Read The Magic of Murder Online
Authors: Susan Lynn Solomon
Why didn’t that make me feel better?
My voice rasping from coffee burning my throat, I asked, “What did you mean when you said I’m getting close?”
I’d poured the last of my milk into Elvira’s bowl. While I thought about dropping to my knees and lapping up enough to put out the fire in my throat, I almost missed Rebecca’s answer.
“I think you might be,” she said. “The clairvoyance spell you tried—what happened afterwards?”
With a covetous glance at the cat’s milk, I said, “Not a damn thing. I stared at those stupid candles for the longest time, and…”
“Uh…” I couldn’t remember.
“Think hard,” she urged.
“I’m trying,” I said. Well, it was more like a whine. “The next thing I knew, I was in bed this morning with that dumb cat licking my face.”
“Not so dumb. Elvira was bringing you out of it.”
“Out of what?” This need to beg for every answer had become maddening. Now I knew how Roger must feel when he questioned a suspect.
“The trance,” Rebecca said. “Emlyn, your spell was more
successful than you think.”
I still didn’t get it. “How could the spell have worked if not a damn thing happened.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m—” The memory I couldn’t grasp earlier crawled into reach. “I…I had a dream.
“Uh-huh. That’s the way these things work.”
When I hesitated, Rebecca laughed. “Did you think it would be like a hologram playing in your living room?”
Embarrassed, I said, “Uh, yeah…kinda.”
Again she laughed.
“Don’t make fun of me!”
She took a breath, and I heard her take another sip of whatever she was drinking. “Okay,” she said at last. “Tell me what you dreamt.”
A cloud passed across the morning sun, and my kitchen dimmed. The white appliances and countertop looked almost ghostlike.
I fought to bring back the details. “I was in a small room,” I said. “I think it was a den of some kind because there was a TV against the wall. The TV was on—an old episode of
. Someone was in the room, back turned to me. Whoever it was put a pistol into the wall—wait. No, not in the wall, in a safe hidden behind a painting.”
“What did the person look like?” Rebecca asked.
“I don’t know. Whoever it was wore a cowl—you know, like monks wear? The hood was up over his head—”
“Or her head?”
“I said I couldn’t tell. And then the person turned to me and gasped, like he suddenly realized I was there.”
“Who was it?” she practically hollered.
I narrowed my eyes, as if that would help me see past a white haze. “I don’t know,” I sighed. “He was just about to pull the hood off and talk to me when Elvira woke me up.”
My head now ached as badly as if I’d awakened after sucking a whisky bottle dry. I needed some aspirin, desperately. Maybe half a bottle of them.
When I could focus again, I heard Rebecca say, “If the person you saw reacted that way, he knows who you are, and—”
“He couldn’t,” I interrupted. “I told you, it was just a dream.”
“I know.” She again sounded concerned. “Sometimes these spells work like that—two people’s dreams getting merged. It’s like you were having a conversation.”
I gasped—this time not because I swallowed hot coffee.
“You could be in trouble,” Rebecca said. “I think it’s time you tell Detective Frey what you’ve been up to.”
Tell Roger? That was the last thing I wanted to do. No, it was the next to last thing. First I wanted to bolt all the doors and windows in my house, and jump back into bed with the covers over my head.
“Please, Emlyn,” Rebecca said. “Tell Detective Frey.”
I glanced down in time to see Elvira’s big rear end wiggle as she crawled under the skirt of my wingback chair. She didn’t want to be around when I told Roger what I’d done.
“You big coward,” I muttered after her.
How to Tell Roger
he dark cloud passed. As if a light switch had been thrown, the room was again bright. I
stretched the phone cord across the kitchen and leaned over the sink to look through the window. Roger was in his driveway, scraping frost off the windshield of his car.
“Damn,” I muttered.
“He’s outside, isn’t he?” Rebecca said.
I backed away from the window. “Uh, no. I, uh…it’s the mailman.”
“Right,” she said. “And he’s bringing you another old book?”
She waited, I supposed, for me to fess up. When I didn’t, her voice grew stern. “Go! Tell him. I don’t have so many friends that I can afford to lose one.”
I felt as though I were a ten-year-old who’d been scolded by her mother.
“Do it now!” Rebecca said, and hung up.
I stared at the phone for a minute. I really didn’t want do this.
Maybe Rebecca’s wrong about the killer knowing who I am,
I told myself
But if she’s right, you’re in big trouble,
a voice in my head answered.
I dropped the phone, and knocked on the window.
Roger opened his car door. He tossed his briefcase
onto the seat.
I knocked again, harder this time.
He turned his face in my direction.
I slid the window up. The bright sun was a liar. A sudden blast of arctic air cut through my robe. I poked my hand outside, waved, and held up my index finger.
He smiled and nodded. Then he leaned against the hood of his black Trailblazer to wait for me.
I threw a heavy coat over my pajamas, pulled on my galoshes, and hurried out the door. While I slogged through the snow and around the stumps of trees between our houses, I rehearsed what I would say.
I had this vision,
I would tell him.
He’d say—he had a habit of repeating my words. It was the way he encouraged me to finish telling him something I didn’t want to. This was one of those somethings.
I uh…think I saw who killed Jim Osborn.
Did you now?
He would try hard to suppress a smile—a father humoring his child. I’d see that in his eyes.
By then I would have no choice but to rush on.
And the person in the vision might have recognized me.
Oh, he would be having a grand time now, laughing out loud. Hardly able to get the words out, through his guffaws, he would say,
And how did you have this vision?
My imagined dialogue having reached this point, my pace slowed. I knew my face was red, and it wasn’t from the cold.
It, um…well…it happened after I performed a divination ritual in my living room.
His eyes would open wide.
I’m a witch, you see,
I would whisper so no one else could hear—not that anyone else was around.
It’s in my genes.
Now he’d be rolling in the snow, holding his stomach.
I felt my blood begin to boil. How dare he ridicule me! Rebecca was wrong. Telling Detective Frey about my new-found skill was a bad idea. A very bad idea.
By the time I got to his driveway, I was ready to smack him.
Fortunately, at that very moment a stiff gust of wind howled down River Road. As if it had been sent by Sarah Goode to save me from behaving like an out-of-control maniac, the gust caught me full in the chest, and tried to shove me back. My shoulders lowered as I pushed against the wind, I slid from the snow onto his driveway. I fought to keep my balance, but couldn’t. I skidded on black ice. My feet went out from under me. I was about to land gracelessly on my derriere when two strong hands grabbed me around the waist and hauled me upright.
For what felt like half an hour, though it was no more
than a few seconds, I was locked in my neighbor’s
embrace. I looked into his eyes. What I saw in them—well, it was one of those moments in which I might have broken my vow to remain forever celibate.
“You could’ve taken a nasty fall,” Roger said. He still held me.
Embarrassed by my teenage romantic fantasy, I wriggled from his arms. “I…I could have,” I said.
“Glad I could help.” He glanced at his car. It was as if he were also embarrassed by what might become a moment of passion and wanted to make a quick getaway.
When he looked at me again, his smile went from his lips to his eyes. Hazel eyes, flecked with gold. I hadn’t noticed those flecks before. Lost in a grin that showed the gap between his front teeth, I forgot why I’d come out of my house.
He touched my wrist—such a gentle touch—and said, “You want to tell me something?”
It took a minute for me to regain my bearings, and recall why I was standing in his driveway on a frigid morning. When I did, I inched away from him, and struggled to find the right words. It would have been so very easy to say I wanted to thank him for staying last night while Harry Woodward interrogated me. I couldn’t do it. As I’ve said, I’m a bad liar. Most times when I try, my eyes won’t stay steady. I get flushed and wind up stammering. I didn’t want Roger to see me behave that way. I had to tell him the truth. At least part of it.
I took his arm to steady myself. “I’m a little worried,” I said. “I had this dream last night. My mind must have been replaying something I’d seen, but didn’t know I’d seen. You know?”
His face now serious, he nodded.
“In my dream, I saw who did it.”
“Uh-huh.” The ignition key in his hand, he reached for the car door. “I’ll stop by later, and you can tell me all
about your dream. Right now I’ve got to get to the precinct.” He pointed to the briefcase lying on the
passenger seat. “Been up most of the night, going through old files. Thought maybe I’d find something about Jimmy.”
I grabbed the lapel of his camelhair overcoat. “It was more than a dream, Roger.” My voice quivering, I barely got the words out.
He stopped and turned back to me, realizing, I supposed, how upset I was. With his legs set firmly on the ground, he reminded me of a catcher who was ready to receive whatever I tossed at him. “Okay, Emlyn,” he said, “what’s going on?”
This was bad and about to get worse. All at once, what I didn’t want to tell him tumbled from my mouth. “That book I got—the one my mother sent me?—it isn’t a diary. Except, well, it is, sort of. Sarah Goode wrote about her life and some things she did and how she did them, and last night I tried one, and—”
“Whoa, whoa, take a breath,” he said. “What has you so riled? Can’t just be a dream.”
Overwhelmed by fear the killer I’d seen would soon come after me, and more afraid of that than of Roger’s reaction, I blurted, “Sarah was a witch. My family tree blooms witches. I’m one, though I’m still just learning—”
He looked as though he couldn’t decide whether or not to laugh. “You think you’re a—?” He took a deep breath. “Okay, Emlyn, what’s really going on?”
I knew he wouldn’t believe me. Why had I listened to Rebecca? Why? Because I was frightened half to death, is why. “It’s true, Roger. I wish it weren’t, but—” Tears
bubbled in my eyes, overflowed, and rolled down my cheeks. Only the salt in them kept my eyelashes from
becoming frozen red spikes.
He took the brown leather glove off his right hand. With
his thumb, he rubbed my tears away. “It’s your imagination,” he said. “Are you writing a story about witches?”
“I am, but that’s not why.” Now I was crying full-out from fear and frustration.
“You’d better come inside,” he said.
With his hand on my elbow, he glanced up and down River Road, as if to determine whether any of our neighbors might be watching me lose my mind.
I backed away from him. “Why? Out here, inside, you still won’t believe me!”
He took both my shoulders, leaned down, and peered into my eyes. “Doesn’t matter if I do or don’t,
believe you saw something.”
His words and the creases of concern on his face made me feel a bit better. Not much, but better than I was. His hand again on my elbow, I let him lead me to his door.
Roger Frey’s house was a one-story ranch. The front door opened onto a living room that bent right to form a dining area. All the furnishings were Swedish modern. His chairs, tables, the arms of his sofa were all built of blond wood. It was astonishingly neat for a house in which a single man dwelt. Spartan, with everything in its place. No pizza boxes on his coffee table. The pleats in the drapes were straight and sharp. No dust bunnies roamed the carpet.
He obviously saw my eyes sweep around the room. “Woody won’t let me work the case, so I hadda do something.” He shrugged. “Once I finished with those files, I cleaned.”
I pictured this bear of a man in an apron, wielding a feather duster in the middle of the night. The image elicited my first smile of the day.
His kitchen was to the left of the door. He led me in, and pointed to a chair by the table. He placed his chair in front of me and turned it backwards. Straddling the seat, he took my hands.
“Now, quietly,” he said, “tell me what this is about.”
Between sniffing and blowing my nose in the tissues he brought, I explained how I found the divination spell in Sarah Goode’s
Book of Shadows
. I left out the part where Elvira seemed to show me where it was. A cat leading me through a Wicca rite?—Roger would have tossed me through the nearest window. I told him how nothing had happened while I stared at the three candle-flames. I told him what I dreamed, and what Rebecca said the circling flames meant. When I finished, I sat still, looking down at my lap.
Roger’s brows went down in a
of suspicion. “Who’s this Rebecca?” he asked.
“Rebecca Nurse. She’s my friend. She runs The Black Cat in Ellicottville.” As if it would explain her, I described the shop: the smell of incense, the jars of herbs I’d never heard of, the rows of bookshelves packed with how-to volumes on witchcraft. Of course, I didn’t tell him about the revenge she’d helped me take on Kevin.
When I at last fell silent, I waited for Roger to disparage Rebecca, call her a charlatan who was just after my money.
He didn’t do that. But he did say, “C’mon, Emlyn, you know this voodoo stuff is just a bunch of hoodoo.” He laughed at his joke.
I started to protest. But when he squeezed my hand, I forgot what I wanted to say.
“I don’t believe in such stuff,” he said. Before I had a chance to get up, and, mortified, run from his house, he added, “What I do believe is that the mind is a complex machine even shrinks don’t understand.”
“No,” he went on. “You didn’t crawl into the killer’s brain. What happened is you saw something which didn’t register at the time, and it’s taken awhile for the pieces to fall into place. You were het-up from reading about your ancestor—yes, and from fooling around with what she wrote in her diary—so you had a nightmare.”
“It wasn’t! It was real,” I insisted. “Whoever it is, knows I know.”
He stroked my hand. “I didn’t say I don’t believe that part. Like I said, the mind works in strange ways. Being a cop, I see it all the time. You may have seen something, or heard something. In a store or walking along the street. Happens often. And though it’s unlikely, it’s at least possible whoever it is saw you take note of his mistake. It wouldn’t have taken much—just the flicker of your eyelids could have told the killer he’d been spotted. Guilt makes people alert to such things.”
I nodded so hard it felt as though I strained a muscle in my neck. “So what do I do?” Afraid again, I picked at my coat sleeve.
“Go home, lock your doors. Don’t let anyone in this time—not even your ex. Even if he gets on his knees to beg, don’t let him in. Then, think. Try to remember what you saw or heard, where you might have been.”
He stood. I stood, and followed him outside.
As I clomped through ankle-deep snow to my house, I heard him say, “I’ll check on you when I get off my shift.”
I’d almost gotten to my driveway when I saw it: my front window was broken. Then I smelled smoke.
“Roger!” I screamed.
He was halfway onto the seat of his car. While I ran toward him, I saw him freeze for a moment then bang his head when he jumped back out.
“What’s wrong?” he said.
All I could do was whimper and point.
“Stay here!” he commanded, and took off for my
house on the run.
I don’t know how he did it, but he seemed to glide on top of the snow. Must be his size fourteen feet work like snowshoes.
The entire ten minutes he was gone, my knuckles were white on the handle of his car door. When he emerged from my house, he had Elvira bundled in his coat, and he held what looked to be part of a wine bottle. Sharp points of glass poked up where the neck had broken off. Wisps of smoke wafted from what was left of the bottle.