A shot sounded in the distance. Both women leaned over the railing to make sure their men were still alive. Bernie looked up and yelled, “Hunters. It’s wild turkey season.”
“I’m a nervous wreck.”
“We have two lawmen to protect us.”
“But who’s going to protect them?”
“Good question.” Sarah checked her watch. “It’s almost lunch time. Let’s see what’s in the pantry.”
They found cases of chili, salsa, chips, pancake mix, syrup, and green beans. Sarah opened the propane-fueled refrigerator, which was stocked with beer, soft drinks, steaks, hamburger, bacon, eggs, hot sauce, milk, and tortillas.
Dana laughed. “Now we know what Bernie likes to eat, besides steak and burritos.”
“And fish, if they’re lucky.”
“There’s flour in the cupboard and enough ramen noodles to feed an army.”
Dana’s cell phone rang. Afraid to answer, she checked the incoming number to make sure it wasn’t her daughter, Karen. “It must be Sergeant Carter.”
“I wonder why Bernie doesn’t want him to know where we are.”
“He might mention it to someone who could tell Martineli.”
“We can’t trust anyone, except our two men.”
“I’m going to call Tim Barker after my phone charges to ask if he’s learned anything about the arsonists.”
“No electricity, Dana, but Bernie has a shortwave radio with a crank that can charge a cell phone. He told me it’s in his closet.”
“I hope he doesn’t mind us snooping.”
Sarah led the way, opening the closet door. They were shocked to find a dozen rifles, scopes, an assortment of handguns, boxes of ammunition, camouflaged clothing and boots.
“Bernie must be a Minute Man,” Dana said. “Or he’s prepared for a foreign invasion.”
“I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.”
“Bless you, Sarah. You always see the best in people.”
Dana heard footsteps and a man’s voice. “I’m a survivalist, ladies. There’s a revolution coming and I’m prepared.”
Jeff stood behind Bernie with a string of fish. “Here’s lunch as soon as we clean them.”
“Trout,” Sarah said. “I love picking all those tiny bones from my teeth, but I’ll be glad to grill them for you.”
Bernie frowned. “You don’t like trout?”
Uh-oh, Sarah. Ten demerits.
“Then you’ve never had one properly filleted.”
Sarah smiled. “I’m willing to give it another try.”
Good comeback, Sarah. “By the way,” Dana said. “My cell phone rang but I didn’t answer. I think it was Sergeant Carter. Why don’t you want him to know where we are?”
“It’s safer if no one knows. Greg is liable to let it slip to the wrong person.”
“How long can you stay out on sick leave without getting fired?” Sarah asked.
“I guess we’ll find out.”
Dana asked how he planned to keep them safe. He replied that he’d had a lot of night ops training as a navy seal. He left it at that.
“I’ll stay here to protect the two of you,” Jeff said, but Bernie and I will be in constant contact while he’s away.”
Bernie said it was time to fillet the fish and left the room, leaving Dana’s questions unanswered. Sarah followed the men out to the deck to watch the fish cleaning process. Dana said she was squeamish and decided to stay behind to charge her phone. Curious, she checked out the entire contents of Bernie’s closet. A large wooden padlocked box sat in the back. She wondered what could be hidden inside. Other than a few clothes and the military gear, she could find nothing else of interest. Taking the crank radio from the shelf, she carried it to the kitchen table.
When her arm grew tired of cranking, she tried her phone by calling Tim Barker, hoping that he had left the hospital. The phone on the other end rang four times before it was picked up. She asked how he was doing and when services for Elsa would be held.
“Elsa didn’t want a service. Just cremation.”
He sounded so sad that she wanted to hug him. Poor little man. “Did you happen to see who set the fire across the street?” she asked.
“No, but one of the neighbors did. Xavier Gomez was walking his dog when he saw three men and a woman run from the burning house.”
“Did he recognize anyone?”
“He said the woman was a nurse at the hospital.”
“Does he know her name?”
“He didn’t say but I can ask him.”
Dana gave him her cell number again and asked him to call when he learned who the nurse was. She then asked if he knew Martineli’s twin brother.
“Didn’t know he had one.”
I wonder if the twins played off each other to trick people. She asked if there was anything she could do for him, and reminded him to call with any information he heard in the neighborhood.
“Nuthin’ anybody can do for me,” he said. “But I’ll nose around and call.”
When the call ended, she searched through her purse for Maria Peterini’s number, hoping that she would verify Roger Martineli’s twin brother. When Maria answered the phone her tone was cold and unfriendly.
“I’m calling to offer my condolences for your loss. Your brother Rodney died such a tragic death. Not unlike Louisa.”
“What do you know about it?” she snapped.
“Only that he died in a house fire next door to my own house, which also burned.”
“Rodney was the good one in the family.” Dana thought she heard a sob in the woman’s voice. “And Roger hated him.”
“Do you happen to know why he was there with four or five other people? Was Rodney a member of an organization?”
“I don’t know. I only know that Roger was up to no good.”
“Was Roger a member of the ABC, the anarchist group?”
“Nothing he does would surprise me.”
“Do you know anyone—perhaps a friend of Roger’s—that I could talk to?”
“The only one I know is Alicia Zachary and I heard that she’s in jail.”
I hope she’s still there. Dana attempted to comfort the woman, hoping she would confide in her further, but Maria seemed inconsolable.
“Has Roger always been different? Was he a problem child and teenager?”
“Always,” his sister said. “Our parents sent him off to military school when he was ten.”
“Did he later serve in the military?”
“He was dishonorably discharged from the navy.”
“For what reason?”
“We never knew but I suspect it was because of a woman.”
That would be my guess. Do you happen to have his address?”
“No, I think he moved in with his girlfriend.”
Dana thanked her and clicked off.
Jeff appeared tired when he walked into the room. She suggested that he take a nap. Pulling her down beside him on the bed, he said he had a migraine. Worried, she offered to get him a pain killer but he said he’d already taken one.
“I just need you beside me, Dana. I don’t want to lose you.”
She hugged him but wondered if he still needed medical care. Stroking his brow, she tried to take his mind off the pain.
“Why is Bernie still just a patrolman? He’s nearly your age and ready for retirement.”
“He retired from the military. He then trained as an EMT and worked for the hospital for ten years before applying to the police department. Ordinarily, he would have been too old but, with his special ops and medical training, the chief realized he would be an asset to the force.”
Bernie’s medical training could certainly help Jeff. “I’m so glad you told me. Now I won’t worry so much about you.”
“I’ll be fine. . . Hungry?” When she nodded, he said, “Bernie’s showing Sarah how to cook the trout.”
Dana smiled. “They seem like a compatible couple and Sarah needs someone.”
“Bernie is thoroughly infatuated with Sarah. He hasn’t dated anyone since his wife Carol’s death.”
“What caused her death?”
“Car accident. Somewhat suspicious but nothing could be proved. Her left tires were punctured, which caused two blowouts and she lost control of the car.”
“Where did it happen?”
“Along the same highway where I had my flat.”
“You don’t think that something was deliberately placed in the road to cause the blowouts, do you?”
He thought for a moment before he answered. “Come to think about it, both blowouts happened in the same area.”
“Did Bernie have a disagreement with Martineli before his wife’s accident?”
“They never got along.”
Had the detective arranged both accidents? He knew when Jeff was coming home but how would he know which road Jeff was taking? She asked who knew he was going on the hunting trip.
“Besides you and Sarah, I told Bernie, Greg, my landlord, the post office, and several service people. If you’re thinking it was Martineli, he could have heard about it at the P.D. because I went with Len and Mark, who still work there.”
“All those people knew when and where you were going?”
He nodded. “I think we need to talk to Bernie about this.”
“No time like the present.”
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