Lucy remembered how reluctant Ron had been to submit to an interview with Dorfman, how his mother had pushed him. He'd been afraid that Dorfman would expose him. That was why he'd gotten so angry with him at the coffee shop. That was why he went looking for Dorfman the day he was killed. To buy him off? And if that failed, to get rid of him?
“Davitz had to stop the story, right? He confronted you, you had a fight, and he ended up dead. It was selfdefense.”
“I never saw him that night. He stole my laptop and some of my notes.”
“Then why are you running away?”
“I did something illegal and I don't want to go to jail.”
“What did you do? Steal a drink from the honor bar at the Queen Vic?”
“Worse than that. Illegal wiretapping. Breaking and entry. Theft.”
“To get the story?”
Lucy considered. She'd do the same thing; she knew she would. “That doesn't sound so bad to me. I think you're overreacting. I mean, who's going to press charges? Davitz is dead, and now that the cops have your stuff, they'll figure out what he was up to. I bet if you offer to cooperate they'll work out a deal for youâprobably forget the whole thing.”
Dorfman looked doubtful. “You think I should go back?”
“What are your alternatives? Think about it. Are you going to leave the country? You've got some little hideout all set up in some banana republic that doesn't have an extradition treaty?”
“Well, then, you might as well go back and face the music.”
“Want to sit in the front seat?” she asked, starting the car. As she waited for him to settle himself beside her, she noticed the colorful sign on the rest area building. “Listen, before we go, do you want to get a burger or something? I'm awfully hungry.”
“I could use something, too,” he admitted.
“Being carjacked really gives you an appetite,” said Lucy, as they walked toward the fast food restaurant.
Dorfman laughed. “You did seem pretty scared.”
“Let's not go there,” suggested Lucy. “I could still press charges you know.”
“I'll buy,” offered Dorfman.
“Under the circumstances, it's the least you could do.”
ucy didn't take any chances when they got back to Tinker's Cove. She drove straight to the police station and watched to make sure Dorfman went inside.
Then, alone in the car, she paused to consider her next step. She knew she ought to go straight to Sue's, but she hesitated. Things had changed. Now, Sidra had to face the fact that the man she loved was not only dead, but he wasn't the man she thought he was. Of all his deceits, Lucy thought Ron's dishonesty to Sidra the worst of all. Inevitably, she would have to wonder if he had ever loved her at all, or if she was just part of a larger plan. A conduit to Norah Hemmings, perhaps, and her fortune.
The thought made Lucy shudder. Could Sidra have been part of the scheme? Before the shower, Lucy wouldn't have entertained the thought for even a second. But after seeing the company she was keeping these days, and the way she behaved over Molly's potholders, she had to wonder. No, she decided, Sidra's bad behavior at the shower was just that and nothing more. Her head may have been temporarily turned, but at heart Sidra didn't have a dishonest bone in her body. Lucy had seen her grow up; she had watched her mature into an independent young woman she thought of as a role model for her own daughters. She knew her as well as she knew anyone.
But how could you be sure you knew someone, Lucy wondered. Take Bill, for example. He was honest as the day was long; he wore his heart on his sleeve. He could never play poker. Heck, thought Lucy with a smile, he couldn't even beat the kids at Old Maid. They soon learned to read his expressions when picking cards from his hand, and he always got stuck with the queen.
But even Bill had secrets. Lucy had been shocked to find a speeding ticket he'd never mentioned to her when she cleaned out his truck a few months ago, and she'd often wondered if he'd simply forgotten or if he had intentionally hidden it from her. Of course, a speeding ticket was hardly comparable to defrauding investors of millions of dollars. Nevertheless, she remembered how hurt and angry she'd felt when she found it, and she could well imagine how betrayed Sidra would feel when the news came out. She would be devastated. How could she ever trust her feelings again after being duped so cruelly. But even worse, Lucy realized with a shock, would have been her fate if she had married Ron. What sort of life would she have had then, smeared and tarnished by association with a swindler? No, thought Lucy, sadly shaking her head. Awful as her situation was, Sidra had had a very lucky escape. And that was what she would tell her.
Lucy was just a few blocks from Sue's house when she realized that she might have stumbled on a motive for Sue, or Sid, to kill Ron. Maybe they had discovered Ron was a swindler and had killed him to save Sidra from marrying him. Or maybe they'd just confronted him with the truth, and things had gotten out of hand. Lucy could just see it: an angry Sid, a defiant Ron. If Ron had pushed Sid, he might well have shoved him back, causing him to fall off the dock. He could easily have hit his head on a boat, or on the dock itself.
Lucy braked in front of Sue's house, but she was strongly tempted to drive away. Suddenly, she wanted to forget the whole thing. Sweep it under the rug. Make it go away. She didn't want to face the possibility that Sue was involved in Ron's murder.
Of course, she realized, if Ron's dishonesty was news to the Finches, if it turned out that they thought he was a genuine millionaire, then they wouldn't have had a motive to kill him. Not exactly, she admitted to herself. They would have had a motive: the fact that they didn't like him and didn't want Sidra to marry him. But in light of her new knowledge about Ron, there were probably a lot of other people who had more compelling reasons to kill him. Investors, for example, who had trusted him with their money. Journalists who had written glowing articles about him. Celebrities and society glitterati who had welcomed him with open arms. No, she thought, climbing out of the car. The circle of suspects had widened quite a lot.
Straightening her shoulders, she walked up to the front door and rang the bell, hoping her courage wouldn't desert her. As it was, when one of the bridesmaids opened the door, she almost turned tail and ran.
“I'm a friend of Sue's,” she began, trying to explain herself to the sleek creature with almond eyes who was acting as doorkeeper. “I remember you from the shower. You're . . . Kat!”
“No. I'm Susanna. Come on in.”
Lucy followed her into the living room, where Sidra was seated on the couch between the other two bridesmaids, Kat and Lily. The darkened room was filled with dozens of flower arrangements and the air was heavy with their scent. Lucy went to her, bending down and taking her hands.
“Hi, sweetheart. How are you doing?”
“I'm still kind of stunned, I think,” she said.
Have I got a surprise for you, thought Lucy, as the bridesmaids clucked sympathetically. Today they were again dressed almost identically, in sleeveless black knit shirts and khaki Capri pants. How did they do it? Lucy wondered. Did they discuss what to wear at breakfast, or was there some unwritten code for suitable dress appropriate to any occasion?
“I know everything's changed,” continued Sidra, “but it hasn't really sunk in yet. I mean, I keep thinking of things I have to do for the wedding, and then I remember there isn't going to be a wedding.”
The bridesmaids sighed in unison.
“No wedding,” repeated Susanna in a sad voice.
For a minute, Lucy wondered if the grief that was so palpable in the room was actually for Ron, or for the wedding. Then, remembering her original mission, she asked if Sue was home.
“She's on the back porch,” said Susanna, apparently the official hostess. “Can I show you the way?”
“I know it, thanks,” said Lucy. Again, she grasped Sidra's hand. “I know you don't believe this now, but things have a way of working out.”
“Thanks, Aunt Lucy.”
Lucy smiled politely at the bridesmaids and continued through the dining room and kitchen out to the back porch that overlooked the garden. Sue was indeed there, lying on a chaise with her eyes closed. When Lucy opened the door, Sue's eyes flew open and she sat up.
“I didn't mean to startle you,” Lucy said.
“Oh, it's only you.”
Lucy thought she seemed awfully relieved. “Who were you expecting?”
“The worst,” Sue said darkly.
“Any word from Sid?” Lucy asked, keeping her voice casual.
“I told you, he went fishing. I may not hear from him for a week or more.”
“There's no way to contact him?” Lucy persisted.
“No,” snapped Sue. “I don't know why you're making so much out of this.”
“Come on,” said Lucy, losing patience. “Admit it. You have been acting kind of oddly.”
“Well, my daughter's fiancÃ© has died suddenly, I have a heartbroken daughter on my hands, and my house is filled with bridesmaids in mourning. I don't know . . . how do you think I should act?” Sue's eyes flashed angrily. “And I don't need you to keep bugging me.”
“Whoa,” said Lucy, taking a seat next to her friend. “Let's start over. I have some interesting information about Ron.”
“Like what? He's not a millionaire, he's a billionaire?”
“He's broke. The whole thing was a swindle.”
Sue's chin dropped. “What?”
“It was all a big hoax. He hasn't paid his rent on the yacht; he owes money for docking fees. It's all over town. Plus, I talked to that writer from New York, Dorfman, and he has proof it was all a scam. A swindle. A big fraud. He's talking to the police right now.”
Sue, who had been hanging on every word, collapsed back on the chaise and began to laugh. “That's great,” she said. “That's fabulous.”
This wasn't quite the reaction Lucy had expected. “Why?”
“Because now I don't have to pretend I'm sorry that the little weasel is dead. I don't have to go through the motions of receiving callers; I don't have to fill my house with gladiolus; I don't have to eat Franny Small's Austrian ravioli. It's all over. I'm going to tell Sidra.”
“Do you think that's a good idea . . .” began Lucy, but Sue was already on her feet. She dashed into the living room and opened the blinds, letting the sun in and startling Sidra and the others.
“Do you know what Lucy found out?” she began, standing in front of Sidra and placing her hands on her hips. “Ron was a crook. He wasn't a millionaire after all. There's no money; there's nothing at all. He was a big phony.”
“That can't be true . . .” began Sidra.
The bridesmaids glanced uneasily at each other.
“It is!” Sue proclaimed triumphantly. “Ask Lucy.”
Four sets of eyes fastened on Lucy.
She shrugged apologetically and nodded.
Sidra began sobbing hysterically. Lily passed her a box of tissues, then stood up and reached for her purse.
“We can see you're upset,” she said, patting Sidra on the head.
“I think we'd better go,” said Lily, sliding smoothly along the couch, away from Sidra. Reaching the end, she stood up.
“You've got my cell phone number if you need anything,” said Kat, picking up her excruciatingly fashionable mini-tote bag.
Together, the three slipped out the front door. From the window, Lucy could see them pausing on the front walk for a quick gabfest, full of exclamations and gestures. Then they hurried down the walk, got in Norah's big SUV, and drove away.
“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” said Sue, sitting beside Sidra.
“Why did they leave?” demanded Sidra, dabbing at her eyes.
“Because you're not going to be marrying a millionaire, that's why. Because you're not going to be their ticket to cafÃ© society.”
Sidra glared at her. “How can you say that? They're my friends.”
“Well, where are they, then?” Sue asked, gesturing with an open palm. “They heard he was broke, and they vamoosed. Actions speak louder than words, honey.”
Sidra looked at her mother, then at Lucy.
“I can't believe I've been so stupid,” she whispered. “Do you think he ever intended to really marry me?”
“Count yourself lucky,” said Lucy. “You had a close call.”
Sidra sat utterly still and white-faced for the longest time. Then, suddenly, she staggered to her feet, blinking like someone coming out of a long sleep.
“God, I hate gladiolus!” she exclaimed. “Is there something we can do with these flowers?”
“Toss 'em out,” suggested Sue, picking up an arrangement.
“No,” said Sidra, “that would be a waste. Let's take them over to the nursing home.”
“You're back!” Sue exclaimed happily, beaming at her daughter. “It's the real Sidra.”
“I'm sorry, Mom,” she said, giving Sue a hug. “I've been a real jerk.”
“You're forgiven.” Sue smiled at Lucy. “Come on! Let's get these flowers into the car.”