“Excuse me, Adele? Excuse me? Olivia Wheaton-Chandler did not exist twenty years ago? What does that mean?”
My gut told me I knew exactly what it meant, but I wanted to-no, needed to-hear it from Adele to make it more real.
As if I wanted that monkey wrench in my case to be real.
If Mrs. Wheaton-Chandler had no record of living in Newport, then what about Lydia? Where did she come from and what the hell was going on?
“Adele, I can’t wait to meet Lilla. I’ll be there in a few minutes. You mean Mrs. Wheaton-Chandler didn’t live in Newport twenty years ago?” Okay, I told myself, that is really reaching for straws, but I’ll go for it.
“No. No, ch'eri. There is no record for her anywhere. Not in Newport or any other state.”
I felt Jagger’s breath on my neck, ignored it as best I could, and yes, it took a Herculean effort, but I managed to say, “What about overseas? Maybe she’s foreign?”
Great. I half expected Adele to set up another roadblock in my case with some other tidbit of info that she’d gleaned about the woman. Actually, I really didn’t know if Olivia had anything to do with my case.
Only going on my nursing premonition abilities and gut instincts.
“Adele is very thorough, ch'eri. She always checks foreign and domestic before reporting to any of the investigators.”
Oh, no. I had Adele back to her old habit of talking about herself in third person. When we first met, I found it kind of eerie, but now I was used to it. At first I thought it distanced us, but now I accepted it as friendly…yet odd. “I am so sorry, Adele. I didn’t mean to insult you. You know I think the world of you. Hey, have you eaten yet?”
“No. Lilla and I were going to go out as soon as Fabio rolled himself in, but the sheet hasn’t shown up yet.”
I loved the way she called Fabio the “sheet” instead of the “shit.”
“Sit tight. I’m coming over with food.” I clicked my phone shut and turned, smacking right into Jagger. Before I could apologize or yell for his invading my space, he looked at me.
“Interesting. Very interesting,” he said.
I hurried into the kitchen with no idea what the hell he was talking about, but figured it was the thing about Olivia since Jagger surely had eavesdropped on my entire conversation.
Good. Maybe he could be of help.
I’d learned early on in this profession not to be too proud to use him.
For work, that was.
And it sure was easier taking his suggestions for help when I thought I was using him.
After I’d made sure my entire family was set, including a few more lessons on using a pink cast for Mother, I had thrown together some pork sandwiches for Adele and Lilla.
Jagger had sat on the counter stool watching the entire time.
Good for him, and even better for me since it was a good lesson in ignoring him or anyone else so that I could concentrate. Okay, I was concentrating on pork, but I figured I could transfer the newly learned skill to my investigating.
I really couldn’t wait to get back to work!
It was a comforting feeling to know that I loved my job that much, and no way was I going to let the notion that I partly wanted to leave 171 David Drive so very badly interfere with that thought.
On the way to Fabio’s, Jagger and I exchanged very little words. I had been thinking more and more about what Adele had said about Olivia. Where the heck had she come from if Adele, snooper extraordinaire, couldn’t find out?
“So, what are you thinking?” Jagger asked.
“Hm?” He’d taken me by surprise, and I wasn’t ready to discuss any of the case with him anyway. Truthfully, that was because I had nothing to discuss. Damn.
“I asked what you were thinking.”
“Look, Sherlock, if you’ve got nothing, say you’ve got nothing.”
I curled my lips as I turned away from him. “I’ll have something very soon.” There. That should shut him up.
But I noticed his reflection in the window. That stupid grin.
“I hope the pork is all right since it’s probably cold by now,” I said for the umpteenth time, and for the umpteenth time Adele said it was fine and Jagger shook his head. Oh well, I wasn’t immune to making a fool of myself to get a conversation going. As I watched her eat, still with her white gloves on since her hands had been burned in the “joint,” as she’d once told me, the front door opened.
Half expecting, and fully regretting, that it might be Fabio, I tried not to look. But then I noticed Jagger-staring.
Nothing about Fabio would cause a Jagger-look like that.
I turned to see that walking across the waiting room was a woman who looked like a Victoria’s Secret model-dressed. Actually dressed in a black turtleneck, black jeans, and sunglasses propped on her head-very eerily Jagger-like in appearance.
Long brown hair bounced across her shoulders as she made her way closer until her spike-red spike, that is-heels clicked on the linoleum floor that bordered the stained carpet. Her eyes were enticingly large and deep brown, and I’m sure Jagger hadn’t missed that she was proportioned just so and knew it.
Yet there was a friendly air about her, and I knew I liked her on the spot-which sure as hell stunned me.
Adele flew up from her seat, knocking over her cup of coffee but not caring as she grabbed the woman in a hug.
“Ch'eri, Jagger, this is my Lilla. Lilla Marcel. Lilla, she is my fourth child and also married four times!” Both mother and daughter broke out into laughter.
Jagger and I remained silent, but I forced a smile and held my hand out toward Lilla. “Nice to meet you. Your mother is a peach.”
She eyed me with mascara-covered lashes, looking very chic, though a scent of cigarette smoke wafted from her. But I just knew she had a way of puffing that made her sexy.
Adele sat back down and started to tell Lilla to eat something. With her figure, I wondered if she ate more than once a year.
“What is this peach?” Lilla asked.
“Oh,” I chuckled. “It means that your mother is a doll. Priceless. She finds things out that no one else could.”
Lilla’s eyes darkened.
Oops. Wonder what that was about but figured I should keep my mouth shut since we’d just met. We made small talk, and I found out that Lilla, after signing her fourth set of divorce papers, moved in with Adele after leaving Canada to get away from ex-husbands two and four. Yikes. Talk about a double dose of trouble.
Both she and Adele seemed thankful that Lilla didn’t have any offspring with any of the spouses. But she was near destitution, as hubby number four took her to the cleaners, and she had to move down here with her mother. Since it could only be temporarily until she got her emigration paperwork in order, she needed to work.
And somehow I got the impression that legal or not, Lilla was going to be working there.
First thing that popped into my mind was: What can I get her to do to help with my case?
Jagger almost tripped as he stood from his seat to shake hands with Lilla. Hm. Maybe Adele needed help filing. Nope. I wasn’t the jealous type, and besides, what did I have to be jealous about?
Not that I thought I was some great beauty, but there was nothing between Jagger and me. Okay, a few rogue kisses, but possession apparently was not nine-tenths of the law when it came to men.
Lilla looked toward Jagger and mumbled, “Attaboy!”
He hadn’t done a thing to warrant any congratulations and the way she’d said it sounded more like a “wow.” I looked at Adele, who in fact mouthed the word “wow.”
Apparently French Canadian wasn’t that difficult to interpret.
“Okay, Adele, if you couldn’t find anything out about Olivia, that must mean she wasn’t around anywhere.” I tapped a nail to my tooth. “Hm. You think she’s not real?”
Jagger looked at me. “Ask Lydia.”
“I know she’s a real person, but is she really who she says she is? And why, if she isn’t, is she pretending to be who she is?”
The entire room gave me a well-deserved collective look of confusion.
I raised my hands. “Okay. Okay. That didn’t come out right, but you all know what I mean.”
“If she is an imposter,” Lilla said, “ca suce.”
This time Jagger mouthed, That sucks.
I made a mental note to buy a French dictionary on my way back to Newport. Then again, I think the Canadians probably had a different version. And speaking of Newport, I stood up. “I really have to get going and back to my job. Goldie’s surgery is tomorrow.”
Adele gasped. “Oh, ch'eri, take good care of our Goldie. I know you will.”
After hugging Adele and telling Lilla it was great to meet her, she walked us out to her “machine” (car) to have a smoke. When I looked inside the old gray Buick, I wondered just how long she’d been living in it, and why it took her that long to come to her mother.
Then again, this was Adele I was talking about. Not exactly Mother Goose mixed with Stella Sokol.
A woman should never sleep in her childhood bed when Jagger is in the next room.
I learned this hard lesson after getting my mother settled for the night and declaring that she was fit and well-adjusted to her pink cast, after spending the entire weekend working with her, so I could leave in the morning. But on my way to my old room, I happened to walk by my brother Peter’s old room and there in one of the twin beds-was Jagger.
Dark hair slightly tousled. Yikes.
Softly snoring. Ah.
Pheromones dancing in the doorway. Wow.
Thus the sleepless night.
“Hey, sleepyhead.” The voice seemed to come from a distance.
I turned over, ready to look at the clock to see if it was still the middle of the night. But the sun glowed on the numbers, and I could tell it was already Sunday morning.
The day I got to leave.
And Jagger was standing in my doorway watching me sleep!
My blonde hair looking very Rod Stewart. Oh damn.
Probably sawing wood like a three hundred pound man. Ah, shit.
And even while semiconscious, hormones at high alert for those stupid pheromones.
I rubbed my eyes, yanked the covers higher, although I was fully clothed in a jogging suit beneath, and said, “Oh, hey. Morning.” Please leave. “I’ll be up and ready in a few.”
“We need to make it quicker, Sherlock.”
“Oh.” I yawned. “Okay. What’s the rush?”
“The lieutenant from Newport called. They found out who killed Mr. Baines.”