Organized for Homicide (Organized Mysteries Book 2) (11 page)

No matter how many mis-steps I make as a mother, this is one time I know exactly what I need to do. And I will fight to keep this child from making the same armor-building mistakes I tried to use to deal with life.

She scooted closer to Sam and put an arm around her daughter's narrow shoulders. Sam rubbed her eyes against the knees of her jeans, leaving tear stains behind.

"
Talk to me, Sam. Tell me how I can help."

Sam heaved a great sigh, and her whole body seemed to suddenly get even smaller.
"Suze is so smart. She can read anything. She can do all the math the teacher gives us and do it up on the board without one mistake. She reads faster than me, and tells me when I say a word wrong." She raised her tear-streaked face to look at Kate. "I'm just so…tired of it all."

"
Your teacher always has great things to say about you when I talk to her. Do you want me to talk to Suze, or maybe both of us can tell her how you feel?"

Sam
nodded once then shook her head and finally shrugged, her expression showing her confusion about the situation. She stared off into the tree branches ahead of her for a few moments. Kate waited, giving the child time to figure out what she wanted to say.

"
I just want to do something better," she whispered after a few minutes.

"
But you have your own strengths, Sam. You're always the first one picked when the neighborhood plays street hockey, and your soccer coach says you're the best goal tender he's ever seen at your age."

"
That doesn't matter." Sam swallowed, and more silent tears fell. "Suze says if I don't make good grades I'll never get to go to college, and I'll have to live with you and Daddy forever. I love you and Daddy, but I don't want to not be able to do something Suze can do."

Oh, boy.
Obviously the time had come to get the twins involved in individual activities, no matter how much they'd always begged to do everything together. Kate and Keith had already discussed the growing competitiveness, and a comment Meg made a few weeks ago helped Kate formulate a new best plan that included devising new schedules for the girls. Plus, she knew Sam was the better athlete of the two, which was the likely reason why Suze was discounting her sister's achievements.

She settl
ed deeper into the mossy ground and pulled Sam closer. "Honey, what do you feel good doing? All by yourself. Nothing you have to do because Suze wants to do it, too?"

Sam raised her face, her eyebrows pulled together in a questioning V.
"You mean, what do I like to do best?"

"
Exactly."

"
That's easy." Sam shrugged. "I like to go really fast on skates. It's like I'm flying, and I always know exactly what I'm doing. But it's not anything for school, so Suze says I'm wasting my time thinking about it."

"
You're not wasting your time. Forget about that. School is important, but other activities are, too. Do you mean like speed skating or hockey?"

"
Yeah, both. But I think I like racing on skates best, because then it's all up to me. I like being on a team. But I really like counting on myself, too."

Kate rubbed a hand up and down Sam
's back. "Tell you what. I'll talk to your daddy tonight, and we'll see if he can't do some one-on-one time with you. Give you a few more opportunities to 'count on yourself.' Does that sound like a winning idea?"

"
That'd be great!"

"
Then let's scoot out of here and get everything done we need to do so you and Suze will be on time to catch a ride to the baseball game."

They scooted clear of the cedar branches, and Sam scrambled to her feet. Kate shook her head in awe of her daughter
's abilities, and took several seconds longer to get upright again herself. But when Sam seemed to be dragging her feet, Kate realized there was more and guessed at the next problem. "Are you having trouble thinking about how to write your report? I know your teacher is only going to want maybe a page and a picture, Sam. Don't worry."

"
But it's never going to be as good as Suze does. Everyone always talks about how great she draws and how great her handwriting is, and I—" Again she stopped, and Kate knelt down beside her and twisted Sam around.

"
Listen to me. You will always be able to do some things better than Suze, and she will always be able to do other things better than you. Just because you're twins, it doesn't mean you're exactly alike. Don't let anyone make you think you are. There's no shame in not being the best at something—for either of you. It just makes you try harder each time and show you can do a little better than you thought. All that's ever expected of you, Sam, is for you to do the best
you
can do. When you do your best you'll always be a winner in everyone's book."

Sam
nodded then glanced over her shoulder at the house. "Can I tell Suze I'm getting extra skate time with Daddy?"

"
We probably need to discuss this with Daddy first. But it's okay if you tell her you're going to spend more time skating." When Sam grinned a little too big, Kate added, "But don't tell her like you're bragging. I can talk to her about being kind of a know-it-all, but if you start bragging about new special privileges you'll be doing pretty much the same thing. You don't want that, right?"

Sam bit her lower lip, and Kate knew she was making a tough decision. After several seconds, she told her mom,
"No, I don't want her to feel like I did. I'll wait until you talk to Daddy."

"
Thanks, sweetie." Kate hugged her tough little girl. "Now, let's go and get your homework done and get you fed. You don't want to be late, or you'll get lousy seats behind whatever loud, big-hat-wearing person no one else wants to sit behind."

Sam giggled.
"Nope, don't want that." She turned and ran to the house, calling back over her shoulder, "Race ya!"

"
I concede. You win." Kate again rose to her feet, and brushed grass from her jeans. As she headed back for the house, she wondered what she might be getting her daughter into. Skating and lessons made her think of Sydney, even if it was speed skating versus figure skating. Which then left her concerned about the circumstances the teen was in at the moment. Kate had to wonder if whoever might be setting Sydney up as a fall guy for her mother's murder was doing so because of the teen's success on the ice. After all, she'd considered every angle that day, and nothing had led her to change her mind about the teen's innocence.

"
Maybe when Meg comes later we'll figure out a good plan," Kate spoke aloud, hoping the sound of her own voice saying the words would better make them seem possible. But she suddenly felt a little like Sam, as if someone else was operating here. Someone just too much smarter and better for the women or the state police to catch.

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

For the Newsletter—Tame the Recharging Jungle

Everything has a power cord these days, and there's nothing worse than searching fruitlessly to find the correct charger to finish that phone call or high scoring game. Instead, create your own charging station to fit the room. For a bedroom, drill a hole in the back of a nightstand, and put a power strip inside the cabinet, so the cord runs back through the hole to the outlet. Then, add the chargers on this power strip for all the gadgets you have to keep charged regularly. If you prefer to have your gizmos fuel up in the kitchen, use a shoebox covered with leftover wallpaper (to match the room) or ribbons or wrapping paper. Use this now coordinated box to store all the cords and chargers for the household electronics.

 

* * *

 

The girls finished writing their reports in record time, and Sam added an extra picture to show a bit more about why she liked the beginning reader on favorite dog breeds. Kate tried to let the girls read whatever they wanted, even books she thought might be above their reading levels. Doing so, she knew was the best way to help them grow into stronger readers. But had she noticed earlier what kind of books the girls picked, and especially since Suze's book was on the care and feeding of the family cat, Kate might have suggested alternatives.

I so need to figure out what to do about this pet situation.

Both of her twins, as well as the Berman kids, decided on junk food at the game over dinner cooked at home. Kate and Meg celebrated by whipping up nachos as Gil's car departed from the neighborhood. The women had plans to make, and nachos were the perfect food for eating and listing at the same time. As long as creamy cheese sauce didn't land on their paperwork.

"
I just wish we'd thought ahead and picked up margarita mix," Meg said.

But before they started planning, Kate filled Meg in on the news Valerie had spilled.

Meg rubbed her chin, thoughtful. "So Erin said Collier called her. It can't be a coincidence she showed up. I wish we'd gotten a look at her or at least knew what time she arrived."

"
You and me both." Kate scraped excess queso on the side of the bowl, then slipped the chip into her mouth. Heaven. "The question, however, is where does that leave us? Could Erin have killed Lila, and if so, why?"

"
Maybe Erin snapped because her career veneer cracked?" Meg suggested. "She seemed pretty passionate the day we met her. Some of that passion could go a long way if mixed with adrenalin and anger.

"
Or did Collier plan to murder Erin, feeling his family wasn't going to be safe otherwise, but mistook his ex-wife for the real estate agent?" Kate asked.

"
Did the police find a text on Erin's phone?"

"
Valerie didn't say. I was hoping you could work your investigative magic on Gil."

"
He did tell me they pulled Collier in for questioning after they finished with Sydney. But he also heard the fingerprints on the knife were smeared, likely by a killer wearing gloves, and our DA doesn't charge unless the evidence is solid enough that he feels he can win. However, if I find out dear hubby already knew about what you just told me and is holding out," Meg said, shaking a chip for emphasis as she spoke, "Gil Berman will find he's received the last news scoop from this wife."

"
Hit him where it hurts. Below the gossip belt."

"
Damn straight, sister!"

Kate laughed and flipped a page of paper around so Meg could read it.
"Here's a list of everything we should have on hand to sell tomorrow."

"
Wow, there wasn't nearly this amount there today. I hope everyone comes through in the clutch. We didn't have a tenth of this when I left for my appointment."

"
No worries. People started bringing in baked goods about twenty minutes before I left. Most were moms, and I think they were making the library run on their way to pick up kids at school. Valerie had everything stacked and stowed in the room where the authors are going to speak tomorrow. There are these nice little two-tiered rolling shelves one of the local handymen made for the library several years ago. All the baked goods get loaded onto the carts—then two fit under each table. So we'll always have four in reserve nearby. We'll have to get in early to put everything in our new V-shaped area and hide as much as we can under the table cloths."

"
You said we'd use the van, too. Right?"

Kate nodded, then pushed the queso and chips away.
"I can't eat any more. And yes, we'll have the first parking spot that isn't marked as handicapped. We'll be able to stash anything else in the van until we have room to put more items up for sale. We have to have the big room empty of our stock before the first author gets there to set up her presentation."

"
Can anyone get into the room with the baked goods overnight? Forgive me for sounding paranoid, but I'm starting to get a sixth sense now about us having to cover each other's backs." Meg stacked the bowls and rose from her chair, preparing to take them to the sink.

"
You don't have to do that."

Meg laughed.
"Katie, your kitchen is spotless. Of course I'll bus the table. It's no big deal."

"
Okay, thanks." She shifted paper to get things back in order. "And I absolutely agree we need to keep an eye on everything. Valerie promised she was the only one with a key, other than the head librarian. She planned to stay until everything was delivered tonight—then she'd lock up and give the key to Tiffany in the morning. Tiff can then help us with the final set-up. Valerie said we'd probably have more baked goods arrive tomorrow, too. We'll just place them as we can and run anything we can't fit out to the van for temporary storage."

A rinse and a wipe of each bowl, and Meg had the dishes ready and loaded in the dishwasher. As she walked back to the table, she said,
"The only thing about chips and queso is now I want ice cream."

"
I've been thinking about making a smoothie. Want a chocolate shake?" Kate rose and walked to the refrigerator, pulling yogurt, milk, and frozen strawberries out as she talked. "Yep, here in the back is enough fudge ripple to make a shake."

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