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Authors: Isis Crawford

A Catered Murder (19 page)

BOOK: A Catered Murder
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“I didn't think they were friends.”
“Not good friends. But when you know people since high school and two of them get killed . . . well . . . it makes you feel kinda vulnerable. Especially in a place like this. I mean half the time I forget to lock my door at night. The whole thing is weird.”
“Very.”
Janet started chewing on one of her cuticles.
“I don't know what to think anymore. All I do know is that Nigel's going through half a bottle of Scotch a night. He wasn't this upset when his father died. Well, he wasn't upset at all about that as far as I can tell, but that's a different matter.”
Janet worried her cuticle some more.
“Frankly, I don't know what to do. He just drinks and sits at his computer and stares at the blank screen. I suggested he go see someone, since he obviously needs counseling, and he told me to fuck off.”
“Charming,” Bernie said, thinking of Joe.
“Isn't it, though? He won't let me help him. He bites my head off whenever I say anything. If I ask him if he wants to eat in or go out, he tells me not to bother him. He's borderline abusive. I hate to do this but I'm about ready to tell him that I'll see him when he's gotten himself back under control.
“And that's another thing about Nigel. He's got these trust issues. He never talks to me about his day or what he's been doing or anything like that. I know he's been having a problem at work, but I don't have the slightest idea what it is. I thought I could deal with it, but now I'm not so sure.”
Janet sighed.
“At least he was smart enough to stay out of that amusement park deal, unlike some other people around here. But if he keeps going this way, he's going to lose his job, and given the way the stock market is performing I don't think he'll get another one anytime soon.”
“What do you mean?” Bernie asked.
“I mean keep not showing up at the office and you're going to get fired.”
“He's home now?”
“Yes. Probably sleeping, the creep.”
“Sleeping?” Bernie repeated, sure that Janet had noticed the note of alarm in her voice, but then realizing that she didn't as she kept on talking.
“Yeah. Last night, he called me at two in the morning drunk as hell wanting to read some of the new book he's been working on to me. So he could get my opinion. He's been doing that for the last four nights. Then, of course, I can't get back to sleep, so I've been going downstairs and clicking on the Home Shopping Network.
“The day before yesterday I almost bought a jade bracelet,” Janet exclaimed. “I'm so tired I don't even hear my alarm when it goes off in the morning.” She pointed to her face. “I mean look at these circles under my eyes. I look like crap and don't bother to tell me that I don't. I can't go around getting four hours of sleep a night. I need to come in every morning and open up the store.”
“I hear you,” Bernie said as she slipped off the sweater. “Here,” she said handing it to Janet.
“You don't want it?”
“No. I do.” Bernie hurried towards the changing room.
A moment later she re-emerged, skirt in hand. She gave it to Janet as well.
“I'll come by and pay for the sweater and the skirt later.”
“Anything the matter?” Janet asked.
“Nothing. I just forgot to turn the water under the potatoes off,” Bernie told her as she headed for the door.
Libby,
she prayed as she hit the street,
for once have your cell on.
Chapter 30
“G
lad you could drop by,” Sean said to Clyde Schiller as Amber set a tray filled with plates, napkins, silverware, a bowl of vanilla ice cream, and almost half a rhubarb-strawberry pie on the table between them.
Clyde leaned forward and rubbed his hands together.
“You did me a favor callin' like you did. Otherwise I'd be spending the afternoon cleaning out the garage.”
Amber straightened up.
“Need anything else, Mr. S?” she asked.
Sean shook his head.
“This will be fine.”
“Well, ring if you do. I'm just downstairs.” And she left the room.
“Nice girl,” Clyde said as her footsteps sounded on the steps.
“Very,” Sean agreed. “Libby's lucky to get her.”
“You know I tried coming over here before, Cap,” Clyde said. “A couple of times, but Libby said you weren't seeing anyone. Called too, but the woman that answered the phone said you weren't taking any calls either. Figured you'd ring me up when you were ready.”
Sean shrugged. He wasn't going to explain himself to Clyde or to anyone else for that matter.
“ 'Cause,” Clyde continued. “I might be doing the same thing myself in your position. Want me to dish out the pie?”
“Please,” Sean said and watched as Clyde put one slice on his plate and another on Sean's and added a scoop of ice cream to each.
He put one of the plates in front of Sean and the other in front of himself.
“Go ahead,” Sean said, wondering if his hand would shake if he picked up the fork. “Eat.”
“After you,” Clyde said.
Sean took a deep breath and prayed. Then he picked up the fork and cut into his piece. It was okay.
Clyde nodded and began to eat. Sean watched him convey a piece of the pie to his mouth.
“Good stuff,” Clyde said after he swallowed.
“The best,” Sean agreed.
“As good as your wife's,” Clyde observed.
“It's her recipe,” Sean said, putting his fork down. Eating in front of people was exhausting. He couldn't stand the idea of spilling food down his shirt, so he didn't eat with people anymore if he could help it.
Clyde took another bite.
“I love my wife, but she can't cook worth shit. Must be nice to have someone around who can.”
“I ain't denying it,” Sean agreed.
“Where'd Libby get the rhubarb?”
“Mackenzie's market.”
“The wife shops there.” Clyde shook his head. “I swear I don't know what it is she does to make things taste so bad. Fortunately, she's planning to hire a cook for the bed and breakfast we're gonna open. Otherwise we'd be out of business in a month.” He took a spoonful of ice cream. “Mmm,” he said, savoring the taste. “Libby was pretty upset yesterday, I can tell you that.”
“She still is.”
“I felt bad telling her she couldn't see Tiffany.”
Sean sighed. “You were just doing your job.”
“Yeah. But like you used to say, Cap, that don't make it any easier.” Clyde ate another three bites of pie. “Good crust,” he allowed.
“Libby puts an egg in it along with the butter. I think that makes all the difference.”
“Well, for sure it's not a bad thing.” And Clyde polished off the rest of his slice. “You should have seen Lucy's face when he got off the phone with Paul. It was a rare treat, I don't mind telling you. You woulda loved it.”
“I'm sure I would have,” Sean agreed, sorry that he'd missed the sight.
Clyde shook his head and absentmindedly wiped the corners of his mouth with his thumb and pointer finger.
“Poor Libby. Must be hard seeing your friend admit to something like that. Kinda pulls the rug out from under ya.”
“I imagine so,” Sean said.
“Mind if I help myself to another piece of pie?” Clyde asked.
“That's what it's here for.”
Clyde leaned over and carefully conveyed another slice to his plate.
“She always was the sensitive type,” Clyde reflected. “Just like her mom.”
“Unfortunately,” Sean said. God knows he'd tried to toughen Libby up, but it had been like trying to toughen up his wife's shih tzu.
“Maybe cookin' good and being like that are related,” Clyde speculated. “Though one of my uncles was a good cook, and he was one of the meanest sonofabitches that ever lived.”
“If you like, I can have Libby run a pie over to your place,” Sean offered.
Clyde bit his lip.
“I don't know.”
“She's making four of them a day. A fifth won't be any trouble. And local strawberry season is gonna be over soon,” Sean reminded him. “Make this with California berries and it ain't the same.”
“I know. It's just that some people might think . . .”
Sean made a dismissive noise.
“What? Now you're not allowed to eat?”
Clyde patted his stomach. “That's never been my problem.” Then he cut into his new slice of pie. “ 'Cause,” he reflected, “Lucy wouldn't be too happy if he found out I was visiting you either. Not that he could do anything about it. Paying a social call on my old boss ain't a crime, at least it ain't yet.”
And he ate another bite. Sean watched him. When Clyde had eaten a second and a third, he looked up.
“Remember that guy Duffy we had in the cell maybe eight years ago?” Clyde said.
“How could I forget?” Sean said. “It was the highest profile case we ever handled.”
“Well, I got to talking to Martin, the psychiatrist, after it came out that Duffy hadn't killed that woman and her kids after all. You know, I asked him why Duffy had come forward and confessed to the homicide and then to top it off grabbed the gun out of the deputy's holster and got himself shot if he hadn't done anything, and he told me he thought he'd just lost hope and this was a suicide by cop.”
Sean rested his hands on the wheels of his chair.
“A woman who gets the wind knocked out of her 'cause she just found out the man she's been figuring on marrying for the last seventeen is going off to marry some fashion model might be inclined to do something similar. She might feel she's got nothing left in her life.”
“She might,” Clyde agreed. “Especially if she doesn't have too much going for her anywhere else in her life. A couple of years ago she dyed my wife's hair brown when she was supposed to turn it red.”
Sean gestured with his chin. “Have a little more ice cream. It'll melt if you don't.”
“And it would sure be a shame to waste.”
“It sure would be. Libby gets her vanilla beans from Madagascar.”
Clyde took another spoonful.
“My mother used to bury a vanilla bean in the confectioner's sugar. I used to love the way that smelled.”
Sean smiled. “Mine did that too. Now, is there anything else you can't tell me?”
“Well, if I was poking around, I might want to be poking in Lydia's direction.”
“And why's that?”
“My wife tells me she had a thing going with Geoffrey Holder.”
 
 
Libby inserted the key in the lock of the back door of Nigel Herron's house and turned it. It clicked and she stepped into the back hall. Normally, she wouldn't have given a thought to being in someone else's house. People gave her keys to their places all the time so she could come in and get things ready.
But this was different. She wasn't here to unload supplies and do prep work. This was breaking and entering. Well, not really. It was more like unlawful entry because she did have a key. She shook her head. She'd better be careful. Bernie was rubbing off on her.
Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, after all, she decided as she walked through the kitchen. Why was she looking for that book anyway? It probably wasn't important. It was just that Nigel had made such a fuss about being a writer, and from what Bernie had said, his book sounded an awful lot like Lionel's style.
It was probably just coincidence, Libby thought. But she'd already gone online and ordered a copy of Lionel's—excuse her, Laird's—first book. She was having it overnighted too so she could compare them, and she couldn't do that if she didn't have a copy of each. If they were the same, then Nigel could have a motive for killing Lionel. Years of festering resentment? It could work as well as anything else.
One thing was clear, she decided as she headed up the stairs. She'd never make a good cat burglar. She just didn't have the nerves for it. Nothing seemed to bother Bernie, but everything always bothered her. Bernie had nerves of steel, and hers were liked overcooked linguini.
It was something she really hated about herself, she thought as she tried to remember which bedroom Bernie had said the book was in. Not that it necessarily had to be there now. Maybe she should have checked the study first.
Okay,
Libby she told herself.
Let's just calm down. This whole thing was your idea. No one else's. If you can cater a sit-down dinner for thirty people with five hours' notice, you can do this. Prioritize. As long as you're up here, do the bedrooms first and then check the rest of the house. You're going to do this quickly, quietly, and efficiently. Nigel is at work. No one is here. If anyone sees the van, you'll just tell them you came to collect a pot you left behind from the dinner party.
Thank God, her mother couldn't see what she was doing, Libby thought as she entered the first room. This was a woman who, all the time she'd been alive, had never gotten so much as a parking ticket and now her daughter was engaged in a bit of unlawful entry. It was for a good cause—although according to her mother, the ends never justified the means.
“It's the devil's own path,” she'd always said. And she'd never liked Tiffany. “What do you see in her?” her mother had asked. “She's only going to get you into trouble.” Looked like she'd been right, Libby thought, but then she could never remember a time when her mother hadn't been.
As Libby started going through the first room, she couldn't help thinking of what Amber had said when they'd been serving dinner here about a serial killer being loose. After all, if Tiffany hadn't killed two people, and she hadn't, that meant that the person who killed Lionel and Geoff Holder was still around.
And what was worse was that it obviously wasn't some stranger who had done it, it was someone Libby knew. Someone who probably came into the store every day. The thought flashed in Libby's head like a neon sign.
No. No, she told herself as she began to hear the background music to the Jason movies playing in her head.
Do not go there. This is not a productive line of thought at all.
Libby bit her lip and tried to focus on the room.
Ten minutes later she'd ascertained that the book was not there. At least, Libby thought as she walked back into the hallway, Nigel's house was neat and there didn't seem to be too much stuff in it. If he were like Bernie, it would take her five hours instead of ten minutes to look through a room.
Then Libby remembered she wasn't wearing gloves. She'd left her fingerprints all over everything. Geez. Now she'd have to go and wipe everything down. If she could remember what she'd touched. She was trying to recall exactly what her father had said about which surfaces absorb prints and which don't when she walked into the second room, took one look, and shrieked.
Nigel Herron was standing there, and he didn't have any clothes on.
He clasped his hands over his genitals and gasped, “What the hell are you doing here?”
Libby smiled weakly.
“Ah,” she stammered. “Looking for a pot?”
BOOK: A Catered Murder
3.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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