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TWENTY-EIGHT

THE NEXT MORNING MY alarm buzzed at seven, but I shut it off and went back to sleep. An hour and a half later I woke again, still feeling exhausted. It took me another half an hour to drag my sorry carcass out of bed, clothe it, and wander down to the kitchen.

A wire basket of eggs sat on the counter, and I cracked two small brown ones into a frying pan. Then I assembled a sandwich with the fried eggs on Meghan's home-baked bread, mayonnaise, catsup, dill pickles from the pantry, and a big slice of cheddar cheese. Comfort food from my childhood. I almost moaned as I bit into it, and immediately began to feel better. Two cups of coffee to wash down the fried egg sandwich, and I was ready for work.

I went down to the basement. First I finished cutting and trimming the lye soaps, then laid them in neat rows on my storeroom shelves to cure. So soon after making them, they were still quite alkaline, but the chemical process of saponification continued internally as they sat on the shelf, ultimately resulting in a soap milder than any commercial bar. An added benefit was that cold process soaps like mine still contained naturally occurring glycerin, adding to their humectant and emollient qualities.


Handling the new soap, though most of the time I'd worn gloves, had been hard on my hands. So had all the gardening of late. One of the solutions to what I referred to as "farmer's hands" was the solid lotion bars I made from beeswax, olive oil, and cocoa butter. These little gems were scattered all over the house for Meghan and me to use in the summer. But I'd just run across a lotion recipe on a website that sounded soothing and smoothing, and I wanted to try it. With all the manufacture I did for sale anymore, I didn't have as much opportunity to experiment with new formulas.

I gathered my ingredients and started melting the oils, shea butter, and beeswax together. The recipe called for witch hazel and lanolin, as well as free glycerin and rose water. An emulsifier would be necessary in order to properly blend the water-based elements with the oils. Lecithin would serve as a perfect binder, especially when combined with beeswax. Orange and lavender essential oils would complement the rose water to provide a fresh, light scent.

Using a hand blender, I whipped everything together, then returned every few minutes as the mixture cooled, whipping briefly each time. Finally, I used the blender steadily for several minutes. The result was a pastel, peach-colored fluff that melted into my skin. I rubbed some of it into my ragged cuticles and took a jar up to Meghan, doing bookwork in her office.

"Thanks," she said, and immediately started massaging it into her own hands.


"Sure" I sat down in the chair facing her desk. Through the halfopen door, the fountain in the massage room behind her made babbling-brook noises. I closed my eyes for a few moments and allowed the sound to flow over me.

"This smells delicious. I'm half-tempted to take a bite," she said.

"Mmm hmmm."

A long silence, filled only with the serenade of running water.

"I'm sorry," she said, out of the blue.

I opened my eyes. "What for?"

"For coming down on you so hard about Gabi last night."

My right shoulder rose and fell. "Don't be sorry. You were right. Are right." I shifted in the chair. "You know, the thing that's making me so crazy? There've been two situations we've been involved in where people died, and each time it looked like an accident. But we figured out what really happened." I paused, gathering my thoughts. "Now we have a straightforward murder, and it looks like the killer-whether it's Gabi or not-is going to get away with it." "

Meghan shook her head. "You have to give Cadyville's finest some credit. They're still working on finding out what happened. Have a little faith." "

I guess." Even I could hear the doubt in my voice.

She smiled and said, "I know Barr asked for your help, but it's not your responsibility to find out what happened. It's their job. If you can help, great, but you've let this whole thing get under your skin too much." "

I keep trying to back off."

I know. Don't let it get to you, okay?"


I stood up and took a couple of steps to the doorway. "You're right. As always. Thanks for watching out for me."

She blew out a puff of air. "Well, geez. Somebody has to."



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