Interesting are the thoughts that pass through one's mind when confronted with the inevitable.
Ali thought about her name. Why was she named after Alethia, the goddess of truth, when it would have been more accurate to name her after Leira, the goddess of deception?
Ali had honed her flair for the dramatic in high school drama class. She was a good actress, but right now she felt trapped. The most important thing was to protect Nana's secret, yet Ali knew Angela owned some pieces of the puzzle.
Angela, Rex and Charlie stood riveted in Charlie's dining room, looking at Ali.
"First of all, how did you know about my letters?" Ali asked Angela. "Second, you had no right to invade Nana's grave and steal something that didn't belong to you."
Ali often knew the best defense was a strong offense.
Charlie and Rex both looked puzzled. Ali and Angela paid no attention to them.
"I don't know what you are talking about; I haven't been to Nana's grave in years." Angela said. "I only remember the stories she told us when we stayed with her during summer vacation. You know, the buried treasure stories."
Those were the stories Ali had written down and buried under Nana's headstone. When Rex discovered the hole at Bayview and Charlie dismissed it as a prank, Ali knew someone was looking for Nana's treasure. Someone who knew about the stories. And that someone had to have been Angela, who, apparently, had spilled the beans to her beau, Charlie.
Fearful that someone would find the letters, Ali had returned to Nana's grave, retrieved them and stashed them in a safe-deposit box at a bank in Sedro-Woolley.
Later, Ali had called Dale at the university to find out if anyone had been asking about buried treasure. She was told that Dale was visiting a visiting a cemetery in the north county. She put two and two together and drove to Nana's grave, expecting to find Dale there. It had been a good time to dust off her acting skills.
Rex looked from Ali to Angela. "How do you two know each other?"
"We're cousins," his wife explained. "You might say that Angela's mom was the black sheep of the family after getting pregnant in high school. The dad hit the road, so she raised little Angie on her own. I met Angie when I was 10, when she was staying with Nana for the summer. We've never been close. I didn't think the connection was important."
"I love you too, coz." Angela piped in sarcastically. "Let's get down to business. We want to solve the mystery of the buried treasure. Charlie and I think you know where it is."
Rex was growing agitated. He felt protective of his wife, but Angela's assertions were intriguing.
"Do you know something about this treasure?" he asked Ali. "Is that why you've been so distant since I brought up the cemetery matter?"
Ali wanted to tell Rex the whole story, but with the audience in the room, it would be impossible. So she hedged.
"I have been writing stories in the form of letters to Nana, recording what she told me when I was a kid," she said. " Someone desecrated Nana's grave and stole those letters; I think it was Angela."
OK, it was a lie, but it wasn't one that would hurt Rex. She just needed to throw the hounds off the scent.
Again on the offensive, she lobbed a question back at Rex.
"By the way, how did you get my cemetery map and nana's ring? I saw you put them in your desk drawer."
Rex didn't like being the center of attention. He paused, then spoke.
"I was given the ring by a woman in the cemetery who was dressed in old-fashioned clothing ..." he didn't know how to explain the dress. "I couldn't really see her face, just a hand sticking out of the mist among the trees. She dropped the ring into my hands. The map I found hooked on some grave flowers; I don't know what they mean."
Ali looked at Angela.
"Where did you get Nana's ring, and why did you go to such lengths to give it to my husband?"
"I found the ring in Nana's dresser that summer and forgot to give it back," Angela stated defensively. "After she died, I thought, what's the point? I thought Rex would show it to you and you'd remember about the treasure. The 'grave digging' certainly didn't spur any movement."
"Once and for all there is no treasure," Ali insisted. "The stories are all made up. My map was just a game. Whoever believed the stories were real has been on a wild goose chase."
Ali considered it perhaps her best performance, ever. She had to get them to stop.
Dale, who had been called by Angela, walked into the room. He had caught the last part of the conversation.
"She's right, you know. The more I read about Jake Terry, the less I think of the treasure stories," Dale said. "Jake died a pauper. If he had anything to live on, he wouldn't have stuck around. And, if he did have loot stashed, you can be sure it wouldn't be in the lower 48."
Ali sighed with relief at Dale's academic conclusions.
"You see," she said.
It was evident that Charlie and Angela were not ready to give up the hunt, but after hearing from the expert, they decided to call it a day.
"Coffee anyone?" Charle asked, remembering his duty as host.
Rex walked over to Ali.
"Want to go get some breakfast?"
"Sure, but I need to make a stop first. I'll meet you at Little Cheerful. Save us a table; it's busy in the morning."
Ali looked at Angela.
"Take care, coz, and stay out of my life."
"We'll see," Angela muttered.
Ali got into her Miata, drove to Bayview Cemetery and walked to Angel Eyes.
She fingered the safe-deposit key on her necklace and looked into the statue's painted eyes.
"Our secret is safe," she whispered.
Then Ali turned and walked back to her car. Breakfast was waiting. And so was Rex.