The Aquacizers Murder Club

XI

The Aquacizers Murder Club almost disbands again

The next morning at aquacize, no one does much but paddle and hang off the side of the pool, while we tell them everything that’s happened. Polly isn’t here, of course, but she hasn’t been arrested either. The kindly policeman explained to me this morning when I called to ask that there was no hard evidence against her. Impersonating someone else in an old folks park hardly constitutes murder. Albert and Bev had friends in the drug business and their deaths more probably had to do with that than with a vendetta by a nutty embezzler.

“Oh, sure,” says Harriet. “He can talk. He doesn’t even know her. What if she comes? She’s late sometimes. What will we do? I refuse to exercise next to a murderer.”

“I don’t think she’ll come,” murmurs Clare. “Whether or not she’s a murderer, she’s been pretending to be someone she’s not, and that’s pretty scary. She knows we’re on to her.”

“She won’t come, Harriet,” says Jeanette in a soothing voice. “We’ll probably never see her again. What we must do is get on with our lives and forget about this whole affair.”

“I think we should exercise,” says Charlotte. “We’ll all feel better if we do what we normally do.”

“The evidence against her is overwhelming,” says Maude, who clearly has no intention of exercising, since she’s left her hearing aids in and is keeping her head well above water. “I think we should try to finish the job and bring her to justice.”

“I agree,” says Letitia.”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I saw their bloody bodies. I don’t know that I want anything more to do with any of it.”

“I’m so glad I wasn’t with you,” says Maude with a shudder.

“You’re both wimps,” says Letitia. “The Brand New Beginnings Band concert is tonight. You know how proud she is of her performance on the glockenspiel. She’ll be there, I’ll bet. She won’t come back here, but she’ll be there. They need her and they don’t know she’s a murderess.”

“So what are you suggesting?”

“That we out her there, maybe in front of everyone. That we confront her and bring her down before she kills again.”

“Who else do we think she wants to kill?” asks Maude.

“Maybe Candy. Maybe she wants to destroy Puss’s Emporium. Remember, she threatened everyone, according to Della.”

“That’s terrible,” says Clare. “Do you really think she’d burn down the store?”

“The cats,” moaned Letitia. “All those wonderful cats.”

“Let’s all calm down,” says Jeanette. “Why don’t we go sit in the hot tub and talk. That might help.”

And so we do. Seven of us, stuffed in.

“What did you and Polly do yesterday?” I ask Charlotte once we’re settled and basking.

“I had her in my house – I shudder to think – and my grandson came over with his computer, and we looked up Candy. I thought at the time we were having a pleasant time, but now, omygod, that woman was in my house…. I actually shared my favorite orange blossom tea with her. Then she had to go, I guess to do the murders.”

“Did you find out anything interesting about Candy?” asks Letitia, in hopes of changing the subject and calming poor Charlotte.

“Yes, yes. It was there in black and white so I guess it was all true. Oh my dears, our Winsome had such children!!”

“What did you learn, Charlotte?”

“Candy has a criminal record, would you believe it? Ten years ago, she served a jail sentence. She has no husband because he’s in prison, too. It doesn’t speak well for our dear departed friend, does it? First, that terrible Albert. And now his sister.”

Hot water bubbles up around us; a cool breeze ripples across a flower bed. The groundskeeper is mowing somewhere. “Anything else?” I ask.

“Nothing important. That was enough.”

“Oh, dear,” I suddenly remember. “I forgot to go back to Puss’s and pay off Bustamenté yesterday.”

“Murder can be distracting,” Maude says. “Don’t worry, Lily. What can she do? You’ll pay her when you get there again.”

“So how can we out Polly? Do we just have to wait for the police to jail her?”

“We don’t want to upset the band. They’ve practiced hard. And no matter what we think of her, the band needs her glockenspiel. They’re playing a “Florentiner March” that’s full of bells,” says Clare.

——-

We all murmur in agreement. There’s really nothing we can do. So we sit and stew and worry instead. We’ve lived long enough to know that justice isn’t that common a thing. What if Adele Monk gets off scot free!

Since Letitia has a new cat to tend to, I ask Maude to go with me to Puss’s Emporium so that I can finish paying off Bustamenté. I have to admit that I’m feeling better, having no mystery to solve and no murderer to look for. I can spend some time among the used bric-a-brac, teflonware and whatever else their thrift shop has to offer. Maude stays a few minutes at the front of the store contemplating Lucre Lucy and talking to the clerk in charge.

I wander over to look for Bustamenté. She’s nowhere to be seen; I wonder if she’s heard about Albert and Bev and is staying out of sight. I wonder if Adele has talked to her since the murders. But why would she? The truth is out and the police probably have a tail on her.

“Where’s Bustamenté?” I ask a volunteer staff.

“She’s in the office with a sick cat,” the staffer replies. I retrace my steps and head for the door of the veterinary examining room. “Hey,” says the staffer. “You can’t go in there. She doesn’t like that.”

I shrug. I know she’ll like my sixty dollars; she’ll have to put up with me.
When I push the door open, I’m surprised to find the big vet sitting on the edge of an examining table, tears running down her swollen red cheeks, her shoulders shaking. “Hey Bustamenté,” I say. “I’ve brought you your money. Are you all right?”

She reaches out with one hand for the money, and I hand it to her.

“About time,” she mutters.

“Do you have a problem?” I ask. “You must have heard about Albert and Bev. Your friend Adele has been real, real busy.”

“I didn’t bargain for any of this,” she says. “I should’ve told her to get lost.” She sniffles. “Just get out, will you? I didn’t do anything wrong. I just told her what everyone else was doing.”

“Yeah. Sure. I’ll bet you also promised her an alibi the day of Winsome’s death,” I reply. “She throws something at me – I think it’s a blood pressure gauge for cats – and I duck out the door and head for a table in Blue Hair’s section covered with bric-a-brac, most with a cat theme. I’m studying salt and pepper shakers with linking tails when Blue Hair appears at my side.

“Say,” she says in a half whisper, “I remembered who came to see Bustamenté on the day of Winsome’s murder.”

“And who was that?” I ask, humoring her. The details are just distracting now.

“It was Candy. I thought and I thought and I’m sure – it was Winsome’s daughter, Candy.”

What is it that bothers me? I’d assumed until Blue Hair’s declaration that it was Adele. Of course. She had Bustamenté on her payroll. If she needed an alibi or some information, the big vet was there to help. So why did Candy and Bev show up instead, and what did they want? I spin around – believe me old ladies don’t often do that – and head back to find Bustamenté. I’d never asked her much about her relationship with Candy. But the big woman has leapt down from her examining table and made a run for it. She’s gone. When I ask where, the volunteer answers with a smirk that the tough vet wasn’t feeling well.

The next post will bring out mystery to a startling conclusion when the Aquacizers Murder Club attends the Brand New Beginnings Band concert.

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