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Authors: Susan Lynn Solomon

The Magic of Murder (6 page)

BOOK: The Magic of Murder
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Jennifer moaned, “Who would do this to us? It doesn’t make any sense.” She began to cry.

Sean dabbed her cheek with a tissue. She winced. I presumed this was because of the sudden loss of a father she both admired and adored. I understood her emotion: Jimmy’s death made no sense to me either.

We sat in silence for several moments, looking around for something to say. On the fireplace mantel was a display of framed photographs: one of Marge, one of Jennifer in her high school graduation gown, Jennifer and Sean’s wedding picture, a cute one of Marge and baby Jennifer playing with the puppy they’d had back then. This was a homey room. Still, that day it felt vast and empty. My eyes came to rest on the end table. There were more photographs of Marge and Jennifer and Sean.

While I sat there, I felt as though a bug was crawling up the back of my neck. When I reached around to scratch it, I realized it was an itch of suspicion. Something wasn’t right. Reaching for what troubled me, my mind settled on the Corvette in the driveway. Sean was a reporter for the
Buffalo News
. It couldn’t be his car. Marge hadn’t had a job since her daughter was born. A myriad questions flooded my brain. How could she and Jimmy afford an expensive sports car on a detective’s salary? Was Jimmy involved in some criminal activity that had gotten out of hand? Could Sean have been involved in it? Did Jennifer learn what her father and Sean were up to? Was the bruise beneath her eye a warning to remain silent?

When I asked about the car, Jennifer said for years her father had dreamed of owning a red Corvette. Marge added they’d saved every penny they could until they had enough for him to buy it. He’d taken delivery two weeks ago. With a dolorous laugh, she said, “It feels so stupid, spending that kind of money and he’s not here—” She glanced at her daughter. Her eyes filled with tears, she pulled the tissue from her sleeve.

Sean squeezed Marge’s hand. “At least,” he said, “Jim had the pleasure of driving it a couple of times befor
e uh…at least he had that pleasure.” He looked in the direction of the driveway, as if he could see the red car through the wall.

Marge’s eyes snapped in my direction. If she were sending me a message, it got lost in the mail. Looking again out the window, she said, “Woody also asked about the Corvette. Like he thought Jimmy was on the take or something. Christ, we haven’t gone anywhere on vacation in five years. I haven’t bought new clothes in almost that long.”

Her protest sounded too vehement.
What about the expensive wedding you gave your daughter?
I thought. I didn’t say it, though. Instead, I remarked, “You wore a lovely coat to the funeral. What kind of fur is it?”

Marge’s eyebrows went up. Her expression seemed to ask if I also accused her husband of stealing.

Jennifer glanced from her mother to me. “It
beautiful, Mom,” she said, and turned to Sean. “Fake fur. Hard to tell, isn’t it? I could use a coat like that.”

He frowned.

“Moroni’s,” Marge said. “You know, the furrier on Main Street? Stephen Moroni gave it to Jimmy as thanks for catching his brother-in-law selling coats out of his trunk.”

The explanation made total sense. The explanation of the new car also made sense. All at once, I felt like the world’s biggest fool for suspecting an old friend. I’d also known Jimmy since high school. He was as straight as any arrow William Tell ever shot. As for Sean’s involvement in something dirty—well, Jimmy never would have let his daughter marry someone who wasn’t as honest as he.
Stupid, Emlyn, suspecting this family,
I thought.
Stupid, stupid!

We talked a while longer, recalling times we’d spent together; recalling how Jimmy, silk tie undone, tuxedo jacket off, face flushed and words slurred from too much scotch, had pulled me to the floor to dance a reel at his daughter’s wedding. That was three years ago. Now he was gone.

Leaving his wife and mother-in-law in the living room, Sean walked me to the door. When he opened it for me, he said, “Marge told me Kevin stopped by about two weeks ago. She said he looked awful. Do you know what he wanted?”

I turned back to Sean. Did he think my ex was mixed up in Jimmy’s death? “How would I know?” I said. “I haven’t spoken to him since God knows when. Didn’t he tell Marge what he was after?”

“Said he was looking for Jim, is all.”

My eyes narrowed. “Do you think Kevin has something
to do with Jimmy’s death?”

Sean shrugged, turned away, and closed the door.

As I left the house where Margaret Osborn now lived alone, a widow, I felt like an idiot. I wanted to kick myself in the rear for the way I’d behaved.
I deserve a good kick for thinking I’m a detective,
I thought. Well, I was done sleuthing. The next time I saw Roger, I’d mention my ex had looked for Jimmy. Other than that, I’d have to trust Harry Woodward to discover the killer. I could only pray Roger wouldn’t get in his way.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work like that.

Chapter Six

Hello, it’s Me


s the name suggests, River Road winds along the bank of the Niagara River. The old link between Niagara Falls and Buffalo, the road consists of one sparsely lit lane in each direction. Past the marina, the boat yard, and a few small industrial sites, a smattering of private residences are set back in stands of trees. One of those residences is mine.

As I rounded a curve on River Road, my headlights lit a four-by-four parked behind the snow heaped near my driveway. Smeared with road salt, the pickup looked abandoned, ghostly. Late on a winter night, nobody parks on a dark winding road. Not if they expect to find their vehicle in one piece when they return. Examining the pickup as I drew near, I again felt a tingle at the nape of my neck. This time I had no need to think about the cause: fear was the spider crawling up my spine. My imagination constructing the image of a shadowy mass murderer who skulked in my backyard, my first instinct was to race into Roger’s driveway, jump from my car, and pound on his door. I would have done just that if a single light burned in his house.

He’s probably out trying to track down whoever killed Jimmy,
I thought.

I cursed him for disobeying his boss when I needed him here to keep Jack the Ripper from making me his next victim. Yeah, Jack was long dead. So what? Maybe his ghost hid in the snow. Muttering every invective I could think of, I parked as close to my garage as I could get, and ran the fifteen yards from my car to the front door. I left the headlights on.

What? Everyone knows murderers won’t strike when lights are on. It’s an unwritten rule—sort of like wearing a necklace of garlic to ward off vampires.

Okay, this was my vivid imagination gone haywire. But after all, if witches and magic spells actually exist, it’s entirely logical to believe vampires and killers lurk behind the trees in my yard—

God, sometimes imagination is a royal pain!

My key held out in front of me like a Bowie knife with which I might slash at anything that dared to cross my path, I slammed through my front door. The racket I made would have wakened the dead or maybe chased off a few zombies.

Elvira’s reaction was to flop over the arm of my wingback chair and glare at me with an expression that
Hey, how about a little quiet! Can’t you see I’m sleeping in here?

“Couldn’t you at least pretend to be an attack dog?” I said.

She yawned. I was boring her.

With my hands on my hips, I glared at the oversized animal that had made a comfortable nest in my home and my life. Just when I opened my mouth to shoot a scathing remark in her direction, I heard knocking on the French doors. The killer
in my backyard. He wanted me to let him in.

The thought,
Ohmigod, I really am being stalked,
blew though my mind like a winter gale. Terrified, I froze.

Elvira cowered in the chair, her eyes wide. If I weren’t trembling, I would have enjoyed the sight—the big coward.

There was another knock, so hard this time a pane of glass rattled.

My eyes rapidly flicked from the door to Elvira.

A high-pitched screech came from the cat. It was as if she screamed,
Board up the house! Dump all the books from the bookcases and build a barricade in front of the door!

Garnering a very foolish courage, I took a step forward (a killer on the loose, someone pounding on my door late at night, and not immediately phoning the police smacks of foolishness). Over my shoulder, I whispered, “Be quiet while I see who’s there.” My only explanation for doing this is that my boggled brain figured someone who intended to kill me wouldn’t knock and asked if I would let him inside to do it.

Elvira didn’t look at all certain about my logic. Her eyes flicked as if she were ready to scramble under my desk.

I tiptoed across the room. I don’t know why I did. It wasn’t as if I were going to surprise whoever lurked out there. As I hesitantly reached to pull the mini-blind aside, I glanced back at the wingback chair. My fraidy cat was nowhere to be seen.

I turned again to the French doors, leaned over.

There was another knock.

I dropped the blind, jumped back. My voice trembling, I said, “Go away!”

“C’mon, Emlyn,” a man hissed from outside. “Open the
damn door!”

I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. I recognized the voice—or at least the syntax. It was Kevin. I hadn’t heard from him in four, six years; hadn’t seen him in longer. Now he was in my backyard in the middle of the night?

I yanked the blind aside. With his face pasted against the window, my former husband looked like my worst nightmare come to life.

“What are you doing out there?” I said.

“Dammit, let me in!” He shook his fist—definitely not a gesture that would elicit my compliance.

I positioned my face close to the cold windowpanes. With my lips nearly on the glass, I said, “What do you want?”

“Will you
stop talking?” he said.

“Fine,” I said, “I’ll stop right now.”

I dropped the mini-blind, and checked the lock on the door.

Elvira crawled from under the skirt of the wingback chair.
Good, you’ve come to your senses,
she seemed to say.

“Emlyn!” Kevin yelled. Then, as if he realized bullying me wouldn’t work, in a softer tone, he said, “Please.”

What is it about a man begging that melts a woman’s heart, even if she’s spent the last seven years cursing the day he was born? I rolled my eyes and swung the door open.

Now at my feet, looking up, Elvira glared a question at me.
What is
with you!

I shrugged.

She turned her back and walked off with a snort suggesting a catty remark about things humans never learn.

Kevin’s round face looked as though it hadn’t been shaved in days. Beneath the stubble, his skin was almost as gray as his cap. His gray overcoat was dusty and where the dust hadn’t stuck, the coat was stained. His shoes appeared to be so drenched he might have slogged through the snow for a week.

I stood in the doorway, my arms wrapped around my chest. I tried hard not to sound as though I gloated when I said, “You look terrible. The bimbo’s not taking good care of you?”

He pushed past me. “She moved out,” he said, and slouched down on my sofa.

I didn’t mind his wet shoes leaving footprints on my carpet, or his damp coat staining the flowered cushions of my sofa. Those could be easily cleaned. But the way he looked, so desperate—I felt as though I’d been given a late Christmas gift, tied up in red ribbons.

“Oh, she left you?” I was barely able to hide my smile.

“You don’t have to look so happy about it.”

“You’re right,” I said, and forced a frown. “I’m sooo sorry to hear that, Kevin. What happened? She finally figured out you’re a bucket of slime?”

He peered at the French doors, as if he were afraid he’d been followed. “The money ran out, and so did she.”

To hide what had grown into a wide grin, I turned toward the kitchen and looked at the telephone. I wanted to call Rebecca, tell her what a good job we’d done on my ex. I wanted him hear I was the cause of his distress. Ah, that would have been such sweet revenge. I was stopped, though, by another thought. Turning to him, I said, “You don’t expect me to take you back, do you?”

His moist brown eyes seemed to ask if I might. But instead, he shook his head. “I know it’s too late for us.” Again he glanced at the French doors. “What I need is a place to…uh, stay for a while.”

I followed his eyes. “You mean you need a place to hide out? Are you in some kind of trouble?”

Tears spilled from his eyes. “Yeah. Big time. I really screwed up, Emlyn. But it was just so…easy.” He straightened up, wrapped his coat tight around his chest, and shivered.

Without taking my eyes from him, I backed past the coffee table and settled primly on the wingback chair. “What was easy, Kevin?” I leaned forward, hands clasped between my knees. “What did you get yourself into?”

He ignored me. As if speaking to himself, he said, “Yeah, so easy. Should’ve set me up for life—” He looked up at me through red eyes. “You gotta help me. Let me stay a while? A week, maybe two at the most.”

“Not a chance,” I said.

“Then how about some money? You’ve done well for yourself, your books and all. I just need enough dough to get away from here…” His voice trailed off. He must have seen my eyes grow cold.

“You can’t come barging into my home, and—”

“Please, Emlyn. They’re after me.”

“Who is?”

He shot another nervous glance at the French doors. “They got Jim Osborn—I’m sure it was them.”

I sat up, instantly alert. Jimmy
been investigating some criminal activity and that’s what got him killed. This could be the answer to my prayer. Kevin would tell me, I’d call Chief Woodward, and Roger wouldn’t know who it was until it was too late to do anything but curse at the caged killers.

My lips pinched and my eyes narrowed, I said, “Who shot Jimmy?”

“Must’ve been them. Had to be. No one else would’ve had a reason.” Once more it was as if he talked to himself, trying to reason something out.

“Tell me!”

Startled by my shout, he shrank back against the arm of the sofa. He opened his mouth. Nothing came out.


At last he seemed about to answer. But he stopped abruptly, his eyes like full moons, when we heard knocking on my front door.

“Emlyn, you still awake?” Roger called. “You left your
headlights on. I turned them off for you.”

I bounced from my chair. “Stay there,” I said to Kevin.

“That’s you neighbor…the cop?”

“Yes, and he’s gonna want to hear this.”

“Don’t let him in!” Kevin cried.

“Whatever trouble you’ve gotten into, Roger can
help,” I said as I rushed past the kitchen to the door.
But first,
I thought,
I’ll make Roger swear he’ll call Chief Woodward, and not go after the killers himself.

My friend smiled at me when I opened the door. In his dark overcoat, suit and red and blue power tie, his brown curls neatly combed, and especially with the gray at his temples, he cast the image of a successful business executive. “Can I get you to put up a pot of coffee?” he said.

I was so taken by this view of him, for a moment I forgot about Kevin. I let my eyes roam from Roger’s head to his feet. “Look at you, all dressed up.”

“If I’ve gotta sit behind a desk all day, I might as well make use of my good suit.” He glanced back toward his house. “Gonna invite me in?”

I pushed the storm door open. “Of course I am. And there’s someone I want you to—”

I stopped when I felt a draft from behind.

Roger must have felt it, too, because he leaned to look past me. “You’ve left the French doors open.”

I pivoted on my heels. Kevin was gone.

BOOK: The Magic of Murder
5.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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