Victor and Lynn Bailey’s condo, number 366 in Sunset Acres, is robbed. Then, Joan Stephens in #633 is burgled. Janie detects a pattern but Janie’s son-in-law, Alamoville’s Chief Detective Blake Johnson disagrees…until an alarm goes off at 363 Sunnyside Court and a deadly manhunt ensues with the Bunco Biddies in lock-down!
The apprehended burglar is found hanged in his cell. Something dicey is definitely in the works...just when Blake heads for a long-needed vacation. Will his partner, Mitch Hornsby let Janie help solve the mystery? What is it about him she doesn't quite trust?
Janie Manson grabbed the back of her hospital gown and trotted down the glossy, antiseptic-smelling hallway. Her clinical-issued footwear barely gained traction as she halted to peer into each room on the ward. “Blake? Blake, where are you?”
A certified nursing assistant stopped and put her finger to her lips. “Shhh, Mrs. Manson. May I help you?”
“Where is Chief Detective Blake Johnson? Ah, there he is. Never mind.” She slid into the entryway of Room 229.
The CNA shook her head and went about her duties.
Janie’s son-in-law sputtered when his gaze caught hers. “J-Janie?” His eyes stretched into his forehead as his seventy-something mother-in-law shuffled toward his bed, one hand clutched behind her. “Is that you?”
“Of course it is.” She sighed as she caught a glimpse of herself in the reflection from the window. Her skid-free socks tumbled to her ankles. Her bony-knobbed knees, bed-pillow hair and one-size-fits-none institutional garment completed the look—not one of her best.
Melody, his wife, gawked at the sight. “Mom, what are you doing?” She thrust one hand to her hip. The other aimed at the door, her forefinger pointing. “Get back to your room, right now.”
Blake laughed. “Talk about a parent-child role reversal.”
Melody gave him a don’t-cross-me glare.
“Humph.” Janie ignored her daughter’s admonition and turned her focus to Blake. “Guess what I just heard?”
Blake scooted up a bit in his bed. “What?”
She swirled one hand around like a lopsided helicopter blade. “More crime at Sunset Acres. We need to bail from here and head over there lickety-split.”
Blake’s attention flashed to Melody then back to Janie. “Excuse me? We?”
“You know what I mean.” Janie waved his comment away and perched on the edge of his hospital mattress.
Melody plopped in the visitor’s chair with a defeated sigh. “Oh, for goodness sakes, Mom. You two are in the hospital because of your last harrowing experience.” She gave them both a dagger-laden stare, her arms laced over her waist.
“Honey, take a deep breath. Let’s hear her out.” Blake shifted his attention back to his mother-in-law. “What crime?”
She leaned in. “Burglary. The Baileys were robbed two nights ago, while they were at their granddaughter’s junior high graduation.”
“Calm down. I’m sure Chief Gates is on it.”
She discounted his placating tone. “Here’s the bizarre thing. They live at number 366.”
Blake breathed through his nose. “OK? And that is significant because...?”
“Let me finish. Well, yesterday afternoon while she attended the opening of her great-nephew’s summer baseball season, Joan Stephens, in apartment 633, had her big screen TV and video recorder snatched.”
“In broad daylight?” Melody clucked her tongue.
“It’s easier than you might think. It is a retirement community, hon. Everyone is usually napping after lunch.” Blake winked.
“I’m serious, Blake.” Janie tugged on her gown. “Anyway, they also took her diamond earrings and an opal brooch she inherited from her grandmother.”
“They?” He scoffed. “You’ve already established there was more than one?”
“Hello? I said big screen TV. We’re talking sixty-five inches. Her grandson gave it to her for her birthday last March because she is half-blind and refuses to wear her spectacles.”
“So?” He took a sip of water.
She rearranged the items on his hospital tray as she spoke. “So, it makes sense there were at least two burglars. They’d both need to carry it out the door.”
“OK. It’s feasible.” His eyebrows squished together as he held his cup in mid air. “Wait. 366 and 633 you say?”
Her head bobbed in rapid motion. The mattress wobbled like a car with worn-out shocks bumping over a pothole-filled road. “You see? You see? There has to be a connection.”
Water sloshed from the rim in the wake of her excitement. Blake set the toss-away cup down, and wiped his hospital robe with the back of his hand. “Your enthusiastic movements just gave me a second sponge bath.”
“Sorry. But you see my point, right?”
“Perhaps. I think you might be stretching it a bit.”
Janie harrumphed. “Well, at least call it in. I bet no one else at the station will have put two and two together.”
He took another deep inhale and chose to segue from her jab about his police department. “How did you discover this news?”
“Babs and Mildred. Oh, along with Ethel and Betsy Ann. They’re visiting as well.”
“Yep.” Janie motioned with her head toward the doorway.
Blake looked up to see four of the Bunco Biddies―a title the ladies dubbed themselves during their first crime investigation at the retirement community where they played the dice game weekly. They huddled at the doorway sheepishly wiggling their fingers in hello. He motioned them into the room. “Ladies. Please join us.”
They began to speak all at once―
“How are you doing?”
“Hope we aren’t intruding.”
“You gave us a fright.”
“I’m so glad you are OK.”
He pivoted his head, trying to catch the gist of what each said and responding. “Glad you came by. I’m fine, honestly. A little tired, perhaps, but...”
Melody stood and laid her hands on two of their elderly shoulders. “Ladies, I think it is time for everyone to leave, don’t you? My mother and husband need to rest. They were kidnapped and drugged yesterday, remember?”
Each looked to the highly-polished, green-speckled floor and mumbled their apologies. They wished him well, hugged Janie, and shuffled out. Janie called after them. “I’ll be there in a minute, y’all. Meet you back in my room.”
The last of them, Ethel, gestured OK as she closed the door.
Blake cleared his throat. “Look, Janie. Most likely the Baileys and Mrs. Stevens already reported it. I’m certain a police team is investigating as we speak.”
She folded her arms over her waist. “Most likely? You mean none of your team has informed you?”
“I’m sort of on administrative leave right now.”
Janie gasped. “Because of me?”
He gave her a soft smile. “No, my fault. I broke protocol. Mostly, it’s due to the fact we are both here.” He whisked his hands around to encompass the room. “I need to be cleared medically before I return to full duty.”
She lifted off the bed and rearranged her clinical garb. “Very well. But mark my words. There will be a third robbery. Things do happen in threes.”
He rubbed his temple. “They often do, yes.”
“I think you should beef up patrol, especially around every condo or garden home with house numbers that contain only threes and sixes.”
He reached for his cell phone. “OK, OK. I’ll call.”
She nodded in approval.
Melody stepped forward. “Is Mom really on to something, hon?”
He leaned towards her. “It doesn’t hurt to request it. Otherwise your mother will set up a geriatric command center in her hospital room.” His focused flipped to Janie. “Won’t you?”
She jiggled her head from side to side. “It had occurred to me...”
Melody sighed. “Fine, then. Call.”
Janie grinned and went back to her room.