1951 Mercury station wagon

Lexi’s hands were shaking as she called Molly’s phone.   

“Hello?”

“Molly.”

“That tone in your voice says something’s going on, Lex, what is it?”

“It’s not horrible,” she said first, knowing that Molly hated to be kept in suspense about such things.  “I think I own a big chunk of salt desert in Ile du Soleil.”

“Sounds like there’s a long story behind this.”

“There is.”

“Can you call me back at Glen’s house, then?  I’m there now, and roaming charges are killing me.”

Lexi laughed.  “No problem.  What’s the number?”  She hung up, then got up and paced the room two or three times while she redialed.  She had ordered room service (which cost almost $40, and she hoped somewhat guiltily that it would be charged to the room) and the tray with its rather disappointingly ordinary chicken sandwich stood barely touched amid a scattering of papers from the open briefcase on the bed.  She hadn’t showered yet.

Glen answered the phone this time.  “What are you doing with my best friend in your house, you fiend?” she demanded.  “You’re not feeding her beer, are you?”

“Ah, no,” he said.  He was flustered for about three seconds, and then caught on that Lexi was joking.

“That’s good, because when she gets drunk she starts taking off her clothes.”

“Really?  You don’t say…”

“Oh, it’s completely true.  She flashed these truckers once, in Ohio–“

“What are you talking about?” Molly demanded.  She had taken the phone from Glen.

“Oh…nothing,” Lexi said innocently. 

“Woman, you have no shame.  So tell me what this is about you owning land?”

Lexi explained quickly about meeting the man who’d shot her, and about Carino Rhoades (who, she added, smelled like foccacia, and not in a good way) and about the lengths to which she and Joseph had gone to save the collection.  When Molly made audible zoning-out noises at Lexi’s mechanical explanation, she skipped forward to the hotel and to the briefcase.  “It’s definitely Ren’s stuff.  His handwriting is on everything, and there are deeds.  As near as I can tell, he bought a big chunk of land, near Hamilton.  We probably drove through it, and I didn’t even realize.”

“Why would Ren buy a whole bunch of desert?”

“That’s the funky part.  There are letters in here, a lot of handwritten ones, not all of them in Ren’s writing.  They look like directions.”

“You mean you have a treasure map?”

“Something like that,” Lexi said, grinning.  “It was my birthday present, after all.”

“What do you think it means?”

Don’t know.  I’m going to go and see though.  I have an idea ticking in the back of my head but I’m afraid to speak it yet.  I’m excited and scared at the same time.  And I keep busting into tears, which is probably something I need to do, but it’s also starting to piss me off,” she said.  Her nose took this as a cue to start running again, and she sniffled loudly.

“You’re getting better, though,” Molly said.

“I know.  So how are you doing?”

“What about the desert?”

“I’m done with the desert for the moment.  I can’t tell much else till I’ve gone out there, and seen if Ren left me any clues, and I haven’t even had a shower yet.  So what are you doing at Glen’s house?  Not that I disapprove, by the way.”

“Oh, I moved back to Michigan.”

Lexi aspirated the next thing she was about to say and started coughing uncontrollably as spit went the wrong way.  She rolled off of the bed, trying to speak.

“Glad to hear that you approve.”

“You–ack–you moved home?”

“I wanted to surprise you.”

“Color me six shades of surprised.  Happily surprised, of course!” Lexi giggled.  “What prompted your uprooting?”

“I don’t have to be in Boston any more, since I’m working for myself, and I miss you guys.  Dobie helped me find a lovely condo, up in Novi, and the price was right so I just went for it.  Glen and I had dinner with Cygnet, and Nikki and some of the others from Christmas the other night, that was fun.”

“Didja get laid yet?”

“No,” Molly said with equal parts exasperation and disappointment.  “How about you?”

“I haven’t decided,” Lexi said.

There was a murmur in the background, as if Glen had figured out their line of conversation.  “Of course she’s checking up on me,” Molly said to him.  “We know how you guys are.  You never can tell who’s got a woman-sized soup pot in the garage.”  Lexi heard Glen laugh.

“Now I can’t wait to get home,” Lexi said.  “Is it a nice place?”

“It’s beautiful.  I can’t wait to show you.”

“Yay!” she giggled again.  “Oh, I wish you hadn’t gone and done it so fast.  Grizzle would’ve enjoyed helping.  So would I.”

“It’s just as well you didn’t.  I had lots of help, and I hate having to stop you from taking all of the things that I’m trying throw away.”

“It’s not my fault you throw away perfectly good stuff.”

“I’m sorry, were you talking?” Molly asked sarcastically.  “I could hear you saying something, but it didn’t make any sense.”

“Okay, fine, be that way, and see if I come and save you when the landfills take over the world, because I won’t.  Anyway, I need to take a shower and go for a drive, and stop sitting here hugging this briefcase.  I have a number you can call me at, by the way.”  She gave Molly the number from the cell.  “Dobie loaned me a celly.”

“Good.  Will I hear from you later?”

“No, because with my luck I’ll call just as you’re getting to second base.”

That made Molly laugh.  “I’ll call you then.  I want to know how Ren’s present turns out.”  There was a murmur; Glen was talking to her again.  “Glen wants me to tell you that Roger Ellison is sick.”

“Oh, no!  Is it serious?”

“Apparently so.  Do you want to talk to Glen?  Oh, wait, he’s saying you don’t need to.  Typical guy, slipping in a friend’s serious illness right at the end of a phone conversation and then saying it’s no big deal.”