Dotty entered the kitchen ahead of her daughter, placed her purse on the counter, and flopped down onto one of the stools. “Amanda, my feet hurt so much I don’t think I'll ever walk again.”
Amanda looked at her mother sympathetically and gave a tired laugh, as she placed her own purse beside her mother's. “I think you’re exaggerating, just a bit, Mother, but I do understand what you’re saying.”
Pulling off one of her shoes, Dotty started massaging her foot. “Well, perhaps I am stretching the truth a bit, but it’s only because I feel like we walked for miles and miles today.”
Amanda smiled. “You say that every time we go to one of these mall-wide sales.” Walking over to the cupboard, she opened a door and pulled out the hot cocoa. “Why don't you go and run yourself a hot bath, and I’ll bring up a cup of hot chocolate for you to drink while you soak.”
Dotty stretched her neck from side to side. “Mmmm… that sounds like a wonderful idea.” She slowly eased off the stool and turned to grab her purse. “Amanda, which one of these is mine. They look so similar, I can't tell the difference.”
Amanda finished filling the kettle with water and walked over to the stove. Glancing over her shoulder, she looked at her mother. “Yours is the one with the tiny gilt buckle on the side.”
“Oh that’s right.” Dotty inspected the two purses. She had a feeling that this was going to be a constant issue. “Maybe we should have gone with different colors.”
“Oh darn.” Disappointed, Amanda closed the cupboard where she’d hidden the marshmallows. “We’re out of marshmallows. I must have used the last of them up and forgot to write them on the store list.”
“Hot chocolate just isn't the same without them, is it?” Dotty replied a bit sadly.
Amanda turned off the stove. “No it’s not. Why don’t you go take your bath and I’ll run to the store for more.”
“Are you sure, I can live without them you know.” Dotty gazed at her daughter.
Amanda nodded. “Yes, besides, we’re low on milk, so I can pick that up too.” She turned to grab her purse, just as the phone rang. Letting out a sigh, she reached over and picked up the receiver. “Hello? … oh, hi.”
Dotty knew who the caller was the minute her daughter’s face had lit up. Why her daughter and Lee Stetson didn't make their relationship more official was beyond her. If Lee wasn't with her at work, he was at the house, or calling every hour. Knowing that the call was going to take a while, she slipped her shoe back on her foot, grabbed her purse and headed for the door. “I'm gonna go get the marshmallows,” she called as she opened the door and slipped outside before her daughter could object.
Clutching her purse, Dotty quickly made her way to Amanda’s Wagoneer and groaned as her feet began to protest. Maybe she should rethink going to the store, after all, they didn’t really need the marshmallows that bad, but then again they were out of milk. “Oh, be quiet.” She mumbled to her feet. “We can do this. It’ll be a quick trip to the store and back and then you’ll have all the time in the world to soak.” Ignoring the ache in her feet, she climbed into the vehicle and closed the door.
Turning the key in the ignition, Dotty put the Jeep in reverse and began to slowly back out of the driveway. As she pulled away from the house, she glanced briefly towards the windows and shook her head wistfully. She loved Amanda, but her daughter and Lee were really trying her patience. Anyone with eyes could tell how very much in love they were. She didn’t understand what they were waiting for. The boys enjoyed having Lee around, and Jamie had finally accepted the new man in his mother’s life. Everyone would be much better off if Lee would just pop the question and move into the house, permanently.
Dotty sighed as she made a right out of the neighborhood and onto the main road. She was sure of one thing, the moment Lee moved in, she would definitely get to see a lot more of her daughter, and so would Phillip and Jamie. Not that Amanda wasn’t a good mother, but between the film company, the boys’ activities, and Lee, her daughter’s time was definitely split in one too many directions.
Dotty’s thoughts were broken by the sound of a siren behind her. Glancing in her rearview mirror, she noticed flashing blue and red lights. She quickly looked down at her speedometer, and clearly not speeding, she couldn’t understand what she could have done to warrant being pulled over. Letting out another sigh, she put on her blinker and maneuvered the vehicle over to the shoulder.
As soon as the Jeep was in park, Dotty reached over and opened the glove box. Taking out the registration, she then picked up her purse from the passenger seat. She hadn’t been pulled over more than once before, but she had seen people being pulled over on TV enough times to know the procedure. With everything within easy reach, she rolled down the window and waited for the police officer to approach.
“Afternoon ma’am.” Officer McDonald nodded politely, when he reached the open vehicle window. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“No, Officer, I’m afraid I don’t.” Dotty shook her head with honest bewilderment. “I’m pretty sure I was going the speed limit, and I know the vehicle’s registration is up-to-date… ”
“I pulled you over because you apparently didn’t see the stop sign back at Magnolia.” Officer McDonald pointed back in the direction Dotty had come.
Dotty’s hand instantly went to her face, her expression clearly showing her embarrassment. “I can’t believe I missed that. I’ve lived here for almost fifteen years, and I’ve never missed that stop sign.”
“Be that as it may, you did miss it, and thankfully traffic is light at this time of day, or you could have had a serious accident.” Officer McDonald shrugged compassionately. “Suffice it to say, I am going to have to write you a ticket. License and registration please.”
Dotty handed the Officer the registration she’d already dug out, and began routing through her purse for her wallet. The first thing she noticed, as she opened the bag, was that something seemed off with the contents. “Officer, I think I may have grabbed my daughter’s purse… ” her explanation trailed off as her fingers felt something cold and hard. Wrapping her hand around the item, she began to pull it out, and then as the sight of it came into view, her eyes grew wide, and she quickly let go of the item. She prayed that the officer didn’t catch sight of it at all.
“Excuse me ma’am, may I please see your hand bag?” Officer McDonald asked, his friendly tone now serious.
Dotty nodded and closed her eyes as she passed the purse through the window. Apparently her prayers had gone unanswered, and Officer McDonald had clearly seen the…, no it couldn’t have been. She didn’t dare even think the word. What would Amanda be doing with a…
“Do you have a permit for this gun?” Officer McDonald fixed Dotty with a cold-hard stare.
“Officer, I can explain… ” Dotty swallowed hard. She wasn’t sure she really could explain.
Officer McDonald nodded in understanding. “I’ll take that as a no.”
“No, I mean, well, see, as I started saying before, I grabbed my daughter’s purse… ” Dotty took a deep breath and continued, “and see we were just at the mall, you know for the mall-wide sale, and we both bought new purses. I don’t know what possessed us to choose bags that were almost identical, but we both liked them, and we decided to start using them right away. Then when we got home, and they were on the kitchen counter… and we were out of marshmallows, and the phone rang, and it was my daughter’s boyfriend, and I knew they were going to be talking forever, so I decided to go to the store, and… well obviously I grabbed her purse instead of mine.”
Having found a wallet and ID in the purse, Officer McDonald stared in amazement at this woman. He had heard her take one breath, and that was all. No one could possibly say that much in one breath. It was obviously a stall tactic. The registration, Federal ID with photo and driver’s license all had the same name on them, Amanda King. However the picture on the ID and the woman behind the drivers’ seat were definitely not the same woman. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to take you down to the station house.”
Dotty’s mouth fell open. “Honestly, officer, this is my daughter’s car. My name is Dorothea West, and I live with my daughter, Amanda King. I have two grandsons, and we all reside at 4247 Maplewood Drive.”
“You’re obviously good at creating confusion, ma’am, but I’m not that easily suckered.” Officer McDonald put the purse under one arm, and placed his free hand on the hilt of his gun. “You could very easily have read the information on this woman’s ID and come up with a cover story. Now we can do this the easy way, or the hard way, but either way, you will be coming with me to the station.”
Dotty closed her eyes and fought back tears. “I don’t want to make trouble. I’ll come willingly.” She turned the car off and pulled the keys out of the ignition. “What’ll happen to my daughter’s car?”
“I’ll call ahead and have a tow truck come and get it.” Officer McDonald opened the Jeep’s door and assisted Dotty out of the vehicle. He walked her to his squad car, helped her into the back and then closed the door. He then wrote out a note on the back of a ticket, and walked back to the Wagoneer. He placed the note on the windshield, so that any other squad cars passing would know this vehicle was already being taken care of.
Walking back to his own car, Officer McDonald shook his head. He hated arresting nice older women, but he’d learned that even the nicest face could easily be used to distract others from more nefarious wrong doings.
Amanda rushed into the station house with Lee right behind her. Only her mother could turn a simple trip to the store into a matter of national security. The police station had called not only her to report her missing hand bag and vehicle, but had also called the Agency, to let them know that a civilian was walking around pretending to be a government agent.
Fortunately, however, Mr. Melrose was the one who had received the call, and though he wasn’t happy about it, he did understand, to a point, having met Dotty on several occasions, and knowing that Dotty was Amanda’s mother, which was explanation enough. But, understanding or not, he had issued an order that Lee go with Amanda to the station, just to ensure that everything was taken care of properly. After all, with two agents along to verify Dotty’s story, well it would be a lot easier to clear up all misunderstandings.
Amanda, with Lee beside her, anxiously approached the front desk. “I’m looking for my mother, Dorothea West.”
The desk officer looked up from her paperwork. “Your name, please?”
“Amanda King. I believe you have my ID and license, which if you look at the photo, will verify that I am who I say I am.” Amanda pointed to her purse sitting on the edge of the desk. “Which will then allow me to vouch for the woman you’re holding.”
Lee took out his own ID, “I’m also a federal agent, and can back up Mrs. King’s story.”
The desk officer picked up the ID from beside the purse, looked at the photo, then at Amanda, and back again. “All right, it does appear that you match the photo.” She snapped her fingers and motioned towards the officer standing beside the door behind her. “Please go get Mrs. West from holding room two.” She then turned back towards Amanda and Lee. “I’ll just need you to sign for your things.”
Amanda nodded and accepted the clipboard from the officer. She quickly signed her name, and handed the board back to the officer.
The desk officer handed Amanda her IDs and purse, just as the door opened.
“Oh, Amanda, thank goodness… and Lee? She didn’t need to drag you down here.” Dotty walked briskly towards the partition door. “But then, I guess she did need a ride since I had the Jeep, and well that’s now in the impound lot, and I mean who else would Amanda have called…”
Lee smiled with amusement as he opened the half-door for Dotty, who immediately rushed into his wife’s arms.
“Oh, Mother, are you all right?” Amanda pulled back to look at her mother more closely.
“Yes, I suppose. Though I have a mind to write to someone.” Dotty eyed the officers behind the desk. “I mean what kind of world do we live in when an honest citizen’s words aren’t worth anything anymore?”
Amanda glanced over her mother’s head and shared a knowing look with her husband. If her mother only knew. “Come on, let’s get you home.”
“I can tell you, I’m definitely taking a long hot bath now.” Dotty nodded as she stepped out of her daughter’s embrace and turned towards the front door. “Oh, this whole ordeal has been so upsetting. I mean I tried to explain that I took your purse by mistake…” She turned towards her daughter as they reached the front doors, “which, by the way, I’m not the only one with something to explain. I believe you and I are going to have a long talk about why you have a gun in your purse, missy.”
Amanda glanced briefly at her husband, and letting out a deep sigh, followed her mother out of the station house.