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TWELVE

THE LAMB WAS RARE, the stuffed squash blossoms delicately crunchy on the outside and creamy good on the inside, and the wilted lettuce savory and sour and sweet and salty all at once.

Taking advantage of the warm weather-the rain would return soon enough-we once again ate at the cedar picnic table in the backyard. Erin was having dinner at her friend Zoe's house, so we could talk freely about Ariel's murder.

"Chris told me she thought she had an alibi," I said. "She said that Robin asked her about a specific time the night before the funeral when the murder probably happened."

Barr nodded. "I wish Robin hadn't given that away up front, but yes, Chris says she was with at least two other people during that time."

"You don't sound convinced," Meghan said.

"Well, at least one of them had a dislike of Ariel that bordered on hatred, from what I can tell."

"Irene Nelson?" I asked.


"That's the one." He took a bite of squash blossom. "Say, these are pretty good."

"But the other person was Ruth, right? She never seemed to feel one way or the other about Ariel," I said.

"So it looks like Chris is clear," he said. "Especially because there are two people who vouch for her, and not just one."

"What about Jake?"

"He was also at Chris' home that evening, but he left before the time of the murder."

"Which was between eight and ten at night?"

He nodded. "See, you do find things out."

"Well, here's something else I found out. Ariel's roommate told me today that a woman called the house and threatened Ariel, told her to stay away from her husband."

"You think it was Chris?" Meghan asked.

"Probably. Daphne-that's the roommate-answered the phone. The caller hung up as soon as she realized she wasn't talking to Ariel."

Barr looked thoughtful. "Any idea when this might have been?"

I finished chewing a mouthful of wilted lettuce and swallowed. "Last week. I couldn't narrow it down further without being obvious."

"That's good enough. Nice job"

Meghan grinned at me.

I tried not to fluff my feathers. "I'm going to La Conner to see Ariel's brother."

Barr paused with a forkful of lamb halfway to his mouth. "I don't know about that."


"CRAC has to do something with all her art. I might as well take it up there. At least I assume he'd want it. I'll call first and find out. But cross my heart and hope to die, I won't step on your toes or do anything to hurt the investigation."

He rested his elbows on the table, long fingers dangling a goblet of wine. "Robin is going tomorrow. Can you wait a day?"

"Sure. I have to get all the canvases packed up anyway." I turned to Meghan. "Come with me. We'll shop in all those kitschy little shops along the waterfront. I'll buy you dinner."

"I have clients scheduled." "

I have work, too. Rearrange some things."

"There's Erin."

"Bring her with."

"Math camp."

I still couldn't believe Erin was spending two weeks of her summer attending math camp on purpose. "Have her stay at Zoe's," I said.

"Sophie Mae, I can't just pick up and leave like that."

I sighed. "Neither can I, usually. I really need to get away for a little while."

Barr frowned. "Does that have anything to do with Hannah?"

"Honestly? I don't like her following me around town."

Meghan looked alarmed, and I hurried to reassure her. "Don't worry. It was only one time, and she was probably just curious about me. After all, I'm curious about her."

Next to me, Barr looked uncomfortable. "I don't know why women are like that."

"Well, we are. And I bet in the same situation, you'd be like that, too."


He shook his head. "She's probably already on her way out of town. I called Horse Acres again after you said you'd seen her, and she'd already checked out."

"Just because she's left the bed and breakfast doesn't mean she's left town." I clamped my mouth shut, ashamed of how shrill my voice had become.

Meghan, bless her heart, quickly changed the subject. "The members of CRAG should put together something for Ariel's brother. Maybe some nice flowers." "

I like it. But how about a gift basket? I could give him some toiletries, and… oh, I don't know. Maybe he wouldn't want any of that stuff."

Barr said, "He's married, you know. And has twin boys. They live on a tulip farm outside of town. They seem more rural than arty."

"Do your parents like art?" I asked. "Or do they prefer to decorate with dead animal heads?"

"I don't think you want to know the answer to that question."

"Oh"

Meghan laughed.

"But yes," Barr said. "There is some very nice art in the lodge, wedged in among the elk antlers and Indian blankets. Point made. I'm sure Rocky Kaminski and his family would appreciate anything the CRAG crew wants to give them."

I laughed.

"What?" Meghan asked.

I shook my head. How could I explain the image of one of Irene Nelson's menopausal ladies that had danced across my mental screen? No doubt Ariel's brother would just love one of those sculptures.


Better to stick to soap and the most ubiquitous comfort offering of all: food.



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