The Ming Thing [Maxcine & Isabel Vol. IV]
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by Sharon Kull
Description: Riding on a carousel spins Maxcine and Isabel off on a mystery solving adventure. They might be senior citizens, but that doesn't stop them from chasing after a Chinese man who took the Ming vase from a dead woman. His motor home getting blown to smithereens proves HOWARD is on their side, so the three of them set out to get evidence on the real killer. That scumbucket is using an import business to smuggle drugs across the state line. Relatives pitch in to help, and together, expertise ranks right up there with a chimp performing brain surgery.
eBook Publisher: SynergEbooks, 2008 SynergEbooks
eBookwise Release Date: December 2008
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [429 KB]
Reading time: 244-342 min.
"See that woman on the tiger?" Maxcine whispered loud enough to be heard above rinky-tink music. She pointed with her nose, making certain to maintain a firm grip on the arched neck of her own prancing steed. Not since she was a cowardly child had it been acceptable to hang onto the pole supporting a carousel animal.
Isabel Sykes grimaced, her focus fastened onto the supposedly leaping tiger that was going up and down. "How could I avoid seeing her? She's directly in front of me, and she is the only other person on our side of the merry-go-round."
"Carousel. The steeds on merry-go-rounds don't go up and down."
"It's a merry-go-round. With the dumb music and all, this ride is merrily going around. So it's a merry-go-round!" Since she had settled that debate to her own satisfaction, Isabel asked, "Do you suppose the poor woman will fall off?"
"Sooner or later," retorted in a fair to midlin' huff. It irked her that Izzy had chosen this time to deliver an erroneous opinion about the ride they were riding on.
"I guess we should tell someone." Peering through the plain glass, top half of her spectacles, Isabel could see people milling about in the mall. Not many of them were anywhere close to the metal railing encircling the merry-go-round. The middle-aged man managing the ride had abandoned his post to flirt with a college-age girl working behind the counter of a snack bar.
"Probably should. Go ahead, tell somebody," Maxcine urged, snugging her grip on her steed even tighter.
"You do it."
"Your idea; you scream bloody murder."
"Murder? Who said anything about murder?" Isabel questioned. "She's dead, is all."
"She might have had help getting that way."
"What about a heart attack? Or a stroke?"
"Highly unlikely. She can't be much over forty. No, I'd be more inclined to believe that she choked on a wad of chewing gum laced with a deadly poison."
"Gosh, but you have a lousy outlook," she declared just as the music switched to a different clanking tune.
They stared at the precariously balanced woman. The gaily painted tiger rose, the corpse lisped slightly to the left, the tiger descended, the corpse shifted slightly to the right.
"Why didn't we notice a dead person when we got here?" they squeakily questioned each other at precisely the same instant.
Heads slowly turning to face each other, the elderly sisters openly appraised conflicting expressions. Maxcine, eight years older than Isabel's six decades, had a lot of experiences stashed beneath her fluffy, shoulder length mop of gray hair. Most of them were serene times, much to her dislike. Only since the stinker of a relative, Jonathan by name, had attempted to talk Izzy and herself out of their jointly owned home several weeks ago, had fate offered adventure.
Adventure, such as becoming involved in a crime wave. So far, there'd been swindling, robbery, murder, kidnapping. High speed chases. Blood pounding excitement. Creepy suspicions. Triumph over evil. Most recently, a nightmare about being skyjacked, that had been waaaaay too real! Obviously, the roll was rolling on.
Isabel was less wrinkled with lines of wisdom accumulated throughout a basic run of the mill existence. The bottle brunette, like Maxcine, preferred to drape her pencil thin frame in dresses, shoving her feet into knee-high stockings and orthopedic sneakers. Again, like Maxcine, she'd prefer to spend what time remained to her in this world having fun. Seeking out excitement. Keeping the ole ticker going by refusing to be sedentary, not to forget keeping the mind equally active. Solving crimes would surely do the trick, inasmuch as foolish Maxcine, because of a dream, had turned down their brother's offer of an all expenses paid vacation to Hawaii.
They simultaneously reached to settle their ever present fleece slouch hats firmly in place. Isabel's was light blue, decorated with a yellow cloth flower. Maxcine's was medium purple, with a small cluster of pink flowers. Her shoulders were draped with her purple, hand-crocheted string shawl. Both sisters were teetering on the brink of showing a heaping helping of anticipation. The fact of not having panicked when they realized the woman was dead, confirmed their previous mutual opinion that they were made of Detective material.
"You can't possibly mean it?" Isabel wailed, not the least bit surprised, but pretending total amazement.
"We've been through this same conversation before, when we found that jewelry in a pillow case not so very long ago. I browbeat you into going along with my idea to sleuth then, and I fully intend to do it again." Maxcine's grin was pre-triumphant.
"Wanna bet?" She would of course go along with the cockamammy idea, only she fully intended to make Maxi squirm first.
"I'm always ready to bet on a sure thing."
"Then you're on my side already, so let's get the show on the road. First we'll..."
"Whoa Nellie!" Isabel hissed, clamping both hands onto her narrow hips. Going toe to toe with her sister would be the thing to do, but since they were riding side by side on the merry-go-round, that was impossible. She'd have to improvise.
"Hold on before you fall, Izzy!"
"If I fall and end up in the hospital, at least you can't expect me to go along with your cockamammy plan!" she declared. However she did grab onto the wooden mane.
"Better yet," Maxcine announced, "jump off that horse and grab the vase before the woman drops it."
"You've got to be kidding!" squeakily squeaked. The thought of touching the cold and clammy finger, in order to pry it away from the vase handle, was enough to give her a huge case of the shivers.
"Wuss," her disgruntled sibling muttered. Although Maxcine's own prancing steed was going up and down, she dismounted with the intention of getting the vase.
"Talk is cheap," Isabel advised. "You get the vase."
"I am, I am. Isn't it obvious that I intend to get it?" Thinking of something, she hesitated, her view of her sister intermittently blocked by the up and down movement of her own steed. "Wait, wait, wait! I told you to get it, first," she hissed in grim determination.
"Speak up. I can't hear you over the music," Isabel needlessly yelled.
"I told you to get the vase first!" hollered good and loud.
"Correct, you did. Only it was your idea, so you get it! Besides, you're already off your horse." As well as off your rocker! her sister was positive. Anyone who came in contact with a corpse, ran the risk of becoming contaminated. However, there was only the two of them close enough to save the vase.
"That'd be kinda like grave robbing, right?"
"She'd have to be buried before anyone could rob her grave. Go ahead, grab the vase before she drops it."
"I guess it would smash into smithereens," Maxcine said above cheerful music that, because of the circumstances, was becoming increasingly irritating. "If we were to take the vase, our fingerprints would be on it. We could be arrested for tampering with evidence."
"Your prints, since you're the one who is going to grab the vase," Isabel stated as a reminder. "Except that we'd have the vase, so it wouldn't be on hand for the cops to dust for prints."
"I'm not taking any chances! Got a pair of gloves on you?"
Quite unexpectedly, a wizened Chinese man, stringy white hair well below his shoulders, with a matching moustache and beard, appeared from out of nowhere and snatched the intricately designed vase away from the dead woman. He didn't break stride, but darted across the carousel's wooden platform, leaped from it onto the tile floor, dashed through the opening in the rail fencing and kept right on going.
"After him, Izzy!" Maxcine squealed, scurrying between the gaily painted prancing steeds in his wake.
As Isabel swiftly dismounted her horse, she saw the dead woman teeter, then slip from the tiger, to land in an awkward heap. That sight, more than anything, caused her to follow Maxi's stupid orders.
For the second time in less than two weeks, Maxcine and Isabel were involved in a hot pursuit through Phoenix Liberty Mall. Only now they were doing the pursuing, instead of being pursued. Almost right away, they learned it was easier, if more frightening, to be the ones doing the fleeing. Trying to keep the Chinese man in sight was difficult at best.
Bustling shoppers were constantly getting in the way. Lush potted plant growth, while pretty to look at, provided an excess of blind spots. There were too many stores offering hiding places.
When a person was leading a chase, they could choose their direction, willy-nilly. Impulsively altering course, letting their survival orientated mind rule. However, when the shoe was on the other foot, panic was caused by the fear of losing sight of whomever you were after. A wrong turn, or a third party wearing the same color clothes as the hunted man, and it would all be over. He'd get away.
Fortunately several things were in the Sykes sisters' favor. They knew the mall like the backs of their hands. They were in the same age bracket as their opponent. They were the same approximate size. They were as determined. They were also soon gasping for breath, but then, so was he.
Other people were obviously stunned by the chase, including the same security guard that Isabel and Maxcine had recently sic'd on a couple of so called perverts. Wise individual that he was, upon recognizing a couple of old biddies, he pretended not to have noticed a thing. He even began to whistle as he took sudden interest in a display of candles in the window he happened to be strolling beside.
Weaving among countless shoppers, the wily Chinaman eventually darted out of an exit into the mid morning sunshine. Crossing a short span of parking lot, he yanked open the door of his cheap-o motorhome and scrambled up inside. Less than a minute later he'd started the engine.
Isabel shoved Maxi toward their Crown Victoria, luckily parked close at hand. "We'll follow to where ever he's going, but stay back far enough so that he'll think he lost us," she gasped, gulping for air.
"Good idea. You drive," Maxcine agreed, also out of breath.