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Double Duplicity


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Casey’s in trouble again. It’s bad when you have a tenant you're evicting renting one side of a duplex and dying in a suspicious fire. When her twin sister shows up, and the police start investigating your motives, you've got double duplicity.

Chapter 1

I was sound asleep at 2:15 am when the phone on my night stand blasted out “You are my Sunshine.” It yanked me out of a very pleasant dream about Detective Joe Scalini and I lying on a blanket on Saint Augustine Beach.

Dixie hissed and twitched her jet black tail as I pushed her of

 the pillow to reach for the phone. I murmured to the cat. “Yeah. I hate waking up like this too.”
I grabbed the phone and snarled, “I hope this is important.”

The caller replied, “Indeed it is, Ms. Clark. This is Miss Wagner and that woman next door is blasting music out loud enough to wake the dead. Listen.”

Evidently Miss Wagner held the phone to her wall as I heard “Laugh Now, Cry Later” by Drake blaring. I was pretty sure the wall was vibrating. When my hearing returned, I heard Miss Wagner’s voice again. “I can’t stand anymore. I’m moving. Today if possible.”

I sympathized. “I’ll talk to Ms. Braxton again tomorrow. I am sorry. Did you call police again?”
“Miss Wagner laughed. “Why, so by the time they get out here it’s morning, and she has shut down and I have left to go teach school?”

“If Ms. Braxton does not agree to keep the music off at a reasonable hour, I will evict her.”

“Ms. Clark, you have tried telling her that before and it’s hasn’t done any good. No, I am moving by the end of the month if not sooner. No court would uphold that lease. I can’t function under these circumstances and then go teach a class of junior high kids. Nothing short of death, hers or mine, is going to change my mind.” Miss Wagner banged the phone down.

I was wide awake now. No point in going back to bed. Anyway, Dixie was demanding some cat treats. In case you hadn’t met me while I was chasing down the tenant from Hell, I’m Casey Clark, realtor and property manager at Peller Realty here in Saint Augustine.

Dixie is my somewhat psychic black cat. She can be very demanding so I got out the bag of cat treats and dumped a few in her dish. I share custody of her with my ex, Charlie.
I turned up the heat a few notches and put my tea kettle on and contemplated how I was going to handle Diane Braxton. Anyone else I would have already evicted, but she had come referred by the owner, Butch Mitchell.

Mitchell was a ROTC instructor at University of Florida in Gainesville. He had called to let me know Braxton was going to apply to rent one side of his duplex beginning in December. He told me, “Diane was a drama major here and had to drop out for financial reasons. She had no rental history as she was living in the dorm, but her teachers all speak highly of her. I think she will be a great tenant.”

“What about work history?” I asked him.

He replied, “She got a job at The Colonial Quarter as a 18th century Spanish woman and got a part in the Colonial Revue there as well.”

The other reason I hesitated on the eviction is that Mitchell appears to be in a tight financial situation. He does all his repairs himself; not always to the tenants' satisfaction. He has told me many times that he can barely pay the mortgage so it is important to keep it rented. He just signed a listing with me for the almost vacant lot next door to the rental duplex. He is not going to be happy when he finds both units empty.

Although we have a tight rental market here due to the influx of visitors since the 450th birthday celebration in 2015 of the city’s founding really put St. Augustine in the spotlight, and the fact that many visitors return as residents, rentals are scarcer and more expensive than neighboring counties. I could probably rent a chicken coop, but Mitchell’s duplex is older and not in a prime location. It is out a few miles past the outlet mall west of I-95 and somewhat isolated. Thus, it is a slower moving rental.

Miss Wagner was already a tenant when I took over management of the duplex. It came to me in the wave of business Peller Realty got when I was touted on all the cable TV stations as a “national hero” when my involvement in tracking down the killer of my tenant from Hell and his girlfriend lead me to Helen, Georgia.

That made me a target for a pair of crooked FBI agents involved with the biggest drug ring in the North Georgia Mountains. I ended up in the eye of the storm and became an unwitting hero when I saved Deputy Marshal Roger Wilkes’ life.

I contemplated what I could say to Diane Braxton that might make her see reason and quit playing loud music into early morning hours. Not much came to mind. How does one talk reason to a twenty-three-year-old? I decided since Diane had no problem keeping poor Miss Wagner up all night she deserved an early morning wake up call. I dialed her number but it went straight to voice mail. Instead of leaving a message I had a better idea. I took off my night shirt and threw on a lightweight pale green sweater and a pair of stretchy gray slacks with some comfortable flat shoes and headed out.

I was meeting Joe for breakfast at Maple Street Biscuit Company in the historic district on Cordova Street just about four blocks from the Colonial Quarter.
Joe Scalini is a handsome Italian detective with Saint Johns Sheriff’s Department. He and I met when he was lead detective in the killing of my former tenant from Hell when I was somewhat of a suspect.

After breakfast, I would pay Miss Spanish Damsel an in-person distress call. The loud music all night long had to end or she would have to go.

Joe had arrived ahead of me and was seated in the restaurant. He was wearing a multi colored knit sweater and slim cut black slacks. The bulky sweater added a muscular look to his already well-built body and the slacks made him look taller than his six foot. His dark hair was a little windblown. As always he had a hint of a five o’clock shadow.

I had my usual breakfast at Maple Street, a Risky Biscuit. One of their lighter-than-air biscuits drenched with their special sausage gravy. Joe went a bit farther out on the cholesterol spectrum with the Five and Dime. Like mine, it was a biscuit covered in sausage gravy, but his had chicken breast, bacon, a fried egg, and cheddar cheese added.

Afterward, he joined me in the walk to The Colonial Quarter. It’s a walk though time, over 450 years of Saint Augustine’s existence. The weather was pleasant, sunshine peeked through the oak trees and temperature was around sixty-five degrees; one of those Florida February days you felt spring was just around the corner.

The gatekeeper knew Joe was a detective and waved us in. We walked past the ancient oak in Colonial Oak Music Park where a Spanish soldier and a British one from the 18th century were talking and headed for the de Mesa-Sanchez House where Diane Braxton was a docent.

We detoured past the replica of a late-1500s Spanish ship called a caravel. The sailing ship is the kind that would have been built during that first Spanish period. It’s a work in progress with a shallow keel for maneuvering through the harbor and sails built for speed needed to evade the ever present pirates.

Then we walked past the military gunsmith shop where a colonial dressed craftsman is building and repairing the weapon needed to defend the garrison from said pirates.

Speaking of pirates, I wasn’t too surprised to see Bill Morgan there since the Pirate and Treasure Museum where Bill is a docent is next door on the Bayfront. Bill and I date occasionally, but it’s never going any place serious since his parrot, Pete, and my Dixie do not like one another.

Naturally, Bill was in full pirate regalia as Captain Morgan, his blond ringlets hanging behind his gold hoop earring, a curved sword at his side, with his parrot, Pete, on his shoulder. I was surprised at the cozy embrace he was giving Diane.

Diane was dressed in traditional Spanish garb of the 18th century, a wide, long, tan skirt and a long sleeved blouse with a brown laced-up vest that showed her ample breast to full advantage. The bright red kerchief set off her golden blond hair to perfection.

Before we could intrude on the romantic interlude between swashbuckling pirate and his Spanish lass, a man rushed over to the duo and roughly pushed them apart. He was about as tall as the pirate but much thinner.

It was another of my tenants with a fondness for late night parties, Hunter Lane, a music major at Flagler College. Fortunately, Hunter and his roommate, Morgan Taylor, lived in an area of Lincolnville that was predominantly Flagler College students, hence not too many complaints. Even with its heavy student population, Hunter and Morgan generated a few complaints. They had a band called Atom Splitters.

As we approached the circle that was forming around the couple, Hunter was shouting at Bill, “...and keep your filthy hands off my woman.”

Bill was not one to back down, and he put his hand on his sword and replied, “Diane’s not your private property. She’s free to date who she pleases.”

Before a fight could erupt, the blacksmith dressed in colonial garb and wearing a leather apron rushed over carrying a glowing red iron rod he had been pounding into a weapon. “Hey, fellows, No fighting here.”

Joe gave me a satisfied look. “Seems like your pirate has sailed his ship into another port.”

“Bill’s not ‘my pirate.’ We’re just friends,” I replied.

Diane had backed off into a shady place under a small oak and watched with satisfaction. Bill gave Hunter one last dirty look and sauntered back towards the Pirate Museum.

Pete screeched out, “Naughty. Naughty.”

Hunter gave Diane a look that called her lots of dirty names without saying a word.

He headed back towards the music park area. Seeing me, he stopped to explain. “Hi, Ms. Clark. I just came to check out the stage size at the music park. Morgan and I are playing here next Saturday. There’s three different groups taking turns playing. You ought to come see us.”

“Yes, I might. One of the agents at our office, Lonnie Richards, is playing then also.”

“Oh yeah,” Hunter replied, “I know Lonnie. He does a really cool imitation of that old-time musician, Ray Charles.”

The “old-time” put us into our respective age categories, I had been a teen when Ray Charles died, Hunter had been a toddler. I didn't consider any musician still playing in the 21st century as “old-time.” His “Georgia on my Mind” was one of my favorites and I loved the one he did with his long-time friend, Willie Nelson, “Seven Spanish Angels.”

The thought of Spanish Angels brought me back to the task at hand, having a discussion with a not-so-angelic Spanish docent. I left Hunter and Joe discussing music and went over to Diane. “Ms. Braxton I need to speak with you about the late night music playing at your house. It is disturbing your neighbor.”

She put her hands on her hips and leaned forward almost into my face. “Yeah, what about my personal music choices, which isn’t anyone else’s business including that old biddy next door?”

This wasn’t going well. I said, “Miss Wagner is a school teacher, and she needs to be able to sleep at night. Playing loud music in a residential neighborhood is against the law from 10pm until 7am on Sunday through Thursday and 11pm and 7am on Friday and Saturday.”

“I’m a singer and trying out with a band that does some pretty heavy Rock.” She folded her arms with a look that said she had explained the need for the music perfectly.

“Couldn’t you do that during the day? Aside from it being the law, there’s a noise clause in your lease.” I stated.

Diane stepped close and forced me to back up. “Well, you know what you can do with that lease? Shove it where the sun don’t shine. My rent is paid. My house, my music.”

The last part was shouted loud enough to cause Joe to go on alert. He relaxed a bit as Diane flounced away.

“Not for long,” I shouted to her retreating back.

As we left to go to our respective workplace, Joe commented, “I thought you and your tenant were going to pick up where the pirate and musician left off.”

I was quietly fuming and it showed. “Diane Braxton hasn’t see the last of me. I’m heading out to ‘her house’ later this evening with an official eviction notice that she can shove ‘where the sun don’t shine,’ We’ll see who gets the last laugh.”

Joe looked mildly alarmed. “Don’t do anything rash.”

“Oh it won’t be rash, It’ll be well-prepared and thought out.”

Copyright Kathleen Walls 2020 All Rights Reserved/td>