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.”
“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.”
“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 S***! 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?” 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?”