A plucky PI users her unconventional methods to find out the truth after an army private gets caught under the influence of marijuana but claims she never smoked.
I knew it was important that I talk to Jessica immediately, so I only spent three days in Vegas instead of four, and then it was off to her home.
She lived with her mother in a house I remembered from egging it way back five minutes before I knocked on the door. Her mother, Belda, answered. She looked like a Belda. You know, old and boring. She didn’t like when I said that. I told her I was just kidding. She said she didn’t find it very funny so I explained to her that it was funny because it was true. She didn’t like that either. Finally, I decided to shut up and urged her to let me in. She was starting to ask about the eggs and I had a feeling she wasn’t going to like the answer.
She left me alone in the living room while she finished something up in the kitchen. It gave me time to case the joint. I examined the knick-knacks on the mantle, pocketing a few. Nothing too valuable or incriminating. Just some elephant statues and an urn. The urn didn’t fit in my pocket so I put it back and just took the ashes.
Several pictures of Jessica were proudly on display, including some from her recent graduation from the military academy. It felt nostalgic for me. It reminded me of the time I thought about joining the military. You never forget about the times like that.
Belda came back in the room with a tray of drinks.
“What is that? Tea or something?” I said jokingly. She said it was. Neither of us found the situation very funny.
“You don’t understand how important this is to me and Jessica. Without her military salary, we can’t afford to keep this house. Not to mention our family name, tarnished,” said Belda, nibbling on a biscuit.
“Your family name?” I asked.
“Yes. The Rios family- “
“Rios?!” I interrupted, “that’s the name of the murdered girl I’m looking for!”
It took her seven minutes to explain to me that Jessica hadn’t been murdered, and that she was baffled why I was there if I hadn’t already known Jessica was her daughter. What she was saying made too much sense for me to doubt. Once I understood most of it, and could pretend that I understood the rest, I told her she had my full vote of confidence.
Once we were back on track she offered me some of the tea. I refused since it could have easily been weed tea. She told me it wasn’t, but I couldn’t be so sure. Her daughter had mysteriously gotten high without smoking, after all. She said that made sense, so I told her she owed me a dollar. It took me seven minutes to explain to her why she owed me a dollar before she finally gave in, or just got tired of guarding her purse so tightly.
To kill the whole tea issue, I knocked the teapot to the ground. You could tell she knew I meant business because she asked me to leave. This wasn’t going well, but it was going better than it usually does.
Belda continued to give me whatever information she had. “All she ever wanted was to be in the military. Like her father. She’s never smoked anything in her life. Drugs or otherwise.”
“So, you’re saying your daughter has never smoked anything? No joints, cigarettes… meats?”
She didn’t follow, so I slid her the smoking gun, pun intended: a folder with pictures of Jessica at a BBQ, smoking meats.
I put my hand on Belda’s shoulder to comfort her, and to discreetly wipe some gunk off on her blouse.
“Looks like your daughter hasn’t told you everything. The first thing you need to do is accept your daughter is a liar. I suggest we turn her in, or drown her to save face.”
She told me that it was just barbecue and that can’t possibly be what I meant. I told her she was right, but in court that wouldn’t matter.
“No offense, Ms. Raru, but you certainly don’t seem like you’re suited for this type of work. You hardly seem like you take investigating seriously, and you certainly don’t seem mentally equipped to carry a gun.”
I would have shot her face off right then and there for insulting me like that, but I’d forgotten all my bullets. She was right though. I told her that I’d never held a gun without fatally shooting someone.
She said, “accidents happen.” Yeah… accidents.
I knew she needed some assurance. I usually charge more for that, but she really needed it. “Don’t worry. I’m going to make sure I put every ounce of my being into this case. Except for poopoo and cah-cah because that would be gross.”
I got up to leave, but stopped to take note of a decrepit old ghost that had appeared behind Belda. Remember how I can see those?
“I think your house might be haunted?” I said.
“Why do you say that?”
“I shouldn’t be telling you this, but there’s a ghost right next to you.”
She looked at the ghost.
“That’s my brother, William. And he’s not a ghost,” she said. William just shrugged. He must have felt dead, or something.
It was time to get serious and find out who murdered Jessica.
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