Café Chocolaté

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Chapter XVII

Chapter XVII – Ginger Thomas

Ginger and Eddie sat in silence after Adrian’s prayer. Ginger had never heard a prayer like it. Most of her experiences listening to prayers had come from movies anyway.

She started listlessly swirling the cold dregs of her coffee around the bottom of her cup. She paid no attention to Eddie beside her, who didn’t make enough noise to draw attention otherwise.

Mary Dill rose and decided, for some inexplicable reason, to join them at their table, and Ginger stopped her listless thoughts. She grit her teeth at the sight of Mary in such close proximity to herself and set her coffee cup on the table. Mary appeared oblivious.

She placed her hands one on top of each other almost primly, then leaned forward against the table, her eyes focusing on Eddie.

“Tell me how you did it.”

Eddie stared at her.

“Come on. It’s silly to play this game. Just tell me.”

Ginger glanced across the room at Adrian and struggled to keep her voice even. “He already told you that he didn’t kill the man.”

“That’s what he said.” Mary nodded knowingly. “Or rather, what you said. He’s hardly said anything at all himself.”

Ginger grit her teeth even harder.

“I already told you that I didn’t kill anyone.” Eddie glanced in the direction of Gary Bradshaw and shuddered. “I didn’t even know him! Why would I kill him?”

“You tell me.” The wail and whine seemed gone from Mary’s voice and she almost seemed to grin. She patted her own hand. “You tell me.”

“I had no reason.”

Mary shook her head this time, quite slowly, and Ginger dropped her hands to her lap, gripping them into fists. “I know that you did it. I just think… I’m sure I could figure out why.”

“You weren’t voted in as investigator.” Ginger spoke without ungritting her teeth.

“Who cares about investigating!” Mary raised her palms up to shrug, then returned them to their former position.

Ginger sent another glance toward Adrian and clenched her fists tighter. She didn’t know why she cared if she gave him another fight to settle, but she did and for that reason alone, she didn’t answer Mary at all.

“Let’s see…” Mary raised one hand to her chin. A hint of whining came back into her voice. “You killed him. Probably when the bomb or whatever it was, went off. Easy. Stab and run, no one noticed!”

“I told you that I didn’t.”

“Oh, but I know that you’re lying!”

Ginger jumped and stiffened. Eddie touched her arm, surprising her into silence.

“He looked like a lonely man.” Mary nodded in the direction of the corpse. “Sad too.”

“Where on earth do you divine that from?” Ginger crossed her arms and tried to relax her hands.

“His face.” Mary wiped a tear. “His mouth drooped down so pathetically.”

Ginger and Eddie both stared at the woman.

Mary wiped another tear. “So alone and full of sorrow, and then to just have his very life snuffed out!”

“You derived all of that… from the face… of a dead man?” Ginger looked at Eddie, who continued to stare at Mary in bewilderment.

“It was so obvious. After coming here for a taste of humanity, that humanity cruelly cut him short!”

Ginger raised an eyebrow. “What, now?”

“It’s such a tragedy!” Mary dabbed at her eyes again.

“A tragedy that is making no sense whatsoever,” Ginger muttered.

Mary sniffed and looked at Eddie with a shadow of horror in her wide eyes. “What turned you into such a monster?”

“Just stop already.” Ginger might as well have spoken to the table.

Mary shuddered, her shoulders and head moving dramatically. “The depths of darkness in your eyes… They chill my very blood.”

Ginger, caught between growing anger and sudden amusement, didn’t know how to respond. Who talks like that?

“Maybe you were supremely bored and it sounded like a happy release?”

Who kills someone because they’re bored? That’s beyond demented!” Eddie’s bewilderment turned to disgust. “You need some serious help.”

Mary cocked her head. “There’s darkness in your eyes, but something to be pitied in your face.”

Ginger rolled her eyes. “Probably the pain of listening to you.”

Mary ignored her. “You had a rough and difficult childhood, perhaps.”

Eddie stiffened and the woman noticed.

“You did! Was the murder a cry for help? A reaction to the longing for a loving childhood that no one ever fulfilled?”

“I-I keep telling you. I didn’t kill anyone.

Mary shook her head. “Did the poor man represent your father in your mind? The one who never gave you the love that you needed?”

Ginger saw Eddie blanch, then shake his head. He started to answer, but Mary plodded on.

“You saw him sitting there all alone and unnoticed during the explosion, probably staring at a picture of he and a beloved son on his tablet, and you snapped!”

“That doesn’t even make sense and you’re just guessing,” Ginger interjected.

Mary half-rose from the table, towering over Eddie, who leaned back in his chair. “He represented everything you never got – all you could think about at that moment was the man who ignored you your entire life, pouring out all of his love on a sibling, perhaps? He ignored you, hurt you, pushed you aside, and-”

“Stop!” Ginger didn’t care that she raised her voice. She glared and dropped to a menacing tone. “Leave. Him. Alone.”

Mary Dill dropped back into her seat again, the immediate victim. “I-I only… He-”

Ginger pounded her fist on the table and raised her voice to a natural volume. “I said to leave him alone! I meant it.” The look of terror on Mary’s face infuriated her and the likelihood of a scream made her strike the table again. “Leave him alone – and so help me, if you scream or even begin to scream, I’ll throttle you before Eddie can do a thing to stop me!”

Mary’s chin quivered and the rest of the café had fallen silent.

“I’m only bringing out the truth!” Mary’s voice leapt to a wail again. “We need the truth! You heard it! He did it!”

Ginger started to jump to her feet, but for once in his life, Eddie anticipated her and pulled her back down.

“You wouldn’t recognize the truth if it introduced itself to you in human form!”

“Ginger. Stop. Please!” Eddie hadn’t let go of her, probably for fear that she would fulfill her promised throttling.

Her hands shook with anger and she clenched her fists. Eddie had only spoke loud enough for her to hear him and no one else.

“Just… calm down. She’ll just start screaming again and none of us want that. You’ll just get more angry and she’ll scream more.”

“You don’t care as little about what she said as you’re pretending!” She glared at him, then actually wished she hadn’t. It almost seemed to burn him.

“No.” Eddie’s voice sank so low that she could scarcely catch it. He let go of her. “But if you don’t stop, someone will start accusing you next.”

She tried to read his face, but failed. Again. Is he suggesting that I…

Focused on Eddie, Ginger had managed to miss the conversation going on in front of her, but Mary’s wail could not be ignored.

“He’s a killer! Someone has to prove it and protect us!”

Ginger huffed and clenched her fists once more. “He never said he killed anyone. He keeps telling you that he didn’t.”

“I don’t know why you care so much what she says about me, Ginger. I really don’t.” Eddie sighed. Ginger looked at him sharply, but he wasn’t looking at her.

“We’ll question Eddie – along with everyone else.” Adrian stood beside Mary. He smiled slightly, then led her to a different seat nearer to Kimberly. “Why don’t you try to relax and let us take care of it?”

Mary didn’t look like she cared for the idea, but she did as he asked. Adrian turned around.

“Eddie? Would you mind if we talked to you next?”

Eddie nodded and stood. He put his hand on Ginger’s shoulder and bent over her just a moment before walking away. “Try to ignore her, Ginger. At least, try not to let everyone see how angry she makes you. There’s been a murder – do you really want them to make you their primary suspect instead of me?”

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