|Mystery and Crime Fiction posted September 14, 2021||Chapters:||...51 52 -53- 54...|
Talks begin with Liz and Cassidy
A chapter in the book Secrets in the Wind
Secrets in the Wind - Chap 53
by Begin Again
Jack McKinley's recent death appears to be suspicious. The investigation of one crime leads to another and so many other secrets in the wind.
The shrill ring of the telephone startled Sofia as she tossed pieces of clothing into a duffel bag. Thinking it was her son, she stumbled over a suitcase, falling across the bed. Her hand grabbed the receiver. Breathless, she yelled, “Miguel! Miguel, where are you?”
“Stop shrieking, woman,” Mason snapped. “I’m not your son.”
“Mason?” Sofia pushed to an upright position. “Where is Miguel?”
“I don’t know, Sofia. But you must listen closely if you ever want to see him again.”
“What is happening? I don’t understand.” Hysterical, Sofia slipped into her native tongue. “Dios Mio, todos vamos a morir.”“Sofia, stop! No one is going to die if you do what I say.”
Sofia made the sign of the cross. “Si, Senor Mason.”
“That’s better. A private jet is about to touch down on the airstrip. Go to my office. Open the safe behind the gun closet. You’ll find the combination written on the bottom of the desk drawer.”
“I can’t do it! Mi Hijo.” Sofia wailed into the phone.
“Sofia, if you ever want to see Miguel again, you must do as I say. Open the safe and get all the books, papers, and money. Take everything.” Mason could hear Sofia crying.
“Woman, are you listening?”
“Si, Senor Mason. My clothes are packed.”
“Forget the clothes. You can buy new ones. Empty the safe and get to the airstrip. I got a call from one of the town deputies, Sofia. They are coming to arrest you.”
“Oh, querido de mi! No, impossible.”
“It’s very possible, Sofia. Just empty the safe and hurry to the airstrip.”
“Si, Senor Mason. I will go now.” Sofia hung up the telephone, grabbed her car keys, and rushed out of the bedroom. Her home was on the far east side of the ranch, about five minutes from Mason’s spacious house.
The government vehicle pulled into Liz’s driveway and stopped near the rose garden. Following close behind, Hank parked his rental car on the side of the driveway.
“We’re here, Liz.” He disconnected the call and hurried toward the other car.
“Here you go, ma’am.” The agent smiled at Mary. “Safe and sound.”
Mary looked around and realized where the car had stopped. “No, no, this is not my home. You must get me out of here.”
“But, ma’am, Garth told me to take you to the McKinley house.”
“Never! The woman hates me.” Hank startled Mary as he opened the car door. “Oh, Hank, you scared me. Tell this nice man I don’t live here. The woman is crazy.”
Hank smiled and reached for Mary’s hand. “It’s all right, Mary. Liz asked to see you.”
“She did? Hank, I’m sorry, but I can’t take any more today. Annie’s still missing and Jon—regardless of what happened, his death is a tragedy.”
“I know, but your daughter—” Mary held up her hand, and her eyes pleaded for Hank to stop.
“Hank, I was delirious that day. This Liz woman says she is not my Hope. I guess I just wanted it to be her, and I’m sorry for upsetting her. I can’t do it again.”
“Mary, she wants to speak to you. She’s sorry for how she acted. Give her a chance.”
“Yes, please forgive me.” Hank and Mary turned their heads toward the voice. Liz was standing directly behind Hank. She smiled. “You’ve had quite the day. I don’t want to make it worse, but maybe we could start again. A fresh start.”
Tears glistened in Mary’s eyes. “I’m—I’m sorry. You look so much like Faith.”
“Please come in for a few minutes.” Liz reached for Mary’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I promise to be a good girl.” Liz directed her following remark to Hank. “Could you help Mary into the front room? Cassidy, Allie, and Emmy are waiting to talk to you in the study.”
“Three women are waiting for me. Is this an ambush?” Hank glanced toward the study window and then at Liz. “What’s up?”
“Cassidy wants to share some information with you regarding Mason.” Liz’s facial expression softened. “And I’d like some time to talk with Mary if she wouldn’t mind.”
Mary nodded and stepped from the vehicle. Liz wrapped her arm around the woman’s waist. “You seem a little shaky after today’s ordeal. If you don’t mind, I’ll help you, and Hank can go meet with the girls.”
The two women entered the house without talking, and Liz settled Mary into a cozy corner of the sofa. Hank joined the girls in the study and closed the door behind him.
Emmy hurried across the room and gave Hank a big hug, followed by a kiss. “So you’ve had quite an adventurous day.”
“If you want to call swimming in the slimy backwaters of the Napa River after chasing the bad guys adventurous, then I guess I did.” Hank laughed and looked at his bare feet. “Oh, yeah, I lost my shoes too.”
“Lost? According to the scuttlebutt, you tossed them in the river.” The girls chuckled as Emmy wagged her finger in Hank’s face. “Those were expensive shoes.”
“And now the fish can wear them. I would not put them back on my feet, that’s for sure.”
“Hmm, did you send the car sailing down the river as well?” Emmy teased.
“Of course not! Though I’m not sure if the stench will ever come out of the interior. I might have to do some car shopping.”
“Shopping. If you’re in the mood for spending, I am sure the girls and I would love to join you on a shopping expedition. Wouldn’t we?”
A boisterous yes rallied from all three women. Hank scowled at them as he settled into one of the office chairs. “Cassidy, Liz says you’re ready to share some information about Mason.”
“Yes, I am feeling much better lately, and I want to help as much as I can. Though I’m not sure what some of it means.”
“That’s okay. We’ll figure it out.” Hank took a pen and his notepad from his shirt pocket and wrote “Cassidy’s Thoughts.”
“I feel like such an idiot.” Cassidy shrugged her shoulders and looked at everyone.
“Why? Because you believed the man, you thought you were in love with. You didn’t have any reason to question him.” Emmy tried to ease Cassidy’s doubt.
“I’ll never understand how I fell in love with Mason. He disguised his true self because I never saw it until it was too late. My first inclination everything wasn’t on the up and up started with the social security numbers belonging to deceased people. Mason told me the government was allowing him to reassign these numbers to the migrants. He said it was a pilot program.”
“What exactly was he doing with the social security numbers?” Hank asked.
“I didn’t know at first. But when I was doing payroll, I realized so many Spanish people had American names. I ran a background check on a few of them and discovered their pictures didn’t match any of the workers. I overheard a conversation between Miguel and Mason about the delivery to the church. Bits and pieces came together. My mistake was asking Mason the truth about the people. He got furious and told me to mind my business or I would regret getting involved.”
“Was that around the time his wife died?”
“Yes, and we all know how that turned out. Thank heavens for Allie.” Cassidy smiled at her real-life angel.
“I didn’t do too good of a job. They almost killed you.” Allie chuckled. “Almost got us both killed, and a few of Garth’s agents, too. Way to go, Allie!”
“There was no way we could have known how deep in the trenches Mason’s power would go.” Emmy sighed. “I’m just thankful Garth and Hank started putting two and two together.”
“I just wish I had the chance to make copies of everything. I know he had other things going on too.”
“Well, drugs and human trafficking added to kidnapping seems like more than enough to put this man behind bars for a long time.”
“If they catch him.” Cassidy scowled. “He has so many connections with important people in high places.”
“They all fall, Cassidy. It just takes a little longer with the bigger ones.”
“I would have liked to discover what he was doing with empty medical vials and needles. At first, when I heard about the drugs, I thought maybe he used them somehow, but you said it was all powder in packets.”
“Vials? I’ll ask Garth if his team knows anything about them. They work a lot of cases and hear things.” Hank stretched and yawned. “I don’t know about you, girls, but I’m hungry. What do you say, Emmy, can I talk you into making us some sandwiches, and we can sit outside until Liz and Mary finish chatting?”
“It’ll cost you a kiss.” Hank pulled her from the chair and planted a big kiss on her lips while Allie and Cassidy added wolf whistles as background.
Jack McKinley - present owner of Sweet Haven Estates - deceased
Elizabeth (Liz) McKinley - Jack's widow and owner of Sweet Haven Estates
Alyssa Shelton - (Allie) Liz's best friend and an Investigative Journalist
Darryl Pennington - Estate Foreman for past and previous owners
Mary Hunter - Retired nurse and current caregiver of Faith and Annie
Faith Cranston-Newton - daughter of the Ted and Meredith Cranston
Annie Cranston-Newton - Faith's daughter
Sebastian - the lovable St. Bernard and Annie's companion
Dr. Eugene Copeland - the local physician
Sofia Sanchez - Mason Caldwell's housekeeper
Miguel Sanchez - vineyard supervisor
Jon Saladino - Priest and much more
Cassidy Rotello - assistant of Mason Caldwell
Mason Caldwell - rancher and owner of a gambling casino
Garth Woodman - (Jeremy) Undercover FBI
Hank Armato - Private Investigator
Emmy Armato - Hank's wife and also retired detective
Cynthia - librarian, historian, town gossip, and wanna-be detective
Michael - realtor and Cynthia's nephew
Tango, Poppa, Howard, Pete - FBI agents
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