’t even charge Big Daddy for dinner.  Or my time.”  He winked at the groundhog.

RF looked at Trey, who shrugged and Rupert, who admitted, “I am kind of hungry.”  Turning to RJ she said, “If you can tell me where I can get fresh kimchee and 1000 years eggs, we’ll have dinner with you.”

The lawyer had been asked to do some strange things, but this was a first even for him.  He looked at Trey, who looked resigned to the whole thing.  “It’s a bet with a little old Korean lady in Vista Knolls.”

“A bet about what?”

Trey sighed.  “A fart contest.”

The lawyer roared with laughter.  “You’ll get your kimchee and 1000 year eggs if I have to have them flown in special, but you must have dinner with me.”

“OK,” they chorused.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 4

The steaks were excellent and the presence of RJ kept most of the staff from bothering RF, though the head chef/owner came to the table to chat with her and make sure she enjoyed everything.  The head pastry chef hovered, then came up as well, just to meet her.  RF even gave her a few pointers on getting fresh key limes for the pie.  Through it all, RF was surprisingly gracious rather than her usual snarly self.

“You’re being awfully nice tonight.”  Trey sounded surprised and a little distrustful.

“I enjoyed the food.  It’s what a steakhouse should be.  Great meat, the rosti potato was exactly right – which is harder than you might think, and the vegetables were steamed just tender.  Key lime pie was made with bottled key lime juice though.  Guess they can’t get fresh ones out here.”

OK, she was in full avoidance mode.  Time for the direct approach.  “You didn’t try and turn any of those cops that caged you into gerbils or hamsters or anything.”

She shrugged like it was no big thing.  It was about as close to a miracle as anything Trey had seen.  His eyes narrowed.  “What did you do – and don’t lie.”

“Why do you think I did anything?”

“Because you’re not answering my question.  And why did Rupert do nothing?”

“She told me not to,” Rupert offered helpfully – which got him a glare from RF.  A glare so frightening that three hovering chefs collided as they ran back to the kitchen and the waiter almost headed right out the door, stopped when the chef/owner collared him and sent him into the kitchen to calm down.  RJ watched all this with a smile.  Trent ‘Big Daddy’ McCauley was right, she was a handful.  And Trey Dupress was a brave man.

“WELL??????”  Trey demanded.

“It seemed like the wisest thing to do.  The video was going to get us off and I knew Big Daddy would send a good lawyer to do the rest.”

RF was wearing her best poker face, but Trey knew her better than anyone, except maybe Lula Mae.  “That’s only half of it.  I want the rest.”

“I don’t have any evidence.”

“That’s never bothered you before.  Stop stalling.  Out with it.”

RF sighed.  “I don’t think Raul is the only one who changed his name and background story, I think Alyssa did too.  They knew each other before she started dance lessons at Foot Work.  When Raul saw her, I think he might have blackmailed her, or maybe she just paid him to say nothing.  They both had new lives and new names and a lot to lose.”

“OK.  I guess that’s possible, but she hasn’t got a record and her passport isn’t a fake, so she has a birth certificate.  You think she stole someone’s ID?”

“Yeah.  A simple name change would have left a trail back to her real ID.  The stolen ID will probably dead end in a graveyard somewhere.  But Raul/Ricky recognized her.  However it started, I think it went bad when Alex Benson realized something was up with his wife, and not just an affair.  I bet he had her investigated.  There was probably a pre-nup, but if she got married under a stolen ID, I don’t even know if a document signed under a false ID is valid.”

They turned to RJ for a legal opinion.  “Probably the marriage would be annulled or voided outright, which would void the pre-nup and leave her with no legal claim at all.  A smart lawyer might get some ‘go-away’ money, but it would depend on how vindictive Benson felt.  Technically, it would be like they were never married.  But there are some non-spousal rights laws, so she might have gotten something that way, just not much because she deceived him from the start and the ‘marriage’ was a short one –under 5 years.”

“It was the timing that bothered me.  It all kept coming back to the dance competition.  I think that’s where Raul and Alyssa ran into each other.  A dance competition.  But Raul/Ricky and Alyssa both wanted one thing – money.  If the pre-nup had a 5 year baseline for ANY settlement, then she had to stick it out till then.  She gave Raul some money to keep him quiet, that bought the home theater system and big screen TV, but she couldn’t get enough without her husband noticing.  There was only one other way.  Alex Benson had to die.”

“Why do you think Benson was suspicious of his wife?”, RJ asked.

“When Trey called and asked to speak with him, he promptly agreed.  Why would a busy, prominent TV exec agree to meet with a bunch of strangers about an accident that happened to woman he didn’t even know, unless he thought they also had some information that would help him?”

“Good point.  I was surprised when you said Benson agreed not only to meet you, but to do so the very same day.  In this place, that simply doesn’t happen.  I thought maybe you had Big Daddy make a call, but he has no interest in TV or movies at all, so I wasn’t certain what buttons he could push.”  RJ looked at the groundhog speculatively.  “You have a very twisty mind, you know that?  You’d be a good lawyer or investigator.”  She grinned.  Trey muttered, “Or a borderline psychopath.”

RF glared, “Do we need to have the whole body moving discussion again?”

Trey held his hands up in surrender, while Rupert said, “I liked that one.  I actually understood it.”  Trey sighed.

“So why harm your friend Carly?”

“I think she saw something, or in their paranoia, Raul and Alyssa thought she did.  Something that might make the police look too closely too soon.  So Raul kicked her, dropped her, but didn’t expect Carly to get so badly injured.  They wanted her away from the dance competition, not in a hospital.  Instead, she was badly hurt and she loudly claimed she was kicked and it was no accident.   Now a lot of unwanted police attention came down on the studio – and Raul.”

“So he ran, because unlike Alyssa, he hadn’t covered the tracks to his past.  I can see that, but why kill Benson?”

“Alyssa must have found out he agreed to see us.  Why were people asking to see her husband when she was the one at the studio when the ‘accident’ happened?  Maybe we found the link between her and Raul and were going to ask her husband about it, revealing the truth about her.  She and Raul were now both panicked.  Benson likely caught them when came home unexpectedly.  The police said the safe was opened and her jewelry was in her bag.  She’d emptied their joint account an hour before.  If he’d been five minutes later, he would be alive, but he was early, saw them, and whatever ever happened, probably Alyssa panicked again, and she shot him – possibly by accident, possibly because she was just mad her plans failed.  My money is on the second scenario.

“To make things worse, we were early too, and they were caught in the house with the body and the smoking gun.  I could smell gunpowder and blood and when I pushed the door and it hit the body, I knew they’d take a side or rear exit because they’d need the car that sat out front by ours.  Trey called the cops and they must have had a car close, or a silent alarm had them on the way, and they were coming up the driveway before she could shoot us too.”

The lawyer sat back and eyed her shrewdly.  “She would never have made that shot, would she?”

RF just shrugged.  Trey looked at her.  “I keep telling you not to turn people who annoy you into gerbils.”

“I wasn’t going to turn her into a gerbil.  Give me a little credit, will you?  Besides, waving a gun is a lot more dangerous than simply ‘annoying’.”

Eyes narrowed he asked, “What were you planning to change her into?”

She hesitated, then shrugged again.  “A warthog.”

All three men sat back and stared.  “A warthog?”  Rupert sounded dumbfounded.

“Well, have you ever tried to catch a gerbil that got loose outside?  Warthogs are too big and smelly to hide for long, so I figured it was the best choice.”

RJ started laughing again.  “No wonder Trent adores you.  You’re really smart, devious, cunning, crazy, and mean as a snake.  Damn.  This is the best dinner I’ve had in ages.  I’d offer you a job, but I know you have several already.”  He looked at Trey, “I don’t envy you being partners with her.  Bet she’s a handful.”

“You have no idea,” muttered Trey.

Then the lawyer turned to Rupert.  “Now I know the story you folks told and I know this gentleman you keep calling Rupert has a passport with a very different name, so you going to tell me who he really is?  And will the police catch any of this?”

“Rupert will be unreachable by any police.  Trust me on that. And Zaranthu Soulis is a real identity and the address is real too.  Rupert lives there on and off.”  Rupert himself remained silent.

“I really must ask,” the lawyer’s voice dropped and he leaned forward, “WHAT is Rupert really, because I’m betting he’s not really human.  Trent was kind of evasive about him when I asked.”  RF turned to Rupert, she nodded telling him the decision on whether or not he wanted to tell the lawyer was his.

Rupert looked at the human and said, “I’m a djinn.”

The lawyer blinked.  “You mean like the whole three wishes things?”

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” they all yelled at once.  “Jeeze, we have to stop telling humans the truth.  Someone will land in the seventh circle of hell wishing for a pony.”  RF looked a little frazzled.

Startled, the lawyer sat back.  “I guess asking for a wish is a one a one way ticket to somewhere unpleasant?”

“Pretty much.  If you’re lucky, you just die.”

“Ah, well then, I’ll just treat him like a mob hit man and all will be fine.”  He turned to Rupert, “You’re not offended by that, are you?”

Rupert gave him a big smile, RF and Trey sighed, “That would be just fine, thank-you.”  He turned to Trey and RF, “Finally someone who properly appreciates me.”

“Oh God, he’ll be insufferable for days.”

“Forget days, he’ll be bragging about this for millennium.”

RJ asked, “Millennium?”

“Djinn live a long, long time.”  RF didn’t sound thrilled.

“Fascinating.”  He turned to Rupert, genuine curiosity on his face.  “What is the earliest thing you recall?”

“Well, I didn’t interact with humans until I got older, and time passes differently where I’m from, but I remember the Trojan War.  It was really boring.   Does that help?”

The lawyer sat quietly, adsorbing the fact the insanely handsome man that was being stared at by males and females alike was around 3,000 years old.  And he wasn’t human.  And he was dangerous despite looking like the perfect, blond California surfer.

As if reading his mind, RF said, “If you think he’s handsome, you should see Lucifer.”  She paused, “But it might be the last thing you ever saw, so maybe that isn’t such a good idea.”

“You know, you three are the most interesting clients I’ve ever had, and that includes the woman with multiple personalities and the nymphomaniac that claimed it was the fault of a low fat diet and the guy who was convinced his dog was a demon.”  The lawyer stopped and stared at the studiously blank looks on their three faces.  “Was it a demon?”  He got three non-committal shrugs.  OK, he would have to reset his ‘normal’ meter.

“They’re closing the restaurant and you’ll want to see your friend tomorrow.  I’ll meet you at Vista Knolls with the Kimchee and the 1000 years eggs.  I don’t want to miss the fart contest.  Haven’t seen one of those since college.”

On the drive back to the house in LaJolla, Trey said, “You know RF, you kind of neatly evaded how you decided Raul and Alyssa knew each other.  And what did you do to the cops who caged you, because I know you did something.”

“Did I?”  She yawned widely.  Trey sensibly stuck with one bourbon, but she enjoyed the excellent red wine and was feeling sleepy.  Talking in a convertible traveling over 60 mph was difficult and even harder when RF wasn’t cooperating by using her ‘selective hearing’ trick.  By the time they hit the house, she was snoring like a boar hog with sinus problems.  His questions would have to wait till the morning.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To Be Continued …………………..

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