A revelation and another murder
Letitia turns out to be a great help. She has an old friend on the staff of the Press Democrat and he sits us down in front of a row of computers with all their archived files, and even helps us to go straight to the right place.
“Jeeze,” I murmur. “She looks familiar, don’t you think?” We both stare at the photograph, trying to put it together with someone we know.
“Can you enlarge it, Pete?” Pete zooms in and the picture begins to make sense. The face isn’t lined, not yet; the hair is black and pulled back into a chic updo; the makeup emboldens her cheekbones and her eyebrows arch. Bustamenté was right. She looks like some movie star playing the role of the Puss Emporium’s embezzler.
“Substitute some red, blowsy hair; change her eyebrows and soften the angles of her face; add a few lines there, and there. And who do you have?” asks Letitia. “It’s amazing. It’s Polly, isn’t it?”
“Which could explain the unspoken exchange between her and Albert.”
“Did she do it?”
“You mean murder Winsome?”
“Well, I suppose she must have, mustn’t she? Why else would she pretend to be Polly, except to get close to Winsome?” I’m almost ready to call in trumpets.
“So what do we do now?”
“Well, first, let’s be sure we have real evidence that she did it.”
“She had the opportunity. She was right there. And in disguise – it looks as if Winsome never even recognized her.”
“The disguise proves a lot in my book.”
“It’s circumstantial. But it sure suggests guilt. You’re right. At the very least, she’s a ‘person of interest.’”
“She’d threatened everybody.”
“Right. Do you think Albert is on the run?”
“If he isn’t, if he wasn’t sure it was her yesterday, maybe not. I think we’d better warn him.”
We’ve exhausted ourselves by mid-afternoon when we get to Albert’s trailer on Paradise Court. After we’ve warned Albert, should we tell the police about Polly’s disguise? Should we let them know that, or more than that? After this many years, why hasn’t Agatha Christie given us a clue? Why does Scotland Yard listen to Miss Marple, and the police not listen to us? We know that in most murder mysteries, the police aren’t particularly bright. Given that, should we tell them everything we know?
At least, we’re certain about this one thing – we need to warn Albert and Bev that Adele has been found out: within the next 24 hours she’ll be especially dangerous. We’re feeling a little bit smug. The jerk is about to discover that old ladies are effective investigators, that they’ll try to save even the likes of him in their unyielding pursuit of justice, and that in the future he’d do well to be more respectful.
The place looks the same as the day we first came except that there’s an angry wind whipping up the weeds around it; the something metal that rattled before is banging a tin can tattoo now. Black clouds are leaning over the place and it’s going to rain any minute. The car is there, but we don’t hear the pit bull.
“I think something’s wrong,” I almost whisper as we get out of the car. Letitia hobbles over to me, leaning into her cane every few steps, staring down at the pock-marked ground to avoid a pratfall into a hole or a nasty stumble into a dog pile.
“Let’s just get this done,” she says. “It’s so awful here.”
We walk over to the door. “There’s no dog,” I tell her. “Something’s wrong.”
“Oh, Lily. Really. Just knock.”
I do. Once. And again. “They’ve got to be here. I don’t think they have the money for a second car.”
“Give the door a push,” says Letitia.
“Why should I do that? Let’s forget this part and go get a cop.”
“Lily, give it a push. Maybe they’ve already run. That’s the only way to find out.”
I do as she says – God knows why – and, surprisingly, it swings open. And, not surprisingly to me by then, I glimpse the two of them, Albert and Bev, in a loose pile half falling from the couch and a rusty pool of blood around them as if someone hit a ketchup bottle with too much force and “plop,” there it is.
I shut the door before I can see more.
“They’re dead, Letitia.”
“They’re dead. Let’s get out of here. Fast. Find a policeman.”
“What do you mean they’re dead? You mean Adele was already here? We’re too late?”
“I guess. Just start moving towards the car. Let’s go.”
“Oh, shit. Are you sure? You’re not making this up to frighten me?”
“Move it! Fast! I don’t want to be here anymore.”
I guess she moves as fast as she can, but it seems to take forever for her to crab back to the car. Just like one of those crawdads. I almost hate her. Even though I’m a child of the violent sixties, and once sang songs of protest in the faces of cops, I suddenly love the idea of the police and can hardly wait to find a uniformed officer with a night stick, a gun and a pleasant smile.
In the next post, the aquacizers try to deal with more murders. And with their new knowledge of who the murderer is!!!