To Catch a Bridegroom
It was 8:30 PM in the city of Winnipeg. Private eye brothers Jack and Joe Robison were finishing up the paperwork for a case, and were just about to go home when they heard a knock at their office door. They grumbled.
"Now, why on Earth would another potential client come in this late with a case?" Jack wondered.
"We'll just tell her that we'll file it away for the night, and get started on it tomorrow morning," Joe replied. "Bright and early, first thing." He called to the door, "Come in."
But instead of a complete stranger, they saw their twenty-four-year-old niece, Denise Summers, standing at the door. She was brushing her long chocolate-coloured hair from her face as she smiled.
"Greetings from Europe!" she called, then went up to hug them.
"Denise, welcome home," Jack said. "So, how were the five months you took off to travel?"
"They were wonderful, simply wonderful," Denise replied. "Scotland in late March is dreadfully dull, but you two just have to visit Paris come April; it is simply divine. Poland was just as dreary as Scotland, but the rest of the trip was wonderful because it was mostly beautiful, sunny weather wherever I was. It was so unusually warm in Italy, and Spain and Portugal are boiling hot that time of year."
"We're glad you had a wonderful time, honey," Joe said. "What all did you do in Europe? I hope you brought back lots of pictures."
"You mean other than the usual sightseeing and shopping?" Denise laughed. "Well, on my first day in Paris, I met this wonderful guy who was sitting all alone at an outdoor café. His name is Pierre, and he told me he was a diamond cutter and a jewellery designer in the city. A jewellery designer; he showed me some of the things he made. The day after I met him, he called my hotel and I told him that I was just leaving to explore the countryside. He said his boss had just laid him off, so he decided to join me. As we walked through a bevy of beautiful grapevines, he asked me what I was doing for the rest of my life.
"The day before I left for Holland, he told me that he landed a big inheritance from a wealthy relative's will and just cashed it, so he wanted to accompany me for the rest of my trip. It was so romantic. So, there we were, travelling by train through the Swiss Alps, sharing a spaghetti dinner in Rome, then he decided to splash me in the Trevi fountain."
"You were splashing around in the Trevi fountain in Rome?" Jack repeated. "Isn't that illegal?"
"Maybe, but we were never caught?" Denise answered. "Anyway, he and I continued on, and we basked on the beaches in Spain, danced in the sunset, and made love as we explored the Portuguese coastline." She held out her right hand to show them a diamond ring on her ring finger. "That's when he asked me to marry him."
Jack and Joe smiled at her, amazed and happy. They engaged in a group hug, then Jack said, "I'm so proud of you, sweetie. I'm so happy you enjoyed yourself this much. So, can we meet this Pierre that you really want to marry?"
Denise nodded, went to the doorway and stuck her head outside. "Okay, Pierre, you can come in now," she said. "Uncle Jack and Uncle Joe want to meet you."
Soon, in stepped a man who looked to be around twenty-nine years old. He had curly blond hair and ocean blue eyes. He wore a pink button-down shirt, a brown jacket and matching pants, and black shoes. He smiled and held out his hand for the brothers to shake. They hesitated, looking very suspicious, as if he looked so familiar to them. Jack went to the filing drawer marked International and pulled out all the files on an internationally wanted jewel thief named Pierre Lesarge, wanted by Scotland Yard and Interpol. Reports stated he was wanted for many robberies in jewellery stores and banks all over London and Paris. He had many aliases, including Peter Lucerne, Pierre Lafarve and Pierre Laroche. They studied his picture comparing it to the man standing in front of them, then started whispering at each other.
Denise looked confused. "Is something the matter?" she asked.
Finally, Jack pulled out some rope and began to tie Pierre's hands behind his back. While he did, Joe told him, "Pierre Lesarge, you are under arrest for jewel robberies in England and France. You have the right to remain silent!"
Denise was horrified now, and she tried to untie him. Jack tried to stop her, but she screamed at him, "Uncle Jack, why are you and Uncle Joe doing this?! He's my fiancé!"
"He's a wanted criminal, Denise!" Joe called. He looked at his brother. "Take him to the police station and have him booked!" Jack nodded and took him away. Denise just stood there, looking like she wanted to cry.
"How could you do that, Uncle Joe?!" she cried. "What on Earth did he do?"
Joe showed her the reports and said, "That man was Pierre Lesarge, a bank robber who specializes largely in jewel robberies, wanted back in Europe. Look, he robbed so many banks and jewellers in London and Paris, and even a jewel-housing museum in London. Reports stated he was working as a diamond cutter and jewellery maker in those places. Did he tell you about any of this?"
"Actually, he did," she replied. "He told me in confidence as we shared a hotel room in Budapest."
"And this didn't produce any red flags for you?" Joe wondered. "You never said, 'Pierre, how could you deceive me like this? Get out of my life!'"
"No, how could I have?" Denise answered. "I love him so much. He told me he wanted to be a newcomer to Canada, and that he had relatives in Quebec that could help him get settled. I could help him get settled here. He told me he wants to make a new life in Canada."
"Well, he has to go to jail now, until the courts can make him go back to France to face justice," Joe said. "Honey, can't you see he's lying to you? You'd be much better off without him."
She ran out of the office and spied Jack taking her fiancé close to the elevator, far down the hall. She ran as fast as she could to catch up with them. Joe called her name and started going after her. Jack waited for the elevator to get to their floor, and just as it did, Denise grabbed Pierre and began to untie his hands.
"Denise, what the hell are you doing?" Jack demanded. "He's going to the police!"
"No, he's coming with me!" Denise insisted. She took him and rushed into the elevator when the doors opened. She pushed the button for the lobby, threw herself around him and called, "I'm going to marry him, and don't you try to stop me!" as the doors closed. Joe was too late when he reached the elevator.
The brothers looked dumbfounded. Jack then came up with another plan. "Okay, first we talk some sense into her, then we report him to the police."
"I concur," Joe said.
It wasn't long before Pierre moved in with Denise. For the next two months, they shared her apartment and went nearly everywhere together. He cut and dyed his hair, and used another alias, Pierre Desegette, to open a bank account, and find work as a jewellery designer for a jeweller's in Winnipeg. He impressed his employer with original designs and a speedy work process, earning him paycheques of up to twenty-five hundred dollars. He spent money largely on a different wardrobe for himself, so he could fit in.
It was Saturday, the weekend after Halloween. As Pierre showed her a brand new dress shirt and pants, Denise said to him, "You know, honey, we could be married sooner if you could put more money towards our wedding."
"But of course, ma cherie," he said. He went to retrieve a telephone book and opened it to "Wedding Planners" in the Yellow Pages. "Shall we hire a professional, or plan it all by ourselves?"
She had just made a decision when they heard a loud knock. Then, a shrill female voice. "Denise!" she screamed. "This is your mother! Open up right now, young lady!"
Denise gasped and told Pierre, "You have to hide. If Jack and Joe see you, they'll arrest you right away." She turned to the door and called, "I'm coming!" as she took Pierre and hid him in her closet. "Don't make a sound!" she warned him.
She rushed to answer the door and saw her mother, Jack and Joe's sister. Mrs. Summers looked furious, but more like she wanted to cry. Denise also saw Jack and Joe, as well as her younger sister, Colleen.
She smiled nervously and said, "Hello, Mother. Hi, Uncle Jack, Uncle Joe. Hello, Colleen."
"Don't think you can impress us with that warm greeting, young lady!" Mrs. Summers spat. She pointed at the living room easychair. "Sit down! You have some mighty explaining to do!"
Denise obeyed, looking more nervous. Mrs. Summers sat in between her brothers on the sofa, still glaring at her. Colleen took a chair from the dining table.
Mrs. Summers spoke first. "Denise, what the hell is this I've been hearing about you being in love with an internationally wanted jewel thief?"
Denise took a small breath and tried to be rational. "Now, Mom, try to understand," she said, "Pierre is very romantic and charming, and has been very good to me these past few months."
"Denise, all jewel thieves are romantic and charming and good-looking, and the 'sweep you off your feet' types," Colleen said. "It's in all those mystery romance books."
"Denise Madeline Summers, I thought I raised you better than this," her mother mused. "You are college-educated, independent young lady. People like you do not fall in love with career criminals and thieves! What in the world do you see in this man, anyway? And how has he been so good to you?"
"Not only is he making enough money to try and support me," Denise told them, "I can see he's trying to change his image and reform himself, for starters."
"If you're going to tell us about changing his face and hair, and buying new clothes to enhance his style," Jack argued, "I can tell you he's merely trying to avoid getting arrested."
"All right, then what about the way he treats me?" Denise asked. "Ever since he's moved in, he's done everything to treat me like a princess. He's taken me out dancing many times, and to the movies – he's guessed that my favourites are romantic dramas and comedies, and I never had to tell him. He's shown me that he's a fabulous cook – you have to try his chicken casserole with rice and onions and mushroom soup. And most of all, he's given me love and compassion that the men I dated in the past never gave me."
She looked at her mother. "Mom, do you remember when I was in high school, and you and your friend hooked me up with her son? Remember Michael Brazeton? He treated me nicely for the first six months or so, but when he took me to the Spring Fling, he dumped me for Candace Hughes in the middle of what used to be my favourite slow dance song. Remember how mad you got at him for it? I can't even listen to that song anymore without thinking about what happened. And what about Shawn Jackman, the guy I met when you took Colleen and me to that cottage in British Columbia the summer I graduated high school? He treated me like gold and silver, what with all those nice things he said to me on our evening walks on the beach. But when I told him I couldn't move out west to be with him, he got all mad and told me he didn't want to be with me anymore. And when I was in university, I went through one horrid relationship after another that never lasted more than four months. But Pierre is different. He's trying to prove that he's the one for me, and for once, I actually believe it." She left for a few moments, then came out with a photo album of her trip. She showed them some photos of her and Pierre in Switzerland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. "See all these pictures? See how happy we are? Pierre makes me happy!"
"Will you listen to yourself, Denise?" Colleen asked. "You're thinking with your heart, and not your head. Pierre Lesarge is no different from all the other men that you've dated, and if those police reports are right, you know he's bad news."
"Your sister's right," Joe added. "One of these days, Pierre is going to slip up and go to prison. I guarantee that by the time he gets out and reunites with you, he won't know who you are, nor will he care. He may even treat you worse than snail slime."
"Okay, then what about the job he's holding?" Denise asked. "Mom, did Uncle Jack and Uncle Joe ever tell you that Pierre has worked as a jewellery designer?" She went into her room and retrieved some of her jewellery, that which she knew Pierre made expressively for her; a pair a earrings made from red crystal, an amethyst bracelet, a necklace with heart and star diamonds, a diamond-studded gold bracelet, a pair of 25-karat gold earrings with rubies and sapphires encased.
"See?" she asked. "These are extra samples of some of the things he has made and sold to people. He made these expressively for me." She passed them to her mother, and Mrs. Summers began to cry.
"Nellie?" Joe asked. "Sister, dear, what's wrong."
"I don't believe Pierre made these for her," she sobbed. "I think he actually stole them from whatever stores they came from."
Denise was frustrated, and took the jewellery back. "Why are you acting like I can't make my own decisions?" she cried from her room.
Jack tried reasoning with her. "Sweetie, we're only trying to keep you from making a big mistake. And believe me, marrying Pierre Lesarge will be a big mistake!"
"I know what I'm doing, Uncle Jack," Denise replied. "Pierre has me believing that love is strong enough to help a person change. And I know that's what this love will do." She returned to her seat. "And anyway, I don't know why you're criticizing my love life. You don't do the same with Colleen."
"Denise, may I remind you that Lance has been a member of the Winnipeg Police Service for the past eighteen months," Colleen said. "Not to mention that his uncle, whom he's very close to, is Staff Sergeant on the force. So I don't need to be criticized because I'm dating one of the good guys."
Denise glowered at her sister. "That doesn't make you better than me. Not by a longshot."
"Denise, enough!" Mrs. Summers blasted. "How dare you talk to your sister like that?"
Jack held his sister's shoulders and said, "Nellie, calm down." But she freed herself from him and turned sharply to Denise.
"Denise Summers, I forbid you to do this!" she said boldly. "I raised you and Colleen better than this and you know it! Your father was just as much a detective as your uncles are. What do you think he would say if he were here right now? I'll not have you throwing your life away by marrying a wanted criminal! You are much too smart and beautiful for a life on the run. If you insist on doing this, you can just forget about me being your mother!" She walked out of the apartment in a huff. Colleen and Joe followed her.
Denise tried looking to Jack for sympathy, but he wouldn't give it. "Don't look at me," he said. "She's right. You're going to spend your married life on the run from the law if you go through with this. Is that what you want? Please say you'll think about this." She nodded and he left.
She then shook her head. I will make this love work, she thought. She went back to her bedroom and opened her closet. She lifted her blouses to see Pierre and told him, "It's safe to come out now."
Over the next four months, it was all the same. Denise was certain that Pierre was now on a poster for Winnipeg's Most Wanted, and a reward was offered for his capture. So they didn't go out together very often anymore, and whenever they did, she would have to disguise him. She persuaded Pierre to do his jewellery designing job from home.
"I'm sorry if you're going to feel cooped up in here," she said, "but I don't want you going out and getting arrested because somebody has spotted you – even when you are with me."
She was fighting with her mother about her relationship a lot more. And even Jack and Joe began to criticize and nag her, repeatedly reminding her about Pierre's criminal record, and that he was now a wanted man. It did nothing to faze her.
"You guys don't know Pierre like I do," she cried to Joe over the phone one day. "I love him, and I know it's strong enough for me to help change him. I really do see he wants to change his criminal ways, and when he can't even go out because of the fact that he's wanted, it defeats the whole purpose."
"Stop being ridiculous!" Joe shouted. "If you insist on marrying this man, you will have nothing but a life on the run from the law! It's just like what Jack said to you in your apartment when you showed us the jewellery. You are too smart and beautiful for that kind of thing. Why won't you do what's right and turn him over to the police?" Denise hung up on him right then.
Finally, in early April, Denise had gotten fed up with her family. One day, as her day at university ended, Colleen was walking to her car. She found a note on the windshield of her car.
Dear Colleen, it read. You are the only one in this family I can stand to talk to now, as you haven't said much of anything about my love for Pierre. Because of all the nagging, I have decided that Pierre and I will forgo our original wedding plans, and fly to Las Vegas to marry. We are marrying at the Little Chapel of the Flowers next week Saturday. Please don't get Uncles Jack and Joe or the police involved. I will be very upset if my special day is ruined. Sincerely, Denise.
Colleen sighed. "Denise…" she muttered, and drove to Jack and Joe's office building.
She showed them the note and they shook their heads. "This is crazy," Jack said. He turned to Joe. "You get on the phone with Scotland Yard and Interpol and inform them what's going on. I'll call Staff Sergeant Plame and tell him what's going on as well. We'll have to go to Vegas for this." Colleen photocopied the note and gave a copy to Joe.
While Joe talked with the international authorities, Jack was speaking with Staff Sergeant Fred Plame about Pierre and Denise; about her interfering with his first arrest, her refusal to leave him, now them leaving town in their plan to marry.
"That's not good," Plame answered. "That girl doesn't know what she's in for if she goes along with this. With him behind bars – and he needs to be there – she's not going to be happy in that kind of marriage. And if he keeps fleeing from the authorities, you won't see her again for months."
"That's why we need to stop this wedding," Jack agreed. "Listen, if you could get a team of officers together, and we fly out to Vegas, say, next Wednesday, we'll be able to divulge a plan and carry it out on the wedding day."
"Good idea," Plame said. "As soon as I assemble a team together, I'll let you know, and you and perhaps Colleen can look online for some inexpensive available flights. I'm going to pick Lance for the team, because I want Colleen to be in on this as well. I'll also contact the Las Vegas police and let them in on this."
"Right." Just then, Jack relayed Plame's plan to Colleen, then she got an idea.
"Let me talk to Staff Sergeant Plame for a few moments," she said. Jack smiled and handed her the phone.
"Staff Sergeant Plame, it's Colleen," she said. "Listen, when you assemble your team of officers, make sure to have an unattached, relatively cute male officer among them. Unattached; he is to have no girlfriend at this time. I'm thinking we should set this new guy up with Denise. She could use the better match."
On the Wednesday before Denise's wedding, Jack and Joe flew out to Las Vegas as planned, with Plame, Colleen and six officers from the Winnipeg Police – including Colleen's boyfriend, Lance Harding. The day before the wedding, the group, along with several members of the Las Vegas police force, met with Interpol and Scotland Yard agents in the lobby of the Mirage hotel. Jack and Joe showed them the note and their most recent photos of Denise – including some of her with Pierre.
"Your niece is a lovely girl indeed," one Scotland Yard agent said in his unmistakable British accent. "Unfortunately, these internationally-wanted jewel thieves are always so dashing and dangerous. Pierre Lesarge is definitely no different; he is definitely armed if a complete stranger should approach him. It would be tragic for her to throw her life away on a criminal like this."
"I agree with you," said one Interpol agent. "What shall she do when this man is living behind bars? She will have an empty marriage which she'll have no choice but to leave."
"Which is why we need to stop this wedding," added another Scotland Yard agent. "Now, let's go over the plan for tomorrow." He turned to Colleen and Lance. "Colleen, you, Lance and your uncles will go into the chapel first. Colleen, you will congratulate your sister on her marriage, wish her good luck, then you will go inside and sit in the front row. The rest of us agents will go inside, all posing as wedding guests. Everyone shall act normal." He turned to the police officers. "Meantime, the rest of you will be watching from outside. When the minister asks if there are any objections, Lance, you and Colleen will stand up and give a speech telling her not to go through with this, then you will give the signal. We will install a hidden camera in the front window on Denise's side. Once Lance gives the signal, you give out the arrest, and the rest of us will follow."
"We understand," Colleen said, and Lance nodded.
The next afternoon, Jack, Joe, Colleen and Lance all met Denise at the chapel. Half an hour before the wedding. Colleen admired her sister's white summer dress and bouquet of sunflowers and roses. She kissed her cheeks and said, "Congratulations, sis. You look so beautiful in that." Jack and Joe were less enthusiastic.
"Thank you," Denise replied. "I hope you all are ready to welcome Pierre into the family. If we can get back to Canada as husband and wife, maybe this will make him legal enough to go straight. I know he can do it."
"If you say so, then we believe you," Jack said. They all went inside and followed Denise to her private room.
"Denise," Jack said, "I know that the bride isn't usually given away during a Vegas ceremony, but would it be all right if I walked you down the aisle?"
Denise laughed. "Don't be silly, Uncle Jack," she said. "In a Vegas wedding that looks traditional, the bride and groom meet outside the doors, then walk down the aisle together. Just like on television."
"All right." He, Joe, Colleen and Lance all left to go sit down. Fifteen minutes before the ceremony, all the Scotland Yard and Interpol agents began to file inside and sit down, spreading themselves out.
When the wedding march began to play, everyone watched as Pierre and Denise walked down the aisle together holding hands. It was a rather brief ceremony; the "I Do's" and the wedding vows Pierre and Denise had written had taken about ten minutes to recite. But when the preacher said, "If there is a reason why this couple should not marry, let him speak now–" He noticed Lance and Colleen with their hands up before he could finish; then the couple approached Denise.
"Uh, Denise, I wouldn't go through with this if I were you," she said. "I know I'm supposed to be happy for you, but believe me, this is not the man for you. What are you going to do if something happens to him – and it eventually will? You'll be alone and miserable for quite some time."
"Yeah, and I have some friends who will back me up on this," Lance added. Then, he gave the signal – shooting his hand up in the air and waving it. Within minutes, the two police teams broke into the chapel and raided the ceremony.
"Freeze! Pierre Lesarge, you are under arrest!" They ran down the aisle, guns in hand, and Lance joined in by making Pierre get down on the floor, barking orders, hands behind your back. The other "wedding guests" revealed themselves as Interpol and Scotland Yard agents, guns and badges in hands. One officer handcuffed Pierre as Lance told him, "Pierre Lesarge, you are under arrest for numerous bank and jewel robberies in London, England; Paris, France; and other possible cities. You have the right to remain silent."
Denise became upset as she watched Pierre get taken away. Colleen tried to comfort her, but Denise swatted her with her bouquet.
"Colleen, how could you do this to me?!" she wailed. "I told you not to get the police involved, didn't I? Now you've ruined my special day!"
Colleen and Lance each took turns slapping her.
"Denise, stop acting like a baby!" he ordered her. "You knew this was going to happen eventually. It's like we keep telling you, what would happen if he were to flee from the law and take you with him? Think of what would happen if you were in Japan somewhere, and he got arrested there! You'd be asking yourself what the hell were you thinking!"
When Denise stopped crying, she noticed Jack and Joe approaching her. Joe put his hand on her shoulder and said, "Lance is right. Pierre is really nothing special. You can do so much better than him. You can date one of the good guys, like Colleen is doing. Like that young man over there."
Denise turned to see one member of the Winnipeg police had stayed behind. A raven-haired fellow, he had to be several years older than Denise, it seemed. He approached her and took her hand to kiss it.
"Denise, this is Constable Mark Jewell," Colleen said. "He works the same precinct as Lance. I suggested to Staff Sergeant Plame that we fix you up with him."
"The pleasure is all mine," Mark said.
Denise looked hesitant. "It is going to be hard for me to forget Pierre…" she began.
"Believe me, I can help you with that," Mark assured her.
Denise looked into Mark's eyes for a few moments, then said, "I suppose I can give you a chance." She thought about her previous ex-boyfriends. "Listen, Mark, I've been hurt by love in the past, and that's why I thought Pierre would be the one. If I tell you, promise me you won't be like them."
"I'll listen," he promised. "In the meantime, why don't you go back and get changed, and I'll take you to a nice, inexpensive dinner here?"
Mark and Denise walked out of the chapel, holding hands.