Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXXIII

Chapter XXXIII – Ginger Thomas

The café hadn’t been so quiet in what felt like hours. Ginger didn’t even know the time or how long had passed since the explosions or the discovery of Gary Bradshaw’s body. How long since Mary stabbed Eddie. Ginger had no concept of time anymore at all.

Eddie seemed to have gained some color in his face. He no longer resembled a breathing corpse. At least, not so much as he did before. Timothy still remained by his side, but he frowned less than before. Ginger hoped that would be a good sign. Still, it had been a long while since Eddie had opened his eyes, even though he also lay rather more still.

Anna stood from her interview with the cousins. She skirted Kimberly, eventually kneeling near Ginger in silence. Ginger could see evidence of tears, but wouldn’t go so far as to ask why. Timothy gave Anna a look but seemed to come to the same conclusion.

Anna looked as if she wanted to ask something, but the general silence seemed to hold her back. Even Mary Dill leaned back in a chair with a sleepy bearing.

Ginger saw Timothy start and look around the place with a deepening frown. He obviously didn’t like the silence much.

Fabian cleared his throat. He caught Ginger’s eye with a shrug. “We seem to have boiled down to a nice low simmer, haven’t we?”

No one answered him. Ginger didn’t think he much wanted one anyhow.

Mary Dill sat up when Fabian spoke, then sat watching him. The irrational desire to punch the woman’s nose in swept over Ginger. Just her face looks whiny.

Mary turned her staring toward Ginger and the waitress swiftly looked away. It took a few minutes before the woman’s pathetic voice punctured the quiet room.

“You told them why, didn’t you?”

Ginger ignored her, hoping the woman did not mean the question for her. No such luck.

“I know that you heard me. You told them why you disowned Eddie, didn’t you?”

Ginger grit her teeth, but still didn’t look up. “It hardly matters, I think.”

“Just tell her if you did.” Timothy kept his voice quiet but gave her a pleading look. “Perhaps she’ll let it go, if you do.”

Ginger sighed. She had little hope Timothy would be proven correct, but she would try. “Fine. No. It didn’t come up.”

She could have counted down from ten to Mary opening her mouth again. “I think you should tell us why you disowned him then.”

Ginger ground her teeth. “I told you before, Mary Dill, that is none of your business.”

“I don’t trust you.”

The waitress finally looked up. “The feeling is mutual.”

Mary crossed her arms, her lip in a pout. “Then you understand why I want more information!”

“Not really.” Ginger shrugged. “I can’t say that I want to know anything more about you than I already do.”

Mary tapped her foot and Ginger wished anyone else would engage with the woman. “I still think it’s because of his criminal record.”

“Eddie doesn’t have a criminal record! I keep telling you!” Ginger nearly yanked at her ponytail in frustration. “You do not give up, do you!”

“Why should I?” The unmistakable whine just added to Ginger’s fury. “If his own sister wanted to disown him, then-”

Ginger whirled, raising herself up on her knees. “Sometimes, people force you to make decisions that you don’t want to make!” Ginger raised her voice and, frankly, didn’t care at the moment. “They make you choose between them and another person – and the person who gets cut off doesn’t always deserver it!”

She saw Adrian had stood up and Eddie tugged on her arm. Mary though, shook her head. “No one could make you choose to disown your brother, Ginger. Not unless he deserved it somehow.”

“My father did.”

“Ginger… Ginger, stop.”

She ignored Eddie’s remonstrance. “Eddie’s sole crime was surviving his birth. That’s it. So why don’t you leave him alone and mind your own business.

Ginger felt a hand on her shoulder, before she could say anything else. She jumped, before she looked at Timothy.

He dropped his arm. “Back down and leave her be.” His voice almost inaudible, she found it a wonder that she knew what he said.

With a last glance toward Mary Dill, Ginger obeyed. She could feel her hands shaking, along with everything else. Pulling her arm from her brother, she pulled her knees up to her chin, wrapping her arms tightly around them. Dropping her face onto her arms, she shut her eyes. Anna, still beside her but silent, put a tentative hand on her shoulder. Ginger didn’t move.

People should learn to be quiet and mind their own business. The woman had no right to keep nagging about something that affects her in no way, shape or form!

She vaguely heard Adrian talking to Mary. The woman’s voice grew louder. “She’s the one shouting. I asked a question!”

“I think the group, collectively, would enjoy less of your questions.” Fabian’s voice came next.

Ginger raised her head, choking back the sudden desire to cry. I will absolutely not do any such thing. She grit her teeth yet again.

“Ginger, come on.” She did not want to look at her brother. “You have to let it go.”

She finally turned her head in his direction, taking a deep breath. He looked worried.

I shouldn’t be worrying him. Not right now.

“Just let it go. It’s fine – I don’t really care that much.”

“You should! And I care.”

“Ginger.” Here his voice lowered. “I’m lying on the floor of the café with a knife wound in my side. I have no certain hope of a hospital in my future. My chances of seeing tomorrow are slim. What do I care if a melodramatic woman wants to keep accusing me of things I didn’t do?”

It wasn’t only the longest speech Eddie had given since being injured; it might have been the longest she had heard from him in five years. Despite her determination, Ginger could barely see her brother through the tears that threatened to fall down her cheeks.

“I can’t think like that.” She shook her head. “I refuse to think like that. Eddie, you have to be okay, because… You have to. It wasn’t my plan.”

“It rarely is.” He closed his eyes wearily.

Ginger just sat, watching him.

“Are you all right?”

She looked up at Timothy slowly, before raising her chin as his words sank in. “I’m always all right.”

He clearly did not believe her. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” She raised her eyebrows.

“No father should force such a decision on his daughter. Or his son.”

“He shouldn’t, but he did. He was sick. Eddie was young.” She looked up at Timothy, her heart sinking. “I chose because I didn’t want my father to die alone. He hasn’t died at all.” Ginger didn’t finish the half-formed thought in her head, and neither did anyone else.

Adrian Terrence joined them, bending down near Timothy with a sigh. “How is he doing?”

“Eddie is about the same. Maybe a shade stronger.” Timothy shook his head. “He’s doing as well as we could hope.”

Adrian nodded. “I’m still praying we can get him more help soon.”

Ginger watched him narrowly, before deciding to speak again. “I told the truth about why I disowned him. You have to believe me.”

“I didn’t ask.”

“But you will.” Ginger heard Eddie sigh, but she kept on. “So, you have my answer now, instead of later.”

Adrian watched her thoughtfully, until she wanted to slap him into looking elsewhere. He finally decided to speak. “I didn’t quite understand the reason for your father’s enmity. Because Eddie survived his birth – what did that mean?”

“Does it matter?”

“My mother died the week I was born.” Eddie’s voice, rather slow and quiet but determined, started Ginger. “He blamed me. Always did. He put with me until I could legally move out. That’s the long and short of it.”

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s… just how it is.”

What Adrian or anyone else might have answered or asked next, Ginger never knew because at that moment, Mary Dill shrieked. Literally no one knew why, but they all turned.

In the two seconds that followed, Renee screamed and Fabian Smith crashed to the ground.

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXXII

Chapter XXXII – Adrian Terrence

Adrian watched the group in silence. He heard the end of the conversation regarding Renee, but didn’t intervene. He felt weary. So weary.

It’s akin to being cooped up with a bunch of children. He glanced toward Monique. Except, the actual child among us is better behaved.

He ran a hand over his face, wishing that he could escape to his violin. Or, at the least, the outdoors. A gust of rain rushed against the windows. Xavier kicked him and Adrian turned.

“Lost in your own world, by the looks of it. Are you all right over there?”

Adrian shrugged. “What should we do next, do you think?”

Xavier’s eyes narrowed in his direction at the unanswered question, but he didn’t address it. “Continue investigating before Mary Dill fancies herself judge, jury, and executioner again, I imagine.”

Adrian nodded a bit vaguely. His thoughts seemed nearly as vague. He heard Xavier say something, but only comprehended the second try. He straightened in his seat with a sigh. “I’m here.”

“I know that you’re technically here, but mentally, you’re somewhere else.”

“Mentally, I am trying to escape far away.” He muttered the words mostly to himself. He had no idea if Xavier heard them.

“What do you think we should do next?”

Adrian sighed again. “I don’t know, Cousin. I don’t think that we have enough information to do anything.”

“So, we keep gathering information. We can continue interviews. It might not help us figure out if the explosions are connected, but then again, it might.”

Adrian nodded, trying not to sigh again. “Who should we do next?” He glanced over the room. “We have Anna Carpentier, Renee Allen, Kimberly Liath, and Timothy Teller remaining. I don’t think that Timothy should leave Eddie though.”

“Agreed.” Xavier glanced around the room likewise. “That just leaves the three women.”

“Miss Renee looks too sad to talk right now.” Monique hadn’t spoken in awhile, but even Adrian could hear her this time.

Xavier gave her a small smile. “You’re right, sweetheart. She may have to talk to us at some point, but she doesn’t have to right now.” He looked back at Adrian with a questioning look.

“I don’t think I can…” Adrian let the sentence hang. I could, of course, I simply do not want to.

Xavier’s eyes narrowed once more and Adrian tried again.

“I’d rather not interview Kimberly Liath at the moment.” He glanced toward the woman who sat glaring in her chair. “She is rather hostile, right now.”

Something, I don’t really want to fight with.

Xavier nodded. “That leaves Anna Carpentier.”

Adrian stood. “I’ll ask her over here.”

Anna came willingly enough. She folded her hands into her lap and waited for questions in complete silence. She didn’t seem nervous or angry, she simply seemed to care very little whether they asked her questions or not.

Adrian wrote her name in his notebook, but his motivation to keep asking questions had dropped very low. He wanted to wash his hands of the entire operation.

Xavier cleared his throat. “Miss Carpentier, you stated that you neither knew nor had seen the deceased at any point before today.”

“That’s right. At least, not to my knowledge.”

“How about today? When did you first notice him?”

The woman swallowed visibly, seeming to watch Xavier’s face while she steadied herself for a reply.

“When Mary pointed toward him.”

Adrian frowned, noting what he could see of Anna’s face. He shook his head, moving his pencil around in his hand. “Are you sure you want to stick to that story?”

She turned her bright green eyes on him, concern splashed across her face. “I… I’d rather not be detained for questioning later. I didn’t see anything.”

“Except… that you did?”

Anna dropped her eyes to her hands.

“If you don’t tell the truth, Miss Carpentier, then the police will be likely to find out. And it could thwart the course of justice, regardless.”

Anna didn’t look up as Xavier spoke. Adrian thought it best not to add anything. After a moment or two, Anna finally raised her head.

“I… I didn’t really see anything.”

Really see anything?” Adrian raised an eyebrow.

“Well… I mean…” Anna put her hands on the table. “I just saw him. Before the explosion. He was waiting for his food, I guess, standing by the counter.”

“That’s all? He was waiting?” Xavier clearly knew there had to be more.

“Well… and talking to… someone.”

Adrian put his pencil down altogether. “Talking to whom?”

Anna’s brow creased and she grimaced. “I… I don’t know.”

“Male? Female?” Xavier tapped the table.

“Male. Dark hair. Average height, I suppose. Wearing a t-shirt and jeans. He had a jagged scar on his left arm. No one here.”

Adrian started to respond, but happened to see Monique’s face instead. A look of pure horror had taken over her face. Mr. Pickles slipped, but she grabbed him with a sudden jump.

Xavier noticed just in time to see the child follow up with a shudder. He seemed to consider speaking to her, but put an arm around her instead and turned back to Anna. “Have you ever seen the man before? Do you have any clue whatsoever as to his identity?”

Anna shook her head. “Neither. I didn’t even see his face.”

“Did neither employee behind the counter seem to notice the two men? You said that they stood beside the counter, didn’t you?” Adrian wrote in his notebook while Xavier spoke.

No one. Literally no one else seems to have noticed Gary Bradshaw talking to anyone up until this point. Why did no one else notice?

Anna had actually laughed, though quietly. “Eddie, notice? Eddie was running back and forth, yanking on his hair, trying to keep up with everything on his own. Ginger hadn’t come in yet, because I saw her come in a few minutes later. Eddie was too distracted to notice anything that he didn’t have to notice.”

“You seem to recognize Eddie’s habits well.” Xavier glanced in the direction of the injured man.

“I’m in here every week. I see Ginger and Eddie every week. It’s easy to become familiar with something that’s repeated so frequently. Eddie always gets like that if he’s on his own. Like a chicken with its head cut off – just more productive. Surely you might have noticed that.” Anna looked at Adrian. “You’re in here, at least, once a week as well.”

Adrian shrugged. “Ginger is usually here, by the time I get to the café. And, admittedly, I’m often distracted when I come in here, so I’m not always paying that much attention.”

“If you see so much of them, I might ask, Miss Carpentier…” Xavier paused a few seconds, making sure that no one else – probably Mary – could be in hearing range. “Were you surprised to hear that Ginger and Eddie are related?”

Anna cocked her head. “I don’t know. I suppose, yes. I’d never considered it before. But, it makes sense in the end. Once you know it, you can see it – Eddie just behaved like her younger brother, deferring to her, even though, I know he was employed at the café first and should have had seniority. Ginger was obviously the one in charge, regardless, and he acted like it was her right or something.”

Xavier watched her while she spoke, but looked off toward the group again for a long moment after she fell silent. Adrian flipped through his pages of notes for Ginger and Eddie.

“Do you always come with Mrs. Liath?” Xavier turned back to Anna.

Adrian tried to recall if he always saw them together, and couldn’t decide.

Anna cocked her head again. “Yes and… no.”

Neither cousin had to voice their next question. Anna hurried to answer it.

“She asked me to come every Tuesday, but we don’t always sit together. It’s a memorial of sorts, and sometimes she just wants to be left alone.”

“A memorial?” Adrian looked from Xavier to Anna.

Anna fidgeted a bit. “A memorial for my best friend, Kimberly’s daughter. The café was Eden’s favorite. She came every Tuesday, because that was the only day she was free. She’d come and work on her drawings, because she said it relaxed her. I came with her every now and then. Since she died…” She faltered, but continued. “Since then, Kimberly wants us to come every Tuesday morning in remembrance.” Anna’s voice had dropped very low. All of them grew still when she finished.

When Xavier spoke again, he spoke very gently. “I’m sorry, Miss Carpentier. I assume that your friend is recently deceased?”

Anna nodded, a tear splashing onto her lap. “She’s not been gone a year. And it was in the worst way possible. Which is why, it’s just so difficult for either Kimberly or myself to get over her death. Murder, premeditated or not, is ugly and evil. And it leaves a scar on those left behind, that I think no one will every properly be able to explain.” 

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXXI

Chapter XXXI – Timothy Teller

Timothy grimaced while he watched Eddie shift, moaning as pain overcame some of his control. He stiffened, gritting his teeth.

“Try to relax, buddy. Try to relax.”

He could feel Ginger looking between them, but Timothy refused to look back at her. He didn’t know what else he could do for Eddie. With the blood flow stable but without proper access to medical help or supplies, Timothy knew nothing else he could do for the injured man, except bandage the wound as best he could and keep an eye on him. And nothing else he could tell the worried sister.

Eddie fidgeted again, gritting his teeth so hard that it must have brought pain to his jaw. Ginger ruffled his hair gently, but it didn’t seem to help much.

“He’s a brave man.” Fabian’s voice sounded odd. Perhaps the sound of pity colored his voice. “In his place, I would have been yelling a long time ago and making a scene, I’m afraid. He hardly makes a sound. Not from lack of pain though.”

“Maybe he’s not in much pain, after all.” Kimberly’s grunt that followed annoyed Timothy.

Fabian seemed unfazed, however. “It’s plain to anyone watching him that his pain level is off the charts. He’s brave.”

It took several seconds before Eddie shook his head. Timothy had to bend over him to understand what he said.

“I’m not brave.” He took a sharp intake of breath. “I just don’t want to scare her.”

Timothy glanced up at Ginger, who clearly had no idea. “Scare who, Eddie?”

He winced. “The kid. She’s scared enough. I don’t want to make it worse.”

Timothy patted Eddie’s shoulder. “A noble aspiration.”

“Why are you crying?” Mary’s whine raised Timothy’s level of annoyance once again and made him turn from the injured man.

My patience is thinning. Lord, help me, it’s thinning fast.

“Great.” Kimberly’s rough voice joined. “First, the brat and now a grown woman.”

Timothy tried to discover which grown woman they spoke of and just caught sight of Renee wiping her eyes. “I’m fine.”

Mary crossed her arms. “If anyone has a right to cry it’s me after going through that grueling interrogation!”

“Would you leave the woman alone?” Ginger shook her head, then lowered her voice. “Bunch of vultures.”

“You didn’t answer my question.” Mary pulled a chair up beside Renee, ignoring Ginger completely. “What do you have to cry about?”

“Maybe she’s overwhelmed. Any normal person might be overwhelmed in our positions.” Fabian leaned against a table, his arms crossed.

Mary peered closer at the woman and Timothy felt like ordering her to the far end of the room. Renee didn’t answer.

“Is it Eddie? Don’t tell me that he’s your brother too!” At Renee’s look of confusion, Mary shook her head. “No, your husband is the one you mentioned earlier. Don’t tell me that Eddie is really your husband and you’re crying over the idiot, while still trying to hide his true identity!”

“Of course not!” Renee’s tears seemed to turn into surprised consternation.

Eddie looked like he would have rolled his eyes, if he had the energy, but he closed them instead when Timothy looked back down at him.

“You do have some interesting, but positively wild theories.” Fabian tapped his foot lightly on the ground.

She is the one who was crying.” The whine vanished from Mary’s voice. She sounded odd without it. She turned back to Renee again. “Your husband is the key here, I think.”

Timothy saw Ginger’s interest had been caught. A thoughtful frown started on her face.

Renee shook her head. “I-I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not. You’re crying.” Mary nodded triumphantly, rocking most of herself in the process. “It’s probably over your husband. I can tell by the way that you’re crying that it is.”

Timothy rolled his eyes.

“Why don’t you let it out and tell us all about it?” Mary obviously believed she gave sage wisdom.

Renee shivered. “No, thank you.”

“Oh, but you must!” Mary wheedled. “You’ve already made us put up with your tears.”

Timothy looked at Ginger, who raised both eyebrows. She bit her lip, probably to avoid speaking.

“She may be exaggerating a bit.” Kimberly dropped her empty cup onto the nearby table. “But you might as well oblige her.”

“I’d…” Renee voice failed her, her eyes roving the room with an obvious search for support.

“You owe it to us. Tell us about your husband.” Mary nodded again.

“I hardly think she owes any of us anything.” Fabian had a touch of annoyance in his voice.

“Perhaps not.” Kimberly shrugged. “She might as well tell us though. I mean, why not?”

Timothy took one look at Renee’s tearful, but silent attempt to protest and decided it was time to intervene. “Because she clearly does not want to tell you about it. So, why don’t you leave the poor woman alone?”

Mary Dill widened her eyes. “She owes-”

“She doesn’t owe anyone diddly-squat!” Ginger leveled her eyes at the woman, but kept her voice even. “You have been wailing literally since the first explosion every time something jars you. Do you owe us anything?”

Timothy just caught a flash of a smile cross Fabian’s face. “The woman makes a very good point.”

Mary blinked rapidly, opening and closing her mouth, as if words literally died. Kimberly glared in Timothy and Ginger’s direction a moment, but also remained quiet. Renee’s sighed and closed her eyes.

“Fear turns people into bullies.” Eddie’s voice just reached Timothy.

“Or idiots.” Ginger yanked her head up to look at Timothy and seemed to suspect something from his look. “Hey, I didn’t yell at her. And you said something first.”

Timothy shook his head with another glance at Renee. “I wasn’t going to say you shouldn’t have said anything. They needed to leave the poor thing alone.” He pulled up his watch to take Eddie’s pulse.

Ginger waited until he laid Eddie’s wrist back down before speaking again. She spoke loud enough that only he and Eddie could hear her. “They needed to stop bullying her, but I can’t help but wonder myself.”

Timothy raised his eyebrows. “Wonder what?”

“Wonder what is upsetting her.” Ginger nodded toward Renee’s still drooping figure.

“Anna’s story about her friend’s murder seemed to upset her a good deal.” Timothy sighed, he hardly knew for what reason at this point. “If she’s still upset over that…”  

“Then she took it awfully to heart then.” Ginger moved to a more comfortable position, though she didn’t let go of her brother. “Almost as if…” She stopped.

Timothy frowned. “Almost as if she had a personal connection or a similar experience.”

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXX

Chapter XXX – Adrian Terrence

Interviewing Mary Dill proved to be an utter failure. The woman could not keep on task or on topic. She reverted to Eddie and his supposed guilt over and over, hardly giving a direct answer to any question about herself. Finally, Adrian and Xavier gave up, dismissing her altogether.

“Do you think that Eddie McIntyre is guilty?” Xavier’s question brought Adrian out of the distracted thought he had fallen into after Mary Dill shuffled off.

Adrian glanced down at the mostly blank page he had labeled with Mary Dill’s name, before snapping the notebook shut. “Eddie doesn’t strike me as the killing kind, no.” He looked at his cousin thoughtfully. “Still, you’re the professional. What do you think?”

“I think there isn’t enough evidence to point toward anyone. I also think,” he stared in the direction of the prostrate man, “that he’s in danger of losing his life, while everyone in here is far too occupied with discussing his guilt or lack thereof.”

Adrian followed his cousin’s example and looked toward Eddie. Judging by what Adrian could see of Ginger’s face at a distance, the injured man still fared badly.

“He needs medical attention. Real medical attention.”

“Agreed.” Adrian knew his cousin would say more, if he gave him time.

Xavier finally turned back. “The door doesn’t open. The glass on the windows are bullet proof, as well as fogged so communication with the outside world via that means, is cut off. There is no other exit. The electricity is out, so no internet. No phone line. Cell phone reception is out.”

Adrian knew all those things, but hearing them put together sounded worse than they had before.

Xavier hadn’t finished. “It would seem that we are trapped in the café with no recourse, except to await help. Help, which we have no proof is actually coming.”

Adrian glanced toward Monique, who only blinked at him. He turned back to Xavier again, when she hugged her precious Mr. Pickles. “I can hear a point in your summary. I don’t think I’m going to like what it is.”

Xavier let his gaze roam around the room before he spoke again. The frown on his face deepened. “In the midst of this setting, comes a murder. It’s… It’s as if someone planned it that way. Such a death, in such a cut off place. It’s as if someone… set it up intentionally.”

Adrian couldn’t respond. He felt kicked in the gut. He wished he never drank that coffee.

Xavier watched him a moment. “Does my reasoning seem flawed at all? Who, for instance, installs bullet proof glass in a café?”

“An individual suffering from paranoia?” Adrian knew the suggestion would be unlikely. Perhaps if we had earthquakes and hurricanes, and someone hoped the bullet proof glass would be less likely to break. We don’t have those here though.

“Could be.mOr, it could be someone who had planned to use the café as a prison. A place to keep a person or persons without escape.”

“The reasoning seems to make sound sense.” Adrian sighed, dropping his pencil before he snapped it in half. He no longer wanted any part in the investigation or anything else about it. Not that he did before, but the deeper they went, the more he wished he could escape.

“The question becomes…” Xavier lowered his voice and Adrian tried to pay attention. “Why? Why, any of it?”

“Because people like to wallow in sin, Cousin. That’s why.” He didn’t look up at Xavier, instead picking up his pencil and breaking it in half after all.

“Adrian.”

“It’s true.” Adrian snapped in a low growl. He recognized the warning tone in Xavier’s voice.

“Perhaps.”

Adrian made himself look up. “Hardly what you meant though.”

“Not really.” Xavier gave him the shadow of a sympathetic smile. “I understand where you’re coming from though.”

Adrian sighed with a shake of his head. “One might conclude, that if someone intentionally put the café under lockdown, then they meant to keep someone who is trapped in here, a prisoner.”

“They might have done it simply for the murder, but I hardly think anyone would lock themselves up with their victim after committing a murder, unless they had another objective in mind.”

“Such as?” Adrian didn’t like the idea, but it made sense.

“Revenge? Another murder? I don’t know.” Xavier shrugged. “They could be after more than one person. Why, however… There could be so many possible reasons and explanations.”

Adrian shook himself. “That would make the explosion intentional. Whatever it was.”

Xavier nodded. Monique looked between them every now and then, but said nothing and reacted little.

“I don’t like where this is going, Cousin.”

“Neither do I.” Xavier put his arm around the little girl, when she finally leaned against him. “If it’s true though, we not only have a murderer with us, but someone else who that person has arranged to imprison, at the very least. And we don’t know why.”

“Which leaves us… Where?” Adrian spoke more to himself than his cousin.

Xavier, however, answered him anyhow. “It could, depending on circumstances, mean we have more than one guilty party. We don’t know what the second party may or may not have done to merit being locked up in the café.”

“And if the murderer has an accomplice in whoever runs the café… We may have more problems.”

“It certainly reinforces one thing.” Xavier lowered his voice even more.

“Which is?”

“We do not trust anyone.” He glanced around once again, then back. “Except each other. Not until we know more.”

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Where Did the Slipper Go?

Today is the third day of release fun for the first book in the Ever After Mysteries, The Last Gasp. I’m quite excited about this book and I’m so excited that we are beginning to release the series! (My book is book five, so it will be awhile, but in the mean time, you can go get four other books!) To celebrate the release, all the Ever After authors are doing a blog hop that includes a mini-mystery and prizes. For my part, I’m trying to prove that I do not have Cinderella’s slipper in my possession…

Just Where Did the Slipper Go?

“Where is Cinderella’s glass slipper, Miss Jones? We have two men, who say they saw you with it in your hand at the Lost Dutchman’s Museum.”

When the deputy sheriff found me in my favorite coffee shop, wrapped in one of my favorite coats, writing my new book to the sounds of chit-chat, coffee making, and Louie Armstrong, I couldn’t rightly answer his question.

I really had not expected a hot June day to cause me trouble for so long. My friend Christianna and I had planned to explore the area around the Superstition Mountains, starting with the Lost Dutchman Museum. June in Arizona, you must know, is really rather scorching, but with some determination and a good breeze, we set out for adventure.

I didn’t plan to become a thief that day – I really didn’t! Christianna and I had wandered the museum a bit before we came across the wildlife exhibit. A lovely exhibit really, full of a variety of native wild animals, stuffed and polished to look quite alive. Except, they didn’t move. Perched atop a giant rock on the wall, lounged a beautiful and very lifelike Mountain Lion. Her eyes seemed to pierced right through you. And by her enormous and frozen paw, lay the most beautiful slipper I had ever seen in my life. Even in the lights of the museum, it glistened and sparkled like a polished diamond. I had no idea that it had belonged to Cinderella though – how could I?

Christianna and I felt certain the slipper did not belong in the exhibit, possibly not in the museum itself, but what were we to do? We decided to leave it be.

Until the last minute, when Christianna started to walk away, and I decided to snatch it up. It seemed dangerous to leave it there; anyone could walk away with it. I dropped the slipper in my purse; Cinderella must have had truly diminutive feet, because that slipper fit in my rather small vintage purse and still snapped closed. Christianna somehow didn’t notice, which is very unlike her, but that place was distracting.

I had planned to ask the ladies who ran the museum about the slipper before we left. Truly, I did! But I got so caught up in my research that I completely forgot and walked right out with it. That’s the truth! I only remembered the slipper in Goldfield hours later, when I opened my purse to pay for tickets to the exhibits.

Now, I should have turned around then and there to return the slipper to the museum – if it even belonged there, which I doubt. I didn’t want to miss out on exploring Goldfield though, so I decided to do it later. It was a fatal and foolish mistake.

The slipper survived the train ride and various wanderings around town. I know, because I peeked at it a few times, for fear it might have fallen from the purse or been stolen without my notice, despite the fact I hadn’t let go of my purse even once. I had just about had enough with carrying around such a valuable object, when we descended into the mine for our next tour. The tour guide, in an effort to allow us a glimpse of how dark the mine would have been in the 1800’s, shut off all the lights – then blew out her candle. Someone jostled me, causing me to nearly lose my balance, and my purse flung from my wrist. I heard a thud.

When the light returned, I looked around the dirt floor for my purse, but I didn’t see it anywhere. Christianna noticed my search and joined me, as we fell behind the group. She found it, lying atop a wooden structure – I don’t think it could have been a table, but maybe – that had been behind us in the shadow.  The purse lay open as it had apparently fallen, my wallet peeking out and my handkerchief my sister had made me resting on the wooden surface. The slipper, however, had vanished. I searched in vain; there was no sign of it!

I told all of this to the deputy sheriff, while he watched me with very serious eyes. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything else, but he made me nervous, so I told him that I had seen Marji Laine in the mine. I didn’t speak to her, except in passing, as I don’t really know her; just her picture. I didn’t really mean to imply that she stole the slipper, but I think he took it that way. Particularly when I told him that she had been standing next to me before the lights went out.

I suppose my say-so won’t get her arrested. They might question her though. Who knows? Maybe she has the slipper! I don’t know. I only know that I don’t have it anymore.

You can go judge for yourself whether Marji has that slipper or not… If nothing else, she might give you another clue. Don’t forget to enter to get the reward (some people call it a giveaway, but we know better,) for helping the authorities catch the culprit!