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Authors: Susan Lynn Solomon

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BOOK: The Magic of Murder
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His elbows on the table, his head in his hands, he locked his eyes on mine. “You can tell me anything. You know that, don’t you?”

I took a deep breath—

A fan of the pugilistic art might say I was saved by the bell. In this instance, a bell didn’t save me from having to confess my heritage. That was accomplished by the song Roger’s cell phone played.

He reached around to his quilted jacket, pulled the phone from the pocket, and looked at the digital display. Holding up a finger to indicate our conversation wasn’t over, he said, “Work. Gotta take this.” Then he said into the phone, “Frey here, Chief. What’s up?”

He listened for a minute. As I watched, his face went as pale as the snow outside my door. “Gotta go,” he murmured as he shoved the phone back into his pocket.

“What is it?” I asked, more than a little worried. My friend wasn’t easily rattled.

He shook his head. His hazel eyes hard, he grabbed his
jacket and wool cap. With no explanation, he bolted through
my front door, and ran through the snow to his car.

I didn’t hear from Roger for a few days, didn’t learn what happened until I read in the
Niagara Gazette
his partner had been shot in an alley off Nineteenth Street. Eight bullets in the chest declared someone was more than pissed at Jim Osborn.


Chapter Four

Jimmy’s Funeral


quad cars with flashing lights halted eastbound traffic on Saunders Settlement Road. In the middle of the slow procession, made up, it seemed, of the entire Niagara
Falls Police Force, Roger steered his black Chevy Trailblazer
into Sacred Heart Cemetery. He looked smart in his navy blue dress uniform with service medals pinned to his chest. Though the thermometer still hovered well below freezing, he wore no overcoat. I suspected he was still in shock from news of his partner’s death, and didn’t feel the cold.

I shifted in the passenger seat and gazed around. Roger hadn’t asked me to accompany him to the funeral. I insisted
on being there. I knew Jimmy Osborn and his wife, Margaret, too. Marge and I grew up together, went to
school together. The Osborns had been more than kind to me when my ex decided it would be exciting to have a fling with his boss’s secretary while we were still married. They invited me to barbecues, their daughter’s wedding. Marge tried to set me up with her cousin. When, three years ago, Roger’s wife finally had enough of life as a policeman’s spouse, Jimmy decided Roger and I might make a good couple. “Couple of what?” I’d asked when he suggested it. Now, next to Roger
in his car, I smiled at the recollection. My smile immediately turned downward, and I brushed tears from
my cheeks. Jimmy would no longer be part of the Osborn matchmaking tag-team.

I glanced to my left. Roger’s eyes were locked on the cortege ahead. It was as if he saw before him each of the twelve years he and Jimmy had been partners and best friends—both in the military reserves and on the Force. This was hard for Roger, I knew, probably the hardest thing he’d ever faced; harder than the year he spent in Iraq with his reserve unit, and harder even than when he found the note from Judy telling him she’d gone to live with her parents in Arizona. Marge told me he cried the day she left. He had driven to the Osborns’ house, and he and Jimmy got drunk in their backyard. Those guys were like brothers, I realized not for the first time. I suppose that’s how close you get with someone to whom you trust your life.

Again, I glanced at Roger. His eyes weren’t moist from the loss of a brother. Jaw set, his eyes were as hard and as cold as the headstones we drove past. His skin was taught across his face. Not just angry, he was seething.

God help whoever killed Jimmy Osborn,
I thought, though I didn’t want God to offer any help. I was also angry.




At the gravesite, Marge Osborn sat stiffly on a wooden folding chair. Under a black beret, her auburn hair was stringy, appearing as though it hadn’t been washed in days. Her makeup was sparse. Her blue eyes were red and swollen. This wasn’t at all like Marge. In high school she’d been a fashion-plate—hair, nails, makeup, clothes always perfect. She wouldn’t leave the house unless the guys in school would swoon at the sight of her. The way she looked sitting before her husband’s casket didn’t surprise me, though. If the man I loved had been killed, my hair and makeup were the last things I’d think about.

Marge clasped her daughter’s hand. A miniature version of her mother, Jennifer’s eyes were also red, and her makeup didn’t quite cover a dark ring under her left eye. Jennifer’s husband, Sean Ryan, sat next to her. He appeared to have such a firm grip of her arm, I was sure she would find bruises when she got undressed. While the minister offered prayers and words of condolence, Chief of Detectives Harry Woodward stood behind the widow, his hand resting on her shoulder. Woody, his men called him. There was no disrespect in the informality. The Chief would die for his men—Roger told me he once nearly had in Iraq. As a result, if Woody said run out for coffee, his men would try to break the world record for the hundred yard dash. Chief Woodward’s wife, Amy, dressed entirely in black as if she, too, were in mourning, stood just to his right and behind him with her head bowed.

Roger and I were off to the side of the flag-draped coffin. In front of us, an honor guard stood at rigid attention.

As I said, it was a bitterly cold morning—cold enough that instead of a dress, I put on a black alpaca sweater over gray wool pants. Though the clouds had parted and the sun shone bright overhead, the chill sneaked between the threads of my overcoat. Roger must have felt me shiver.

Wrapping an arm around me, he whispered, “You didn’t have to come.”

“Even if Jimmy weren’t my friend,” I said, “I wouldn’t have let you go through this alone.”

He squeezed my shoulder then looked away.

Amy Woodward nodded at me. Her face was nearly as pale as the winter streets, and her neck-length black hair was, as always, perfectly coiffed. An accomplished hostess, the few times I’d accompanied Roger to one of her gatherings—this was during the time the Osborns thought they might be able to set us up—I found her to be gracious though not overly warm. In fact, it struck me her hospitality was almost businesslike. That’s why it surprised me when she walked over.

I saw her eyes were red, and I thought,
She isn’t made
of stone
. For a moment I wondered whether an underground river of passion ran through her. I decided I’d
find out and then use her as a character in a story. Or, if I never found out, I’d invent a passionate stream for her. As I’ve said, I’m a writer. It’s what I do.

Amy leaned close to me, almost against my shoulder. “I hate funerals,” she said, “and this one…this one…”

A heart
beat in her chest.

I made a mental note then touched her wrist. “I feel so bad for Marge. She adored Jimmy and he did everything for her. I don’t know how she’ll manage without him.”

Amy unsnapped her purse, pulled out a tissue, and blew her nose. “Losing a man you’ve given you heart to, promised your life to…” Anything else she might have said got lost in a sob.

For a second I wondered whether the strain in her voice spoke of a fear she might one day learn
husband had been killed in the line of duty. That thought fled when her tears brought on my own. Gone was any thought of constructing a character for a story: her words had dredged up the way I felt when my unfortunate marriage fell apart. Sniffing, I said, “Thank goodness you have such a steadfast husband.”

She tilted her head toward him. “Yes, thank goodness for that. I suppose.”

There was coldness in the way she said it, and her tone jarred against where we where and why we were here.

A little startled by the weather change in Amy Woodward, I gazed past her. What I saw at the end of the row of graves caused me to gasp. A man in a dark gray overcoat and gray slacks, with a gray cap pulled low on his head, crouched near one of the mausoleums. Was that Kevin Reinhart, my ex? I took a small step in his direction, and rubbed my eyes. It sure looked like him. He appeared to be trying hard to blend into the gray stones.

Roger leaned down to me—he’s over six feet tall, and I’m just five-seven, more or less. “Something wrong?” he asked.

“It’s—” I raised my hand to point. When I looked again, I saw only the gray stones of the mausoleum. Shaking my head, I said, “I thought I saw—no, it’s nothing.”

The graveside service was mercifully short. After fifteen minutes, the minister looked up from his prayer book. “Rest in the arms of our Lord and Savior, James Osborn,” he said. “You were a good man. Your wife and daughter will miss you. You were a good police officer. Niagara Falls will miss you.”

When the minister snapped his book closed, a piper dressed in green, red, and blue plaid with black leggings under his kilt, stepped from behind a nearby tree. His bagpipe moaned.

I looked up at Roger. He was mouthing, “Amazing grace, how great thou are, God saved a wretch like me—”

Two cops broke rank from the honor guard, and lifted the American flag from Jimmy’s coffin. With deliberate movements, they folded the flag into a triangle and tucked in the ends. A hand on top, the other on the bottom, one of the cops knelt and offered the flag to Margaret Osborn.

She stared blankly at him, then at her daughter, then at the folded flag. She seemed hesitant to take it. I thought I understood why: if she accepted the gift, every day it would remind her she was a widow. Marge proved me right when she gazed again at the flag, shook her head, and pulled her hands back.

Amazing Grace
droned on.

The cop who knelt with the flag in his hands, turned his head to Chief Woodward. They both seemed uncertain about what to do.

Roger took a step forward, as if he intended to settle the matter by accepting the flag.

“You can’t,” I whispered to him.

At last, as the bagpiper’s final notes floated across the cemetery, Marge’s son-in-law reached over and took it.

Harry Woodward let out what could only be a relieved breath.

Marge dropped her head.

The service was over. One by one, those present filed past Marge and her daughter, stooping to whisper a few words then move on. In front of me, Amy Woodward silently patted the window’s shoulder. When it was my turn, I kissed Marge’s cheek. Though words are my life, my career, at that moment I couldn’t utter a single one.

When I stepped away, Roger bent down. “I’ll get the bastard who did this,” he said. “I’ll even the score. I swear on Jimmy’s grave, I will.”

Marge didn’t blink. Her face remained expressionless.

Chief Woodward, still standing behind the widow, heard what was said. He frowned, and leveled his gray eyes at Roger.

With his hand on the back of Marge’s chair, Roger returned Woody’s stare. Tension ran along a taught rope between those two long-time colleagues. Losing someone you care deeply for can do strange things like that. I tugged at Roger’s jacket, held the hem to urge him to leave with me. Finally, the two men broke eye contact.

“I’ll stop by later, and sit with you a while,” I said to Marge.

She gave a slight nod.

After one more tug at Rogers’s jacket, he and I left the funeral gathering and walked in silence past a row of stones dedicated to generations who’d lived and died in this corner
of Western New York. Now and then I recognized the name of
someone I’d known: a friend of my parents or my grandparents.

At my father’s grave, I stopped and brushed snow from his headstone. Roger waited patiently while I knelt, and whispered, “I miss you, Daddy. I wish you were here to tell me what to do with Sarah Goode’s book.”

Again I brushed at the snow, then at my tears.

Five minutes later we were at Roger’s car. He opened the door for me. As I slid in, I noticed the anger still burning in his eyes.

“What are you thinking?” I asked.

He peered over the roof of his Trailblazer, back in the direction from which we’d come. “Nothing.”


His hand dropped to his waist where he usually wore his holster.

A bit nervous, I said, “You’re not gonna go vigilante on us?”

His eyes hooded, he muttered, “I’m gonna do exactly what I told Marge I would.”

He slammed my door, marched around the car, and climbed in. I sat with my eyes straight ahead, afraid to look at him, afraid to speak. I was afraid if I asked what he meant, I’d wind up an accessory-before-the-fact to another
murder. Lost in my concern, I didn’t notice someone approach the idling Trailblazer, didn’t realize a man
stopped beside us until I heard tapping on the driver’s-side window. The
sounded like pounding. I jumped.

Roger glanced over, and laid his rather large hand on my arm.

“Please tell me you’re not going after revenge,” I said.

He gave me a tight smile. “Have you ever known me to go off the reservation?”

His careful phrasing didn’t reassure me.

The tapping came again.

Before I could call him on his tacit lie, Roger rolled down his window. Only then did I see who was out there.

Chief Woodward was about as tall a man as I’ve ever known—better than six and half feet from toes to head. In contrast, his hair was cut extremely short. Resting an elbow on the roof of Roger’s SUV, he pulled off his hat, and leaned down. Even in that position, he had a stiff military bearing reminiscent of the marine colonel he had once been. His eyes flicked in my direction, then focused on Roger. In an easy, conversational tone, he said, “A word, Detective?”

As he opened the door, Roger said, “Sorry, Emlyn. Give me a minute.”

The two men strolled a few yards away. The Chief rested his hand on Roger’s shoulder and said something. Roger pulled back, shook his head. Woody’s expression grew stern. From the movement of his lips, I could tell his words were clipped.

Roger stiffened, began to turn away. The Chief held him in place and said a few more words. Roger gave a sharp nod and returned to the car. Harry Woodward moved slowly in the other direction.

“Damn,” Roger muttered when he opened the door and climbed back in.

“What did he tell you?”

My friend sat as still as a tombstone for a minute. Normally he won’t talk to me about his work, so the fact he finally answered spoke volumes: the Chief had upset him. In the slow words of a man struggling to control his temper,
Roger said, “He doesn’t want me working Jimmy’s murder.”

BOOK: The Magic of Murder
5.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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