Swindled in Paradise

Swindled in Paradise by Deborah Brown Read Free Book Online

Book: Swindled in Paradise by Deborah Brown Read Free Book Online
Authors: Deborah Brown
Didier shook his finger at us. “I’ll tell Creole.”
    “That’s not a very good threat; I tell Creole everything. We share, starting with ‘How was your day, honey?’”
    “We’ll be out past curfew; we’re staying overnight in Miami,” Fab informed me.
    “I’ll ride with Madison,” Mother said. “Spoon’s coming back tonight, and he can pick me up here.”
    “While you two mourn the deceased, Mother and I will play girl spies. You wouldn’t threaten to tell on Mother to Spoon, would you?” I eyed Didier.
    He groaned.
    * * *
    Memorial Park sat in the middle of the city of Miami, with not a whiff of an ocean breeze on this hot, humid day. The service was held in a non-descript chapel, the stained glass window the only stand-out. Mother and I sat in an uncomfortable pew at the back and people-watched. There wasn’t a vacant seat in sight. Most of the people in attendance were well-dressed, in expensive suits and dresses with lots of gold and bling, unlike at a beach funeral, where they gave new meaning to casual.
    The service had been short. One person strode to the podium to read his prepared remarks, which sounded impersonal, then everyone adjourned to the graveside. A short line formed, and roses were handed out to drop on the closed casket. Once again, Mother and I hovered in the back. I had no intention of participating.
    Mother poked me in the side and motioned for me to get in line. “Go,” she hissed. “You would if you’d ever met her.”
    My stomach grumbled, reminding me that I preferred to attend funerals at Tropical Slumber, where they served food. A free sandwich or two is a good way to loiter and make small talk.
    Mother and I walked by Fab, who wiped the corner of her eye and smirked.
    “Don’t throw the rose,” Mother whispered. “Lay it on top, all nice like.”
    “How do you know this stuff?” I asked, crossing the manicured lawn to say my good-byes, thankful it was a closed casket.
    “At my age, people die.” Mother looked younger than her sixty years, her blond bob now windblown and looking sassy and flirty, her knee-length dress showing off her long, tan legs. Since she’d started dating a younger man, she looked fit and better than ever.
    I leaned over and kissed her cheek. “Well, you’re forbidden to have any thoughts of your own demise. I’ll always need you around.”
    “I wish your father could see you now, that you and your brother have grown into fine adults.”
    Brad and I were devastated when Father died in our early teen years. Mother, in her usual style, jumped in and became both parents, holding our family together.
    “He knows.” I smiled at her. “Dad and Elizabeth are watching out for us and our happiness.”
    “We should split up,” Mother said in my ear, after we’d laid our roses on the casket. “We’ll work the outer edges, where the loners like to hide. What kind of questions are we asking?”
    “Pretend the deceased is someone we know, make vague comments about the loss of a dear friend.” I brushed a lock of Mother’s hair behind her ear. “Pay attention for inappropriate responses, anyone acting odd; you know, the ones you wouldn’t think would normally act that way. We’re looking for a chatty co-worker of Lauren’s. Try to avoid questions like ‘did you murder her or know who did?’”
    Mother and I separated and went in opposite directions. I homed in on an unremarkable-looking young man doing his best to go unnoticed. His shaggy brown hair hung in greasy clumps, his expensive suit jacket and wrinkled khaki pants didn’t even remotely go together, and the ensemble was finished off with scuffed, cheap shoes.
    “Sad about Lauren.” I frowned and sidled up next to him.
    “Female?” He looked confused. “Yeah, I didn’t… Yes, very sad.” His eyes flitted around the grassy area, and he looked ready to bolt.
    I ditched the niceties. “If you didn’t know the deceased, why are you here?”
    “Keep your voice down,” he

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