Robin was sitting on the side of the bed, pulling the sleeves of his shirt back through the right way when I opened my eyes. I reached over and trailed my fingers down his long, bare back, making him shiver.
"Morning," I said, my voice still hazy with sleep.
He turned and bent to kiss me.
His hair looked like a haystack. He hadn't put on his glasses yet, and his eyes were blue and soft. He looked good enough to eat.
"Are you in a particular hurry?" I asked.
"Just wanted to get out of the way before your company wakes up," he said.
Oh hell. I'd forgotten all about Phillip's presence in my house, to say nothing of the Wynns. I gave a big, windy sigh.
"I'll come get him about eleven-thirty, after I've worked a few hours, and take Phillip to lunch." Robin stroked my hair back from my face. "You know, tomorrow's Thanksgiving."
"You're going to eat here, right?"
"We planned that, didn't we? Remember, my mother's flying in this afternoon?"
I pulled a pillow over my head. I didn't want to think about meeting Robin's mother for the first time on a national holiday, when food was the main focus of the day. I wasn't that confident of my cooking.
I'd just have to suck it up and act like a woman.
"She wasn't planning on flying in and cooking, I hope?" I asked, just to make sure, not wanting to start out beholden to the woman.
"No, I told her I had made plans for us." Robin looked hopeful. "What can I bring?"
I laughed and pulled the pillow away. "Oh, okay, I guess I'm up to it. Let me think. I picked up a turkey breast at the store the other day, thank God. I thought a whole turkey would be too much for just us. So that leaves sweet potatoes, peas, rolls, and cranberry sauce. And dessert."
"I can get rolls and the peas," Robin offered helpfully. "And I can bring some wine."
"That's good. Okay, I'll get the sweet potatoes and fix them, and the cranberries, and I'll make a pie or two. That'll work out."
"What about your mother and her family?"
"I don't know what on earth they're going to do. I think Melissa and Avery are going to Melissa's parents, and I guess they'll take their kids and the baby with them. John David will probably go to my mother's, whatever she's up to doing. They have enough food there to last them through the winter, I think." When I'd been at the house this afternoon, the refrigerator had been full to overflowing.
"You'd better check. Maybe your folks could come over here for a glass of wine after dinner?"
"You want my mother to meet your mother," I said, suddenly getting his drift.
I couldn't think of a thing to say. "Oh. Okay." I looked anywhere but at Robin. "Um, how long is your mom staying?"
"Until Monday," he said. "I'll bet by then she'll be ready to leave. In fact, she'll be anxious."
"I'm glad she's got other children besides you," I said, laughing.
"She loves all of us, but she's most comfortable in her own home with her dogs, and her buddies," he said.
A plaintive meow outside the door told me that Madeleine was waiting for her breakfast. She wasn't used to the bedroom door being closed.
"I have to go feed the Mongol horde," I said, making myself get up from the warm bed and pull on a bathrobe. It was an effort, because I wasn't feeling so great. An overload of emotion? I was a little achy, a little tired.
"I'll call you later today," he said. "After I feed Phillip and plumb his darkest depths, I'll go get my mother at the airport. Then we'll talk about tomorrow."
"Sounds good," I said, thinking of all the things I had to do today. I had to run the strange errand with Bryan Pascoe. I was supposed to work for a few hours. I had to go to the grocery store again. I wanted to spend some brain time thinking of what could have been hidden in Poppy's closet, something so valuable that it was worth breaking into the murdered woman's house before it had even been cleaned of her blood.
And, most of all, I needed to talk to Lizanne, who had been outside Poppy's house the day she was killed.
Melinda and I had kept silent about Lizanne's presence at Poppy's that day, and we'd struggled with our decision for all of thirty seconds. Both of us believed that there was simply no chance at all that Lizanne had stabbed Poppy. But we did need to talk to her about why she'd been there. I guess I had a tiny, tiny sliver of doubt that needed to be erased by hearing Lizanne tell me, in person, what had happened that day.
I called Melinda to ask her to go with me. She was very busy, as you can imagine, but she agreed to go. She wanted to hear what Lizanne had to say as much as I did.
The yard had not been put to bed for winter at the sprawling ranch Cartland had bought when his practice had begun flourishing. The flower beds needed weeding and more mulch, and the grass hadn't gotten its final mowing. Someone had given up just a little too soon. A fenced-in area was strewn with little kids' toys, bright plastics that would crack in the coming cold. But the smell of corn bread rolled out of the back door when Lizanne answered our knock.
"Come in," Lizanne said placidly, her arms full of baby. "Let me just pop Brandon in his playpen, and Davis is already taking a nap. Then I can get the corn bread out of the oven, and we can talk."
Melinda and I came in cautiously; I thought we were both taken aback by Lizanne's casual air. She had to know why we were there.
Brandon was deposited in his playpen with absolutely no fuss, and he sat up and watched with interest as his mother, still one of the most beautiful women I'd ever known, despite having popped out two babies in almost instant succession, slid a pan of corn bread out of the oven and set it on top to cool.
"For the dressing," Lizanne explained, poking it with a finger to test its doneness. I figured that might be a sign of nerves; she certainly didn't need to tell us that. In a bassinet against the wall, Davis gave a little sound and went back to sleep.
"Do you fix yours in a separate pan or in the bird?" Melinda was serious when she asked this burning question. Melinda had been on the quest for the perfect dressing for the past two years.
"Both. There isn't enough, if you just stuff the turkey. And I put some sausage in."
Melinda's eyes lighted up with interest, and she began to talk apples, oysters, and chestnuts. They might have been sitting there for an hour, talking food, if I hadn't interrupted.
"Listen, Lizanne, we found the straps."
"Oh." She looked quite unsurprised. "Why didn't you give them to the police? You should have."
"What were you doing there?"
"Well, I was getting tired of Bubba going out at night and making these silly excuses," Lizanne said. She would never call her husband Cartland, not in a million years.
"So, you confronted Poppy?"
"I was ready to." I watched Lizanne's hands, long and thin, clench into fists. "I didn't get the chance. She never came to the door. And the kids got hungry, and they started crying. I couldn't stand to have anything of hers, so I took the pacifier straps and threw them down in the driveway so she'd know what I thought of her. And I came on home."
"What were you going to say to her if she'd come to the door?" I asked out of sheer curiosity.
"I was going to remind her that since, at Bubba's request, I quit my job after we got married, he is the boys' and my sole support. I was going to point out to her that there are better fish in the sea than Bubba."
Melinda and I exchanged glances. "What do you mean?" Melinda asked. Lizanne was measuring sugar into water to make cranberry sauce.
"Poppy was more serious about Bubba than she was about the other men," Lizanne said after a long pause. "I don't think she wanted to divorce John David and marry Bubba, but I don't think she'd completely dismissed the idea, either. But she might have just been stringing him along. I don't understand people like that." Lizanne turned to us, a half-cup measure in her hand. Her face was white and disturbed. "She just didn't seem to care whom she hurt. She would have what she wanted, and everyone else could just go to hell."
Had Poppy really been that careless, that conscienceless? I had never crossed Poppy. I had never had anything she wanted. Melinda, I noticed, did not look shocked at all.
I was dismayed and a little mortified by my lack of acuity.
"So you just pulled up to the house ..." I said, hoping to prod her into a more complete account of her actions.
Lizanne poured a whole bag of cranberries into the pot. She was going to have a lot of sauce, and lot of dressing, too. I wondered how much company she was having. It reminded me that I needed to get home and start working in my own kitchen.
Lizanne, having given the berries a stir, turned back to face us. "You all want a drink of something?" she asked politely.
"No thanks," we said in chorus. She laughed, and we all relaxed a little.
"I pulled up to the house, and the boys were in their car seats in the back of the minivan," she said. "I knew Bubba was going to be giving a speech that day, out of town, so there wouldn't be any danger of him driving by and seeing me. John David would be at work. I figured it would be a good time to talk to Poppy. I just wanted to let her know that I knew all about... them, and that I wasn't going to divorce Bubba without as much stink as I could raise." Lizanne said this with absolute sincerity. "I know Bubba thinks I'm dumb, and I am about some things." And you could tell she didn't care. "But I know how it'd look in the papers. Mother of twins, orphan of murdered parents, abandoned by her lawyer husband for another woman. And you know what else?"
A little stunned, Melinda and I shook our heads.
"The second I learned about this affair, I started taking the kids to church every single Sunday. I wasn't so consistent before, but I haven't missed a sermon in five months. Wednesday nights, too. And Bubba hasn't gone with me twice, I bet."
Lizanne was going to use God as a character witness.
"And I go to the same Sunday school class as Terry Mc-Cloud." Terry was another attorney in Lawrenceton. He was my mother's lawyer, so he would be conservatively excellent. "I speak to Terry every Sunday. I make a point of it."
By this time, I was gaping at the woman I'd thought I'd known. I didn't know if I admired her or if I was horrified. I didn't dare look over at Melinda.
"But I don't really want to get a divorce," Lizanne explained, never stopping her little tasks around the stove and sink. "I get along okay with Bubba, and we have everything we need. I'd have to go back to work if we got divorced, and I like being home with the boys." She beamed over at Brandon, who smiled back. He seemed to have inherited his mother's placid nature. "So I went to see Poppy, to try to talk some sense into her. I knew Poppy was at home because her car was in the garage. But she never came to the door." Lizanne blew on a spoonful of cranberry sauce, then held it away to examine the color and consistency. "After a minute, I went over to the fence, thinking I'd go through the gate and knock on the sliding glass door on the patio."
"And did you go into the backyard?" I asked, sitting on the edge of the kitchen chair.
"Oh, no," Lizanne said, her voice once more serene. "There was already someone there, so I went back to the car."
"There was someone there," I repeated.
"Yes, I could hear them talking."
"Them?" Melinda said in a croak.
"Yes, them. Poppy and someone else."
"Who was it?" I felt as if the air in the kitchen were vibrating.
"Oh. I don't know. The radio was on, so I couldn't hear very well, but I could hear two voices, and the louder one was Poppy's."
"What did you do?"
"I went back and sat in the car. After about ten minutes, I went and knocked on the door again. But she still didn't come. So after a little bit longer, I threw the straps out of the van and drove away." Lizanne turned back to the stove and stirred.
"You heard her killer," Melinda said.
"You heard the voice of the person who killed Poppy," I said.
"Oh, that's..." On the verge of saying "ridiculous," Lizanne stopped speaking, stopped moving. Her lips lost their color.
"I could have saved her," Lizanne said finally. "I could have saved her life, and instead I went back to the van and sat."
"Or," I said, not liking the way her color had changed, "you could have gotten killed right along with her, and your children would have been left out in the van all by their lonesome selves."
Lizanne sat down across the table from us. She looked positively punchy with shock.
"Oh," she said, and that was all, but it spoke volumes.
I'd been sure that Lizanne wasn't as hard-hearted as she'd been letting on, and I was right. But she'd felt better when she'd acted tough.
"Could you make out who it was?" I asked after a pause to let Lizanne gather herself.
"No, I was so wrought up, and the radio was playing, and I was so angry..."
"Could you tell if the voice was a man's or a woman's?"
Lizanne's large dark eyes focused on me. "Surely it must have been a man's?"
"Look at how angry you were," I said. "Do you think you were the only angry woman?"
"No, I reckon not," she said. "I assumed at the time it was a man's voice. Poppy's radio was on so loud - she was listening to NPR, like my daddy used to. Remember, Roe?"
Truthfully, I didn't remember what radio station Lizanne's dad had listened to, though I remembered Arnie with great fondness. But I nodded anyway.
"So, I guess I'll have to go to the police," she said after a moment. "I mean, if I really did hear..."
"You ought to," Melinda said, trying to make her voice gentle. Davis squawked, and Lizanne got up and handed him the pacifier that had fallen from his mouth. He resumed sucking and fell back to sleep. Brandon watched us as if we were performing in a soap opera. To my eyes, both children looked like little Bubbas. If Lizanne did divorce Cartland Sewell, his face was still going to be right in front of her for the next sixteen-plus years.
"I guess I wouldn't be telling anyone anything they didn't already know," Lizanne said. I thought she was backing out of going to the police, but finally I decided she was thinking of having to tell the police that her husband was cheating on her. "The way things spread in a small town. Why did Bubba think he was fooling anyone?"
There were probably people in Lawrenceton who hadn't known that Cartland Sewell and Poppy Queensland had been having an affair (me, for example). But while I told myself that I enjoyed juicy gossip as much as the next person, this wasn't entirely true. Illnesses, inheritances, land transactions, job promotions - I was interested in all these bits of information. But sexual misdeeds, no, I didn't want to hear about them. I only knew the cast of John David's couch because Melinda had told me one afternoon when we were driving to Atlanta to shop, and I couldn't get away.
"Do you want Arthur to come here?" I asked, trying to sound offhand.
"That would be good. I have a lot of cooking to do; plus, I don't want to take the boys down to the police station," Lizanne said. She brightened considerably. "Oh, do you think he would?"
"Yes, I bet so," I said. Melinda handed me the phone, and I placed the call. Arthur didn't sound very glad to hear from me, which I could understand. I explained as neutrally as I could.
As I expected, he was angry with me. "You knew all along that Lizanne had been there that day," he said unequivocally. After all, that was the absolute truth.
"Well, we suspected." I was trying to sound mild and intractable, but that's hard to pull off. I just sounded stubborn.
"You're lucky I don't put you both in jail for obstructing an investigation."
Melinda was leaning close enough to hear that, and she looked at me with alarm written large in her brown eyes. I shook my head. No way was Arthur going to do anything like that. "On the other hand," I said, still trying for mild, "we happen to be over at Lizanne's right now, and we happen to know she has some information for you."
"Maybe I'll just arrest her," Arthur said. "She had plenty of reason to kill Poppy."
"Well, if she loved her husband, that would be so. But that's not the case," I snapped. I had run out of mild. "Arthur Smith, you know a woman with two babies in her van is not going to go in and stab someone to death!"
"Still waters run deep," Arthur said portentously.
"Still waters, my round rear end." Now I was sounding like a real Uppity Woman. But as I thought twice, I looked at Lizanne's placid and beautiful face, and read nothing there but polite interest in the outcome of my conference with the detective. Maybe Lizanne was deep water, and maybe she was only a shallow, still, pond. Either way, she was my friend.
"Are you coming?" I tried to sound more moderate.
He sighed, a deep and unhappy exhalation. "Yes, I am. But I'm going to pretend she called me herself, instead of you, and I want you and Melinda gone by the time I get there."
"Okay," I said unhappily. "Let's try to make it a trade-off." I didn't want Lizanne to be alone for very long at all. She was having a tough time, and being alone might sap her good resolution to come clean.
"I'm bringing Trumble with me," he said, and for a second I drew a blank. Then I remembered that was the name of the detective who'd interviewed me. "I'm leaving here in five minutes."
So Melinda and I talked babies with Lizanne for the next ten minutes. That was easy for Melinda, but not for me. I've never had a baby, and I never will. The elderly OB-GYN I'd consulted in Atlanta had been pretty clear that the chances of me conceiving were infinitesimal. I have a tilted womb (charming, huh?) and I don't always produce eggs, which makes me feel like an inferior chicken.
I suppressed a familiar ache and listened with a smile to their swapped stories about teething, walking, crawling, and sleeping patterns. This is the small talk of women of a certain age, and not only was I getting past that age; I'd never learned the language.
I quit feeling sorry for myself when I passed Arthur and Cathy Trumble on the sidewalk to Lizanne's front door, and reflected on how much I had to do between now and tomorrow. It was incredibly fortunate that I had to work only three hours today, and the library would be closed tomorrow and through the weekend for the Thanksgiving holiday.
When I pulled up to Melinda's house, she persuaded me to come in for a minute and talk to John David. He didn't want to go back to the house he'd shared with Poppy, cleaned or not, and he was taking very little care of his son. Melinda hadn't spoken to him about it yet, but she was going to, she told me. "It's not that I don't care for the little guy; he's cute as he can be," she said, guilt written large on her face. "I just feel like I have enough to do."
"Of course," I agreed promptly, because to do less would have been insulting. I realized that no one had suggested that I should take Chase. And I realized that I was relieved. A couple of years before, I'd had the care of a baby, with absolutely no preparation or warning. Going into it cold was simply terrifying. "John David should be able to take care of his own son, especially if he hires a nanny," I said cautiously.
"Avery could cope with the situation," Melinda said. "He took as much care of Marcy as I did, when he was home... which wasn't as much as I was, of course. And he was so excited when Charles was born!" Melinda's face was transformed by a huge smile. "Avery's a good dad," she said, wrapping up a whole bundle of memories.
"I guess John David got a big bundle of charm but none of the moral fiber," I said.
She considered. "I think he likes to do the right thing, as long as it's not too much trouble."
That summed up John David pretty accurately. But maybe we both would be proved wrong.
Melinda seemed relieved to get out at her own home, where she could follow her own normal round of activities. She'd deposited the children at Mother's Day Out at the Methodist church so she could finalize the preparations for driving to her parents' home for Thanksgiving, and she told me she was determined to go no matter what happened. "It's been awful and tense the past few days," she said. I couldn't argue with that. "We don't know when the funeral will be, because Poppy's body hasn't been released yet, and this is a good time to get away, at least for a day. The kids need some downtime." I wasn't sure who needed it more, but obviously Melinda was looking forward to seeing her family, and I wished her a happy day before leaving to put in my hours at the library.
It was absolutely dead at work. A few patrons dashed in to return books, and one or two checked out audiobooks for the long drives to holiday destinations. But no one was browsing, and precious few were even using the computers. I had no compunction at all about leaving a little early for my appointment with Bryan Pascoe.
Bryan drove a Cadillac, which surprised me. He was wearing a very nice suit, and he looked as though he'd gotten a haircut. When he held the car door open for me, I smelled his cologne. It was something classic and masculine, like Old Spice - another surprise. I would have predicted a Mustang convertible, a Calvin Klein cologne, and bikini underwear. I couldn't ask him about that, but I amused myself on our ride to the service station named on the receipt by trying to imagine a conversation in which that question would occur naturally.
"I understand that Cartland Sewell has a cast-iron alibi," he said out of the blue. Bryan sounded as if that were a bad thing, and since he was representing John David, I guess it was. The more viable suspects, the better, particularly for my brother-in-law.
"I'm glad for Lizanne's sake," I said. I know this was dumb of me, but I hadn't realized I ought to tell Bryan what had happened with Lizanne the day of Poppy's murder. Now I told him in as few words as possible. After questioning me closely about the probable time of all the events Lizanne had described, the lawyer lapsed back into a silence that I chose to characterize as thoughtful.
The Cadillac was so comfortable and the heat so effective, I was nearly drowsy by the time we reached the Grabbit Kwik. Bryan came around the car to open my door just as I was about to open it myself, so I held still and let him. This world is so devoid of courtesy, I never mind receiving a little, even if it's misplaced.
He offered me his hand, and I took that, too. I was wearing off-white pants, a fuzzy blue sweater, and blue suede moccasins, so I didn't have to worry about getting out of the car modestly. He gave a little pull, and up I popped, just like a cork.
The outside of the Grabbit Kwik was like any other convenience store/gas station along any highway. Grabbits are all painted a bright green, and this one had all its tawdry Christmas regalia in place. It had probably been up since the Halloween ghosts and pumpkins had come down. The concrete outside the door was dirty, but the glass doors were gleaming. We were the only customers at the moment, which I chose to regard as a good sign.
Inside, everything was as you'd expect, too - the racks of junk food and the refrigerated cases of drinks, the raised counter, the woman in the red smock behind the cash register. Her hair was a construction of elaborate and rigid ringlets, and she was generously round. Her heavily lined eyes looked like raisins sunk in gingerbread dough.
"Can I help you folks?" she asked cheerfully. On a tiny television behind her, a talk show was in progress.
Bryan produced a card immediately and introduced himself. She told him her name was Emma McKibbon and that she'd worked there two years. Her eyes flicked over to me curiously, but Bryan didn't include me in this dialogue. He'd been so absolutely correct and polite up to now; it made me as curious as Emma apparently was. But there must be a reason, so I kept quiet.
The woman's face looked really familiar, though, and I kept examining her, hoping I'd make the connection.
Bryan was asking her if there was any way she could remember a particular customer who'd come by two days before, and Emma confirmed that she'd been right there behind the counter on Monday. But Emma was wary of Bryan, for whatever reason - maybe just because he was an affluent white male. Watching her face seal itself off, I had a sinking feeling that any information we could have gathered was being chucked down a well inside the clerk.
"We were pretty busy that morning, same as always on Monday," she said grudgingly. "Let me see the receipt, but I ain't holding out much hope."
I pulled the receipt out of my pocket and handed it to her. As our eyes met, a little click sounded in my ears. "Emma!" I said. "You were three years behind me in high school, right?"
"I sure was," she said, relieved to track down her own elusive memory. "I'm Jane's sister - Jane Pocket she was then."
"Oh, sure. How is Jane?"
"Well, she's gotten married twice now, and she has four kids in school and another one on the way. I have two myself. I married Dante McKibbon right after we graduated. My girls; - one's in high school, and the other's in junior high."
"Oh, how nice," I said, smiling as brightly as I could.
"Now, you still live in town, don't you? I'm sure I saw you at the store last month."
"I do. I have a house over on McBride."
A black pit opened abruptly, right in front of me, and I took a deep breath, gathered my composure, and stepped right over it. "I'm a widow," I said, maintaining my smile.
"Oh, too bad! You got any babies?"
"No, I'm all on my lonesome," I said.
Emma obviously regarded this as the worst of all possible situations and cast around in her brain desperately for something upbeat to say to me. "Well, you look great," she told me. "You don't look a day older than you did when you graduated. Those kids'll put the years on you, for sure."
Bryan opened his mouth, but I got in there first. I knew what I was doing now. "You remember my mom?" I asked. Emma nodded. No one forgot my mother. "She married John Queensland, John David's dad? I know you remember John David." He would be a little younger than Emma, but he'd had a lot of success on the football field, and that would have made his name more familiar.
"Oh, sure," Emma said, relieved to be on a different topic. "That John David, he speaks every time he comes in here."
"Oh, he gets his gas here?" I leaned on the counter, as if I had all the time in the world.
"Sometimes," she said. "He was in here the other morning, the morning you were asking about, unless I'm real confused. But I think it was early, not at the time on this receipt. This says ten-twenty-two, and he always comes in before eight, on his way to Atlanta."
"You remember Bubba?"
"Which one?" she said with a big laugh, and I had to laugh right along with her. "You mean the big black Bubba who played center on the football team, or the Chinese Bubba who was so smart, or that Bubba who's a lawyer in town?"
"He comes in here, too, but not so often," she said, thinking back. "He's always in a hurry, don't talk to me."
"You remember Poppy?"
"Yeah, I hear she's dead."
"Yeah. She married John David."
"Yeah, after they fought all through high school. Were you in the cafeteria that day she slapped him upside the head?"
"I had already graduated, but I heard about it."
"She didn't hold back none, either. She let him have it. Maybe that's why somebody killed her, she mighta whomped on them like that."
"Her mom and dad are here," I said.
"Yeah, her dad is that preacher," Emma said. "My mama used to clean house for them. I was over to see Mama the other day when the radio said that about Poppy. My mama said, 'Like father, like daughter, I guess.' "
"Oh my gosh," I said, "did he make pass at your mother?" I am sure I looked as disgusted as I felt. Somehow, you're always a child when you hear about the peccadilloes of those who represented authority to you when you were young.
Emma looked sardonic. "He don't like my skin tone," she said, as if adding another mark against Marvin Wynn's tally of bad taste. "But all those woman who came to him for counseling, you can bet a bunch of them got more than prayers. Especially the really young ones."
"Ew," I said, and Emma laughed.
"I like a man with more meat to him than that," she said. "His wife is like that, too, all thin and bony. Now she was in here Monday around the right time, and I was surprised, because I hadn't seen that woman in a coon's age. Did they move back into town?"
I leaned more heavily against the counter, suddenly weak.
Bingo. What the hell had Sandy Wynn been doing anywhere in the vicinity? I stuffed that thought away for later examination. I hoped that no one else would come in, since we were on such a roll. "Well, I won't take up too much more of your time. I know you're at work. I don't know if you remember this, but I have a brother."
She looked puzzled.
"He's a half brother. You may not recall that my mom was divorced when I was pretty young?"
"I knew something happened, since he wasn't around anymore."
"Yeah, well, my dad remarried, so I have this brother, Phillip, who lives in California. He just hitchhiked over here to see me, and he met these girls along the way."
"I can't believe he got here alive," Emma said frankly.
"Me either. It was dumb, but he's a kid." I shrugged. "Anyway, he may have been here that morning, Monday morning. The car he was in stopped here for gas. It would have been my brother - he's about as tall as this lawyer here - and two girls, both older than he is." I dredged my memory. "He says they were in a green Impala." Though Phillip had told me he'd caught a bus into Lawrenceton, I thought it would be unfair of me not to check on him, too.
"Can't remember," Emma said after she'd turned it over in her head. "So many kids, and if they're that young and white, I don't know 'em, so I just don't recall."
"Thanks for taking the time to help," I said. "I enjoyed talking to you. You tell Jane I said hello, okay? And Dante."
"Sure will," Emma said. She smiled, but she also looked at me as though she was sorry for me.
Well, I just had to swallow that. I kept my smile steady, and Bryan and I left the store after he'd asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee, then bought me one and paid for it.
He handed me into the car as ceremoniously as he'd gotten me out of it, and I found that was a tiny bit tiresome. But I was glad to sink back into the leather seat and feel the heat blowing around me as we started back to town.
"That was a stroke of luck." I was thinking of Emma's face as it was now, trying to picture the way it had been in our high school days. I was thanking my lucky stars I'd remembered the woman, since she was a few years younger. In high school, that makes a big difference.
"That was very smooth," Bryan said, interrupting what I suddenly realized had been a long silence.
"Your questioning. Are you sure you don't want to be a lawyer? Or maybe join the police force?"
"I'm sure," I said, smiling. He'd sounded almost miffed, but I was going to ignore that. I had a feeling Bryan was unhappy because his own questioning had proved unproductive. "If you know someone, it's just easier to ask the right questions."
"So. Mrs. Wynn was there, Bubba may have been, although probably not, John David was there earlier, and she couldn't remember your brother," Bryan summarized.
"That's about it."
"Sandy Wynn." He shook his head, looking as stunned as I felt.
"Yes. She's so - well, she seemed so devastated when they came to my house Monday night. I could have sworn all that grief was genuine."
"But it's hard to understand how she could have just skipped telling the police she'd been in the area that morning."
"Yes, of course. Well, maybe Emma made a mistake." I'd heard older women complain before that young people seemed to regard them as interchangeable. Maybe Emma had seen another thin, fit older woman and identified her mentally as Poppy's mom, after she'd heard Poppy had been killed. That would be natural. But Emma had sounded so certain, and she had struck me as a good observer. And after all, someone had dropped that receipt on my floor.
"What are you going to do about Mrs. Wynn?" I asked. "Will you talk to her yourself, or will you sic Arthur on her?"
Bryan looked gloomy. "I should tell the police," he said after a thoughtful pause. "I wonder if she was the visitor Poppy was expecting, the reason she didn't ride to Uppity Women with you."
"Mrs. Wynn's phone records would show if she'd phoned Poppy," I said hesitantly. "Would Poppy's phone record show incoming calls as well as outgoing? Can you look at those?"
"After the police have ... if they arrest John David, I can. Other than that, I haven't any legal right to see them. They're John David's records, too. He could request them, give me permission... . I'll think about it."
We were silent during the rest of the drive. I guess both of us had plenty to think about. But I don't think we were pondering the same things.