Sunday, May 8, 2011

"You Gonna Eat That?"

This week, Twice As Dead, the 6th Odelia Grey mystery, was released. So it seemed fitting that it would be Odelia who would be up at bat for the 10 questions in 5 minutes blog challenge.

The man studying the stuff in my wallet look up as I fidgeted. “You got a bus to catch, lady.”

He’d caught me stealing a glance at my watch. Five minutes – that’s all I had left before Detective Dev Frye and his backup of Newport Beach cops would come busting in here and take over. If I didn’t get information from this creep now, I’d never get the chance. Dev would make sure of that. He was always saying it was for my own good, that I didn’t need to know the details of the crimes I stumbled into and was safer not knowing. Maybe I would be safer keeping my big nose out of things, but I’d found that nut jobs like the one in front of me were more apt to spill their guts to someone like me – a middle-aged woman in the shape of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man – than to cops. It was amazing the details I could get out of criminals when they thought I was na├»ve and harmless, or if they were planning to kill me.

I calculated it would take Dev, about fifteen minutes to get from the police station to this boarded up snack shack on the beach. That was almost ten minutes ago. Just before I was nabbed slinking outside, I’d managed to speed dial Dev and give him my location, then prop the phone in the sand by the shack still connected.

Now I was inside the shack seated on a metal folding chair in front of a small table. The guy across from me held a gun in one hand, my wallet in the other. The contents of my new shoulder bag were scattered across the table, along with a half-eaten sandwich from Subway. Just for clarification, the sandwich hadn’t come from my purse. It was already present.

I folded my hands in my lap and looked him straight in the eye. “How often does the express bus to San Diego come by?”

He looked up again, this time a smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. “So,” he looked down at my info again. “So, Odelia Patience Grey, who are you and how did you find me?” He adjusted the handgun so it pointed straight at my chest.

The guy was Orlando Wells. He was thirty-something, dressed in dark suit pants and a white shirt. His sleeves were rolled up almost to his elbows, exposing thick dark hair. His stylishly cut hair was mussed and he had a 5 o’clock shadow. Except for the gloves on his hands, he looked like a lawyer or stock broker at the end of a grueling day. He was also being sought for the murder of his girlfriend, socialite Cora Engle.”

I didn’t want to answer questions, I wanted to ask them. “Why did you kill Cora?”

Before answering, he rummaged through the rest of my wallet, taking note of my Costco and ATM cards. He fingered the cash and closed the wallet. With second thoughts, he retrieved the cash, wadded it up and stuck it in his pocket.

“You’re robbing me?”

He tossed the wallet on the counter next to my bag. “You won’t be needing it on your swim to Catalina.” He laughed. “Much nicer than a stuffy bus ride to San Diego, don’t ya think?”

“I don’t swim.”

“Even better.” This time he treated me to a deep chuckle from behind closed lips. I ran my eyes up and down, from the top of his head to his shoes. He’d be quite handsome cleaned up and without a murder charge hanging over his head.

“Why did you kill Cora?” I asked again.

“Because she was having a change of heart, and I couldn’t have that.”

“About you? Or about the two of you bumping off her husband for his money?”

“About everything. She double-crossed me.”

“By wanting to keep her husband alive? Seems to me he was the one that was going to be double-crossed. She just came to her senses.”

Wells took a step closer to me and raised the gun from my chest to my head. “I found out Cora was going to let me take the fall for her husband’s murder while she ran off with her personal trainer.”

“Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.” I figured I still had about two minutes. “So now you’ve murdered Cora and no one gets her husband’s money. Not you or the trainer. And you’re on the run. Seems you still get stuck with the crappy end of the stick.”

He smiled and backed away, lowering the gun back to my chest. He perched on the edge of a stool stationed by the service counter. Something I’d said amused him, but at least I wasn’t eye-balling a bullet. “What’s so funny?”

“You. He glanced at his watch, obviously as concerned with time as I was. “In about twenty minutes I’ll have a suitcase of cash and be heading out of the country. Cora wasn’t the only one who knew how to double-cross.”

“So why take my money?”

“To make it look like a robbery, why else? If you hadn’t been so nosey, you’d have your cash and probably be home with your hubby watching Dancing With The Stars.”

“I hate that show.”

“Now there’s something we have in common.”

He seemed pretty relaxed for a killer. He looked at his watch again. It was the only nervous gesture he surrendered.

“Who are you waiting for?”

“Who do you think, smarty pants?”

I whirled around the possibilities in my head. He’d said something about another double-cross. “I’m taking a stab at Cora’s husband. Once you found out about the personal trainer, you probably went to Harvey Engle and told him about her plan. Then he hired you to kill her.”

“Very good. It’s almost a pity we’ll have to kill you.”

We? You really think Engle’s going to get his hands dirty disposing of me?” I shook my head. “He’s going to view me as a royal screw up on your part. Trust me.”

For the first time, my captor didn’t seem so cocky. He was mulling it over, realizing I was right. He got off the stool and raised the gun back to my head. Oh oh. I held my breath. Now that I had the information about Engle being in on Cora’s murder, I’d be happy to see Dev come through the door. Time should be up. Where in the hell was he? I needed to distract Wells.

“Hey,” I said, indicating the sandwich. “You gonna eat that?”

Moving only his eyes, Wells looked from me to the sandwich and back at me. “You want my sub?”

“I haven’t eaten since this morning and even death row inmates get a last meal.”

He shook his head in disbelief. “Help yourself.”

I picked up the sub and inspected it – Italian cold cuts with the usual veggies and dressing.

“I hope it’s to your liking, m’lady? If I’d known you were coming, I would have hired a caterer.”

I ignored his sarcasm. “No, it’s fine. Thanks. I’ll eat anything but okra.”

I took a bite and chewed. It was tasty. I was about to take another bite when I thought I heard something outside the shack. It was too early for Engle to show up. I hoped it was Dev. I crinkled the sandwich wrapper to cover any noise from outside and took another bite – a bigger one. After a couple of chews, I pretended I was chocking. I coughed up half eaten bread and cold cuts onto the table and kept coughing.

“You okay?” Wells came behind me and started slapping me on my back with his free hand. The hand with the gun was in front of me pointing towards the floor. I spit out the rest of the sandwich just as my left hand crashed down on his gun arm and my right foot drove deep into his in-step. When Wells grabbed me around the neck, I sunk my teeth into his arm. He howled like a wounded coyote.

At that moment Dev crashed through the door to the shack with his gun drawn. “Honestly, Odelia, I tempted to shoot you myself.”

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