Adventures of Cookie the Stray, Chapter 17
Connie sat quietly in the back seat of the patrol car worried more about Queenie and the puppies than the fact that she’d been arrested. Details from the officer were sketchy but from what she understood, she had no doubt Jeb was at the root of this. The revolver the officer found in her travel case belonged to her estranged husband.
I should have tossed it off that last bridge we passed, she told herself. The good news was she’d never touched the gun. Her fingerprints shouldn’t be on it. She was sure of that. The closest she ever came to touching it was the night Jeb had been waving it around after a few beers. When he’d fallen asleep leaving the gun on the nightstand, she’d resisted the urge to hide it somewhere he’d never find it. But the part about the jewelry store bag found in her trunk had her puzzled. She’d never been anywhere near that store.
The deputy in the front seat spoke in hushed tones trying to find someone to tow Connie’s car to the impound lot. The designated tow service was busy on another call with no one else available to tow the vehicle. With the storm about to break it could be a couple of hours before he could pick up Connie’s car. He hung the microphone back on its dashboard clip with a sigh.
“And then, there’s the dogs,” he mumbled.
She raised her head when he mentioned the dogs. Glancing at the other officer’s vehicle, something about the man in passenger seat struck a familiar note. Was that the same guy who’d passed in front of her car at the railroad crossing? She studied his quiet stillness and wondered what he was doing on the scene. Suddenly his car door opened. She watched him lumber toward her window at the back of the vehicle.
“Hey, buddy,” the deputy yelled. “You need to stay in the car.”
“But I know this lady,” he said.
“Step away from the window.”
Recognition dawned on Connie’s face at the sound of his voice.
“Rupert? She mouthed.”
Beechcraft Twin Bonanza
Jeb's Getaway Plans
Jeb clutched the nylon bag full of loose diamonds, Rolex watches and an assortment of gold jewelry as he made his way up the stairs on the underbelly of the fuselage. He ducked as he entered the small cabin of the Beechcraft Twin Bonanza and carefully stowed his bag in an overhead bin where he could keep an eye on it.
The dual prop plane was old but in immaculate condition, designed to hold up to six passengers, but Jeb knew there would be no one else on the plane. He’d made sure of that with a generous price paid for the second leg of his journey to New York. Secrecy was part of the deal he’d made with the pilot who owned the plane. Once in New York, he would board a commercial flight under his new identity and soon be on his way to Morocco.
The wind was picking up speed sending bits of debris floating around on the runway of the small airstrip. The pilot watched a piece of plastic wrap itself around one of the chocks holding the wheels in place. Another large piece floated up circling around the craft held adrift in the wind.
The pilot zipped up his scuffed leather jacket and finished his final preflight checks under the cockpit. He watched the plastic bag float toward him as if it were weightless before wrapping itself around the left propeller blade. The crow’s feet around his eyes deepened as he squinted and tugged away the bag. He boarded the plane, retracted the stairs and locked them into place.
“We need to get off the ground now, if we’re going,” he told his passenger, “Before they put up the no-fly flag." He checked some dials on the console and added, “We can outrun this storm if we take off now.”
“I’m good with that,” Jeb, soon to be known as Rick Bogart, told him. “Let’s go.”
“Please let me speak with her for just a minute,” Rusty pleaded. “I’m sure there’s been some mistake.” The two officers glanced at each other. “Maybe I could drive her car to the station lot for you. I could even take the dogs off your hands.” Neither of them wanted to see the dogs taken to the pound.
Fat raindrops pelted the windshield blowing in horizontally. He considered the urgency of the situation. Despite the APB for the missing woman allegedly involved in a jewelry store robbery, the woman he had in custody had no previous record of arrests. Besides, she didn’t fit the bill for a hardened criminal and he’d seen his share of those in his time. He decided to take a chance.
“You can talk with her. But just for a minute while I listen in,” he finally agreed and opened the back door of the car where she sat.
“What’s going on, Connie?” Rusty asked.
“Oh, Rupert, I’m so glad to see you,” she gushed. “I’m sure this is just a case of mistaken identity.” Connie took a long look at the man she hadn’t seen in nearly a dozen years. He was thin but still had a youthful face. “Do you think you could take the dogs somewhere safe while I work this out, or at least until I can make bail?”
“I’ve got something I have to do first, but I’ll make sure they’re taken care of, if you’ll let me use your car.”
“Of course,” she told him. “Anything you need in the way of gas or food for them, I’ll pay you back. The keys are in the ignition.”
“Okay, that’s enough,” the deputy said trying to sound gruff. “We need to get moving.”
Rusty pulled the jack out the trunk and went to work jacking up Connie’s car. The officers had taken the velvet jewelry bag from the wheel well and zipped it into an evidence bag. The revolver, now unloaded, was placed in a separate bag locked in the patrol car. Connie’s clothing and personal items had been stuffed back into her suitcase resting on the ground next to the rear bumper. One deputy took shelter in the car with Connie while the other officer watched Rusty change the tire.
“Officer, take a look at this,” Rusty said. “The sidewall looks like it’s been sliced with something really sharp like a knife or a razor blade,” he said tossing the tire into the trunk. He pointed to an area that had a long, precise cut. “That’s not what a blowout does to a tire. It looks like this happened before the blowout,” he said, running his fingers along the cut. The incision nearly went through to the radial bands. The rest of the tire had ragged edges where it scraped along the asphalt.
“We’ll have our forensic team examine it,” the deputy said. He opened his own car’s trunk and told Rusty to put the tire inside.
“Now, let’s all get out of this rain and to somewhere safe.” He held onto his hat as the wind whipped it nearly off.
Jeff and Dolly watched from their box in the back seat as Rusty crawled into the driver’s seat. Queenie gave him a quick sniff on his hand and, satisfied with her assessment, settled back into the passenger’s seat as he started the motor. She stared out of her window keeping an eye on her mistress in the back of the vehicle that pulled around them to take the lead. The three cars formed a convoy as they headed north on the highway toward the town's police station.
© 2018 Peg Cole