by Kari Diane Pike
I'm Richy the Banker's daughter.
Only now, I am safe at home and have changed out of my adult care-giver hat and back into my mom-of-teens hat, my wife-of-one hat, and of course my student and writer hats and my favorite grandma hat. Every couple of days, I dig out my gardening hat or reluctantly dust off my housekeeping hat, usually found at the bottom of the laundry pile. While these hats may not look as exciting as my super-sleuthing hat, they are certainly a better fit.
After a nine day stay in Phoenix and my sleuthing experience at the track, it was time to get back to "normal life." Since I had flown to Phoenix on a one-way ticket, my sister-in-law, soon to be housemate, asked if I would be willing and able to drive one of her vehicles back up to Utah. I love win-win situations. I needed a way home and she needed help with the moving. The night before I was to come home, Becky brought me the car and handed me some cash to help pay for the gas. I placed the cash in a certain spot in my wallet so that I could keep track of my expenses. Early the next morning, I pulled into a gas station and handed the cashier the two twenty dollar bills Becky had given me. When the pump failed to start, I headed back to the cashier to see if she pushed the wrong button. The cashier met me at the door.
"Your twenties are counterfeit."
"What are you talking about?" I raced back to the car and grabbed my purse. I had another twenty from cashing a personal check at the credit union. I wanted to compare the bills and find out what the cashier meant by counterfeit. Where in the world would I get phony money? Well, besides at the track trying to collect a debt from a complete stranger. Then I remembered the cash Becky gave me.
"See here?" The cashier held a fake twenty up to the light and pointed her finger at it. "These bills don't have a water mark. You're supposed to be able to see the President's face right here in the lower right-hand corner."
I held up my twenty-dollar-bill from the credit union. Sure enough. There was President Andrew Jackson himself, not only front and center, but hiding in the corner as well. "I'm so sorry. I had no idea. My sister-in-law gave me that money last night. I'm sure she is unaware that this money is counterfeit. I probably should call her and tell her to check the rest of her cash." I handed the cashier good money for the gas. She handed the phony money back to me and I shoved them into my purse.
My mind whirled as I went through the motions of filling the gas tank and cleaning the windshield. Where would Becky get phony money? What do I do with it now? Is the cashier going to call the police? Is it a felony to cross a state line with counterfeit money? I latched my seat belt and dialed Becky on my cell phone.
"Hi! Are you on the road yet?"
"Well, sort of. I had a little problem. The twenties you gave me are fake."
"Oh. Wow. Really? I guess I didn't do as well at my moving sale as I thought I did. I gave you cash from my yard sale stash. I will have to call you back."
I started the car and headed north. By the time I arrived in Vegas, Becky had checked the rest of her money and found no other fakes. We decided that I should send the bills back to Arizona. Becky and her husband had a pretty good idea who had given them the twenties and they were going to turn them in to the police. Then I wondered. Would it be another felony to send fake money in the federal mail?
When I pulled into the driveway, home at last, my anxious husband bounded out the door and towards the car. Aww! He was so worried about me. I'm going to get the best hug. Doug, however, stopped in front of the car and made a frantic gesture for me to pop the hood. As I did so, I heard a loud hissing noise. Doug lifted the hood and did a quick side step to avoid the hot steam billowing from the engine. Someone had removed the cap from the coolant reservoir. I knew angels had attended me in my journey. How else could I have driven across the desert all those miles and not overheated and broken down? I offered a silent, but heartfelt prayer of gratitude.
Then my writer hat prompted another thought. Who removed the cap? Did David forget to put the cap back on after checking the fluids? What if the salesman guy at the track really worked for Austin? Was there a secret message on the counterfeit money and someone was following me, hoping I would break down?
I sense a book in the making!