Who could have predicted that the peaceful little community of Rhododendron Court, where residents only cared about tending their gardens, would become the scene of an undercover operation. Yesterday, our sickly narrator took us to a hair-raising neighborhood stakeout. She introduced us to the cast of characters:
PAH, our narrator’s perfectly adorable husband, who is responsible for her laryngitis/bronchitis/sinusitis.
Ex-Con, the lying, cheating neighbor’s ex-husband who has once again returned from prison to ply his dastardly trade.
Hot-Rod, Ex-Con’s oldest son, who bought his hot rod by (do you believe this?) selling candy door-to-door. Will he follow his father into a life of crime, or can he be saved by RCPA?
RCPA, a retired CPA, a man of unflagging faith in his fellow human being, celebrated in his community for achieving spectacular results by crossing a Unique with an Orange Marmalade.
Numerous uniformed and undercover law officers.
And now, the conclusion of Stakeout at Rhododendron Court as told by our narrator between sniffles and sneezes:
I had hardly time to blow my nose and fix myself another mug of herbal tea before a tow-truck pulled up behind Ex-Con's Jag. Two men hopped down. One of them approached the house, clipboard in hand. He stood and waited for a few minutes, but no dice. The door remained closed. The tow driver went back to his rig, and he and his buddy began to hoist Ex-Con’s car up onto the truck. When they were done, the first guy tried his luck at Ex-Con’s door again. Twice. The second time he must have connected with someone as he returned to his truck and unloaded the Jag. What in the world? Until it dawned on me. No search warrant! The tow-truck was a ruse to get Ex-Con out of his house. I wonder what story they had concocted for him. Construction? Street cleaning? Hadn’t he read the posted notices? Checking up on my agent, I espied him crouched behind Fireman Jeff, not an actual fireman, but a beautiful red rhododendron specimen belonging to the McNeals next-door to Ex-Con and doing very well this spring. Sure enough, the plan worked. Wearing a white sweater over jeans—cashmere?—and what appeared to be a very expensive pair of Italian loafers, Ex-Con strolled unsuspectingly into his driveway, jiggling his car keys in one hand. A real looker, that one, relaxed and confident. Until the undercover agent emerged from behind Fireman Jeff and rushed him from behind. In a minute, two uniformed officers appeared, seemingly from nowhere. Then cars converged onto our street from east and west, screeching their wheels and parking every-which way. Counting the two tow truck guys, a total of eight cops surrounded Ex-Con now. A uniformed female police officer emerged leisurely from an unmarked SUV. I’ve watched enough crime shows to know this: she got the collar. Good for her. She clamped the cuffs on Ex-Con and stashed him in the van.
Whew! It’s over, I thought, and breathed again. High time to return to my sick bed. But it wasn’t over. Not yet. The door of the house opened again. Who could it be? Mom was supposed to be at work and the little kids in school. Of course. It was Hot Road. As a H. S. senior, he too was supposed to be in school, but alas! Maybe he was home counting his candy money, I thought, uncharitably until my conscience nagged me about my lack of faith in people. Perhaps it was enough for me to believe that even this new episode of ditching class would not diminish our RCPA’s faith in Hot Rod. The cops gave the kid a chance to bid his dad goodbye, then shooed him back inside. I should have felt sad for him. However, still afflicted with this troubling lack of faith, I wanted to advise the cops to take Hot Rod along now and save themselves a whole lot of trouble later. Of course, I did not go out to speak to them, but stayed behind my shuttered windows. I did consider that a good neighbor would have warned Ex-Con. Should I have picked up my phone and apprised him of what was waiting for him outside before he so casually strolled into the arms of the law? But how could I forget? Among other ailments, I had laryngitis and could barely emit a croak. Besides, as a member of the Rhododendron Neighborhood Watch program, I was sworn to protect the community first. And of course, I wouldn’t think of interfering in a police action, which would be illegal. My conscience appeased, I watched as the tow truck driver hoisted up Ex-Con's car once again. And then they were gone. Now it was truly over.
The next morning, while I was having a well-deserved mug of chamomile tea in bed, courtesy of PAH (guilt pangs about the arthritis crack?), he reported that someone had brought the car back, probably after checking for forensic evidence for whatever Ex-Con had done this time. Well, I did feel sorry for the wife. She was a very decent, hardworking woman. And the little kids were so sweet. They all adored PAH and gathered around him when he was outdoors, mowing the lawn, or tending to our rhododendrons. (Blessings on him!) One of the little boys once asked me if PAH was my dad. What’s not to like in a kid like that? I rewarded him from my very special stash of chocolate truffles. I'm not sure how I would have felt about this sweet child if he'd asked me if I was PAH's mom. Of course, when PAH came home, I told him right away. PAH loved it. Really. Well, as the saying goes: Women are from Venus; men are from Mars.
For a while, our peaceful little neighborhood of Rhododendron Court was all-abuzz with the news of the stakeout. Nevertheless, we soon returned to our daily routines of sending the grown-ups off to work, the kids to school, and tending to our rhodies.
Ex-Con was found guilty of trafficking in controlled substances. As he was an Italian citizen, he was deported to his home country.
Hot Rod accused RCPA of ratting out his dad and has not been back to school since the arrest.
RCPA has not lost his faith in Hot Rod, but has decided to create a new hybrid, which he’ll name after him.
Our narrator recovered completely from laryngitis/bronchitis/sinusitis; PAH’s allegation of arthritis was a complete fabrication.
Aside from having fun with crime reporting, Irma Fritz is the author of Irretrievably Broken. The ebook version of the novel is now on sale for 99¢ at amazon.com and smashwords.co
Causes Irma Fritz Supports
Music of Remembrance, Seattle, WA; Compass Center, Seattle, WA; Seattle Opera, Seattle, WA; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; KCTS 9, Seattle, WA (PBS)