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To The Castle Borne
About the Author: J. R. Parsons's latest story, "Bama Carter Gets Rode," appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. He calls Southern California home.

“Yo ho, yo ho, an EveryEats life for me,” Angie sang as she drove across the bridge to Bellville Island Thursday evening.

She patted the Pirate Mike’s Seafood box on the passenger seat. She didn't understand why anyone would pay twice the cost of a meal for a five-mile delivery, but she wasn’t complaining. Since being laid off from her job at the Newtown Beach Yacht Club amid the latest economic downturn, this gig was the only thing that put bucks in the bank.

And singing kept her sane. Especially singing made-up ditties on delivery runs. Earlier that evening, she had worked a Chick-Chick delivery into a verse from Shania Twain’s “I Feel Like a Woman.”

Minutes later Angie’s phone beeped, signaling her imminent arrival at the delivery destination. Seeing approaching headlights, she eased over to give the oncoming van room to pass on the narrow street. Instead of waving thanks, the driver shouted something unintelligible and hit the gas, his broad face peevish under a red Mia Ristorante cap.

Angie sighed. Some people shed misery like Itzi, her Corgi, shed hair. Shrugging, she drove the short way to where Mariners Drive ended, made a U-turn, and parked. Exiting her vehicle, she did a double-take. Somebody needed to give England back its castle.

As she negotiated the iron gate to access the grounds, she checked the delivery instructions for warnings about moats or drawbridges. (Seriously, it paid to double-check those things. When money’s no object, obstacles can get crazy.) All she saw was a message about dropping the food off on the porch. And a $20 tip. Woohoo.

Humming ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” she bounced up a lilac hedged castle walkway, illuminated by sculpted lanterns. And found the castle’s entryway wide open. Inside, lights blazed.

“EveryEats!” Angie called out.

When no one appeared, she set the box down, shouted, “Food’s on the porch,” and stepped off the landing. Behind her she heard a gasp, followed by thumping and scraping.

Turning back, Angie shouted, "Hello. Is someone hurt in there?”

A woman’s voice came from somewhere inside the home: “Oh, thank God. Please get help. Hurry.” She sounded scared.

Hands shaking, Angie called 911.

Forty minutes later she was still at the castle house, answering questions posed by a Newtown Beach police detective.

“Do you often make deliveries to the island, Ms. Peretti?” Detective Grayson asked. Dressed in light gray slacks and a green plaid bomber jacket, he loomed over her by a good foot or more. His manner suggested that he had assessed her ripped jeans, t-shirt, and ball cap and found them suspicious.

“First and last time, Detective,” Angie assured him. “I’d make more money not crossing the bridge. Every minute I’m stuck here is costing me.”

“Yes, well, I’m afraid it can’t be helped. The Armsteads are—”

“Rich, powerful, important?”

Grayson’s mouth turned down. “I was going to say distraught, Ms. Peretti. The wife, especially, is inconsolable.”

“Yeah. Must be tough having your castle breached,” Angie said.

That earned her a sharp look from Grayson. “How did you know the robbers broke in?” he demanded.

Angie rolled her eyes. “It’s just an expression. Look at this place. It's a baby Buckingham Palace.”

Grayson's lips twitched in what might have been a smile. Angie gave it a 50-50 chance. The detective cleared his throat. “Yes, well, let’s move on shall we, Ms. Peretti. You told the responding officers that you got here about seven-thirty?”

“Seven thirty-five,” said Angie, scrolling on her phone. “Nope, sorry, the delivery app says seven thirty-seven.” She flashed Grayson a rueful smile. “And it’s only wrong when it comes to calculating drivers’ wages.”

“All right. So, when you arrived at seven thirty-seven, did you see anything suspicious? Anyone hanging around? Or running away?”

This story appears in our JUN 2022 Issue
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