A Justified Murder – Jude Deveraux

DORA FOUND THE BODY—and all she felt was annoyance. Now she’d have to find someone else to clean for to fill out the week. Mrs. Beeson—as she insisted on being called even though there was no evidence that she’d ever had a husband—had been a good employer. She always left a hundreddollar bill, always said thanks. At Christmas, she left an envelope containing three crisp, new one hundreds and a card that wished her a merry holiday. Now here she was, slumped forward in the chair, face on her knees. There was a hole in the back of her head. Blood and…stuf was on the wall behind her. Dora didn’t see a gun but she guessed it was squashed between her belly and thighs. Dora knew she ought to call the sheriff. But if she hadn’t cleaned the house yet, would she have a right to take the envelope on the desk that had her name on it? She could almost hear her late husband, Herbert, chiding her. “Shouldn’t you feel sorry for her?” he’d say. “Poor thing was so sad that she took her own life. Didn’t she have friends who could help her?” “Not that I know of,” Dora said aloud, then caught herself.

She tried to keep Herbert’s voice to herself and not let anyone know how often she heard it. She went around the body, picked up the envelope, and put it in her pocket. For a moment, she looked out the window at the palm trees and thought of what her beloved Herbert would advise. She knew she needed to work up some sympathy, maybe even some tears, for Mrs. Beeson. It wouldn’t do to call Sheriff Flynn sounding like she couldn’t care less that her employer had just offed herself. With her shoulders braced, Dora made the call. Deputy Beatrice answered. “Oh, Bea.” Dora was nearly choking on the memory of Herbert’s funeral.

“The most awful thing has happened.” “Take a breath,” Bea said, “and tell me what it is.” “Janet Beeson killed herself.” Bea didn’t hesitate. “We’ll be right there and don’t touch anything. Absolutely nothing.” “I won’t.” Dora clicked off the phone, and her tears dried immediately. “Damn!” she muttered and put her pay envelope back on the desk. With a resentful glare at Mrs.

Beeson’s body, she sat down in the living room to wait for whoever was going to show up. Sheriff Daryl Flynn was the first to arrive on the scene. After Bea told him what happened, he hadn’t gone tearing away, sirens blaring. It wasn’t a criminal act, but the suicide of a sad old woman. He knew that Janet Beeson lived alone. He didn’t think she’d even had any pets. Maybe the Lachlan website should include that article he’d read about how pets are good for old people and prisoners. As he drove, taking his time, he realized he hadn’t been this far out on San Remo Avenue in a while and he saw that the local super-Realtor, Tayla Kirkwood, had been at work here. The houses looked as manicured as the ones inside those fancy gated communities down in Plantation. For himself, sometimes he missed the days when Lachlan front yards had old cars on concrete blocks.

Pretty as the place was, it lacked a sense of personality. It was as though everyone was just alike. Janet Beeson’s house was at the edge of the town limits. To his left, down Kirkwood Lane, was Tayla’s ridiculously big, gaudy house. On the right were lush palm trees. When he neared the address, there was a tall, solid steel fence that seemed to go on and on. When did that go up? he wondered. A wide metal gate was standing open, but he saw the lockbox nearby. The place looked like the home of some California movie star, not suited for sleepy little Lachlan. Why had no one told him about this? He pulled into the drive that was shaded by overhanging trees, with flowering shrubs along the sides.

He knew professional landscaping when he saw it. All this had taken time and a whole bunch of money. He parked his Broward County Sheriff’s car to the side, got out, and looked around the place. The house was long and low, with a red tile roof, blue-and-white Spanish tiles under the portal, expensive outdoor furniture, and a quietly splashing fountain with iron birds on it. He thought: wealthy widow. South Florida was full of the dears. Work-exhausted Yankee husbands died and left it all to their widows. The women moved south to Florida’s divine climate and tarted up some house, then… Then lived in isolation, Sheriff Flynn thought. Sad, unhappy, lonely women. Dora met him at the front door.

She’d lived in Lachlan all her life and he’d gone to school with her. She was a little out of it since her husband died and tended to still talk to him, but she was a good person. “What was it?” he asked. “Pills?” Dora didn’t say anything, just turned and led the way to the back of the house. As he followed, he saw lots of marble—cool in Florida’s warm climate—and things that glittered. Tables with gold-colored legs, shiny wood, heavy curtains that shimmered. His wife made fun of the style. “Might as well put up wallpaper that says ‘I am rich,’” she said. When the sheriff entered the last room, he was almost smiling. But one look at Janet Beeson’s body and he halted.

Holy crap! The woman had blown the back of her head out. On the wall was… He turned away, not wanting to see what was there. For this, he was going to need backup. He took out his cell to put in a call to the main office, but then the body started to slip to one side. Without thinking that he was changing the scene, he made a leap forward and caught poor Janet before she hit the floor. When the body fell back against the chair, what he saw so stunned him that he dropped his phone. “Oh. My. God,” Dora said. They both stood there, paralyzed.

Janet Beeson had a gunshot in her head and a large knife sticking out of her chest. Green vomit was on her chin and down the front of her shirt. Poison, maybe? Sheriff Flynn recovered first. “Somebody really, really wanted her dead,” he managed to say. It took a while to find his phone, but he hesitated in calling the main office. What would it matter if he took a few minutes to collect himself? He couldn’t take his eyes off the body. Janet Beeson, of all people! He couldn’t remember anything significant about her. If her name was ever mentioned, it was always in good terms. As his senses came back to him, it was as though he could see the future. He was just the local sheriff, so the big shots at Broward would take over this case.

The fact that he’d lived in Lachlan all his life would mean nothing to them. They’d push him out completely. That he’d been instrumental in helping solve the last murder would mean nothing to them. He doubted if they’d even let him have a set of the photos they’d take. How could he investigate—on his own—if he couldn’t study the crime scene? He needed those photos! Before he could think about what he was doing, he called Sara Medlar’s private number. She answered on the first ring. “I need you to take pictures of a dead body. Now. 2012 San Remo. It’s—” Sara had already hung up.

Sheriff Flynn smiled. It was lunchtime so Jack might be home. He’d want to get here fast, so Sara just might arrive with young Jack on his dad’s big Harley. About six minutes later, he heard the roar of the bike and his smile widened. At least he’d get photos! And if he manipulated the Medlar trio right, he might get more. Yes, it would be better to call the downtown office after Sara had done her job. He went outside to meet them. Two KATE MEDLAR WAS showing a cute three-bedroom house that had just come on the market. “I really hate the furniture,” the man said. “So do I,” his wife said.

“We’re more modern than this.” “I think my grandmother has a cabinet just like that.” His tone held a sneer of derision. Kate didn’t grit her teeth. “Everything will be moved out as soon as the house sells.” She tried to sound as though she’d never before heard what they were saying. “Let me show you the rest of the home.” She listened as they complained about every feature in the kitchen. They liked dark cabinets, not white. Hated the fridge and the stove.

He despised… Kate stepped away to let them enjoy their belief in their superior taste. She looked forward to telling them that the kitchen cabinets were Swedish and had cost about fifty grand. What she really wanted to say was that the cabinet in the living room was genuine Hepplewhite. If his grandmother owned one, it should be heavily insured. But selling required endless patience—and keeping your mouth shut. Kate looked outside. It was autumn and on their last call, her mother had asked if she missed the color change of the leaves in the Chicago suburb where she’d grown up. Kate had said she did, but that wasn’t completely true. A couple of friends she kept in touch with had smirkingly asked how she bore the heat of a South Florida summer. She’d been more honest with them.

“In a bikini in my aunt’s private swimming pool.” That had shut them up so well that their emails had become less frequent. Just six months ago, Kate had arrived in Lachlan, one of many little towns attached to enormous Fort Lauderdale. Stores, restaurants, services, gyms, and entertainment were all there and easy to reach via wide, clean streets. A very enjoyable place to live. She hadn’t arrived feeling that way. She’d been scared half to death at the newness of what she was undertaking. She was going to be staying with her late father’s older sister, a woman she knew nothing about. Sara Medlar was a famous writer, now retired—sort of. She still spent whole days with pen and paper writing no one knew what.

Jack said that a writer retiring was like a rehabbed drug addict taking a job in a cocaine factory. The goings-on in the world offered too much temptation to be able to resist recording them. Jack was Aunt Sara’s friend. Or as she put it, “the grandson I should have had.” At the first of the year he’d been in a car crash that had killed his younger half brother. When Kate met him, Jack was grieving and angry, and his leg was in a cumbersome cast. Aunt Sara said that Kate’s refusal to feel sorry for Jack had brought him out of his depression. Whatever it was, the three of them had found that living together in Aunt Sara’s big, beautiful house suited them. Sara had a bedroom suite on one side, Kate had a suite of rooms on the other side, and Jack was in the middle. He had a spacious bedroom with a sitting area by the garage so he could come and go whenever he wanted without anyone knowing.

They shared cooking, straightening the house, and errands. What they didn’t share was the remote control to the big TV in the family room. Any show too “girly” as Jack called it was to be viewed in private. Sara and Kate made a point of never obeying his rule. Back in the spring, they’d been thrown into solving an old mystery that had nearly killed them. But they’d done it together and it had bonded them. The Lachlan sheriff referred to them as though they were just one person. The Three, he called them. Aunt Sara had written Together in calligraphy, framed it, and hung it over the TV. If she’d meant to make Jack remember that they were a team and therefore willingly share the remote, she had failed.

After the mystery was solved, Sara and Jack went back to their normal lives and Kate began a new one. Jack bought run-down houses in Lachlan and, with his crew, remodeled them. Kate worked for Kirkwood Realty as an agent. She’d already sold two houses this year and had three strong possibilities lined up. Sara filled her days with… Well, no one was sure what she did, but she was always busy. She loved photography and often showed them staggeringly beautiful pictures she’d taken that day. The prospective buyers were still complaining about the house when Kate’s phone buzzed. It was a rare thing indeed: a text from Jack. Come now. 2012 San Remo.

Near Tayla. Jack wasn’t one to waste words. If he said now that’s what he meant. Kate felt a sense of panic. Was something wrong with Aunt Sara? It was bad for business, but Kate pretty much shoved the two lookie-loos out the front door and locked it. She ran to her car, which was parked on the street. When she drove clients around, she used her sedate, boring sedan. But on days like this, when she met them somewhere, she drove Aunt Sara’s fast yellow MINI Cooper. When she floored the accelerator, the little car leaped forward. Since Tayla was her boss, Kate had been to her house several times and knew the address.

Jack was standing by the gate. All six foot two of him, sweaty T-shirt plastered to his muscular chest, was frowning. He motioned for her to park on the far side of the road, and as soon as she was out of the car, she said in fear, “Aunt Sara?” “She’s fine. What the hell took you so long?” Turning, he headed toward the house, Kate close behind him. She was unperturbed by the legendary Wyatt temper. “Stopped for a couple of beers. This better be good. You made me lose two clients.” “Ha! I met them, remember? They aren’t buying anything.” “They—Ow!” She’d stepped on a rock.

“Where are your shoes?” “They were heels. Threw them in the back.” Jack turned, picked her up, and carried her the four steps to the porch, then set her down. Kate had always been clear that she looked at Jack as the brother she’d never had. But he had very different ideas about the two of them, and often found ways to demonstrate that. “If you think that’s going to impress me, you—” She didn’t finish her thought, because she saw the sheriff’s car peeping out from under the trees, and she heard the low rumble of his voice inside. Her eyes widened. “There’s a body inside, but if you faint again I’ll—” Kate was already running, barefoot, to the back of the house. The first thing she saw was Aunt Sara, her face pressed to her beloved Fujifilm camera, shooting away. That she had it on silent—or “sneak mode” as Sara called it—made Kate look at the sheriff.

He was blocking her full view of a woman sitting in a chair. “I don’t think Kate needs to see this,” the sheriff said, but Sara put her camera down long enough to give him a look that meant he was to step aside. Kate didn’t faint as she’d done the last time she’d seen a dead body, but she did sway on her feet. Considering what she was looking at, it was a wonder she didn’t hit the floor. There was a bullet hole in the woman’s head, a huge knife in her chest close to her heart, and… Was that at the side of her mouth green? Behind Kate, Jack put his hands on her shoulders to steady her. In the distance they could hear what sounded like the sirens of an army of squad cars coming toward them. “Get out!” Sheriff Flynn said. “No, Dora, not you. They’ll want to ask you questions. They have to go.

” Kate was still staring at the body, not sure she was even blinking. Jack was trying to look as though he was unaffected by this, but his face had drained of color. She took a step closer to him in case either of them went down. “Did you get it all?” Sheriff Flynn’s voice was gruff as he spoke to Sara, who’d never stopped snapping away. She nodded. Her face was even more bloodless than Jack’s. Suddenly, a siren seemed to be just outside the house. Sheriff Flynn opened a back door. “Go!” Jack, Sara and Kate scurried out, then went around the side of the house. They were hiding in the shrubs when four Broward County squad cars pulled into the drive.

As soon as it was clear, they hurried through the gate. Jack’s Harley was under some flowering shrubs and Sara’s MINI was at the side of the road. They didn’t have to say anything to know what to do. Kate and Sara got into the car and Jack drove the bike across Longshore Drive to Sara’s house. Inside, they went down the hall past Jack’s room, through the dining room and the kitchen, to the family room. They flopped down on the big sofa, Sara in the middle, and stared into space. It was a while before anyone spoke. “Do you think Sheriff Flynn just wanted some private photos?” Sara asked. “I’m sure that’s it. He knows you’re the best photographer in town,” Jack said.

“Maybe he plans to share them with the Broward County Sheriff’s Department,” Kate said. They looked at one another, knowing that was an absurd idea. Sara sighed. “Maybe he knows they won’t share with him, so he asked me to take pictures for him. And that’s all he wants from us. I hope they come out well. In the kitchen I had to cut the exposure down a couple of notches.” “You took photos of the whole house?” Kate asked. Jack leaned across Sara. “We had at least an hour before you arrived.

” “I was there ten minutes after you sent your Neanderthal text. I thought maybe Aunt Sara’d had a heart attack.” “I would have explained but you—” Sara was quite used to the verbal tug-of-war between the two of them. She stood up. “I’ll put the photos on a flash drive, then I’ll go to the sheriff’s office and give them to him.” Kate stood up beside her. “Good idea. You can drop me off at my office and Tayla can give me a ride home.” Jack looked up at them. “We’re not getting involved in this, right?” “Absolutely not!” Sara said.

“I took pictures and that’s all.” They were silent for a moment. “Janet helped us when we were investigating the murder of the Morrises.” There were tears in Kate’s eyes. “She found names for us.” “And she made that chocolate cake,” Jack said. “Best I ever ate.” “She helped us so much.” Kate looked at Jack. “Your mother got her for us.

” Jack got up, pulled tissues from the box on the side table, and handed them to the women. Color was coming back into his face—and the color was the red of anger. “There was no respect in what was done to her.” Kate blew her nose. “I can kind of, sort of, understand killing someone but…but that was too horrible to imagine. One way would have done it. Why three?” They looked at Sara. “Who hated her that much?” “Obviously, a crazy person,” Kate said. “Or three,” Jack added. “You think more than one person was there?” Kate asked.

Jack shrugged. “It’s a thought.” Sara sat back down on the couch. “I wonder how they’ll investigate.” Kate sat down beside her. “They’ll try to find out who hated her.” As Jack sat down on the other side of Sara, he gave a snort. “If haters are suspects, then everyone in this town is going to say they loved her.” “I agree,” Kate said. “There’ll be two thousand BFFs of Janet Beeson.

Bet there’ll be a lot of tears at her funeral. They all loved her so very, very much.” Sara spoke up. “When we were planning the memorial for the Morrises, did either of you see or hear anything bad about her? Or even odd?” “My mind was focused on what we were doing,” Kate said. The women looked at Jack. “All I remember about that day is the itching inside my cast.” They stared ahead at the dark TV, silent as they went over every minute of that day. But Janet Beeson wasn’t a person you could remember very well. She was short, dumpy, gray-haired, with unplucked eyebrows, no makeup, and a quiet voice that didn’t carry well. An unassuming woman, someone who faded into the background.

The day she was at Sara’s house, she’d silently taken a seat, opened her laptop, and started searching for whatever someone told her to look for. The truth was that she was such an unremarkable person that it was embarrassing. They couldn’t recall a thing she’d said. She didn’t make jokes or complain or even ask questions. When everyone was driving Kate crazy about what food was to be served at the memorial for the Morrises, Janet had made no comment. She’d just stayed in the background, always helping, never asking anything of anyone. “This really and truly makes no sense,” Sara said. “Why would anyone want to kill her? I know at least five people in this town who deserve worse than what was done to her.” “Leave my relatives out of this,” Jack said. His semijoke brought them out of their stupor and they again stood up.

Sara looked at Jack. “Your mother seemed to know Janet well. She might have some idea about why Janet was targeted.” “You said you photographed the whole house?” Kate asked Sara. “She even videoed it,” Jack added in wonder. Sara liked still photos, not pictures that moved. They looked at each other. They were standing in a circle, as though they meant to close out the rest of the world. After a moment, Kate took a few steps back. “I’m not going to get involved, but I am going to talk to Heather.

Maybe she remembers something from that day.” “I think I’d be better at talking to my own mother.” Kate grimaced. “You can’t go. Heather will cook some childhood thing for you, then your sister will arrive, and you’ll forget all about poor Janet Beeson.” Sara nodded in agreement. “I need to go buy some flash drives to put the photos on.” Jack frowned. “I hope you don’t mean to let people see pictures of that body. My mother and sister aren’t to see it.

They—” “Give me a break.” Sara headed toward her bedroom, then stopped. She was looking at Kate and there was fear in her eyes. “I’m serious when I say that we shouldn’t get involved in this. I don’t want us to deal with the police, the sheriff’s department, any of it. Are we agreed?” She didn’t have to say that she was thinking about what had nearly happened to Kate when they’d investigated another murder. “Yes.” Kate’s smile showed her relief. “I agree,” Jack said. Smiling, Sara nodded.

“Okay, Kate, go talk to Heather. When you get back, tell me what you learned, I’ll write it up, and we’ll give a report to Sheriff Flynn. Then we’re done with all of this. Does that sound good?” “Excellent,” Kate said. “Yes,” Jack added. “Whoever did that to Mrs. Beeson is dangerous. And insane.” “Or driven to insanity by something that we obviously don’t know about,” Sara said. “We’ll meet back here by six.

Jack, get a couple of pounds of prawns.” “It’s not my turn for the grocery. I’d have to make a second trip.” Kate knew what he wanted. “Okay! You can go with me to your mom’s.” “Good idea. Maybe while you two are talking, Mom might cook something. Don’t look at me like that. I missed lunch.” “Whatever,” Kate said, then turned to hide her smile.

She didn’t relish the idea of talking about death—especially a brutal one—to anyone. Heather’s pretty kitchen was designed by her daughter and built by her son. She was at the stove finishing a pot of minestrone while Jack and Kate sat at the counter. There was a platter of snacks before them: raw veg for her, cheese and crackers for him. “We heard about the suicide,” Heather said. Her back was to them so she didn’t see Kate start to speak, then Jack shaking his head no. “You heard through Wilson’s police radio?” he asked. “Yes.” Heather was stirring the big pot. “I hate to say it, but I do understand why she did it.

That poor woman.” “You know why she committed suicide?” Kate asked. “Yes.” Heather tasted the soup, then added more oregano. “We’d appreciate anything you can tell us about Janet Beeson,” Kate said. Instantly, Heather looked at Kate in alarm. What had happened before when they’d involved themselves in a death had been harrowing. She’d lost her beloved stepson and had almost lost her son. “It’s for Sheriff Flynn’s report,” Jack said loudly. “Sara is going to write it.

She’s good at it and Flynn isn’t so…” He trailed off. “And you know Aunt Sara. Anything for a story.” Kate gave what she hoped was a convincing smile, a truthful smile. Heather took a moment to relax the tension in her body. “Good. That makes sense.” She paused as she collected her thoughts. “What I remember most about Janet is that two years ago her best friend, Sylvia Alden, also killed herself.” Kate gasped.

“Alden?” Jack asked. “Was she married to Tom Alden?” “You remember him for his boat, don’t you?” Heather smiled fondly at her son. There wasn’t much resemblance between them. Jack took after his father and grandfather. The woman he looked the most like was his Brazilian great-grandmother. Her dark hair and eyes had passed straight down the line to him. “Yeah, I remember his boat. When he put it up for sale, I wanted it so bad I couldn’t sleep.” “You were too young.” “I could have handled it.

If Dad—” Kate interrupted, “What do you know about Mrs. Beeson?” “Not much. I know she showed up at our church six years ago.” She looked at Kate. “I remember everything of that year. Jack had just bought three rotten old houses and I thought he was going to go bankrupt. It was a stressful time.” Again, she smiled adoringly at her son. “Janet was so quiet and unassuming that at first no one paid any attention to her. But she volunteered for one thing after another in town and at church.

By the next year, we were all depending on her. We were unanimous in voting for her to be the church secretary.” “What about Mrs. Alden?” Jack asked. “I don’t remember her at all, but Tom was a great guy.” “They retired to Lachlan years ago. Mrs. Alden—Sylvia—stayed to herself. She attended church sometimes but not often. Her husband was a picture of health, but one day he pulled his car off the road and he was found there hours later. Massive heart attack. His funeral wasn’t here. People came from the East and took his body away, and Sylvia was gone for months. But she returned to Lachlan and became even more of a recluse. We should have…” Heather sighed. “Anyway, not long after Mr. Alden passed, Janet Beeson came to town. I don’t know how she and Sylvia met, but soon you didn’t see one without the other.” She smiled. “Janet was short and round and Sylvia was tall and thin. Sylvia was older, but still… You know…” “What?” Kate asked. “It’s awful of me to repeat gossip, but when they were together, people said it was like seeing a lady and her maid. Sylvia was so very elegant. She was one of those women who could put on jeans and a sweatshirt and look couture. Of course she’d also have on a pearl necklace and tasteful little earrings.” “What about Janet?” Kate asked. “How did she dress?” Heather hesitated. “Janet could put on couture and still look like the dustman’s daughter?” Kate asked. “Sad to say so, but yes,” Heather said. “But however they looked, they were as tight as teenage girls. Went everywhere together. I remember someone from church asking if they went to the bathroom together. Then someone else said they were probably lovers and—” She waved her hand. “Just gossip.” “But it didn’t end well?” Kate encouraged. “No. Several people noticed that Sylvia began to look bad. Circles under her eyes, that sort of thing. People asked if she was all right, but she was a very private person and told nothing.” “Did she tell her problems to Janet?” Kate asked. “I think so. I remember seeing them in a restaurant over on University. I started to say hello but then I realized that Sylvia was crying. Janet was reaching across the table and holding her hands. I thought, Maybe they are lovers. I left the restaurant. Not long after that…” “Sylvia killed herself,” Jack said. “I don’t remember that happening.” “I think you were in New York with Sara then. And it was over and done with so quickly we hardly knew what was going on. It was exactly like her husband. Someone came and got her. The funeral wasn’t here, and later the house was emptied, then quietly sold. What I really remember was that Janet looked miserable after that. Her eyes were sunken and red from crying.” Heather took a breath. “We didn’t say much about it because we were ashamed of ourselves. Right here in our midst was a woman so unhappy that she took her own life, and none of us had noticed or tried to do something. I kept thinking about how I’d walked out of that restaurant. I should have helped.” Heather was leaning on the counter, her hands clenched firmly. Kate reached out to put her hand over Heather’s just as Jack did. For a moment they stayed that way, three pairs of hands together. Heather went back to the stove. “I can’t imagine how lonely Janet must have been after Sylvia died. It was as though two women had left the earth.” “Is that one of the reasons you asked her to help us when we were trying to find out about the Morrises?” Kate asked. “Oh yes! Janet is—was—so efficient, so good at everything she did. Even cooking. I asked her for that chocolate cake recipe and she gave it to me. I tried it, but mine didn’t come out nearly as good. In fact, I tossed it.” “What do you know about Janet’s background?” Jack asked. “Nothing. Ever since I heard, I’ve tried to remember but I can’t think of anything.” “She had some money,” Kate said. “In my estimate, her house is worth a million and a quarter.” “Is it?” Heather turned to look at them. “Why are you asking me all these questions? This goes past some report for the sheriff. And for that matter, why were you guys there? I assume Sara was with you.” “Sure, she was,” Jack said. “Flynn wanted her to take pictures of…of the body.” Both Kate and Jack were looking down. Heather put her hand under her son’s chin and lifted his head to look into his eyes. “Your father could lie so well that no one guessed what he was up to. But you, Jackson, my darling son, aren’t nearly as good. What’s up?” “We, uh… She…” “Mrs. Beeson was murdered,” Kate said. Immediately, Heather’s face drained of color. Jack leaped up, grabbed his mother, and led her to a stool. He got her a glass of water. “Murder?” Heather managed to whisper. “And you two and Sara are going to…to…?” “No, we’re not.” Kate’s voice was firm. “We’ve decided that one murder investigation was enough for us. And after last time…” She looked at Jack to help her out. He had his arm protectively around his mother. “The cleaning woman found her. She—” “Daffy Dora?” Heather was looking at Kate. “Yes. Dora found the body, then called the sheriff. He asked Aunt Sara to take pictures. Jack was home, so he sent me a text to meet him there. We saw her, then when the county guys arrived, we sneaked out.” Heather looked from one to the other, then back. “If Sara was here, you’d be those three monkeys of see, hear and speak no evil. What aren’t you telling me?” Neither Jack nor Kate spoke. “Okay. It’ll soon be all over town so I’ll find out.” Heather took a deep breath. “I have no idea who’d want to murder Janet Beeson. She was such a quiet little woman that I can’t imagine anyone noticing her, much less killing her. All I know for sure is that for years she was best friends with an elegant woman named Sylvia Alden, who committed suicide. Since then, as far as I know, Janet has been alone. I don’t think I ever saw her with anyone else. She was so alone that suicide was easy to believe—but not murder. How did—?” She raised her hand. “No, I don’t want to hear that.” Heather looked at them. “You said she was rich. Could it have been a robbery? Maybe Janet heard someone breaking in, then they hit her over the head with something? An accidental murder?”


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