Authors: Marilyn Levinson
“Lexie and I are a couple,” Brian said, setting my heart aflutter, “as you and Sadie appear to be.”
“So we are!” Sadie declared, grabbing my hand and leading me down the hall. “Lexie, let’s get a drink for you and the lieutenant.”
“Sure” I said as we headed for the kitchen.
“A scotch on the rocks would be great,” Brian called to me.
I glanced at the milling crowd of thirty or forty people dressed in elaborate costumes and finally caught sight of Felicity. The witch standing beside her had to be Corinne. I’d have plenty of time to be sociable later. Now Sadie had her own agenda.
She halted at the kitchen entrance and demanded, “Since when are you and the lieutenant an item?”
I shrugged, trying for casual. “We’ve known each other for a while now.”
Sadie laughed. “You are one
, Dr. Driscoll. I thought Allistair West, world-renown architect, was your main squeeze.”
The heat rose to my face. “Al and I are…friends,” I said, silently vowing to tell him the situation the next time we spoke.
“Whatever pleases you,” Sadie declared with a wave of her hand. “It’s Halloween and we’re here to have fun! No sad stories. No talk of murder.”
“Of course not,” I agreed.
We moved on to the kitchen table, which had been turned into a bar. A burly bearded man in a red devil suit was acting as bartender.
“Hey there, Ron,” Sadie greeted him. “This is my friend, Lexie. Lexie, Ron Alvarez. Give her what she wants.”
“A chardonnay, and a scotch on the rocks, please.”
“Coming right up,” Ron said and grinned.
I thanked him for the drinks and turned, intent on returning to Brian, but Sadie wasn’t through with me yet. She led me over to the refrigerator and asked if the cops were any closer to finding Len Lyons’ killer.
I laughed. “I thought we weren’t going to talk about murder.”
“I meant no new murders. Len’s is unfinished business.”
“Brian’s no longer in charge of the case.”
“Ah,” was Sadie’s inscrutable reply.
“The police have no suspect that I know of, but I find it interesting that everyone in our book club knew Len, including you.”
Harem Girl shrugged. “I met him a couple of times. I certainly didn’t kill him.”
“Everyone says that,” I muttered.
A vampire couple came over to talk to Sadie. I grabbed my chance to escape.
“Have fun!” Sadie called as I walked off with my drinks.
“I will,” I answered, telling myself not to be disappointed. What did I expect? Sadie to own up that after Len set her up with a loan shark, he demanded money from both of them, and either Sadie or the loan shark knifed him to death?
I found Brian chatting with Joy and Mike, who were dressed alike as two Charlie Chaplin tramps. I handed Brian his drink, and he wrapped his arm around my waist.
“Oh?” Joy asked. “What’s this?”
“Nothing,” I said the same moment Brian said, “What do you think it is?”
Joy grinned broadly. She waited for the two men to resume their animated conversation, then pumped her fist in the air.
“How can you tell?” I whispered.
“It’s written all over you,” she whispered back. “Good luck. Brian’s adorable, even if all men are bastards.”
“You don’t mean that,” I said.
“Learn anything new?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Nothing conclusive.” She glared at Mike. “Except he’s still acting like someone in the throes of a new love affair. Kind of like you.”
I let out a huff of exasperation. “I meant, have you learned anything new regarding Len’s murder?”
“Not a thing.” She lowered her voice. “They have no new leads so they’re doing their best to track down your sister. What a bunch of idiots! That knife had to have been planted.”
I grimaced. “The Utah police want her, too, and I’m worried that they’ll find her first. I haven’t heard from Gayle in days. I keep hoping she’ll come back here and deal with our police department, but I’ve no idea what she’ll do.”
“She’ll be safer here, even if they book her until we find the murderer.”
“I’ve been talking to Felicity. She’s the one person Len Lyons would have confided in. I’m hoping eventually she’ll tell me something important. Something real.”
Joy sent me a look of disbelief. “What do you mean—real? Is Felicity delusional?”
I gave a little laugh. “I wonder. She told me that Johnny killed Len.”
“Who’s Johnny? Oh, the guy who killed her ferret.”
“Right. And when I pressed her, she admitted she hasn’t seen him in years.”
Joy sighed. “We can’t depend on anything Felicity tells you. She hates this Johnny for what he did to her pet. Now she thinks he’s the source of every bad thing that’s happened to her.”
“Maybe you’re right. But she said something even stranger. When I asked if Corinne would be bringing a date, she said her sister hasn’t dated anyone since her last boyfriend, who happens to be this Johnny.”
“Hmmm,” Joy mused. “She’s obsessed with this Johnny.”
“He’s someone from their past.”
“But not Len Lyons’ past,” Joy pointed out.
“Too bad we don’t know his last name. Then maybe you could track him down.”
Joy grinned. “Right. Life should be that simple.”
I meandered back into the kitchen and handed Ron, the Red Devil, my wine glass for a refill. Tim and Evan, his wolf head tucked under one arm, stood in the small alcove beyond the kitchen. I considered joining them until I realized that despite their low voices, they were arguing. I thanked Ron for my drink and moved closer to the men, ostensibly to allow the couple behind me reach Ron.
“We paid good money, to you and to him,” Evan said. He caught sight of me and turned his back.
Tim glanced at me, then answered Evan in a tone too low for me to make out his words. But I’d heard enough to know it was Tim and not Len Lyons who had introduced the Billingses to the man they hoped would bring them their granddaughter.
I wandered back into the living room, and made my way to Marge and the Roberts sisters sitting in the far corner of the room. We exchanged greetings and compliments about one another’s costumes.
Felicity beamed at me. “Lexie helped me with mine,” she told Marge.
“And don’t you look beautiful?” Marge commented. “Maybe you’ll win best costume.”
Felicity blushed. “I-I don’t know.”
Corinne leered at us, showing off her blackened teeth.
I burst out laughing. “You look beautiful, too, Corinne.”
The four of us chatted about innocuous topics. I sent Felicity meaningful glances, but she didn’t notice. Clearly, she was enjoying herself too much to remember our conversation about her checking out the guests in hopes of learning something about her dead fiancé’s murder. I couldn’t blame her. For the first time since I’d met her, she seemed to be enjoying herself. I was about to leave the women and move on, when we heard the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth.
“That’s me,” Corinne apologized. She reached inside her copious black robe and pulled out her cell phone. She turned away, covering her other ear to block out the party noise.
“What?” she exclaimed. She listened, then asked, “How did they get in?”
“Oh, no! How much did they take?”
She covered her face with her hand. “You called Mr. Grissom? And the police? Call our insurance company, too.” She rattled off a name and phone number.
After another pause she said, “Yes, I’m leaving now,” and clicked off her phone.
Corinne turned around to find her sister, Marge, and me staring at her. “The bank’s been robbed. I have to go.” She glanced down at her black costume. “I’ll stop by the house first and change. Felicity, ready to leave?”
Without waiting for Felicity to answer, I said, “I’ll take Felicity home. Brian and I will,” I amended.
Corinne cocked her eye at me. “Brian?”
“My date,” I said.
That satisfied Corinne. She made a beeline for the front door, her black robes flapping in her wake.
“Where’s the witch rushing off to?” Tim asked.
“Corinne’s bank was robbed,” Felicity told him. “Isn’t that awful?”
“On Halloween night?” Tim asked. “Were the thieves dressed in costume?”
Marge, Evan, and I glared at him.
“Please forgive my flippancy,” Tim said. “It’s the gin talking. But I must say, I’m glad I don’t keep my safety deposit box in that branch.”
“It’s not Corinne’s fault!” Felicity insisted.
“Of course not,” I said, patting her arm.
“She’s going to be so upset.” Felicity’s lips quivered. I prayed she wasn’t about to start bawling.
I stared meaningfully at Tim. He quickly shifted gears.
“We’re about to vote for best costumes. Gather around me, children, while we make our choices for prettiest, funniest, and most ghoulish.” He winked. “A bottle of wine for the winners!”
Sadie handed out pencils and slips of papers marked with the three categories. I wrote in Felicity for the prettiest, Joy and Mike for the funniest, and Glenn Harris, a teacher in Sadie’s school in a hideous green costume, for the most ghoulish.
To my astonishment, I’d picked three winners.
Felicity was the first to receive her prize. “Thank you! Thank you so much!” she gushed, holding the bottle of cabernet to her chest. “This is the first prize I’ve ever won in my life!”
I squeezed Brian’s hand. “I’m so happy for her,” I whispered.
“Is she for real?” he whispered back.
“Cynic!” I hissed.
After that we played silly kids’ games, most of which involved apples, pie, or water, and had us all giggling. Sadie asked Joy, Marge and me to help set up the desserts in the dining room for coffee and cake.
“This is fun,” Joy said as we sliced cakes on the dining room table. “I almost forgot what it’s like to mingle with adults.”
I laughed. “You come to our book club meetings.”
Joy wrinkled up her face. “True. But you never serve wine.”
“My bad,” I admitted.
She edged closer to me. “Brian seems to be having a good time chatting with the various suspects.”
“Our fellow guests, you mean. Most of the people here work with Sadie or are Tim’s friends. I’m willing to bet they have nothing to do with Len Lyons’ murder.”
“Whatever,” Joy conceded. “Brian and Mike get along great.” She scanned the room. “Speaking of which, where is my two-timing husband?”
“I’ve no idea.”
“There he is—in the hall, laughing and whooping it up on his cell phone. Wanna bet he’s talking to his bimbo?”
I’d had enough of this nonsense! If Mike didn’t have the brains to reassure Joy that he wasn’t having an affair, I’d do it for him!
But I wasn’t fast enough! I stared in horror as Joy lifted the pitcher of cider from the table and made a beeline for her husband. She knocked off his hat and spilled the contents on his head.
Mike let out a shriek. Brian, who’d been talking to Tim on the other side of the living room, dashed over to see what had happened. Was that his gun he’d drawn and was quickly putting out of sight?
I ran over to Mike, now slumped in a chair, his hair slicked down in such a way, I hardly recognized him. Joy stood over him berating the poor guy for chasing after his slut of a girlfriend when he had her and their three children to think about.
Sadie brought Mike a large towel. The rest of us stood and watched. Mike rubbed his head vigorously. He patted down his shirt, then grabbed both of Joy’s hands to stop her from beating furiously on his chest.
“Listen, you idiot, I’m not having an affair.”
Joy reared back. I thought she was going to punch him in the face.
“Be a man! Tell the truth! I’m throwing you out of the house, whatever you say.”
“Oh, yeah?” Mike stuck his face into hers. “I was talking to your sister.”
Joy’s expressions changed from outrage to puzzlement and back to fury. “Oh, sure! You’re talking to my sister right now! At eleven at night.”
Mike shrugged. “That’s when she called me. Want to say hello? That is, if she didn’t hang up when you went crazy.”
Joy looked at his cell phone, now on the floor, as if it were a tarantula. Slowly, she picked it up. “Hello?” She listened to the person on the other end.
“Hi, Heather. No, nothing’s wrong. But tell me, why did you call Mike?”
After a minute, she nodded, “All right, I’ll ask him. Good-bye.”
Joy disconnected the call and stared at her husband. “Want to tell me what this is all about?”
We stood in silence, watching and waiting. There was no way Mike could squirm out of this without ruining his surprise.
A broad grin broke out on his face as he reached for Joy and settled her on his lap. “It’s a surprise for you, and I don’t want to spoil it. But I’ll have to if you insist.”
She suddenly understood. Joy turned to me, and I gave her the okay signal.
“Oh, Mike,” she sighed. “I’m such an idiot. You are the best husband in the world.”
They locked lips and kissed the way movie stars used to at the end of romantic movies. The rest of us applauded what had to be the best show in town.
The bank robbery made Newsday’s front page the following morning, along with a photo of the thieves taken by the surveillance camera. Not that it revealed their identities. As it turned out, they
worn Halloween masks. Page three showed a photograph of Corinne and the branch president, along with his quote: “We trust the police will find the thieves and our money.”
“He’s very trusting for a bank president,” Joy commented, pointing to the newspaper article. She reached into her daughter’s stash of Halloween candy lying open on my living room coffee table and popped her fifth Reese’s Pieces into her mouth. “And how did a robbery that occurred after ten p.m. make today’s headline?” I shrugged. “I’ve no idea.”
“It’s practically publicity.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “You can’t possibly think the bank president had anything to do with the robbery.”
“Who knows?” she said, reaching for another candy in the huge plastic bag.
I slapped her hand away. “You’ve eaten enough of Ruthie’s Halloween candy. And you shouldn’t have brought it to my house.”