2007 © Carlene Havel
“This is the
Safe-N-Sure Security Monitoring Company. We have a confirmed
alarm activation at the Richard Martino home. The Alamo Hills
Police Department have dispatched a patrol car.”
alarm activation? She wished she had asked exactly what that
meant before hanging up the phone. In any case, she would need
to check Dick’s house right away. Picking up her purse, she
walked to her car, praying she wouldn’t arrive before the
normally a twenty-minute drive from Charlotte’s house to Alamo
Hills. Because of pokey drivers and uncooperative traffic
signals, it was more than twenty-five minutes before she pulled
into Dick’s circular driveway. The huge, majestic home looked
perfectly normal, except for the Alamo Hills police car parked
in the driveway.
to the front door and found it slightly ajar. A strange ruckus
sounded from a nearby room. A group of men, talking, and could
they be laughing?
you kick him in the nuts,” Charlotte heard a rich baritone voice
say as she walked quickly from the foyer into the spacious
A young man
in a police uniform sat on the couch, grinning. Another very
young officer was lying on the floor, laughing so hard he was
gasping for breath. Standing over the policeman on the floor was
a tall, ruggedly handsome man, not as young as the others, and
not in uniform. Tall, broad-shouldered, deeply tanned and
muscular, with short blond hair and sky-blue eyes. Charlotte
thought the man looked like an aging California surfer.
The two young
policemen looked at Charlotte as if they had been caught smoking
in the boys’ bathroom. Then the surfer looked Charlotte in the
eye and spat, “Who the hell are you?”
officers were busily standing, straightening their uniforms,
smoothing their hair.
never phrase it that way,” Charlotte responded mildly, “but I
was about to ask you the same question.”
Johnson, ma’am,” said the better-looking of the two young men,
suddenly all business. “We responded to an alarm at this
location, Patrolman Ruiz and I, approximately a half hour ago.
This gentleman—” he nodded toward the surfer— “has put forth an
explanation that the alarm was a mistake and we were waiting for
further instructions, ma’am.”
considered the surfer. Granted, he didn’t look like a thief, and
he wasn’t acting much like one. What was he doing inside Dick’s
house? Other than burglary, what possible purpose could he have?
There was something familiar about this tall blond, but she
could not immediately identify what.
someone like to explain the mistake theory?” she asked.
looked her up and down before he answered. With embarrassment,
Charlotte remembered she was still wearing her house cleaning
clothes—a pair of her son Chris’s old boy scout shorts that
swallowed her and had a hole in one leg. A sweaty Spurs tee
shirt, with washing machine grease smeared on the front.
Flip-flops. And her hair in what Chris teasingly called her
owner of this house. And you?” He was also the owner of that
honey-baritone voice Charlotte had heard from the entry way.
belongs to Dick Martino. And you’re not him,” Charlotte said
narrowed his eyes and glared at her. “I’m Rich Martino, Dick’s
be true either. Dick Martino’s son, his only child, died last
year.” Thank goodness for the police officers, she thought.
You’re out of your mind, lady. Where’s my dad? He’ll straighten
this whole mess out in a New York minute.”
tell this man Dick’s personal business? “Mr. Martino is in the
hospital,” she said simply. “And I really think—”
The surfer’s face contorted, clearly concerned, as one would
expect from a real son. “What happened to him? Is he all right?
I have to go and see him. Right now! Which hospital?”
Charlotte said and she really was. The man looked genuinely
distraught. Probably he was upset at being caught red-handed
breaking into a house, but she couldn’t stop some stirrings of
compassion for him.
surfer said. “I don’t know who you are. But I do know who I am.
The neighbors around here all know me. Ask them. Is Ernestine
Longoria still alive? She knows me, so go and ask her. She lives
right next door.” He gestured in the direction where the
“I’ll try to
verify this if you like, ma’am,” Officer Johnson said to
I would appreciate that very much,” Charlotte replied.
returned very quickly. “No one home,” he reported.
the Robinsons on the other side,” the surfer demanded.
Johnson walked by, he laid a hand of comradeship on the surfer’s
shoulder as if to say, “Game’s over, pal.”
flashed blindingly across Charlotte’s mind. The tall blond son
in the picture by Dick’s bedside. The mother reaching to pin a
gold bar on one epaulette. Dick reaching to pin one on the other
shoulder. This surfer was an older version of the young man in
sure it was him. Of course, if he really was a burglar, she
didn’t want the police to leave. But she didn’t want to send her
friend’s son to spend the night in the Alamo Hills municipal
“Do you think
your father’s dog would know you?” Charlotte heard herself
surfer snorted. “My dad never had a dog in his life. Ask him.
He’ll tell you he hates the filthy animals.”
turn of phrase—exactly the quote Anita repeated from Dick.
“Well, why don’t we check the back yard and see?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carlene Havel has lived in six US States and two foreign
countries, and has traveled extensively throughout the world.
She is very active in her church and has a degree in English
from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Carlene and
her husband Glenn are both proud to be native Texans.