Read an excerpt

Dreams and Schemes Chapter 6

I was cleaning and picking up the last few belongings I left in a house I had lived in. Picking up rugs and vacuuming the crud underneath. I bent down and saw a creepy creature about a foot tall that looked like a festering boil — pulsing pink and purple ooze. Two beady eyes and a couple knobs on top of his head. Daddy-long-legs type legs. I grabbed my phone to take a picture of it and show my friend, Candy. When I showed her the pictures, the creature had disappeared. Everything else surrounding it appeared in the photo, but not the boil. I showed people in a restaurant the picture of the creature. A waitress came up to me and said somebody didn’t pay for the last two beers - I owed for a couple La Penas.

Not unusually, my dreams could ramble from one scene to another, not making a lot of sense at the outset. Occasionally dreams appear that are so creepy I ruminate on them for days. I could tell this would be one. In the haze of waking up I had drawn a picture of this festering boil. He looked like a sinister Humpty Dumpty.

I analyzed the rest of the images. Confidently, I noted the image of the rugs and vacuum. It could symbolize something being swept under the carpet.

Whenever I dream names of people, places, or things, it pays to search them on the Internet to see if there’s any connection, even remote, to what’s going on in my life at the time. I don’t speak Spanish, so I grabbed my smart phone

and searched La Pena. I read the definitions—problems, troubles, sad, shame— and found the meaning to fit within the framework of recent events.

We picked up Bonnie, ready and eager for the trip to the security office. Arriving a few minutes early, we chatted in the lobby.

“Are you prepared to see something you might not like?” I asked gently.

Bonnie took in a breath and let it out slowly. “I really need to know, for peace of mind, if Miriam is a true friend. I’m ready to find out.”

A casually dressed employee emerged from the offices to greet us. Extending his hand, he introduced herself. “Good afternoon. I’m Roger Quest. Pardon my attire, after all, it’s a holiday week for most, but since we’re close to the two-week archive limit, it’s best we view it today. Let’s go to the screening room.” We followed him to a small room equipped with a large screen, a conference table and chairs. We chose our spots, leaving the chair front and center for Bonnie.

“We’ve pulled the tapes for seventy-two hours surrounding the time you believe your items went missing. There are two people, besides you, Mrs. Wilson, visible in the shots, so please look carefully so you can identify them.”

Two people? Robb shot Bonnie a glance, she looked at me, and my eyes ping-ponged between the two of them.

The video started with Bonnie answering the door to let Miriam in. They visited for a while, eventually moving toward the dining room table, picking up the onyx box and turning it over to examine it. Bonnie leaves the picture for a few moments. Miriam continues to admire the box, looking at its inlaid design. She puts it down when Bonnie reappears with the porcelain house.

With no audio provided, I tried to read their lips as they conducted the same scrutiny on the porcelain house. Looking specifically for any body language that showed ill intentions on Miriam’s part, I saw none. She and Bonnie disappeared into the kitchen, away from the front foyer. Moments later Miriam appeared and walked out the front door. Both collectibles remained on the table.

“I guess that eliminates our suspect,” Robb concluded.

“Remember, though, that I mentioned a second person,” Roger reminded us. “I’ll fast forward a few hours to show you what we found.” Robb, Bonnie, and I held our collective breath. Roger jumped ahead on the tape.

“The next time slot I’m going to show you starts at 8:13 pm. You’re going to see the outside camera first.” Roger clicked, and the video rolled. A car pulled up, initially pulled into the driveway,

then backed up and turned in the other direction, apparently parking somewhere down the street, out of camera range. Within a few minutes, a figure wearing a baseball cap,

sweatpants and a t- shirt appeared and walked right up to the security gate, inserted a key and went in. You could hear Rex start to bark, but he went silent within seconds.

You could hear a pin drop in the interview room. “What kind of car is that?”

Robb, the car aficionado responded, “That’s a Lexus, either an NX or RX. It backed out too quickly for me to be sure. Can you back that up?” Roger reversed the tape and paused it as the car appeared. “RX,” Robb decided, “but I can’t make out the plate number. The camera angle is off.”

“So what happened inside?” Bonnie’s face looked ashen.

Roger clicked a few times and brought up another clip. “Here’s what we see from the camera inside, pointed to the front foyer.” The group watched, horrified, as the person entered the house, grabbed the barking dog and muffled him with a rag. Rex immediately fell silent and dropped to his side, out cold.