Organized for Homicide (Organized Mysteries Book 2) (7 page)

BOOK: Organized for Homicide (Organized Mysteries Book 2)

Which is why you want to put us into separate rooms, so we can't talk and start thinking new angles."

Right." He stopped and looked around the foyer. "Do you know this house? Is there a good place for you two to be?"

Meg waved toward the kitchen.
"We came to get my phone from the counter and close the blinds, but I for one don't want to go in there and see things up close and personal through those large windows."

Good point. Stay here, and I'll go grab your phone." A second later he was back and flashing Meg's iPhone. "I'm assuming this is it. I see you and your family front and center on the screen."

Thanks." Meg flashed a smile. "I need to call them and tell them why I haven't returned home yet. I think I'll just forget the rest of the calls I planned to make tonight."

Her comment made Kate mentally wake up.
"And I need to tell Jane to keep the girls. Maybe they can stay the night. Do you think this will go late, officer?"

Yes, you'd better make arrangements."

They ultimately decided to use the downstairs guestroom and Collier
's office for Kate and Meg to wait to be interviewed. As the women headed for the hallway, Kate had another thought for the officer and turned back.

This wood floor obviously won't give you any clues about the murderer. But given the murder happened on the balcony, he or she had to run back through the upper hall and down the stairs. All of the carpet in this house is very plush, so you might be able to find footprints, especially since the person was running. The imprints would be deeper that way, I think."

Good point." The officer pulled his radio and relayed the information to Banks. "They'll likely have the state crime scene crew in here pretty quickly. They'll be able to document any impressions, even if it is in carpeting."

's heart sank when she heard the word "state." She suddenly realized the Vermont State Police would be called in on the case. Which meant she'd have to explain to Lieutenant Johnson why she was once again involved in one of his murder investigations. Meg obviously had the same thought.

Well, I guess we have another chance to figure out where Johnson's accent comes from. My money is still on Tennessee."

I wish I was in Tennessee right now," Kate sighed. The only thing worse than being interviewed by Johnson again was calling her mother-in-law to say she couldn't pick up the girls because the police wouldn't let her leave another murder scene.



For the Newsletter:

Whether before a big move, or just to organize the home you're staying in, consider the time of year and look for community projects that can help you meet your goals. For instance, if you're brainstorming a declutter project around the end of the year, work on what you want to reduce in the pantry. Many local food banks have Thanksgiving food drives and look for even more donations of food and gift wrap supplies at that time of year. If it's summertime and you have an extra set of silverware, consider offering what you don't need to someone heading for college soon, or to a friend who has a weekend home and needs extras for warm weather visitors.


* * *


They didn't have long to wait before Banks came in to interview each of them, but they didn't get to leave until the state police arrived and Lieutenant Johnson strode in with his laconic questions and the twangy accent that intrigued Meg—chiefly because the lieutenant wouldn't tell her where he hailed from whenever she asked.

And you're sure the killer was close to six foot?" he asked Kate.

As the only one who actually saw the person in the hoodie run out the front, Kate felt put on the spot for information, but wasn
't sure of anything anymore. Still, she offered her thoughts. "The killer stopped and started to close the front door. Then apparently realized he or she needed to keep running. But for just a second I could see the person in comparison to the doorframe. While I can't definitely tell you the height, I am sure, based on the amount of door facing that ran above the hoodie's head, the person was around six feet. If I had to guess, though, I'd say a few inches below six feet."

There were a couple of follow-up questions and instructions. Kate asked about the family and was told they were taken to a hotel in
Bennington. The house, of course, would be off-limits to any moving chores until the crime scene investigation team completed their work.

Sorry I got you into all of this, Katie," Meg said as they pulled away from the house several hours later. The Colliers' beautiful home was still swarming with police and lit up like a Christmas display. Meg and Kate had been walked to their car by Constable Banks after Lieutenant Johnson was satisfied that the little they knew and could detail was all they truly could offer.

It's not your fault." Kate grabbed a tissue from her purse. "I needed to close those blinds, so I would have gone back even if you hadn't left your phone. Who would think a simple errand would lead to witnessing a murder. At least this way we were there to alibi and back up each of our stories."

Regardless of how bad it was for us, it would have been ten times worse if Collier or Sydney had come home alone and found her. And no one would have had a clue about what actually happened before her throat was cut."

I just wish we knew why she was there," Kate mused. "To try to figure out why the person in the hoodie killed her."

Think it was a break-in that went wrong?"

Yeah, had to be. Nothing else makes sense. Lila just happened to be in the house when the thief thought everyone was gone."

But how would the killer know Collier was taking the younger kids out tonight?"

Maybe the killer's been watching the house. Knows what time Sydney gets in after running home from afternoon training practice and has seen Collier take the family out pretty regularly now that Lila isn't there to cook?"

Or maybe it was someone in his office who heard him say he was taking the family out tonight."

Collier told us this afternoon," Kate mused. "You don't think he said anything that Erin could have heard when he walked outside, do you?"

I figured Banks had already left with her by then."

Might be something worth asking." Kate shook her head. "But it could be I simply have Erin on my mind. I thought for sure when I saw the T-shirt and jeans that she was the one lying on the patio bleeding."

Meg pulled to the curb in front of the McKenzie
's blue Victorian house and turned off the car. "I just feel numb."

I think we're both coming out of shock." Kate scanned the yards of the small enclave neighborhood, wondering how things like this could happen in a place that normally felt like a safe haven. "Well, I never even got to close the blinds, but at least you got your phone back."

Meg patted the pocket holding the cell phone that
had started the evening's journey. "Thank goodness he gave it to me before the house was overrun with the state crime scene unit. They would have probably bagged it up as evidence or something. It could have been months before I saw it again."

The way our luck is going, I wouldn't be surprised."

Think we'll ever get to finish a job without a dead body landing in the middle of it?" Meg asked, then gave a tiny squeak. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that, I just—"

It's okay." Kate waved a hand. "I've been thinking something along the same lines all night. And I'll bet the police have me down as a possible serial killer by now, too."

You and me both, sister," Meg replied. "I've been with you each time you've actually found a murder victim. My only saving grace has been to miss getting my fingerprints on the murder weapon."

Kate looked over her shoulder at all the lights burning in the Berman two-story and then at the darkness radiating out of her own home.
"Jane said she'd keep the girls overnight, treat everything like a big surprise so they wouldn't have to find out, but now I'm kind of wishing I had them here to keep me company."

You know you can come to our place until Keith gets home."

Kate shook her head and
eyeing the door handle. "I'll be fine. I just have to tell myself there's no such thing as a boogie man."

Unfortunately, after tonight the statement might not be true," Meg said. "I don't want to feed into your fears, but I'd feel more comfortable if you weren't by yourself tonight. Gil would probably like some civilized conversation, too, after being with the boys all evening. If it's just him and me, we'll end up arguing about family stuff."

Anything wrong?"

Meg leaned
hit the auto-lock button, effectively trapping Kate inside, then started her car and talked as she backed into her own driveway.

Nothing a vacation away from kids and job worries won't cure. Consider your presence in our home tonight a service. Gil will want to pump you for information anyway. He already tried to weasel every detail out of me when I called to say the police were detaining us. Poor guy didn't believe me when I said I didn't have enough information to give him a real story scoop. Come on, walk in with me."

The night air was mild, and the short walk up the driveway gave the women the relaxed moment they needed before they faced another interrogation. This time from a newspaper journalist instead of the police. Kate marveled at how much she loved their new hometown, despite the personal upheaval that came ahead of it when a knee injury permanently sidelined Keith from professional hockey. That made her wonder about the Bermans and a question she always forgot to ask Meg when they were together.

"How did you and Gil decide to move here? Was it because your family was nearby? I mean, I know you're from Hazelton, but Gil's from Burlington, right? And he works in Bennington, so why didn't you settle there instead?"

Meg stepped to the side of the drive and Kate followed.

"You see that tree?" Meg pointed into her backyard, toward a stately white pine that guarded the back line of the property. The streetlights barely gave it definition at this time of night, but Kate had always admired it and could pull up a full picture of the mature tree, letting her memory fill in the dark blanks. The white pine's horizontal planes spread like open hands, ready for whatever needed to land there or required lodging underneath.

That tree is why I had to live in this neighborhood." Meg grinned sheepishly. "Don't laugh, but every morning I get up, look out the window, and see that the tree is still there, still strong, still ready to face any adversity coming its way. And with that, I know I can do the same. Every day. The tree has weathered decades of Vermont winters, gives refuge to birds and bugs, and shelters and shades my family on warm summer days. Nothing keeps the tree from doing what it's good at—and just seeing it there, handling everything with competent beauty, well, it keeps me going. When I saw that tree, I knew this house was home."

Kate felt her throat thicken up when she said,
"That's lovely."

Meg grabbed her arm and started pulling her to the front door.
"Enough sentimental talk. Let's go find some coffee."

Minutes later, the three adults ringed the small white café table in the Berman
's bright yellow kitchen.

How did things go at bedtime?" Meg asked Gil.

He blew out a breath
and ran fingers through his short blond hair. "Ben's monster under the bed routine is getting out of hand. He had me checking everything again and again, from under the bed, to closet, and even to desk drawers. Thank goodness Mark finally played big brother and saved the day."

How did he accomplish the impossible?"

He drove all the invisible baddies away with a kind of war dance," Gil said, offering a proud yet almost sheepish grin. "It was pretty amazing. Half Native American war dance, half spike-the-football touchdown shimmy, all with a shouting chant loud enough to drive anything away from this house. I was tempted to leave myself."

Meg rolled her eyes.
"Hope this doesn't become a nightly occurrence."

Mark took care of that, too." Gil laughed. "He said the magic he was using was so powerful, Ben will be protected for five years. If it works, we'll get the dance and chant copy protected and trademarked. We'll make a fortune from sleep deprived parents."

As the women laughed, Gil held up a hand.
"Flashing a light under Ben's bed also helped me discover your once-hidden birthday present."

Once hidden? Where is it now?"

He tossed his head toward the kitchen door.
"Back yard. Our youngest had a two-foot long snake hidden in a box under his bed."

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