Targets in Ties: A Secret Sister Mystery (Paperback)
After two long years, Ren’s mission is finally over, and it’s time for Ida Mae, Arlette, and Tansy to travel to Mexico to pick him up. They have their itinerary all planned out—visiting the ruins in the Yucatan, shopping, playing in the sand and surf—and then they’ll head to Ren’s mission home and be reunited with that dear boy. But a wanted antiquities thief crosses their path, and soon the ladies find themselves tangled up in a web of lies, intrigue, and costly jewelry. Held hostage by men desperate for riches, they do what only they can do—keep their heads about them, plan their escape, and discuss the proper making of tortillas. Will they survive their most harrowing adventure yet?
- Pages: 258
About the Author
TRISTI PINKSTON now has twenty-five books published in a wide variety of genres, but that doesn’t mean she’s slowing down—her love of writing is as strong as ever. She is the mother of four amazing children, the wife of one fantastic husband, and the taker of very, very long naps. When she’s not writing or editing, she enjoys watching good movies, and she admits a certain fascination with shows like Project Runway and Dancing with the Stars. She also enjoys scrapbooking, but finds she doesn’t have as much time to do that as she’d like.
Tristi sits on the board of directors of iWriteNetwork. She also works as a freelance editor and author mentor, and she is a regular presenter at writers conferences up and down the Wasatch Front. You can learn more about Tristi and her books by visiting her website at www.tristipinkston.com and her blog at www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com.
“Ida Mae, we’re going to be late!” Arlette called out from the hallway. “Would you please just come?”
Ida Mae threw her passport into her bag and slung the strap over her shoulder, then grabbed the handle of her large suitcase and wheeled it into the living room. “I’m sorry, Arlette. I got a last-minute phone call.”
“And just who was that call from?” Arlette picked up the smaller suitcase, which already sat by the front door. “Your geriatric lover boy?”
Ida Mae flushed. “He may be geriatric, but he’s not my lover boy.”
“All right then, I’ll bite. Who called?”
Ida Mae held in her news until they were out at the van, where Eden and Tansy waited for them. “Keith called just as I was getting in the shower. He has some wonderful news—he and Nellie are dating, and it looks like things are getting serious.”
Tansy clasped her hands together. “Oh, that’s wonderful! I always thought they’d be perfect for each other.”
“So, anyway, that’s why I’m running late. I’m sorry.” Ida Mae threw her belongings into the van, and after she ran back twice to make sure her oven was off and her front door was locked, they were on their way.
“You’ve got your passports?” Eden asked as she maneuvered through Salt Lake City highway traffic.
“What about your phone cards?”
“I brought extra, just in case,” Ida Mae said.
“Check,” all three women responded.
“Really, Eden,” Arlette said, “you’re acting like a mother hen. Next, you’ll be asking if we remembered to write our names in our underwear.”
“And did you, Grandma?”
Ida Mae smiled. It was nice to have someone to see them off on this adventure, and to know they would be missed. She supposed Arlette’s cat would miss them, but she’d long since stopped caring what that animal thought about anything.
“Seriously, Grandma, I am worried.” Eden took her eyes off the road just long enough to cast a glance at Arlette. “You’re going to one of the scariest places in the world right now. I’m going to be on pins and needles until you’re back home safe.”
“If anything happens to me, you can blame Ida Mae,” Arlette said.
Ida Mae raised an eyebrow. “Blame me? I should think not. I’ve arranged the safest Mexican vacation ever. We’re hooked in with a tour for part of our stay, I’ve only chosen good hotels—”
“We’re here!” Tansy exclaimed, and Ida Mae’s retort was cut short as she looked out the window and saw they had arrived at Salt Lake International Airport.
As they pulled up to the curb and the skycap came forward to meet them, Ida Mae felt tears begin to course down her cheeks. “Take care of yourself, Eden.” She patted the girl’s shoulder. “And please don’t do anything stupid like marrying Kevin while we’re gone.”
“I’ll try not to.” Eden flashed an impish grin.
“And don’t solve any mysteries without us, either,” Tansy added. “Wait until we get back.”
They each hugged Eden goodbye, then watched as she drove away.
“Your gate is through those doors,” the skycap directed, and Ida Mae realized they’d lingered on the curb too long. Somehow, standing there on the concrete made her feel connected to reality, to the world she knew. Once she entered that airport and made her way to the plane, she was swimming in new water, and the thought scared her a little bit.
“Come on!” Arlette tugged on Ida Mae’s sleeve. “We don’t want to miss the plane, do we?”
Ida Mae squared her shoulders and followed as Tansy and Arlette made their way through the crowds. She was glad they’d paid attention to the directions they’d been given. She’d been seized upon by the knowledge that soon, she would be seeing her dear boy, and every other thought completely left her head. She didn’t even take notice of boarding the plane until it was time to start taxiing down the runway, and she became aware of Tansy’s tight grip on her elbow.
“Are you nervous, Tansy?”
“I really hate flying. Well, I hate taking off and landing. The part in the middle isn’t so bad.”
Ida Mae disentangled Tansy’s fingers and then took her hand. This trade-off wasn’t without drawbacks—Ida Mae soon lost feeling below the wrist as Tansy held on for dear life—but it was better than having her blood flow constricted exactly in the middle, cutting off circulation to the entire arm. There were always compromises to be made in friendship.
After they reached cruising altitude, Tansy relaxed and accepted a book from Arlette, who sat by the aisle. Ida Mae looked out the window and marveled at the terrain below, doing her best to ignore the feet that were kicking the back of her chair. She was not succeeding.
“Johnny! Stop that!” she heard a woman’s voice chide. “It’s not nice.”
Johnny stopped kicking for roughly one-eighth of a second, and then resumed. Apparently his slight acquiescence was enough for his mother, who didn’t say another word.
“You could always lure him to the bathroom and lock him in,” Arlette murmured, leaning over Tansy so Ida Mae could hear her.
Ida Mae entertained the thought for a moment. “His mother would probably come looking for him in about an hour or so.”
“An hour would be better than nothing, wouldn’t it?”
“I’ll think about it.”
Another sharp kick landed in the small of Ida Mae’s back. She smothered a sigh. This was going to be a very long flight.
Two hours and forty-five minutes later, the plane landed at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. Ida Mae unfolded herself from her seat and worked her way into the aisle. She was tempted to turn around and scowl at Johnny, but decided that the better part of valor would be to forgive and forget.
They had a three-hour layover and planned to pass the time with lunch and window-shopping. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit was located near the gate where they got off the plane, so they ordered some delicious sandwiches, then wandered past several interesting shops as they made their way to another terminal for their flight to Cancun. Ida Mae crossed her fingers as they stood in line to board. Would Johnny be on this flight, too? She scanned the crowd anxiously but didn’t see him. Now her vacation could really begin.
Almost three hours later, the plane touched down on the runway in Mexico. Bags in hand after twenty wild minutes at the luggage carousel, the ladies went in search of a taxi. As they stepped out of the airport, the Cancun sunshine greeted them like a hug. Ida Mae smiled as she realized she’d have to write that down in her journal. It did sound a little like a travel brochure, or maybe a romance novel, but what good was going on vacation if you couldn’t rhapsodize about it afterward?
They waved down a taxi, and the driver dumped their luggage into the trunk without seeming to care if it landed right side up. Of course, Ida Mae had no idea how rough the baggage handlers at the airport had been. She was glad her camera was in her purse—she would hate to see it get crushed. She climbed into the backseat and settled in for a relaxing drive to the hotel.
She should have known from the very first second that a relaxing drive was not going to happen. The driver slammed his foot onto the accelerator with a force that seemed much more suited to smashing a cockroach than driving. The car shot out into traffic. Ida Mae could feel the G-force grab hold of her head and yank it backward almost painfully. A glance to the side showed her that Tansy’s hands were clenched on the seat cover and Arlette’s lips were pressed together just a bit tightly, even for her.
They careened around a corner, and Ida Mae nearly ended up on Arlette’s lap. She apologized, but soon the tables were turned as they rounded another corner and Arlette was thrown into Ida Mae’s side.
“I’m glad I’m not the type to get carsick.” Ida Mae wondered if an extra tip would convince their driver to slow down a little.
“I am, but I’m too scared to throw up,” Tansy replied, her face pale. “I can only do one overwhelming emotion at a time.”
Finally they reached a stretch of road without corners, and the ride smoothed out. The scenery was incredible, and Ida Mae soon forgot to be terrified. There was so much to see on both sides of the car, she thought she might get whiplash from trying to take it all in. Tansy was in the same boat, with her face pressed up against the glass.
“Should we roll down the windows so the two of you can hang your heads out?” Arlette asked. “You could let your tongues flap in the breeze and everything.”
“It certainly would make things easier,” Ida Mae replied. “Why don’t we?”
Her cheerful answer only seemed to make Arlette more annoyed. “I won’t pick the bugs from your teeth for you.”
Ida Mae patted her friend’s arm. “What is it, Arlette? You haven’t been yourself all day.” Well, maybe she had been herself. Her crankiest, hardest-to-please self, certainly not a going-on-vacation-to-have-a-wonderful-time self.
“Kevin called me last night. He wanted me to size Ren up and call him as soon as I get home to let him know the lay of the land.”
“He shouldn’t have put you in that position,” Ida Mae said. She didn’t blame Kevin for wanting a heads-up on the situation, but making such a request of Arlette was a bit much.
“And then I got a call from Eden,” Arlette continued. “She asked me to call her as soon as I see Ren and let her know how he is.”
Ida Mae shook her head. “I think these youngsters are making far too big a deal out of this. Haven’t they ever heard of letting nature take its course? It always does, no matter how much we try to interfere with it.”
The car lurched again, and Ida Mae braced herself. She found that if she planted her feet on the floor, clutched the door handle with one hand and her neck with the other, she was ready for anything . . . except for being thrown forward, which is exactly what happened when they reached the Aquamarine Beach Hotel and the driver stamped on the brake as if he was in the final heat of a Dance, Dance Revolution showdown.
Arlette and Ida Mae turned at Tansy’s exclamation and glimpsed the deep blue of the ocean through the car windows.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Tansy said. “Not even on a postcard!”
They went inside and registered, and the porter carried their bags to their room while they trailed behind, gawking at everything.
“You mean all our food is included in the price?” Tansy asked.
“Yes, and it’s served almost constantly,” Ida Mae said. She had checked out the hotel online and thought they deserved to stay somewhere nice. After all, they’d been saving this money for a long time, ever since they’d received it as their reward for bringing down a drug ring. Ah, the good old days . . .
As soon as they entered their room, Tansy rushed past the two double beds and threw back the curtains. The view couldn’t have been any more spectacular. The ocean stretched out below them, as blue as the sky, unlike any body of water Ida Mae had ever seen.
“It’s beautiful,” she murmured, coming to Tansy’s side. Arlette joined them, and they stood shoulder to shoulder watching the waves dance across the surface.
“We’ll be here for a day and a half.” Ida Mae consulted a sheet of paper from her pocket. “Then we head over to Chichén Itzà.”
“Thank you for giving us some time here.” Tansy inhaled deeply. “I’ve never seen anything as incredible as that ocean.”
“I don’t know about you, but I want a closer look.” Arlette unzipped her suitcase. “I’ve got a whole bottle of suntan lotion with ‘Cancun’ written all over it.”
“Really?” Tansy turned to look.
Arlette’s mood must have changed drastically in the last several seconds, for the sarcastic reply Ida Mae expected didn’t come. But then, gazing at the blue of the ocean would take the sting out of any hornet.
She didn’t open her eyes. “Hmm?”
“What do you think Earl’s doing right now?”
“Probably having a nice, long nap.”
Tansy didn’t reply. Ida Mae sat up a little under her striped umbrella and pulled off her sunglasses. “Are you worried about him?”
“Maybe a little. I know he’s having a good time with his sister in Logan, but he’s always so edgy about me leaving. Plus . . .”
She trailed off, and Ida Mae waited. Uncharacteristic worry lines appeared between Tansy’s eyebrows as she plunged her hand into the white sand and let it sift through her fingers.
“He hasn’t been feeling well lately. I took him in for a checkup last week, and the doctor says his cholesterol is too high, along with a whole bunch of other stuff. He might have a heart attack if we don’t change his diet and get him exercising more.”
“That is a worry.” Ida Mae reached out and patted her friend’s shoulder. “Did they put him on any medication?”
“Yes, they gave him something, and I told his sister to make sure he takes it every day. Sometimes he forgets things like that. I offered to stay home from my trip, but he wouldn’t hear of it.” She lifted a corner of her swimsuit coverup and wiped her eyes. “I feel so guilty, Ida Mae. Should I even be here? What if something terrible happens while I’m gone?”
“He has the numbers for all the hotels along our route, doesn’t he?”
Tansy nodded, her natural brightness subdued. “I gave him a copy of the itinerary you made.”
“So, he’ll know where to find you at all times. You can call him as often as you like, and if something goes wrong, we’ll get you on the first flight home,” Ida Mae told her, feeling helpless to offer any real support. She wished she’d known this before they left. She didn’t want Tansy to feel obligated to be in Mexico when her heart was in Utah with her husband. True, they’d been planning this trip for a long time, but you could never plan health problems.
“Thank you, Ida Mae. I think he’ll be fine until we get back, but it’s just . . . you know.”
Ida Mae did know. She knew a bit too well the guilt and strain that came from caring for a husband whose health was tenuous.
Arlette joined them a moment later and flopped down in a beach chair beside Ida Mae’s. “I just called Eden and let her know we’ve arrived.”
“And did you tell her we headed straight for the beach?” Ida Mae asked.
“Of course.” Arlette pulled out her sunglasses and slipped them on. “I think we need to find some cute cabana boys to flirt with.”
“Arlette?” She was usually the first to remind Ida Mae of her improprieties, and now she was suggesting a few of her own? Had she contracted jungle fever?
“What happens in Cancun stays in Cancun, as the saying goes.” Arlette tipped her head back, basking in the sun.
“I think that’s Las Vegas,” Ida Mae corrected.
“But who wants to go there?”
The three sat in the sun until they were too warm. Then they moved closer to the hotel and took advantage of the drink bar. They each got a fruity concoction served in a coconut with a little paper umbrella sticking out the top. Ida Mae had seen those umbrellas on TV and always thought they looked silly, but now that she had one of her very own, she had to admit to feeling a certain thrill. This wasn’t just any paper umbrella—this was an umbrella in her tropical drink, served to her in the actual country of Mexico. It was a symbol of freedom, of decadence, of glamour. She carefully tucked the umbrella into her beach bag. She was going to keep it forever.
They watched the other tourists for half an hour, and one woman in particular caught Ida Mae’s eye.
“I always wanted auburn hair,” she said wistfully, gazing at the copper tresses that cascaded down the back of the woman across the pool. “Look how her hair just shimmers in the sunlight. Mine just looks like . . . a cotton ball.”
“Cotton balls have their uses,” Tansy consoled her. “What would doctors do without them?”
“I know you’re trying to make me feel better, Tansy, but I think you might be overreaching.” Ida Mae cast a few more envious glances in the auburn-haired woman’s direction. She didn’t suppose she could get that kind of look from a wig, although she wouldn’t be above trying.
Arlette looked at her watch. “It’s almost time for dinner. Let’s go get changed.”
They reentered the hotel, where the air conditioning almost felt too cold after the warmth outside.
“I could live like this every day,” Tansy said as she pulled her nice sandals out of her suitcase. “Well, it would get really expensive and I know I couldn’t afford it for more than about two weeks, but I could live like this, every day, for two weeks.”
“This is going to be the vacation of a lifetime,” Ida Mae proclaimed, hoping the change of atmosphere would help take Tansy’s mind off her worries for just a little while. “Sun, sand, amazing tourist sites—and I want us all to enjoy every minute of it. We’ll never have an experience like this again.”
“And no mysteries to sidetrack us, either,” Arlette said. “We’re on vacation.”
“Of course,” Ida Mae replied. “We don’t have to run into a mystery everywhere we go, do we?”