Working in Public #Fiction

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The thin man with graying hair and huge glasses in the seat next to me on the airplane was squinting over his laptop. The screen was bright and had large text. He didn’t seem to be aware that I could see what was on the screen. For half an hour, I watched, fascinated, as he read his email and worked on documents.

I learned his name was Roger Newton, that he was the President of the Chase Bank branch in Casper, Wyoming, where I lived, that his wife, confined to a wheelchair, worked at a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities. The couple had no children or pets and were trying to sell their house so they could move to a condo. Then, I saw something that made my blood run cold.

An instant message appeared from someone named Dirk G. “Hey, Roger, I’m all set for tonight around eleven o’clock. You sure your wife will be in bed by then?”

“Oh, yeah,” Roger answered. “She’ll be in bed by ten. The key is underneath the mat outside the kitchen door. I disabled the alarm this morning before I left. She doesn’t know this. Try not to make too much noise. I don’t want the neighbors to hear anything, okay?”

“No problem. My pistol has a silencer. You sure your wife won’t hear me coming in the kitchen door?”

“Naw, once Carla’s out, she’s out. A train could come through the house, and she wouldn’t know it.”

“Okay, I’ll sneak in the back door, through the kitchen and living room, and right into the bedroom. I’ll have to use a flashlight so I can see what I’m doing, but if I can aim for her head, she won’t know what hit her, and she won’t feel any pain.”

“Good deal.”

“Okay, so, what about the money?”

“Carla’s jewelry case is on the bureau in front of the bed. She doesn’t keep it locked. Inside are some really expensive necklaces and bracelets I bought her over the years. You can take and sell those, and that’ll be your deposit. Once the life insurance claim settles, I should be able to write you a check for the rest.”

“Sounds great! Let me be sure I have the right address. That’s 1531 Apple Tree Lane, right?”

“Yes.”

I was a realtor in Casper. That address sounded vaguely familiar. I stood and made my way to a nearby lavatory, where I sat on the toilet and opened my phone. Sure enough, 1531 Apple Tree Lane was a house I’d shown the previous week. The woman interested in buying it needed a place that was handicap accessible because her husband had just suffered a paralyzing stroke. The house was listed with a different realty company, and she hadn’t made an offer.

Right then and there, I wanted to call my husband, Rick, a police detective, but I didn’t want to make my seat mate suspicious if he even noticed my absence. So, I stood, flushed the toilet for good measure, washed my hands, and returned to my seat. I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and tried unsuccessfully to sleep.

The plane couldn’t have landed in Denver, Colorado, soon enough. After retrieving my baggage and rental car, all the while making sure Roger Newton wasn’t anywhere near me, I locked the car doors, and, with trembling fingers, punched in Rick’s cell number. It was only seven thirty, so he wouldn’t be at the station yet. When he answered, my voice was shaking when I said, “Oh, honey, you’re not gonna believe this.”

“Lucy, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

After I explained the situation, Rick gave a low whistle. “Jesus! Are you sure he didn’t see you watching him?”

“I’m pretty sure. He was hunched over that monitor the whole time, squinting. It’s a wonder he doesn’t have a headache.”

“He probably does. I sure hope he isn’t driving. I think I told you that only last week, my buddy Tyler, who works at Magic City Computers, spoke to a group of Chase Bank employees about protecting themselves while working in coffee shops or airplanes.”

“I remember that.”

“Well, he said Roger Newton, the President, wasn’t there. Go figure. Well, when I get the cuffs on him, I’ll tell him if he’d come to Tyler’s presentation, he wouldn’t be in this mess.”

I laughed, in spite of myself. “Seriously, I don’t know if there’s anything he could have done to protect himself. He looked like he was really having trouble seeing.”

“And he’s plotting to murder his wife so he can cash in on her life insurance policy. Don’t that beat all? Well, I’ll get on this right away. You stay safe. Call me when you get to the hotel, okay?”

“I will.”

I started the car and looked at my watch. The real estate convention I planned to attend wasn’t scheduled to start until nine. The Holiday Inn, where I would stay and where the convention would be held, was only about a fifteen-minute drive away. I figured I’d have plenty of time to get settled and grab a bite to eat before the first session started.

When I walked into the hotel lobby, I stopped short. Roger Newton stood at the registration counter, rubbing his temple as he spoke to the clerk. My heart pounded. His back was to me, so I didn’t think he saw me, but I wasn’t about to take any chances. I turned and marched out the way I’d come. With trembling hands, I unlocked my car, got in, and locked all doors. I drove away from the loading zone and found a secluded spot at the back end of the building, constantly checking my rear view mirror to be sure he wasn’t running after me.

After I parked, I called Rick again. When he answered, he said, “Babe, I was just about to call you. I just got off the phone with Chase Bank. Mr. Newton is in Denver at a bankers’ conference at the Holiday Inn where you’re staying.”

“I know. I just saw him in the lobby. I’m back in my car now, and I don’t think he saw me.”

“Good, look, I think you’d better skip this realtors’ convention and come home as soon as possible. This guy may not see very well but still…”

Normally, I rebelled against Rick’s protectiveness, but this time, he was right. What if Roger Newton did see me and was involved with some sort of mob? It wasn’t worth the information and insight I would gain at the convention. “Okay, I’ll see if I can get a flight out today.”

My heart sank when I discovered that there were no seats on any of the flights returning to Casper from Denver International Airport that day. I booked a seat on a flight that left early the next morning.

When I called Rick with this information, he said, “That’ll have to do. Now find another hotel, preferably with room service. You shouldn’t be going out once you get settled.”

“You’re right. I’ll see what I can do.”

The Mariott wasn’t too far, and they had a cancelation. It was more expensive than I would have liked, but it had room service, free wireless Internet, and other amenities I could use while hiding out.

Once I was settled, I called Rick to tell him where I was. “Great!” he said. “I’M heading out now to Mountain View, where Carla Newton works. Try to get some rest. I’ll be in touch.”

Despite my anxiety, I slept for a couple of hours, then spent the rest of the day working, watching television, and ordering delicious meals from room service. Every time someone knocked on the door, I looked through the peep hole and didn’t open the door until I was sure it wasn’t Roger Newton or a possible henchman.

Rick called every so often with updates. Carla Newton would spend the night at the rehab facility where she worked, since she needed specialized equipment to help with her personal care. Rick and another officer would steak out the property so they could arrest Dirk G. when he arrived. There wasn’t evidence of Roger Newton’s involvement in any criminal activity other than the plot to murder his wife.

I was still anxious when I turned in that night, but the bed was so comfortable, and I was tired. The door to my room was locked and chained, so there was no way anyone could come in without me knowing it.

When I woke the next morning, I found a text from Rick. “We nabbed him. Call me when you get to the airport. I’ll be up.”

I did just that while waiting for my flight in the terminal. “How did it go?” I asked.

“Great! This Dirk G. character was a real amateur. Right away, he told me who hired him and where he was. The Denver police have Roger Newton now.”

“That’s a relief.”

“Okay, I’ll meet you at the airport when you get into Casper.”

“You don’t have to do that. My car is there.”

“Then I’ll follow you home. Will see you then.” For once, I didn’t argue.

When my plane landed in Casper, I found Rick in the baggage claim area talking to a woman in a wheelchair. Could it be Carla Newton, I wondered. If so, what was she doing here?

Rick saw me, and we rushed into each other’s arms. After a quick embrace, he turned to the woman in the wheelchair and said, “Mrs. Newton wanted to come and thank you personally for being such a nosey seat mate to her husband.”

I smiled, bent,  and extended my hand to her. “I’m glad I could help, but I’m so sorry about all this.”

She took my hand and smiled in return, then shrugged. “I should have known something was up. I recently discovered him having an affair with a woman with two good legs. When I confronted him, he told me she meant nothing to him and the relationship was over. He then insisted I buy this life insurance policy and was so happy when I agreed. I thought a move to a new place would give us a fresh start, but I guess I was wrong. It’s a good thing we hadn’t yet signed the lease on the place we found.”

“Did you have an offer on your house?” I asked.

“Nope,” she answered. “and I called the realtor yesterday and  told him to take it off the market. I’ve got enough to deal with right now, and the last thing I need to worry about is moving. However, your husband tells me you’re a darn good realtor, so if I ever decide to sell, I’ll call you.”

“Thank you,” I said. I retrieved a business card from my purse and handed it to her.  “If there’s anything else I can do, please let me know, and again, I’m so sorry.”

“Hey, I’m alive, thanks to you, so don’t be sorry. By the way, Roger called me this morning from the Denver police station. He said somebody set him up. I told him that if he’d only taken my advice and learned braille, he could have gotten one of those braille tablets, and nobody would have been the wiser.”

 

THE END

 

The above story appears in this year’s fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

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Thursday Book Feature: Novel Depicts World War II Racism

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.Greetings from sunny Florida, where I’m spending quality time with my brother and his family. I’m having too much fun to post a live book review this week. So, here’s a re-run from last year. Enjoy and happy reading.

 

via Thursday Book Feature: Novel Depicts World War II Racism

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Thursday Book Feature: The Cold Dish

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The Cold Dish: A Walt Longmire Novel

By Craig Johnson

Copyright 2005

 

In Absaroka County, Wyoming, four teen-aged boys gang-rape a Cheyenne girl who is developmentally disabled as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome. They are convicted but only given suspended prison sentences. Two years later, one of the boys is found dead, and Sheriff Walter Longmire must investigate. As developments arise, and a second of the four boys is found murdered, Walt wonders if he should suspect his friend Henry Standing Bear, who is related to the rape victim. The murderer turns out to be a most unlikely suspect.

I normally don’t read this type of book, but Craig Johnson was a surprise guest at a recent writing group meeting. He lives in Ucross, about twenty miles east of Sheridan, Wyoming, where I live. Absaroka County is actually Johnson County, about 30 miles south of here. Intrigued by his discussion of the setting and characters, I decided to try The Cold Dish.

This book is not your run-of-the-mill mystery. It offers humorous glimpses of small-town life, friendship, and Native American history and folklore. Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear, working together, reminded me, somewhat, of The Lone Ranger and Tanto, whose adventures I enjoyed following on the radio as a teen-ager.

I found the setting a bit disorienting. In the book, the Cheyenne reservation is in Absaroka County. In reality, the nearest Indian reservation is about thirty miles in the opposite direction from Sheridan. This probably wouldn’t bother anyone not living in the area, but I think it might have made more sense to set the story in Montana near Crow Agency or perhaps at the other end of Wyoming, close to the Wind River Reservation.

Also, I found the end shocking and depressing. I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t that. What’s so upsetting is the stark reality of sexual predators getting off scot free, especially if they’re white and their victims are not. On the other hand, the book offers an underlying message. Revenge is a dish best served cold but better never served at all.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Alley Cat Detective (Poetry)

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The following poem was published in Mingled Voices 3, an anthology produced by Proverse Poetry of Hong Kong. Several years ago, I took a correspondence poetry course from the Hadley Institute, and one of the exercises inspired me to write it. The prompt was to write about something unusual. You can click on the Play button below the poem to hear me read it.

 

 

ALLEY CAT DETECTIVE

 

After midnight, I seek the scoundrel
who broke into an elderly man’s home,
shot him point blank in his bed.

I sense the perp’s nearness,
sneak into an alley,
spot him against a dumpster,
approach from behind,
yowl, nip his ankles,
as a police car appears.

The startled suspect is apprehended.
After shoving the handcuffed crook into the back of the patrol car,
an officer turns, bends, strokes me.
I purr, rub against his ankle,
then slink away, my night’s work done.

 

 

By the way, if you like cats, stay tuned. On Thursday, I’ll review a book about cats who do ordinary, remarkable, and unbelievable things.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

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Thursday Book Feature: Novel Depicts World War II Racism

Tallgrass: A Novel
by Sandra Dallas
Copyright 2007

In this fictional account of events during World War Ii, an internment camp for evacuated Japanese-American citizens is established in a small Colorado town. Rennie, a thirteen-year-old girl living on her family’s farm adjacent to the camp, tells the story of how these evacuees were transported to the camp and the townspeople’s mixed reactions to their presence. Despite suspicion that one of the camp’s inmates murdered a local girl, Rennie and her family stand up for what’s right.

Her father hires some of the boys to work on the farm. Her mother, skeptical at first, is forced to employ a couple of Japanese girls to help her in the house when she becomes ill. Other sub-plots include Rennie’s brother serving overseas, her best friend, the murdered girl’s sister, and one of the Japanese girls helping in the house. In the acknowledgements at the beginning, the author explains what inspired her to write the book. At the end, she provides historical information and discussion questions for reading groups.

Because I’m not proud of how we treated Japanese-American citizens in the wake of Pearl Harbor, I wouldn’t have read this, but my regional talking book library’s discussion group chose it, so what could I say? I like the way the author tells the story from Rennie’s first person point of view and how she places the girl in situations where she shouldn’t have been in order for her to gleam more of the story. I felt a connection to the setting because my late husband grew up on a farm not too far away during this time. Because the removal and imprisonment of Japanese-American citizens after Pearl Harbor was something I wasn’t aware of until I took a recent U.S. history class during my senior year of high school, this book would be a great way to teach young people about this aspect of World War Ii.

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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Saturday Song: El Paso by Marty Robbins

Thanks to Bruce Atchison for inspiring me to post this. My late husband Bill was a fan of all things western, books, songs, movies. The more cowboys, horses, and shooting, the better, as far as he was concerned. It’s no surprise, then, that this classic was one of his favorites. After his first stroke, the ending moved me to tears because I wondered if I would be touching him and kissing his cheek as he breathed his last. That didn’t happen for another six years. Enjoy the song, and have a great Saturday.

 

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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