Ray was re-stocking the drinks machine when Stella came back, breathless.
"It wasn't the pizza boy," she whispered, crouching down next to a crate of Seven-Up. "It's the mechanic, I'm sure of it. I found a picture of the third victim."
Ray frowned at her. "He had an alibi. What about his alibi?"
"Must be the accomplice, it's the oldest trick in the book."
"How do you figure-- hey, Mrs. Santino, how ya doin'?"
"It's hot outside," Mrs. Santino said, flapping her elbows to get conditioned air into her thickly-forested armpits.
"Here," Stella said, offering her a Pepsi. "Joey's on Lane Six, I think."
Ray hunkered down, pretending to adjust the springs. "How do you figure the keys into it, then?"
"Easy," Stella whispered, eyes glowing. "He's a mechanic. People drive into his shop, get out of the car, and hand him--"
Ray kissed her. "Baby, you're a friggin' genius!"
"Oh, you love birds!" Mrs. Klein cooed. "Just like me and my Willy, at your age."
"Martha's not here yet, why don't you go get an iced tea?" Stella said, smiling sweetly. Mrs. Klein hobbled off, and her smile turned to a grimace. "Ray, get me out of here. One more senior citizen and I'm gonna--"
"How much did you just earn us?"
Stella tried not to look smug, but at least smug looked gorgeous on her. "Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars."
"That's three months off, easy." Ray stood up, helping Stella, and then he dipped her till her hair brushed the dirty floor. "Bahamas? Caribbean? Jamaica?"
She grinned. "Alaska."
"Alaska? As in, way up north? Snows a lot? That Alaska?"
"Hey. I'm bored with five-star cruises. I want to go on an adventure."
"When I said I'd follow you to the end of the earth, I didn't mean Alaska."
"We can stop by Ray and Fraser's," she said, insinuating one long leg between his.
"Bermuda, sure. Tahiti, sure. Fiji, no problem."
"Ray, I'm bored with islands. There's nothing around here but islands."
"That's cause we're a peninsula."
Stella pouted, but at least pouting looked gorgeous on her. "It's enough to drive a person crazy."
"That's why we're the serial killer capital of America. But serially, folks..." Stella glared at him and he sighed. "Look, we got a gorgeous beachfront penthouse. A bowling alley next to a retirement village. A great cover for amateur sleuthing, not to mention the best tax-write off our accountant could want. What do we need with Alaska?"
Stella slid a finger inside his collar and traced it up his neck. "Roaring fires, fur rugs, no phones..."
"Cut that out," Mr. Coulson scowled from the bench as he tied his shoelaces. "Just cause you're the only man in the neighborhood gettin' laid, no need to do it in front of everybody."
"Barry!" Mrs. Coulson snapped.
"We did just make a tax-free quarter million for doing our old jobs," Stella pointed out.
"I hear Hong Kong has great shopping this time of year," Ray pleaded, but Stella just smiled.
"That can be our next reward."
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code to link to this page: <a href="http://www.yearningvoid.net/stories/julad/000045.html">Tax Shelter, April 5</a> by Julad