IT WAS ABOUT an hour later, while vacuuming the hallway, when Maxcine settled on a nifty plan. Now all she had to do was convince Izzy to cooperate. Maybe that wouldn't be a major problem, inasmuch as they really wouldn't be investing thousands of dollars in a resort that probably didn't exist, and never would, either. They'd just pretend that they were very, very, super highly interested, while ferreting out information that would help to put swindlers behind bars for a very long time.
The vacuum cleaner suddenly stopped.
Maxcine arched both penciled on eyebrows and looked down her nose at the now silent machine. She experimentally shoved it back and forth. A plug appeared over her right shoulder.
"Aaaiiieee!" she screamed, shrill if not loud.
"Aaaaaaah!" Isabel screamed behind her sister. "Don't do that! You scared me!"
"Well, how do you think I just felt?"
"Proud of yourself for scaring me."
Turning on her heels to face the beloved provoking pest, Maxcine forgot she was still holding onto the handle of the vacuum cleaner. It sort of swung around with her, thunking against the hall wall. "Now see what you made me do, Izzy!"
"Yeah, it's me all right. Only I didn't make you try to put a hole in the wall with the Hoover. Why didn't you let go of it?"
"How rational would you act if someone just scared the tar out of you?"
"In complete control, just like now, after you screamed and scared me," Isabel smirked.
"I didn't shove a snake sticking its tongue out over your shoulder like you did to me!"
"This," she countered, waggling the plug by its cord and giggling, "is not a snake."
"Someone who shall remain nameless is in the mood for an argument, and it isn't me!"
"I'm sorry, Maxi. I didn't mean to startle you. Does that apology prove I don't want to argue?"
"I'm sorry, too. We're both jumpy ... and it's Eva's fault."
"Yeah, let's blame her. She isn't here to defend herself." Isabel grinned, and passing Maxi, went into their exercise room. She selected the stair-stepper, and began working-out. The hem of her skirt swirled around her legs, creating a breeze. Neither of the sisters had worn either slacks or shorts since the demise of their respective marriages over a decade ago. One reason had something to do with being, "single ladies". The other was that ex's had preferred wives to wear pants, and had made fun of them if they wore dresses.
"Aren't you going to put down the cord?" Maxcine innocently inquired from the doorway.
Positive that Izzy wasn't about to deny having forgotten to drop the cord, Maxcine didn't bother to say anything else about it. Instead, she climbed onto their stationary bike and began peddling as if she was in a hurry to get somewhere.
Porsche, their red and blue Macaw, strode awkwardly into the room. "Awk! Son of a bitch!"
"He got loose again," Isabel needlessly muttered, scowling at the feathered nuisance. "Your turn to take him back."
"Later. We have plans to make." It didn't bother her that Porsche was biting at a handle of the rowing machine. Metal was tougher than beak.
"What are you two planning to do?"
Maxcine shot her a wry glance. "Very funny. Seriously, we need to follow through with pretending an interest..."
"In investing cold, hard, cash. I know. Only we don't know who the con-artist was who ripped Eva off with that resort business. One of us will have to talk to her."
Neither of them wanted to tackle that chore. 'Chore' is exactly what it would be. For the sake of having company to spend a few hours with, Eva would delay answering a simple question for as long as possible. Then, after coughing up the name, she'd undoubtedly spend another hour delivering warnings about that individual. Anyone who simply walked away was nabbed, hugged and begged with tear-filled eyes to watch the long version of Gone With the Wind on a small screen television. Popcorn and prune juice provided. The reason the movie had a long version is because seventy-five percent of the way through the film extravaganza, Eva would push the buttons on her DVD player to start it all over again.
Sighing as she got off the bike, Maxcine also wagged her head. "Maybe she'll be cooperative for once."
"Don't count on it. You'll have to be alert to her trying to side-track you."
"Me?" Maxcine squeaked. "I was the one who got stuck hearing all about how a plastic Ronald McDonald was talking to her! That conversation took nearly an hour. My walk around the block was delayed so long, that I didn't get to take the rest of it because the wind had picked up so much. Me? Deliberately ask her about this? Me?"
Isabel stopped stepping on the stepper, and both of the foot paddles sank to the carpet. "Well, I can't do it! I've been ordered to get Porsche back onto his perch."
"By you," Isabel said, pointing at her sister with the vacuum plug.
"You don't change your mind very often. About anything. So I won't bother trying."
"Try, try! I can change my mind!" A wicked grin crossed Maxcine's age creased face. "So you like raisins now? I can start putting them into rice pudding?"
"If Eva tries any delaying tactics on me," Isabel began to grumble, lurching off the stair-stepper and stalking toward the hallway, "I'll blow her so many raspberries that she'll think she's in a briar patch!"
"Raspberries don't grow on briars."
"So what! And another thing..."
"The first raisin I see in rice pudding is going straight up your nose!"
"My poor schnoz will be jamb packed, what with that raisin, a jar of jelly, cantaloupe, sequined knee-highs and the school bus you have already threatened to shove there. Hmmmph, I don't dare suggest an alternative place."
Breaking out laughing, they shared a buddy hug, laughed some more, hugged again and then pretended they couldn't stand the touch of one another.
"Don't forget to drop that cord, or you'll drag poor Hoover across the street!" Watching her sister toss the cord aside and stomp out of sight, Maxcine grinned. Her own task would be easy compared to Izzy's. She turned her attention to their Macaw.
"Come 'ere, Porsche," she murmured, extending her right hand toward the very large bird, who canted his head and then looked at her upside down.
"Keep that up, and one day you'll wring your own neck," Maxcine warned him.
Porsche strode deliberately cocky across the floor, then proceeded to climb the curio shelf. Figurines toppled in his passing.
"Get down from there!" he was ordered, jumping to grab for him. She couldn't believe how swiftly he was able to pull himself onto the top shelf. She wouldn't be able to reach him without something to stand on.
Porsche launched, flying past Maxcine's head and into the hallway.
Giving chase, while yelling threats to bake him for the main course on the Thanksgiving table, the senior woman wished she and Izzy hadn't traded their dog for him. That wish intensified when he disappeared into her bedroom. By the time she got there, all of five seconds later, the macaw was clinging to her curtains.
The rod popped out of its bracket, pole dropped, curtain and bird ending in a tangled heap on the floor. The reason for the tangle was wildly flapping wings and clawing talons. His beak was otherwise occupied, shrilling a string of profanity sure to make a granite statue of a drunken sailor blush.
Maxcine was far from being the proverbial happy camper. There were other things she'd rather do than wash and iron curtains. Surely necessary now, since Porsche had gotten the crap scared out of him. "Wait till I find a cork!" she screamed, racing to capture him before he trashed her entire room.
Twenty minutes later, with macaw swaddled in her once lovely bedroom curtains, Maxcine marched into the great-room. She'd had the foresight to leave one of his legs exposed, so it was a simple matter to close the clamp on the end of his tether around his ankle. Feeling just a tad mean, she left him to get untangled on his own.
"Whistle while I work," Maxcine sang off-key on her march to her room. The sight soon before her eyes would take some doing to be put right.