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Authors: Susan Lynn Solomon

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BOOK: The Magic of Murder
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“Is there, uh…something we can do to help?” Rebecca said. She glanced at me. “Maybe go to the library, do some research?”

She clearly didn’t want to come face-to-face with a killer, but knew I was too angry to stay out of it. The library would be a place both of us would be safe—well, safer than chasing someone who had killed twice.

“I’ve got to do more than look through books and old newspapers,” I said.

Elvira mewed and crawled onto Roger’s shoulder. From that vantage, she seemed to look past the counter and posts separating my kitchen from my dining and living areas. Her eyes were fixed on the table we’d set up near the French doors.

Roger turned in his seat. When he saw the table, he said, “Not that I believe in the hoodoo you guys are doing, but…Emlyn, you didn’t happen to see the face of whoever shot Amy Woodward?

I shook my head.

“Recognize the voice?”


His eyes dropped to his cold soup and sandwich. “Could’ve been Woody, then.”

“No, it couldn’t be,” I said.

Rebecca and Roger snapped their attention to me.

“I just remembered. Woody’s six-six or so. The person I saw wearing the hoody—both times—was too short to be him.”

“Both times?” Roger asked.

I told him about the first divination spell I tried—the one where I saw the person put a pistol in a wall safe. The one in which Jimmy Osborn’s killer recognized me, and started the chain of events which led to my leg being sautéed like a chicken breast. “The face was hidden by shadows the first time, too,” I said. “But whoever it was, the killer’s only an inch or two taller than me.”

Roger thought for a minute. “About the same height as Kevin Reinhart?”

I caught my breath. I’d pulled Chief Woodward away from a speeding bus, only to shove my ex under it.

“At least we’re sure the two killings are somehow connected,” Rebecca said. “That’s a start.”

“Maybe also connected to the drug ring,” Roger added.
“If it is, I’m willing to bet your ex-husband’s the connection.”

Elvira jumped from his shoulder, landed at his feet and growled, as if to say,
What are you waiting for? Get the slimy bastard before he kills us all!

Yes, I admit I put my thought into the cat’s mouth.

Roger said, “Kevin’s the key.” He took a bite of his cheese sandwich. “He’s not at his apartment. Where else would he hole up?”

I closed my eyes and tried to think. “His parents used to own a place on Saunders Settlement Road. It’s a stone house on the north side, just before you get to the high school.”

“Could he be there?”

I rested my elbows on the table and my head in my hands. I disliked my ex to the point at which just the thought of him turned my stomach—you don’t throw a hex at someone you care about. But I’d gotten to know him in the three years we lived together. Kevin was sleazy, yes, and underhanded. But he was also a coward, afraid of guns. The first thing he did when he moved into my house was get rid of my father’s hunting rifles. So, while it didn’t strain my imagination to believe he might be peddling drugs, or that he’d try to blackmail Amy Woodward—though I had no idea for what—no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t picture him killing her.

Looking at Roger, I said, “It’s an old house, been around a century and a half. I once went inside. Most of what I remember is the dust and cobwebs.” I shuddered. “Broken walls, sagging floors. I used it as the setting for one of my stories.”

“Sounds like the perfect place for a man to hide out,” Rebecca said. She rose and began to clear the table.

“Maybe. But Kevin?” I shook my head. “When I went in to explore the stone house, get details for my story, he insisted on waiting outside. Said it creeped him out.”

“I’ll check the place,” Roger said. “Never know. Being afraid for his life might’ve given Reinhart the guts to crawl in there.”

I pushed myself up from the table and reached for my crutches. “All right, let’s do it.”

Elvira sat up at my feet, eager to come with us.

“Where are you going?” Roger asked.

“With you. It’ll make it easier on Kevin if I’m there.”

“Uh-uh. This is police business.”

I felt my spine stiffen. Stubbornness does that to me. I
raised my arm and pointed a crutch at Roger. “Federal police business. You’re not supposed to get involved, either.
Or have you forgotten that?”

I’d finally found someone whose back could get as stiff as mine. “Doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m making it my case. And the last thing I need is to worry about whether you’re gonna fall through a hole in the floor.”

“I can’t sit here and do nothing,” I argued.

Elvira mewed. Obviously she agreed with me.

I glanced at the end table and the remnants of our divination rite. My lips bent into a small grin. “Maybe there
something I can do.”

“Oh, no! Uh-uh,” Roger said. “The last thing I need is to have your brain go haywire again.”

My grin widened enough to show the result of orthodontic work my parents paid a fortune for when I was fourteen. “You just said the last thing you need is for me to fall into a hole. How many last things do you have?”

He ignored my remark.

I hobbled to the closet for my coat.

“Stay!” he said, as if he were talking to Elvira.

While I stood, fuming, he snatched my coat and exchanged it for his.

The crutches under my arms, from inside the glass storm door I watched him stride down my driveway to the unmarked car. He knocked on the driver’s window and leaned down. A minute later he was in his Trailblazer. As he passed the DEA agents, they made a U-turn and followed him down River Road.

Now at my side, Rebecca said, “Well, that’s that.” She seemed relieved.

“I don’t think so.”

“But Roger said—”

“Yeah, I heard him. He doesn’t want us at the stone house. He didn’t say anything about looking for Kevin elsewhere.”

Elvira looked up at me.

Rebecca didn’t move. Her eyes flicked from my sofa to the door, and her lips turned down. “This isn’t a good idea.”

I leaned my crutches against the wall. Standing on my one good leg, I took my coat from the closet. “Where’d you put my bag?” I said. “I need my car keys.”

“How are you gonna drive, you can hardly walk?”

“You can ride along with me or not. Either way, I’m going.” I opened the storm door.

Rebecca rolled her eyes and muttered, “Did I say something about standing in the way of a freight train?”

She took a deep breath while trying to figure a way, I thought, to stop me from going after a man who wouldn’t hesitate to kill us both. After half a minute, she released her breath. It seemed as though she decided she couldn’t stop me. She grabbed her coat from the closet, and said, “I’m driving.”

While I swung my crutches down the front steps, I called back to her, “Take Elvira. She’s got a better handle on this than we do.”

Chapter Eighteen

What Kevin Was Up To


e passed beneath a sign announcing we had entered Little Italy. Set on concrete replicas of Roman pillars, and adorned with green and red iron grapes, the sign spanned Pine Avenue. This was the business district in downtown Niagara Falls. Up and down the street, strands of plastic holly and Christmas wreaths still hung from lampposts. In New York’s Snow Belt, we cling to the warmth of the holiday season and keep the remnants of it around as long as possible.

Rebecca was behind the wheel of my second-hand, brown Plymouth Valiant.

Elvira stood on my lap and gazed out the window. Her head swiveled from side-to-side. At times, she climbed up my chest and leaned over my shoulder with her neck stretched.

“You’re a real tourist,” I said to her.

She bent down and stared into my eyes, as if to say,
One of us has to pay attention to what’s going on.

We passed restaurants, small clothing stores, and a furniture repair shop. When we neared Flannery’s Bar, the cat scampered onto Rebecca’s lap and pressed her face against the driver’s side window.

I grabbed her. “Hey, you’re gonna get us into an accident.”

She twisted in my arms and opened her mouth.

I understood what she wanted to say. A man with a scarf wrapped around his face had just come out of Flannery’s door. I took a close look at him. In a minute, I settled back in the passenger seat, and shook my head. “Looks a little like Kevin—the right height, but that’s not
the way he walks.” My ex shuffled his feet when he walked,
as if he were weary from a long and laborious day.

Just before the Baptist church, we pulled to the curb in front of a building of Mediterranean design. It had ivory stucco walls, brown beams, and arched orange shingles on the overhangs and roof. The ground floor housed a bakery and an Italian deli. Between them was a small courtyard with a staircase on either side. Above the courtyard was an exposed walkway, along which were the heavy oak doors of a law firm and a political office. Where the walkway
bent back toward the street, raised black letters on weathered
wood marked the office of
Ira Smith, Insurance Broker
. It was there my ex used to work. It was there we were headed.

The crutches clutched in my right hand, I leaned heavily
on the rail as I climbed the stairs. Rebecca followed me, carrying the cat.

I hesitated in front of the Insurance Broker sign, unsure whether I really wanted to go in. My uncertainty might
have lasted more than a few seconds, if I hadn’t felt Elvira’s
paw push on my back.

A tinny bell sounded when I opened the door. Without looking up from the folder on her desk, the blond receptionist asked, “May I help you?”

The walls were papered in black and white zebra stripes. The outer office was only large enough to hold one chair, a small two-seat sofa with silver metal arms and black Naugahyde upholstery, and a table on which a few issues of
National Geographic
Sports Illustrated
were scattered. Looking at the stained covers, I thought those same magazines might have been on the table when I was last here seven years ago. The same blond secretary was at the desk.

“Is Ira Smith in?” I asked.

She glanced up. “Oh, Mrs. Reinhart.” Her face turned bright red.

She should have been embarrassed. This was the woman my ex had slept with—the straw that broke the back of my marriage.

“Not Mrs. Reinhart, Mary Beth,” I said. “I haven’t been that for a long time, as you well know.”

She shuffled some pages in her file.

There was already one cat in the reception area—a large albino cat. It would be over-kill if I were to behave like one. To put a leash on the remark I wanted to make, I took a breath. “I’m no longer angry about you and Kevin,” I said. “I’ve realized he wasn’t much to lose.”

Under her breath, Mary Beth muttered, “You can say that again.”

I fought a smile. Apparently, my revenge spell had swept up this blond bimbo in its wake. “So, is Ira in?”

She pushed a button on her phone. “Mr. Smith, Mrs. Rein…uh, Emlyn…” She lifted her eyes to me.

I leaned over her desk. “Ira, it’s Emlyn Goode. Got a minute?”

In far less than a minute, one of the two inner doors opened.

“Emlyn, great to see you!” Ira Smith said even before he stepped out. The epitome of a salesman, an effervescent personality was his stock-in-trade. He sounded as though he
glad I stopped by. He was as slimy as Kevin and had made several passes at me while I was still Mrs. Reinhart. Maybe he thought I’d come to take him up on his offer.

He came through the door with his arms open and a wide smile plastered across his face. In his brown suit with wide white strips, he reminded me of a carnival barker. “How’ve you been?” Just short of embracing me, he stopped and stared at my crutches. “Good Lord, what happened?”

“You don’t want to know,” I said.

He glanced past me to where Rebecca was bent over the table, thumbing through a worn issue of
National Geographic
. Her long salt and pepper braid almost touched the floor.

“This is my friend—”

She stood up and turned to him.

“—Rebecca Nurse.”

The smarmy smile froze on his face.

“I know Ira.” She held out her hand. “He came to my shop a few times for tarot card readings last year.”

I wondered whether tarot readings were how this man handled risk management.

Ira glanced at his secretary through the corner of eyes almost as dark as the reception area’s decor. It appeared as though he didn’t want Mary Beth to know he believed in such things.

The blond buried her face in the file on her desk.

“Yes, I recall,” he said. “Uh, please come in.”

I felt a bit uneasy, learning of a connection, albeit indirect, between Rebecca and my ex. I shot her a look.

Focused on Ira instead of me, she held out the cat. “This is Elvira.”

Immediately, Ira’s eyes began to water. He stepped back, rubbing them. “Uh, Mary Beth, could you watch the cat for a few minutes?”

“Not a good idea,” I said. “Elvira doesn’t do well with strangers.”

The secretary didn’t look up from her file.

Ira considered the cat for a moment, before he waved us into his office and to the two chairs in front of his Ikea faux mahogany desk. When he followed us in, he edged along the wall so as to remain as far from Elvira as the close space permitted.

Behind the desk was a display of framed photographs of Ira standing alongside men in the uniforms of our local football, baseball, and hockey teams. In others, he shook hands with a former mayor and some town councilmen.

After hanging his suit jacket on the back of his leather executive chair, he asked, “What can I do for you?” He glanced at my crutches. “We ought to start by reviewing your coverage.”

In his early forties, Ira Smith had thick red hair and sideburns crawling down his long, narrow face.

“That’s not why I came by,” I said.

Elvira jumped from Rebecca’s arms and slithered under the desk.

Ira sneezed. He pulled a tissue from a drawer. “Sorry.” He sniffed. “I’m allergic to cats.”

Elvira crawled next to his chair and pawed his jacket pocket.

“Stop it! You’re not being nice,” Rebecca said to her. As she bent over to pick up the cat, she glanced at the pocket.

“We won’t stay long,” I said. “I’m trying to find Kevin.
Do you know where he might be?”

Ira swiveled in his chair to face the window. “What’s he done now?”

Rebecca’s brows crept up and she sucked in her lower lip.

“Nothing as far as I know,” I said. “I just need to speak with him.” This wasn’t really a lie. I didn’t
my ex had blackmailed or murdered anyone.

Ira blew his nose and glanced accusingly at Elvira. “Haven’t seen him in a couple of months,” was his curt reply. “Not since—” He averted his eyes.

I opened my bag, pushed my house keys to the side, and pushed my wallet to the other side. There wasn’t anything I needed in my purse. I pushed things around so my next question would sound casual.

“I always wondered what happened between you and Kevin, why you, um—” I took out my compact, checked my lipstick. “Why you fired him.”

Ira and Kevin had been high school friends. They’d run together on the relay team that went to the state finals in their senior year. They were still passing the baton back and forth, at least metaphorically, the last time I saw them together. It seemed to me whatever Kevin was involved in, Ira was probably right there with him.

He swiveled back to his desk. “I really shouldn’t say.”

“Come on, Ira, I lived with the man. Nothing you tell me would be a shock.”

He wiped his nose and tossed the tissue into the trash. “No, I really shouldn’t. Possible liability, my lawyer says.”

This was something of an answer, but not as much of one as I wanted.

Before I had a chance to press him further, Rebecca handed me the cat and leaned across the desk. In a stage whisper, she said, “That question you asked me the last time you came for a reading? I know the answer.”

His face turned so red, I could barely tell where his forehead ended and his hair began. He turned his head from Rebecca to me. “No, that’s okay. I found out what I wanted to know.”

She sat back with a satisfied smile.

I knew my friend had sent him a message. To double-team him, I now leaned forward. “Oh, Ira,” I crooned. “It’s just me. Who am I going to tell?”

His eyes went blank. He shook his head. His longish red hair didn’t move (did he use hairspray?).

“You’re good,” he finally said. “Okay, then, I let him go because he was selling cocaine to our clients. I didn’t find out about it until a cop showed up here.”

Ira slouched in his chair, watching, I supposed, for shock to spread across my face.

Instead of saying,
Right, like you weren’t in that together,
I remarked, “Yeah, I figured it might be
something of the kind. Or maybe blackmail?”

He tried to hide the flush again rising to his cheeks by blowing his nose. “Not that I ever heard about.” His eyes turned up and to the left. A classic “tell.” I knew he lied.

“Who was he bleeding, Ira?”

His lips tight, he gripped the arms of his chair.

I realized Ira Smith wouldn’t tell me, no matter how much I flirted with him. I figured he held his silence because he still bled people he and Kevin sold the white powder to. I had researched the psychological effects of cocaine for a story I wrote. Like heroin, it’s an insidious drug with talons digging into your soul. But at the same time, you’ll do almost anything—pay almost anything—to keep from being labeled a junkie. Could Amy Woodward have been one of the people they blackmailed? Jimmy Osborn? They both had a lot to lose if anyone found out they snorted cocaine.

I dropped the compact into my purse. With a frown, I said. “That’s my ex-husband. Always looking for an easy buck. Well, thanks for your time, Ira. If you see Kevin, tell him I want to talk to him.”

Rebecca handed me my crutches and I hobbled down the stairs to my car. As she turned the key in the ignition, I latched onto her hand. I still had a bone to pick with her.

“You know Ira Smith?” I said. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

I’d trusted her, thought she was a friend. Had she betrayed me? My mind flashed back to my earlier suspicion: could Rebecca be part of the killings and the drugs? Had she insinuated herself into my life to protect her secret? The crone in black I’d seen outside my French doors—I was certain she had been my ancestor—had come to warn me about a betrayal. Was it Rebecca Sarah’s gnarled finger pointed to?

“You didn’t say we were coming to see him,” she responded.

“But you knew he and Kevin worked together.”

“Actually, I didn’t. Ira never mentioned it during our sessions, and you didn’t tell me when we worked the vengeance spell.”

I closed my eyes.

She touched my shoulder. “Emlyn, I
your friend. I’d never lie to you.”

“If that’s true, tell me what question Ira Smith wanted answered.”

“Not now,” she said. “He’s watching us.”

I turned my face up to the second floor and saw Ira at his window, looking down.

As we pulled from the curb, she said, “You know he had coke in his jacket pocket.”

Did she think this would distract me? Learning of the line from Rebecca to Ira Smith, and through him to Kevin and the two murders, made her a mystery inside an enigma. I felt as though my survival depended on unravelling this tangled thread. Immediately.




BOOK: The Magic of Murder
2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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