Thursday late afternoon was an amazing time of day for Rosana. She sat underneath her orange tree and meditated. She was on her favorite blanket, smelling the outdoor air. Peaceful music filled her backyard. She opened her eyes and used her stick to bang her gong. Once she stretched her arms, she started her yoga.
"In with the good ki." Rosana said, arching her back and flatten her stomach. Her breast bounced in her workout bra, her cleavage showing. She saw Cherrie coming over with a basket. The woman with a different wig waved as her cat popped out of her basket. Rosana laughed and turned off her phone.
"Cherrie! How are you doing?" Rosana asked as she stood back up. She ran over to Cherrie to open her lettuce gate. "Here you are."
"Oh, thank you, new friend!" Cherrie replied, walking in her new outfit. "I've just finished my shift as a maid. I thought it would be difficult at my age. I don't know why, Rosana, but after that, I feel more energized and refreshed. I guess the fresh air agrees with me."
"The outdoors can always make people smile. A day like this is perfect for a smile."
Cherrie's cat came out of the basket and walked around the place. Her fur mommy chuckled as her pet explored. "I hope you don't mind if Skittles explore your yard, would you?"
"Cats are welcome. So long as she doesn't dig my dogs' toys out of the house."
Cherrie took out her canteen. "I had no idea you have dogs."
"Yes, two of them. They're both pug mix. Very easy to handle. I made sure they are disciplined."
She pointed to the porch to her cabin and there were two pug statues with smiling faces. Cherrie's eyes popped. "Are they actual dogs?"
"Of course not, my friend. They are ceramic. I got them while I was in Yantai. What a glorious week! I had my love of traveling faraway places with beaches! I love the ocean, monsters and all!"
"You love traveling." Cherrie asked. She saw her cat running around the yard, feeling playful. "I always wanted to travel around the planet myself. I once began a holiday in Spain."
"Did you finish it?"
"Well, there was an emergency and I had to come back home."
"My husband went missing."
Rosana's eyes widened. "He didn't go to Spain with you??"
"Oh, no, he hates the heat. He had no interest in travel! He wants me to be happy though. It was a girl's trip, so I went out with our daughters. I felt bad about leaving my hubby. He just left so suddenly. I'm still paying for his absence."
Rosana sighed and patted Cherrie's shoulder. "We are soul sisters, Cher. I too lost my husband overseas. Only he was the one that traveled. He was a missionary for our church."
"What happened to him?"
Rosana sighed. "A young punk shot him. Some smart-alecky arrogant kid wanted to steal from him. But my Ernie...he knew all about scaring the crap out of kids. Self-defense and all that. The shot was accidental! The kid got a light sentence."
"You poor dear. I'm sure you at least know your hubby died what he loved." Her cat settled down next to Rosana. When the woman started to pet her, Skittles purred. Cherrie was delighted that Skittles let Rosana pet her. "My! My pussy is taking a liking to you, Rosana! Usually she wouldn't let anyone pet her except me."
Rosana chuckled as the cat nuzzled on her hand. "She knows I love animals. They do have that sixth sense you know. Speaking of which..." She turned around and turned back to Cherrie. "Eleanor is coming here with some news. She got a call from her nephew earlier today. Oh, and she was floored whatever that means. The boy had something tremendous to tell her! She told me his instincts didn't fail him."
"Wait, whatever does that mean?" Cherrie asked, her Northern accent becoming apparent. Rosana sipped her tea. "Well, whatever news Eleanor will tell us of course would be from her instinctive nephew. Now, she can be here any second."
"Right. I'll watch with you." Cherrie looked around the yard. She turned to Rosana. "Is Eleanor the big woman with an attraction to this Catholic priest?"
Rosana gave the new woman a grin. "She has the hots for Father O' Sheehan."
"Why the priest?"
"Did you have a chance to see him?" She looked up and Eleanor opened the gate. "Eleanor! Girl! Welcome to my humble abode!"
Eleanor wiggled her nose and sneezed. She saw dandelions all over the yard and the grass was taller than she anticipated. "Phew! Rosana, I see your gardener didn't come and tend to your yard yet."
"My gardener, as you call him, will arrive soon. Billy himself recommended him."
Eleanor laughed and sat down next to Cherrie. "Lord, knowing Billy, he hired someone that is buff and is always shirtless."
"Who knows, Miss B?" Cherrie played coy. "He might look like Father O' Sheehan."
That look on Eleanor's face gave Rosana a roll on the floor laughter. "Who says you wouldn't fit right in, Cher? Because you definitely fit with this community!"
"Really? You mean it?" Cherrie blushed and her cat jumped on her lap. "My! I can't believe it! I'm fitting in the community! I'm happy and so is my pussy!"
Eleanor blinked and turned to Rosana. "Her...pussy is happy?"
"Yes." Rosana nodded. "Her cat named Skittles."
Eleanor laughed and opened her bag to pull out her strawberry water. "I apologize, Cherrie! I thought you mean your...not your cat."
"Well of course I'd call my cat my pussy. What else would I call my pussy?"
The women didn't have the heart to answer Cherrie's question. There was a yoo-hoo across the yard. Mavis ran over with Patti, Hope and Betty. "Rosana! Here we are!"
"Mavis??" Eleanor gasped and turned to Rosana. "Ro, you told Mavis about me having the news?"
"Come on, Elle! You can't keep the secret by yourself! It's bound to come out to the community sooner or later. So...why not now?"
The group of women sat underneath the orange tree, talking about Gary's latest discovery. As Eleanor talked about this new information about the Flasher, the listeners were in for a rude awakening. Patti clutched her green skirt as Eleanor talked about the whole situation. She had a big secret, and it may concern the Flasher.
"Wait a second!" Betty blinked from the whole story. "Eleanor, does that mean this guy has access to the cameras the Cay Spy co installed?"
"Yeah, that is exactly what Gary told me. And honey, my nephew is trying to figure out who this guy is."
"Does he know who this guy is in general?" Hope asked, her bottle squeezed in her hand. Eleanor nodded. "My nephew doesn't have the name yet. But he has a general idea. This guy who is doing the blackmailing is an older man, late forties or early fifties. The way he texts proved he is in his prime."
"What if he was younger?" Hope asked.
"You know how a younger man texts these days?? A young man in his twenties are usually so graphic and vulgar...a lot of misspelled words and wrong grammar! There is no edit. He would type and click without a second thought! This text he sent to each victim is flawless! There is no mistake. Not one comma out of place, you know?"
The women nodded over the little fact. Betty folded her arms and scoffed. "Any college English major can pull this off."
"You ever been to college?" Hope asked.
"Yes, and they are part of the best time of my life."
"Okay, so were you an English major in your college?"
"I was..." Betty's face went white when realization hit her. "Okay. I might see where you're going with this. Eleanor, please continue."
"Right." Eleanor sighed and sipped her iced tea. "Well, the guy has to be skilled with technology. Otherwise, why is he in Cay Spy in the first place?"
"He'd be a driver for one of the delivery vans." Mavis answered. "My dad does not have any brains, but he does have the knowledge to drive a nice pickup truck."
The women stayed silent as they sipped their beverages under the orange tree. It wasn't very long when a car drove by and parked over a lot beneath Rosana's place. The big woman came out of her Ford. Her raven hair fell off her back when she took off her sunglasses. She nodded when Rosana ran to the gate. The hostess greeted the new guest.
"Bertha! It's so awesome to see you!" Rosana waved to the chief nurse. "Ah! And I see someone with you."
"Yes, I did!" Bertha smirked. "I'll introduce her when we come over there, girl!"
So, the nurse joined the gang, two since Gretchen was also one. They too want to tell their discovery...well more like their hunch. This came from Dr. Daisuke before they called it a day the night before. All the listeners gasped. They couldn't believe what they heard. Their friend, Rose, died from an intentional poisoning.
"But...how could they miss that?" Mavis asked. "Wouldn't her body react to the allergen?"
"Not if it's already under." Gretchen informed the women. "Plus, this almond essence...it's bitter almonds."
Hope, Betty and Patti clasped their mouths, knowing a familiar story about bitter almonds. "Oh no!" Betty squeaked. "Bitter almonds?"
"Yeah." Bertha answered. "Rose was allergic to almonds. Of course, the perp that gave her that wasn't aware that the almond essence contained cyanide!"
Eleanor bowed her head and prayed. Rosana and Cherrie looked at each other as they let the new information sank down. The latter finally spoke. "Well, we should add to it that the perp isn't chemically savvy."
"I beg your pardon?" Gretchen asked. Cherrie let her in on what the others talked about before Bertha and the listener arrived. "And so now, we can add that the Flasher doesn't know, as you Americans say, did idly-squat about chemistry."
"That's not something important to add." Patti said sadly. "Most people are not geniuses at Chemistry."
"No!" Hope said, a flash of a brainstorm struck her and grabbed Patti's wrist. "The Chemistry part is not important. But the knowledge that Rose has a nut allergy is!"
"What do you mean?" Mavis asked. "Everyone knows one having a food allergy should...at least they should know."
"Did you know Rose had a nut allergy?" Hope asked her. The gift shop owner tried to remember. "Now that you mention it, I don't recall Rose mentioning that."
"That's because she was trying to live a normal life. Only a few people knew about Rose's allergy. Spencer was one of them...and I was one of the people Rose talked to me about this new medicine."
The women's intrigued now increased when Hope swallowed. "Rose raved about this new, potential medication she took since it launched. It was still in the testing stage, and she wanted to be the Guinea Pig. This medication's purpose was to stop anti-bodies to produce histamine. Before consummation, one would take this peach liquid pill. In fact, she told me that's what the medicine tastes like.
"So, before an hour or two of eating a meal that had nuts, she takes that medicine! On the day of the surgery, she didn't have the medication. She didn't realize she would die by cyanide poisoning."
"Yeah, but the perp didn't know he poisoned her." Betty informed her friend. "He only knew Rose had a nut allergy. That means...this person is one of the few people that knows about Rose personally!"
"And that narrows our suspects down to a few people!" Cherrie pointed out. She then had a reaction to the thought. "You all don't think...Dr. Caliber himself poisoned Rose? After all, he does have knowledge of cyanide plus Rose's histamines would react faster than the rest of the antibodies."
"How do you know about that?" Eleanor asked her. Cherrie chuckled. "I have a friend that is a nurse back in London. She told me all about allgies themselves."
Bertha nodded. "That makes sense, though. The cause of death was a severe allergic reaction, not cyanide poisoning. So, yeah, the guy doesn't know that if the allergen didn't kill her, cyanide will."
"Lucky him." Betty folded her arms. "If cyanide poisoning was the cause of death instead of a nut allergy, he would have been in HUGE trouble!"
"That is if he gets caught." Cherrie had a feeling the suspect would not be caught so easily. "I think we should put our heads together. There might be a possibility that this Flasher could have connections. No one else should know about our theories until we know for sure it's true."
The women agreed and kept their conversation between them. After the conversation, Bertha stopped by Cookies Cream to grab her grub. Emma greeted her with her smile as she prepares for the dinner rush. They both greeted like old friends. When she sat on the counter, Bertha grabbed the menu to find something good. She was in the middle of picking her appetizers when Charles popped his head.
"Oi Emma!" Charles yelled to his wife. "Any people yet?"
"Just Bertha." Emma replied. "Why? What have you heard?"
"We might be having a rush, love. There is news that some House of Pancakes place near us has been shut down."
"Oh no! Why? Don't tell me they ran out of food!"
"No, love. There was an epidemic of some poisoning."
"A food poisoning?"
"No...poison ivy. Some genius thought it was a good idea to dab urushiol oil on tables as a prank. Well, next thing you know, the people came out of the diner with very itchy arms."
Emma laughed and shook it off. "Well, baby, poison ivy isn't bad. I mean it's not contagious."
Bertha couldn't help but hearing this. "Your wife is right, Charles. Poison ivy is so easy to treat. Plus, the oil can be washed away with soap."
"On the skin, yes, Bertha. What do they say about the surfaces of the tables?"
"Well, they should disinfect the tables with bleach."
Charles chortled. "Well, darling, first off, they do have anti bacteria wash, but the bleach has a strong stench of ammonia. Not very appetizing when you're eating."
"How about disinfected wipes? Duh!" Bertha said. Charles sighed. "Bertha, the kid that rubbed the tables with the oil did that stunt three weeks prior. So how could the staff know if the tables with the oil?"
"Don't they have cameras?" Emma asked.
"Yeah, but they didn't catch the bugger doing it. There was no sign."
Bertha's violet eyes opened. "Three weeks?!" She gasped. She looked through her medical guide in her phone. When she stopped and looked at the statement, she grinned and turned to the co-owners. "Okay, smart ass, it says here if the poison ivy contacts the skin, the people should wash with warm soap and water. That means all these people took their showers and the rashes should have been prevented."
Bertha had a smirk, so proud of her little research. But Charles shook his head. "But did they shower immediately after they ate?"
Bertha's smirk turned into shock. Charles did make a good point. The oil would have been dry on the tables by the time the morning rush came in. They may never notice about the surface at all. Plus, with being indoors, the sun would not degrade the oil's components entirely. This is rather diabolical whoever did this. "Oh shit!"
"Yeah...so kudos for us for getting more customers."
"You're going to go through with a huge crowd?" Bertha stood and folded her arms. "Do you have any idea how popular Ihop is? Charles, the last time there was a rush it exhausted you and your employees. It took about two hours for my nurses and I to treat all of you!"
Charles nodded and wiped a tall glass. "Well, like I said, we might have a rush. It's not a guaranteed prediction. We might have it, or we might not."
There was an alert call from Bertha's purse. Charles grinned as he took another glass to wipe. "Your career field, on the other hand, will have a crowd."
"Oh SHIT!" Bertha looked at her text. It was Doc Dai, commanding her to come back with urgency. She stood and grabbed her purse. "Emma, would you mind hold my order while I go back to the clinic?"
"We can deliver it to you if you like."
"Better idea. All right, I'll have cheesy tots, moxie sticks, onion rings and clam strips for apps, a berry fruity salad, Chicken tenders, a bacon burger with extra cheddar, curly fries large order, and a black and white shake for dessert."
"Do you want any chicken noodle for soup of the day?" Charles asked Bertha. "It'll keep your immune system in check."
Bertha sighed, knowing Charles, although depraved, was a caring man. "No wonder Emma married you. Better give me green tea too."
"Right on, gorgeous. If I know you, you're going to lose a lot of calories. So right on for a big appetite after your big day." "You got that right!" Bertha paid her ordered meal. She went to Emma who gave her a complimentary ice cream bin. "Emma, you enjoy all this excitement, don't you?"
"Kind of." Emma slid a pint bin to Bertha. "I had a large bushel of oranges delivered to us this morning. From a nice gentleman name Fernando. He said they were a thank you for serving his girls. I'll tell you about that when my shift ends, Sug."
"Right on!" Bertha took off, going to her car to drive over to the clinic. When she got there, clinic lot was packed with cars. She could see more cars coming and she exhaled a huge breath. She prayed before she rushed into there. In the clinic, there was chaos.
"Bertha, thank God!" Maggie cried out, her gloves full of lotion. "We got patients with a lot of rashes! They are in a dire need of calamine lotion!"
"Are we low?"
"Aria went to Sam's Club to buy a whole bulk of them! She might be back with boxes of them, so we all need to keep a close eye on her!"
"Got it! Now!" She rushed to the lave and washed her hands. After a good lather and rinse, she put on her gloves. When she snapped her glove's rim, she made her war face. "Let's make it like eggs and get cracking!"
The nurses called in patient after patient, putting lotion on the arms, legs, or other parts of the body. One of them informed Goldie that Ihop wasn't the only dining place that the poison ivy invaded. "We...we went to Red Lobster to celebrate, my aunt's birthday—Wow, this rash is getting worse! And we assumed the tables were recently waxed. We all touched it. We assumed nothing. Then a week later, BOOM! This happened!"
"A week?" Goldie asked. She thought about it when she put lotion on the patient. "All right, honey, I'm going to put a bandage over the lotion area. It's to prevent you from scratching it. Plus, it has cooling gel so it can reduce the swelling."
Aria came back with five bulky boxes of calamine lotion. The patients tried to grab it, but Bertha swatted them away. "Back! Back, you impatient hornets! You'll all have the lotion!"
Doctor opened the door. "All right, I'm ready for Simona Cutter."
A young lady with the braids stood and moved but another woman with darker hair pulled her. "Na-uh! I'm Simona! She's an imposter so she could have that calamine cooling lotion!" "I'm not an imposter! She is!" The first woman yelled. Luckily, the doctor was wise, so he asked a few questions. "Okay, when were you born? Are you married? Have any children?"
Julie was a step ahead of the doctor without any intention. "Okay, we're ready for you Tia Hoss."
The woman with the darker hair walked over to the nurse. "About time too, sweetheart! My arms are killing me! I demand a decent amount! I'll pay you five times you usually bill your patients!"
Julie looked at Doctor and shrugged. Each nurse slabbed the lotion and put a bandage with cooling gel for each patient. So, it's like a lather, rinse and repeat sort of spiel. There was a lot of people and so little time. They were awfully glad Gretchen came when she did. That nurse could do that procedure like nothing at all with a smile on her face.
"All right!" Gretchen cried out, "I'm ready for the next patient!"
"You're always ready!" Goldie sighed in frustration. The heat was getting to her despite the air conditioners going on full blast. It was the sweat. Drip after drip isn't very appealing all the time. But she kept going when her patient was bandaged. "All right now remember not to remove the bandage for two hours. It won't itch as much." She let out a smile.