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Friday, November 22, 2013

Blog for 11/22/2013 SPOKANE Serial Part 4 End

Just then Madrigal, dressed in apple green, flounced through the emergency room cubicle curtain.  She read Belinda’s mind.  “Well, you’ve got no choice now but to come home with me.”

            Belinda didn’t want to live in a Lincoln like a bag lady. “No.  I’m going to hire a body guard around the clock.  Then I’m going to move to a new house.”

            “So you have bottomless pockets of money?”

            “Not really.  But my insurance agent called me.  I’ll have some left from the insurance money.”

            “Let me put this another way.  You’re coming home with me.  If you don’t cooperate, I’ll grab your shoulder till you squeal.”

            “Oh forevermore.”  Drugged on pain pills, the Lincoln didn’t sound so bad.


            On wy to Maddie’s Belinda texted Sam. Did u find blue car drvr?

Pain stabbed her shoulder.  The hospital sling didn’t help the broken collar bone at all.

            Of course, he texted back.  U didnt luk so gud last time I saw u.

            Well, who dz the blu car belong to?  She replied.

            A guy name of Sears.

            Texting set her arm on fire.

            “Sears?  That’s Phillip’s last name.”  Her stomach knotted, which made her shoulder hurt more. 

            “Do you think your stepfather is a killer?” Maddie said.

            “Heck no.  He didn’t even stand up to my mother when she was on a tear.”

            Sears my stpfther, she texted back.  U call me at Maddie’s OK?  2 much pain.

            ‘K he finished and ended the call.

            “There are probably a couple thousand Searses, you know.”

            “I don’t understand any of this. Where are we going?  Do you actually have a house?”

            “Sort of.  We’ll be there real soon.  Just sit back and try not to move.” 

            The Lincoln rode like it was on a cloud.  Must be the pills.  Too bad they didn’t work on the shoulder...


            Maddie pulled into a parking garage attached to the newest Spokane Casino. “Here we are, home sweet home.”

            “You lie.”

            “Nope, come on.  Do you want me to get you a wheel chair?”

            “Over my dead body.”  Belinda regretted that crack with every step to the apartment on the seventh floor which had its own private elevator.

            Maddie opened the door to a room done in beige and fifty shades of blue.  It was a suite actually, two bedrooms, with a view to Idaho.

            She waved Belinda into the suite with a huge smile.  There are advantages to being Native American.

            “All the Native Americans have their own casino apartments?”

            “Only the ones who own the casino.”

            Belinda’s mouth dropped open.  She gaped at every part of the apartment.  Everything upscale and brand new.

            “I was thinking you need to paint a picture for me, to go right there.”  She pointed to a recessed place on the wall.

            “Absolutely. She managed a grin for her friend.  But I may be out of business soon.  The destroyed painting I was working on was valued at $3200, and that was before it was finished!.  Now I can’t use my arm.  I may starve to death before the shoulder repairs itself.”

            Maddie walked to change the thermostat and tossed her serape over her head onto a soft lamb sofa.  “I don’t think so.  One of the largest stockholders of the original building conceptualization board was....well, sit down, we need to talk.”

            “We do?”

            “Yes.  I didn’t get a chance to tell you that your father was one of the originators and contributors to the casino.  Which is probably why all this is happening to you.  I just thought maybe I was imagining things.”  Madrigal stood and started to pace the room, her eyes on some horizon known only to her.

            “But my father wasn’t Native American.”

            “Right.  But previous to 1988 when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed, the tribal councils didn’t have enough money to build a real casino and it was critical to the well being of all our tribes. 

            “Your father made the initial loan in 1986 to open the Child of the Sun Casino.  He was making gaming machines all over the country and had the only company that knew how to make the Cadillac of machines.  He knew that Indian Gaming actually was in action long before 1988.  The U.S. Congress made a mess of regulation, since their goal was obviously skimming. 

            “Your father explained to the tribal conference that they could buy his machines because the Supreme Court would allow the Gaming Act soon.   Meanwhile, his machines were sold all over the United States, first to states that allowed gambling and next to the tribes in anticipation of the regulatory act.”

            Belinda interrupted. “Wait a minute... I’m beginning to see why Chris was adamant about marrying me.  Somehow he must have found out about an inheritance I didn’t know I had.”  Was it Chris who had killed her ex and her mother?  So he could marry her, then kill her as well and inherit a possible fortune?  Or was it Reedy who ran his mouth about an inheritance he could claim until somebody (Chris?) stepped in.

            “No, not puppy-eyed Chris.”   He was adamant a bout marriage, but he wasn’t mean. 

            Madrigal continued, “Chris could have been working at the casino all along and somehow found out about the supposed stock certificates.   Anyway, a corporation was initiated to issue stocks.  A bazillion people wanted his machines.  Indian casinos were a different story because they couldn’t pay him with tribal funds.  So they paid him with Coca Cola Stock valued at way less than 5%.  Also I heard they paid him in gold!  Only nobody knows where those certificates or gold are.  They couldn’t get them from your father while he was alive.”

            “By the way, I’m sorry that he died from cancer.  Everybody in the business loved him.  And I never got a chance to meet him.  Anyway, they couldn’t get information from your mother, who probably didn’t even know about the gold certificates.  Your dad wasn’t supposed to die.  Your ex-husband was a piece of work.  He must have made the killer a deal that he’d get you to sign over the stock options.”

            Belinda wanted to grab her aching forehead, but her shoulder hurt too much to raise her opposite arm.  “Come to think of it, I think Reedy was about an eighth Nez Perce.  Maybe he thought that had some weight here in Spokane?”

            “Well it wasn’t enough weight to make a grab for my casino.  It’s good it’s not publicly traded.”

            “So that’s why everything I own or love has been raped.  They can’t find the stock certificates.”  A lightbulb went on inside Belinda’s head.

            “What about the gold? Isn’t it in a safe deposit box at his bank?”  She remembered the key she’d found with the certificates--Coca Cola stocks?  Yikes.

            “Might be gold certificates.  I don’t know the intricacies of the U.S. law vs. tribal law regarding that.”  The killers think you have it and they’re not going away till they get it.”  Maddie shook her head.

            “But I don’t know where it is either!”  Alarms went off in Belinda’s head--she needed to go back to the loft and read those certificates discreetly hidden behind her painting.  And she needed to see if the damn key fit anything in the warehouse.  But what if somebody was lying in wait?  Maybe he’d give up?  Nope, not after two murders.       

            Belinda waited till Maddie had gone to work to call Phillip.


            Phillip answered, “Hello?” with a sob in his voice that actually wrenched Belinda’s heart.  “Pop Phil? This is Belinda.  I’m so sorry about mom.”  More sobs.

“I think we need to talk about mom’s funeral pretty soon.”

            “Eric and Gary went with me to the funeral home.”  Snif. “Then Gail and Kitty went back to the house for me and got some clothes for Rachel to wear--you know...”

            Yes, she did know that Phillip’s daughters would choose the dress her mother would be buried in.  She wanted to scream.  But she had something more important in mind.

            “I’m going to go to the loft and work I guess.  I can’t do anything else right now.”  Like get those certificates. “Tell your kids if I learn the coroner’s release date for mother, I’ll call you.”

            She texted to Chris.  am going to mom’s house to get dress for mom’s funeral.  He immediately responded, ‘k, let me no what u find out.  That should keep him out of the way.

            First more pain pills or she’d never get through today.

            Driving with one arm was worse than it seemed.  Muscles, tendons, bones and nerve endings were in the middle of her shoulder, she discovered.  The pills gave her a floating sensation like an out-of-body experience.  “Ha!” she laughed.  Nobody better get in front of me todaaaaayyy.  I weel run you over like a bug.


            She started the Toyota and drove to the loft.  She also called Sam and left a message.  “I wish you would answer.  I think I know where the certificates are and I’m going to get them from the loft.”  Well wasn’t that special.  On her own, as usual.

            No cars, especially blue ones, were parked anywhere on the street or parking lots.

Maybe minus two degrees had something to do with that.  Heavy from three layers of clothing, it was hard to bend her already aching arms.

            The two deadbolts on the door now could only be opened with keys that hung around her neck on a chain. 

            Upstairs she went to the painting, took the envelope off the back and pulled out one of the papers.  She knew what they would be but she shook when she realized how valuable that stack of vellum actually could be.  She didn’t find gold certificates in that stack.  If the little key would somehow open the safe upstairs, she could end this whole affair.  The certificates fit inside her jeans against her body with a lot of ouching her way through the layers of clothing.

            She noticed a vase with long dead flowers she’d brought to the studio to paint sometime last summer.  They were so depressing she picked up the vase, headed for the trashcan which had been moved.  She’d forgotten how heavy that crystal vase was.  She looked around for the trashcan.

            Hair stood up on the back of her neck when one of the down stairs creaked.   Oh, God, not again.  She stepped to the inside door and opened it a crack.  A head covered with a huge coat was coming up, feet tip-toeing like a bad cartoon character.  Someone else was behind the first person.

            Anger took over what sense she had left.  Belinda heaved the vase of dead flowers at them.  Three hundred marbles popped out of the vase and pelted down the staircase like a Pachinko machine gone mad.  She gasped as the two bodies flapped their arms.  That’s when she saw the huge knife in the first one’s hand that stabbed into a stair as the body went sailing backward.

            She ran to her work table, grabbed a roll of blue painter’s tape and, hearing nothing from the pileup at the bottom of the stairs, hurried down, dusting marbles off the stairs as she went, panting at her own audacity.   She grabbed the first person’s arms, pulled back the coat sleeves and wrapped half a roll of tape around wrists and hands.  Then repeated it on the second person, shaking so badly she thought she wouldn’t be able to finish.  To make sure, she ran as fast as the marbles would allow back upstairs to the utility box, found duct tape and returned to wrap up their legs as well.  Then jerked the hoods off two heads. 


            Gail?  Holy Shit! And Chris.  Conked out cold.  She put some more duct tape around the blue tape then ran more of it down to their feet from the hands taped behind their backs.  She almost pulled the knife out of the stair it was impaled on, but tiptoed around it instead, calling 911 and Sam and Maddie and everybody else she could think of.

            After the place was scoured with policemen who fought the marbles with every step, Sam rolled up.  “I bet you’re hell on turkey trussing.”

            Still shaking, too angry to cry for once in her life, Belinda sat in the Toyota with its windows down and the heater blasting not very hot air.  She knew her sister-in-law and her supposed boyfriend would disappear if she took her eyes off them.  Imagine those two colluding--what a love match.  Bile rose in her throat.  She wondered if Phillip’s whole family killed her mother.

            After the crime scene was released, Belinda took a can of WD-40 upstairs to the last place she hadn’t been able to get into in the warehouse--the fake Red Cross door.

            “I’ve never seen a double door safe before,” Sam said.

            “We need one of my step-sisters to crack this lock.  I can’t believe Gail and/or Chris could open every single lock I put on this place.”

            “Not to mention her being a knife killer.  Now we know where she got the help to get Reedy up on the canvas.  Nice touch painting him too. Locks don’t keep out the bad guys.” 

            She tried another combination.  She’d been through all the birthday dates, anniversary dates, and holidays, famed war battle dates she could think of.  Then she took a leap of logic and tried the date the first Coca-cola stock certificate had been issued in the 1950’s.  The lock popped open.  With great anticipation she pulled the door on its rusted hinges toward her.  A safe-deposit box was concreted into the wall.

            “Forever more!”

            “Forever more?” Sam said as he grinned at her, dimples deepening.

            “My mother’s favorite swear word.”

            “Aha.  Now what are you going to do?”

            “I’m going to try this little key...She inserted the key that had accompanied the  stock certificates.  Inside was packed with stacks of plastic envelopes, each holding a solid gold one-ounce Eagle coin.  She couldn’t take her eyes off of that box.  “What did you say gold was selling for?”


                                                THE END

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Blog for 11/21/2013 SPOKANE Serial Part 3

            The next morning Belinda called Sam. “I don’t know when the insurance company will fix my car, but I need to go to the studio.   I had to take the truck back to my neighbor.  I have a painting due in four days and obviously can’t use the one I had planned to use.”

            “And I want to know this because?”

            Was he being snide?

            “I need to know if all the reports have been turned in.  I feel like my life is gone and I can’t get going foreward.  I need my SUV.  My paintings won’t fit in a rental.

            “Oh, of course, my mind was somewhere else.  The reports were sent over two days ago, so it shouldn’t take much longer.  But if you think your SUV is coming back to you, you are sadly mistaken.  The windows could be repaired, but the bullet that went through the fender ricocheted off the front axle, then proceeded through the engine block, and all the oil leaked out of it.  When you drove to the PD, the engine block froze up.  It’ll be totaled.” 

            Sam.  She pictured  his deep honest eyes.  Not dependent puppy eyes.

            Maybe they wouldn’t have to be so formal now they were on a first-name basis.  Sammy fit well on him--the name Grandby had called him when she first met both of them.

            Belinda sighed.  “You are so sweet!  I guess I’ll call a car rental company then, because I’m stuck here at Chris’s house.  He had to take his car to work.”

            “Is this Chris Danner you mean?”

            “Yes.  I only moved in with him because I had nowhere else to go.”

            “Are you two an item?”

            “Item?  Not a chance.”

            “Good, because Mr. Danner works for the Beacon Casino, not a big box store like he told you.”

            “I think you’ve got the wrong Chris Danner.”

            “No.  All acquaintances of victims and witnesses in a murder are checked out.”

            “Well, why would he tell me he worked for a big store as a foreman?”

            “Have you ever been at his place of employment?”

            “No.  But I wouldn’t care if he worked at a casino.  There’s no need to lie about it.”

            “Maybe he changed jobs and forgot to tell you?”

            Well.  Anything was possible.  She said, “I wanted to ask you about the blue car.  Have you found it yet?”

            “Sorry.  No luck on that one.  Spokane boasts the highest stolen car crime rate in the nation.  Shops steal them to tear them apart and put the pieces back together and presto!  No identification.  A car is difficult, if not impossible to identify when it has parts of twelve different ones and has been painted a totally different color.”

            Belinda thanked him again, then went out to the loaner truck and took the painting out of its bed.  It was so cold, she was glad it hadn’t been wet when she put it in there.    The paint would have frozen and ruined another attempt.  Maybe God just didn’t want her to enter that art show.


            Through the miracle of homeowner, business owner and auto owner insurance, Belinda would collect a decent check to replace a few things, so she’d be able to buy a car, maybe this weekend. 

            The body of Reedy had been removed.  It was so strange him showing up like that and being dead.  Awful.  And  nobody knew when the funeral would be held.  She wasn’t even his wife any more.  The locks had been changed out to deadbolts, no glass in the doors. 

            Maddie said she had cleaned up the studio.  They both knew that meant getting rid of the remnants of the picture and cleaning the floors.       

            Excited about having a car again, even a rental, Belinda forgot to corner Chris over nothing important like where he worked.          

            If she didn’t get that painting submitted she’d be out a lot of cash.  It had only been four days since her life turned upside down, but at least she felt well enough to go to her art studio, driving a Toyota Camry.  She’d have to get something larger soon.

            She didn’t know if she’d have to sell the studio--would she be able to work there after all that had happened?  

            When she brought the painting into the studio and set it up, she found a large envelope held with cellophane tape to the back of the canvas.

            She opened the envelope on its backside but left it still taped to the canvas.  Inside were a bunch of old certificates.  She impatiently thumbed through them.  Probably some awards.  He liked to bowl and at one time had played sports.  Had her father put those there?  A key was tucked in a bottom corner. 

            She couldn’t think about this right now.  The certificates couldn’t be of much value since they were not in the warehouse until the painting was brought in.   Short of time before another disaster, she started her search at the door, turned left and checked every inch of every wall and duct.  There were overhead plumbing pipes for water, braces holding them up.   Metal heat ducts ran across the ceiling of the large area with vents craning down like the heads of giraffes.  The heating unit was up there as well--tucked behind the bathroom.  A set of rungs ran up the wall to a thin scaffolding access ramp. Spider webs clung to all braces and corners, including a filthy Red Cross First Aid Kit she hadn’t known was there. When she opened it she found the door was fake.  Only an old safe was behind there.  An old gym combination lock was on the door, rusted shut.  It could have been there for years. Just some parts in there her father didn’t want  misplaced.  He loved his tools, always had kept them locked up.   She closed the odd fake door and explored the crevasses of the antique room.  Darkness had closed in quickly.  She flipped the light switch up.  Nothing happened.  A run of fear crawled up her back.  She fumbled around to find the lighter and candle she’d used on the fateful day the murders started, and lit the tiny wick--the only thing between abject panic and hope.  She slipped into her bulky coat and grabbed her purse, carried the candle with her then headed for the door.

            The downstairs door rattled like a snake.  Shrrrrr

             Metal screeched across metal.  Creaks that promised footsteps on the treads spaced out at first faintly then louder, with a cold, cold breath.   Cops?  No.  They had her cell number and would call if they needed to get inside again.

            She tiptoed in her sneakers, felt her way to the bracket ladder leading up to the ducts and shinnied up through years of accumulated dust to the top of the eighteen-foot-high ceiling.  Her climbing was obscured by the noise of her loft door being jimmied open then jammed back against the wall with a thump.  She held her breath.

            A black figure charged through the door.  If she’d had her gun which had been stolen from her house, she’d have felt safe.  But no.  She mentally kicked herself for not replacing it.

            Damn!  She forgot to blow out the candle.  It was obvious she was in the loft.  She teetered in silence and dark and dust, trying not to sneeze, considering dropping on top of the figure below her.  One hundred fifteen pounds traveling at, say, two miles per hour should at least knock him out if she hit him right.  But if she missed and landed on her own head, he’d probably plaster her into the studio wall and she’d never be found.  He could even shove her into one of the ducts she was crawling around.  Nobody would ever find her.

            In the feeble candlelight below, she could make out a rebar strut that could get her just over top of whoever it was.  She wished he’d taken off his coat so she could see who it was. Silent like the mouse, Belinda remembered Anne Frank’s story.  But Anne didn’t live through it. Belinda resolved she would.

            He shined a flashlight around the floor, checked the corners and walked into the bathroom and banged around.   She left her purse, quickly shucked her jacket, covered her hands with it, and slid down the strut as quietly as she could.  He must have noticed movement overhead.  He grabbed her foot.  She kicked him off, pulled her knees up and dropped the rest of the way on top of him right in front of the staircase. They both tumbled down the stairwell, Belinda banging her head as something snapped in her shoulder.  When a heavy object rattled away down the stairs, she hoped it was his gun. He rolled with her, hitting treads with his head a couple of times in their death spiral.  He smelled like oil.  Pitch dark in the stairwell continued with them out into the moonless night as they rolled from the broken door where the safety lights and the entry light were all out.  The air and the asphalt were so damn cold.  And of course the stairs had already done their damage.

            The figure scrambled part way back up the stairs obviously looking for the gun.  Belinda ran through the open downstairs door then tried to lock the deadbolt with the key from her jeans pocket.  But the new deadbolt had been torn off the door and the assailant simply shoved it back open.

             The blessed patrol car came prowling toward them like a leopard.  The man in black vanished. 

            She hobbled over toward the police unit, everything on her body complaining loudly.  The driver stopped, turned on the overhead flashers and warily got out of the car, talking to the box on his shoulder.  Belinda yelled, “Did you see him?  He was here just a second ago.  God, my shoulder hurts.  Can I have one of those boxes?  Then you wouldn’t have to take so long getting here,” before she slid down the fender of the cop car onto the ground.


            “Okay, enough is enough,” Sam Magers said.  He took off his hat, put down his notebook, quickly looked around the empty hospital room, and bent down to give Belinda a wonderful kiss.

            This time it was a good shock instead of a bad one.  Her toes melted.

            After the kiss she tried to figure out something to say.  But she’d lost the ability.

            Grouped near a lot of doctor offices which included shrinks, the hospital emergency room would make it easy for her to marry a shrink.  Otherwise she wouldn’t be able to pay the fee to regain her sanity.

            “You obviously haven’t got the sense God gave a rubber duck,” Sam said.

“Going to a warehouse in the dark doesn’t sound like a very bright person.  I mean, you look like your IQ is in triple digits, but that is just a ruse.  Your double digits are disguised.”

            The double entendre made both sets of their eyes look at her boobs.

            “It wasn’t dark when I went there. But it was longer than I thought I’d be.  He must have cut the wires.  I wouldn’t have gone into a warehouse with no light.”  Did he think she was totally stupid? 

            Looking down hurt.  Looking up hurt.  She needed a pill.  Oxycontin would be good.  Maybe Morphine.  She’d heard it all before.  From Chris, from Madrigal, and from Sergeant Magers himself several times over.

            “Do you have any idea what the assailant wanted?”

            She did not.  Also she couldn’t kiss Sam then go live with Chris.  Besides, why had Chris lied?  She couldn’t go to her parents’ house since it was cordoned off.  She couldn’t go home because it was still trashed.  She just might never want to see it again anyway.  And there was no way she was going to live in the loft, even for a few days.   Belinda was tired of being scared, and just plain tired.  She wasn’t sure she’d ever sleep again.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Blog for 11/18/2013 SPOKANE Serial Part 2

            Sirens blared in the distance while the operator asked a hundred questions.  Belinda skidded into the parking lot, jumped out and ran to the police department’s front door. She grabbed the door’s handle but stopped and looked back for the blue car she was sure followed her.

            When no cars tore into the parking lot with gunmen blasting away at her, her heart rate started to slow down.  She shut the door behind her.


            Magers showed up an hour later.  She guessed he had to cover the search of her loft, call all the people whose names she’d given him, take care of the body, talk to the Coroner, have time to get to his office.  It seemed like it took a century.  His remarkable blue eyes had turned the color of granite, which bored into Belinda.  She was okay until his face softened and he looked at her with sympathy.  She cried. 

            “Don’t do that.  You can’t help us while you’re out of control.” He walked a circle and stopped in front of her again.

            “But I don’t know why that guy shot a gun at me.  I don’t know why the dead man was in my loft.  I’m afraid to go home.”

            “Somebody is looking for something.  Any idea what that might be?”  He reached for his iphone, scrolled through some items, stopped and said, “We got enough glue off the dead man’s face to get a profile picture.  It’s rough but I want to know if you recognize him.  You’re okay, right?”

            She’d never be okay again, but she clenched her teeth and looked at the small screen on Sam’s phone.

            She choked.  “Th-that’s Reedy.”

            “So who is Reedy?”

“He was my husband until he disappeared four years ago.  I got a divorce decree from him just this morning because he is presumed dead.  Oh my god.  I had no idea he was even in Washington.”

            Chris texted to her:  where r u?

            She looked at the text message but didn’t want to tell Chris she was at the police station.  He’d freak out.


            Sam insisted he take Belinda home to pack then some place to stay a few nights because she shouldn’t be alone.  “A person who is more concerned about blood in her paint than who killed cock robin isn’t thinking entirely straight.” 

            She could see his point.

            “And, the blue car that held the shooter at your house two nights ago has the wrong serial number.  It’s registered to a Tom McKinzie.”

            “But it looked like my step-brother’s car.”

            “Is his name Tom McKenzie?”


            “Tom McKenzie is dead.  He was 84 when he died of a heart attack, best I can tell.”

            “What?  That’s insane.”

            “I know...stay tuned for the next episode, whenever I find it.”  Sam rolled his eyes and sighed.  He opened the door with the key she dug out of her purse, looked inside.  “Oops.” 

            Her leather couch and other furniture were torn and upside down, the glass on the front of her mother’s picture was broken out of its frame.  Her fairy figurine collection was pulverized to powder on the hearth.  Sam pulled his gun out, firmly pulled Belinda away from the door on the front porch, said “you stay here,” and left to search all of the rooms for any intruder who may still be there.  

            When he hopped into her living room, gun in both hands just like the movies, her heart pounded.  She plastered herself up against the outside wall of her house and waited in terror.  When he returned, he brought her inside and shut the door.  “Don’t touch anything.  Just look around and see if anything is missing.”

            “Right.”  Like she could tell if anything was gone in the mess that used to be her home.

            A leather bound set of the classics from her book shelves had pages torn from them, wadded and thrown around the room like litter.  Her father had given those to her for her 21st birthday.  She thought she had no tears left.  But she did.

            “Think, Belinda.  What do you have that’s valuable enough to...?”  Her front door began to open. He shoved Belinda behind him and whipped out the Glock 17 again. Honest to God she thought Sam was going to fire it and kill her friend.  

            “It’s okay, Sam.  That’s my friend Maddie!” Belinda yelled.

            “Yikes, Linny!” A woman’s head poked inside.  She froze when she saw the gun. Soft, round and short, she took two steps backward when she noticed his uniform and badge.  “Are you okay?”

            “ No, Maddie, I think I’m not okay.  You scared me to death!  How did you know I was here?  Somebody shot a gun at me. Somebody wants me dead and I don’t even know why!”

            “I parked down the street and saw you both come inside.”  She looked around her feet, horror written on her face. “The loft is a mess too.  I was just over there.”

            The adrenaline level in the room was heavy as mist.  They all stepped back onto the front porch.  Sam talked into the box on his shoulder.

            Belinda babbled to Maddie.  “Yes.  That’s where it all started.  Reedy was killed and left in the studio, then they couldn’t get all the paint off him or the superglue, and they took a profile picture and showed it to me and it freaked me out but of course by that time somebody shot at me with a real gun., and ...”

            Sam’s eyes turned from one of the women to the other, then back again.

            “Wait, wait, wait, wait.  You lost me at superglue.”

            “Oh, sorry, Sergeant Magers, this is Madrigal , my friend.”

            “Snzmeme Madrigal, nice to meetcha.”  Maddie held out her hand to shake, which he shook lightly. 

            He smiled with a question in his eyes.  “Snzmeme?”

            “Snzmeme is her tribal name,” Belinda said.


            Maddie wore turquoise wool pants, a turtleneck shirt and a v-neck orange sweater.  She had thrown back her striped serape so she could hold her purse and wave her arms around.  Her brown skin and wide round face were incongruous with her Caucasian features.

            “Maddie uses my studio to do her artwork.  She makes figurines and Native American art.” 

            “Yes, I am a child of the sun,” Maddie added as her face lit up. 

            “She means she’s American Indian and adores the people,” Belinda said.

            Maddie wrinkled her nose as she panned the room. “Reedy is dead?”

 She turned to Belinda. “You could stay with me.  We can talk.”

            Belinda wasn’t really sure where Maddie’s house was.  Mostly she resided in her 1975 Lincoln Ambassador. Yet Maddie had often been to Belinda’s house, her mother’s house, her loft since the two women had met in an art class years ago.  “I’m going to my mom’s house.”

            “Rachael?  Are you sure you want to do that?  How about Chris’s house?  He’d love that.”

            “I guess I could stay with Chris for a little while--just until my house is cleaned up.”  Why did men always make you feel safer than women?  Women are trained that way from birth.


            Later that day, Chris Danner, her would-be boyfriend, sat with Belinda at his breakfast table.  Belinda was all cried out.  “We should just get married,” Chris said the third time since her arrival.  His brown puppy eyes pled with her.  And he was kind of cute with his blonde curls and scruffy little beard.  He had a good job as a foreman at a big box store--with benefits.  Marrying Chris was never on her bucket list.  She didn’t feel the connection he felt. She didn’t love him. Well, her first marriage hadn’t worked out so well, had it, and she’d definitely loved Reedy--or thought she had.  Maybe Chris would grow on her.  People used to have arranged marriages.  Her mother said once that those were a good idea.  Maybe she’d think about it.

            She ignored Chris for the millionth time and felt guilty about it.  He had gone to work by time Maddie called Belinda.

            “Are you having fun playing house?”  . 

            “I don’t know, Mads, I feel like Chris is a roommate.  Living with a man, you’d think I’d feel something more for him.”  She ran a hand through her hair, which was still wet from her shower.  “I don’t know what I’m going to do.   Sometimes I think....”  She shook her head to clear it from that subject.

             “For now, I’ll need a new canvas to replace the d-dead guy one.  I don’t have time to get another canvas that size stretched, and primed.”  The painting she’d contracted for was due to be shipped in three days, and the art gallery already had CD pictures of the first one.  “I’ve been thinking... My dad bought one of the first paintings I ever made and hung it in his den.  That canvas is a little smaller than the one at the studio, but I can paint over the picture that’s on it now.  It isn’t very good anyway.  He was just encouraging me when I was thirteen.”  The gallery work was supposed to be new within six months.  But over-painting would still be new, wouldn’t it?

            “Why don’t you forget about painting for now?” Maddie said.

            “I’ve already paid the entry fee.  The gallery would probably accept the substitution¸ I think...I hope.”

            “Especially if you don’t tell them about it.”



             She drove a neighbor’s borrowed Ford pickup truck over toward the golf course where her mother lived in a ranch style house three inches from the Fourteenth green.  Once there, she let herself in with a spare key.   

            Belinda went directly to her father’s den where the picture hung.  She realized she’d have to wash it, but it looked smooth enough to paint over.  Besides, she could use some gesso to make sure another painting would adhere to the one beneath.

            She carried the painting out to the truck and laid it in the large bed, then covered it with a heavy blanket.  It fit almost perfectly. Then she went looking for her mother who could probably be found in her garden.  The garden was through the kitchen, out the backyard door. She was surprised to see her mother sitting, looking out the back window.

            Her mother sat at the kitchen table.  Not moving.  She had a neat hole in her temple.

            Belinda screamed, “Noooooo!”  She collapsed into tears after she felt for her mother’s pulse.  Her mother was cold.  And dead. 

            She remembered Sam “clearing” her house just yesterday, and almost hyperventilated as she ran out the front door and called 911 again, so frightened she could barely talk.  Something inside her twisted, broke and turned to lead.  She made herself walk into the kitchen.  How could she live without her mother?  She was the only thing that never changed.  “I’ll eat all my vegetables, I promise.”  She sobbed out the silly promise, broke down again and looked through her tears around the room for some explanation.  This was just a bad dream.  How could anyone kill her mother? 

            Belinda’s bones ached and she thought she must have the flu.  That would be perfect--a dead ex and a dead mother, being shot at and living with Chris which she’d said she’d never do, having a shot SUV, and now she had the flu.  Her life was upside down in only two days.  But why?

            Exhausted, Belinda curled into a ball and fell asleep on the sofa while she and her mom waited for the authorities.


            Fortunately, her mother had made a detailed will when she’d married Phillip.  Had she known something was going to happen?  She’d made plain her burial wishes and both she and Phillip had drawn up a pre-nuptial agreement.  What belonged to her mother would come to Belinda.  What belonged to Phillip would go to his children, Gary, Eric, Gail and Kitty.  Not that they had anything besides retirement incomes to worry about.  I wonder where my stepfather went?  The investigator said Phillip was out playing golf when he got the bad news about his wife.  She wondered if he even cared.

            Belinda had gone to a few of Phillip’s family parties, but her step-siblings had treated her mother with so much disdain and jealousy for marrying the divorced Phillip while their mother was still alive, that it was too uncomfortable for Belinda to watch. 


            Belinda stayed with Chris after she got out of the hospital where she’d been checked for shock.  When Magers pointed out the lapses in her logic, with such a sweet sales pitch, she wanted to jump into his lap and never get out.  The psychiatrist gave her medication so she could stop crying.  She’d never known constant crying was so exhausting.   She just wanted to be left alone to sleep.  But of course the world would not stop for her. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blog for 11/6/2013 Thriller Serial: Spokane, Part 1

Belinda Marshall skipped down the stairs of the Spokane, Washington courthouse.  The beautiful 1895 building still housed the Clerk of the Superior Court Office where Belinda finally had divorced Reedy.  The statute of limitations required three years of abandonment to obtain a divorce, but it had taken four because he was assumed deceased.  Her heels clicked on the hard steps like the tap shoes she’d fallen in love with when she was six years old. 

            Belinda hoped Reginald Oliver Marshall (Reedy) had found the pot of gold he sought.  She hurried to her Bronco SUV that made her frugal mother cringe, and headed across town to her Nevada Street art studio.  The building had belonged to her father, who converted it from simply a pin-ball machine shop to a full fledged casino gaming machine factory.  He was its only employee.  Belinda inherited the building when her father died years ago of cancer.   A huge modern painting was due to be hung in an art show in the promenade at Nashville, Tennessee in a few weeks.  Overworking a painting to death was a habit she thought she’d dropped.  Perfection was in the imperfect.

            As soon as she stepped up into the SUV, she texted to Chris:  it’s a dun deal.

Two minutes later her iphone dinged:  gud now you cn marry me, he replied.  She laughed.  Once was enough.

            The warmth of the SUV made her sleepy.  Till she stepped outside. “Wow, it’s colder than I thought.”  Her words froze, balanced for a couple of seconds in a cartoon balloon, and dropped.  If she hurried maybe her nose wouldn’t turn red.  On the way upstairs, something felt wrong.  She peeked into the other studio.  Finding nobody, she shook off the odd feeling.  Now unlocked, her loft door was locked when she left.  Wasn’t it?  But, the outside door at the bottom of the stairs had been locked, so it wasn’t a major issue.  At twenty-five she wasn’t a candidate for Alzheimer’s disease quite yet.

            There was no chance in minus three degree weather that she’d air out the stuffy studio.  A coconut-scented candle lay behind her wash sink for that purpose.  Nothing looked out of place.  Paints lined up like colorful messy soldiers in their rack.  Brushes looked trashed, but that was normal.  Canvases leaned against the inside wall, waiting to realize their potential.  The new painting was so large it dwarfed her easel so was set on blocks and leaned against two-by-fours.

            She donned her paint-splattered apron, filled a can with water and turned toward her work across the room. 

            Water splashed all over the floor and her shoes when she dropped the can.  It rolled under the sink.  A man’s body--a manikin--had been painted over her picture as if he were walking in 3-D through the canvas.  She peered at the kaleidoscope of stained glass faux art and tried to not let her eyes roll up into her head as she stepped closer.  For a fleeting second she thought he might be a real human. Right before she passed out onto the floor.

            He was a human alright.

            She surfaced, made herself look closer.  Heels protruded light green.  Each of his toes was painted a different color and his Achilles tendon was streaked red.  Was that paint or blood?  With her hands shaking badly she clutched the phone and dialed 911.  Then she ran downstairs.  Five minutes flat is how long it took the EMTs, police, and sheriff deputies to arrive and trample up the stairs past where she stood inside the stairwell.  Reporters were corralled outside the street-level door.

            Blonde, blue-eyed Sergeant Sam Magers shooed a renegade reporter outside with the others, ran upstairs two at a time.  She’d never talked to a policeman before.  She didn’t know they were so gorgeous.  If she weren’t crying so much she could have asked him to pose for her.  But she remembered why everybody was there. What a stupid idea.

            Several cops got busy taping and measuring, looking through her supplies. Magers came down, took Belinda into the other studio that opened onto the hallway and asked, “Do you know how this happened?”

            Her “no” sounded hollow.  They perched on two high stools.  A plain clothes detective with a badge clipped to his belt walked past the door, saw them and stepped  inside the room.

            Granby!” Magers said.  He introduced Belinda as a witness. 

            “Sammy, how you doing?” Granby said, his eyes grazing the room.  EMTs lumbered up the stairwell and past their door with a gurney.

             “Hey!” somebody out of sight called into the hallway.  “You aren’t going to need the gurney.”

            “Ms. Marshall here has no idea how this happened,” Sam said.  He wrote something on his notepad.  “Do you know the fellow on the painting?” he asked Belinda softly.  Great bedside manner.

            “No.  No!”  She said.  “I couldn’t see his face and there was so much paint on him I didn’t even notice he was there until I stood right in front of it--him, I mean.”

            “Right, Granby said.  “Well, he’s been super-glued to the art work, as well as impaled on a large hunting knife.” Grandby gritted his teeth.  His cheek muscles flexed. “The handle protrudes from the backside of the picture frame, through it into him.”

            “Canvas,” Belinda said.

            “Canvas.”  Sam looked at Grandby with a half smile.  “I’ve got to wonder where somebody got enough superglue to stick a body to a canvas?  The perp had to use a lot of little tubes of the stuff for that job.  It would take time.”  A question lingered in his eyes when he looked away. 

            “The responding officer says the docs have a compound that will dissolve glue and not mess up skin.  When would there have been enough time to paint all over him?” Grandby asked Belinda.  “Aren’t you here every day?”

            “Not this week.  It’s been cold, and half the time my heater in here doesn’t work very well.”  She sighed.  “I guess there isn’t much of the painting to save.”  What happened to the blood?  Tears gushed.  “What happened to the blood?  Wouldn’t there be blood?”  Blood is important.  Her skin tingled and her body froze still between statements.

            “Well, there doesn’t seem to be any--it wouldn’t mix in with oil paint, so if there were any here, we’d see it,” Granby said.    

            “But it’s acrylic paint, which is water soluble, not oil. You mean I could have blood mixed in with my paint?”  A shudder started up her spine.

             “Yeah, she’s right.  He was killed somewhere else or there would be blood for sure.  Looks like the painting will have to be a do-over.”  

            She headed for the bathroom to lose her breakfast.

            Belinda returned feeling no better.  Magers was warm and safe and in charge while she was cold, scared and confused.  He looked so concerned, she realized there must be more to him than professionalism.

            “We’ll talk later,” Grandby said, and went back toward the chaos in Belinda’s loft.

            Sergeant Magers waved, then asked Belinda who else had access to the loft.  “Madrigal,” Belinda said. “And a guy named Donny who uses this studio for pottery making.  He’s on tour right now though, so he’s not in town. Donny rents the loft we’re standing in.  He does sculptures.”


            “My friend.  She shares my studio to create her art.”

            Magers poised his pen over his notebook. “I need your name and address and those of Madrigal and Donny.”

            Belinda still clutched her iphone.  She scrolled through its address book and relayed those items to him.

            “Are you married?” he asked Belinda.

            An odd question?  “Nope, not since Reedy.  I’m divorced.”


            “Well, Chris I guess.  I haven’t really dated anybody else lately.”

            “Any reason why either of them would be angry with you?”

            “Not unless you count not agreeing to marry Chris.  Reedy is probably dead.”

            Sam’s lips curved up just a little bit.

            “Sergeant Magers, I...”

            “Sam.  Sam Magers.  What about your family?”

            “Other than my mother, I don’t really have one unless you count my step-father’s children--all adults.”

            “Your step-siblings.”

            “Yes, but they don’t particularly like me for my mom horning in on their dad’s life.”

            He raised one eyebrow.  It stood out like a huge question mark on his forehead.

            “What?  No, take that out of your head.  My mother and step-father have a pre- nuptial agreement and made new wills when they married.  I saw those.  Besides, neither of them had anything anybody would want.  They live on retirement checks.

            “Sam, I don’t know why somebody would do anything like this.  I’ve been painting for several years and nobody has ever been in this loft without me here.  At least not that I know of.”

            “As soon as we can identify the body, I’ll be back in touch with you.”  He gave her his card.  “You call me if you think of anything--that’s my personal cell number.  I can be here in five minutes.”

            She picked up her thermal jacket.  Sam walked her down the stairs to outside.   Icy tears formed on her cheeks before she got to her SUV.  She thought vaguely that salt water isn’t supposed to freeze so easily.

            “Are you okay? Is there somebody you can stay with?” Magers asked.  “You don’t look so good.”  He slammed the driver’s door of her SUV. 

            She lowered the window a couple of inches. “I’m good, I’m good.  Just cold.”  Her breath puffed mist through the window gap.  She pulled away, leaving him silhouetted by flashing lights from the police cars.

            None of this made any sense.

            Half way back home her SUV sputtered and died at a stop light, but it started up again.  She dreaded having it break down.  She’d freeze solid if it did.

             She had a dead man in her loft.

            A blue car was parked in front of her shotgun two-on-two ancient vintage bastardized bungalow.  Cars all looked the same to her, but this one had steamed up windows.   As she passed the car the SUV, of course, died.

            The blue car’s driver side window came down two inches when she got up next to it.  A handgun barrel pointed out at her.

            As she frantically tried to restart her engine, a hole in her side window popped open, the bullet angled into the front windshield, spiderwebbing them both.  She actually heard the bullet go by

            “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!”  Another bullet hit the side of her SUV just before the vehicle finally started.  She slammed it into reverse.  That’s when she saw the license plate on the blue car lit by her headlights--which she made herself memorize, go figure.  Somehow her brain still worked.

            Fumbling the cell phone, she dialed 911 for the second time today and headed to the North Market St. Police Department.  “GJX473,” she hollered to the 911 operator who answered her call.  “Write it down.  Write it down.  It’s the license number of the car that shot at me.”