Author of Jobless Recovery Second Edition, Talented Horsewoman, Night Camp, and We Interrupt This Date
Join me at "The Moose," otherwise known as A Moose Walked Into a Bar - Sit Down Comedy. Three funny lady writers and blog on the humorous things in life. http://amoosewalkedintoabar.blogspot.com/
Charleston Harbor at Sunrise view from Battery Park
I rushed into SNOB—Slightly North of Broad-ten minutes late. Veronica was leaning casually against the wall near the door. She was wearing an ordinary silk dress in a sage color that exactly matched the contact lenses she’d chosen to wear over her light gray eyes. Her short hair framed her face in wispy blonde curls that set off her features. Not for the first time I wished I were petite and had a perfect figure like hers. Instead I’m tall, pushing five feet ten, and too much comfort food since my divorce had glommed fat onto my hips like a pair lumpy parasites, one on each side.
At least my face hadn’t gained weight. Veronica has assured me my face is heart-shaped, with lovely cheekbones, and that I’m lucky my large brown eyes have no need of color enhancing contacts. I have so many style options, she insists, unlike herself. Veronica always complains bitterly that her jaw is too square, something I think is hardly noticeable except when she gets angry or bossy.
Veronica isn’t one for air kisses or for beating around the bush. She peeked once at her watch and allowed her eyes to widen the slightest bit. It’s one of her signature moves. “Susan, we have so much to discuss.”
“Sorry, the parking was--”
She patted my arm. “I know. Never mind. I have good news. After I give you every last detail, and you realize how fantastic your life is going to be, we’ll have a nice catch-up chat.”
“What good news?” I glanced around to orient myself. I hadn’t been to SNOB since my divorce. Everything was the same, though. It’s in a nineteenth century brick building. Lots of atmosphere and fantastic food.
Veronica was already following the hostess to our designated table, the stylish heels of her designer shoes barely making a sound as she seemed to float an inch or so above the floor. “How long has it been since we’ve made time for each other?” she called back over her shoulder, ignoring my question. “Other than quick phone calls which hardly count.”
“At least two months.” I frowned, wondering why my shoes clumped when I walked instead of tapping gently like hers.
Maybe longer than two months. Veronica had been my roommate in college until I married T. Chandler halfway through. But we’d kept up our friendship over the years, helped by the fact that we live in the same town. She’s originally from Newberry, a picturesque little town west of Columbia, but Newberry hadn’t been big enough for her ambition—Veronica’s words, not mine.
She hadn’t given me a clue of any kind when she’d called a couple of days ago. I wondered if she’d decided to marry Walter, her latest relationship. I remembered, though, the last time she’d mentioned him she’d complained he was too clingy in a sad, orphaned gorilla kind of way.
Veronica eyed me over the top of her menu. “I don’t know what to say.”
“About what?” Had something happened to my hair in the few minutes since I’d run a comb through it before I left my car? Wind-blown? A bald patch? Pigeon droppings? Maybe I should have applied new golden highlights last night instead of deciding to postpone for a week.
“You look different. Have you changed your makeup? No, that isn’t it. It’s something intangible.” She narrowed her eyes and tilted her head to one side to focus on my face.
“Same old me.” I turned my attention to the lunch special and tried to decide if I wanted the southern crab salad, a favorite of mine.
But my thoughts drifted. Though I’d told Veronica I hadn’t changed, I admitted to myself that wasn’t one hundred percent the truth. I’d moped around for months feeling like the world’s biggest failure after my divorce, but recently I’d caught myself showing sparks of life. I was no longer spending every weekend raiding my refrigerator and vegetating in front of home decorating reruns on HGTV hoping Mama wouldn’t call to give me advice.
The Witness Wore Blood Bay is the second book in my Leigh McRae mystery series. You don't have to read the first book to enjoy the second one as a standalone. In the following scene, Leigh and her cousin Sammi have just learned that Candy Lowell has been arrested for murdering Richard Swale. They have gone to Candy's home to deliver some food to Candy's husband, Mark, and are discussing events with him in his living room.
“Sammi’s right about the lawyer, Mark. Whatever happened in that stable, Candy deserves a chance to defend herself in court.” I would have suggested my ex sister-in-law, Kendra, the only attorney I knew, except that A) she wasn’t a criminal defense attorney and B) I didn’t like her.
“I don’t agree. That bitch killed my husband and I want her to fry!”
Sammi stifled a yelp and I jumped to my feet, almost spilling what was left of my tea. Francine Swale stood in the doorway between the living room and the dining room, her hands on her curvy hips.
I couldn't help staring at what I judged to be a surgically enhanced chest. The woman could have modeled for Playboy if she were fifteen years younger, and if her face weren’t all blotchy from rage. Or from crying—I couldn’t tell which.
“Ladies, this is Francine Swale. She works with me selling cars.” Mark cleared his throat a couple of times.
Yeah, and she was also the murder victim's widow. It didn’t take a genius to figure out he’d much rather we hadn't found out she was in the house and had obviously been there the whole time, lurking out of sight and probably listening.
“Francine, ah, didn’t feel well enough to go home, so she’s been resting in the guest room. Francine, Leigh McRae and her cousin, Sammi Hollister.”
“Hello, Francine.” I didn’t bother to remind her I’d met her before and I’d seen her last night at the horse club meeting—arguing with her husband, who was now dead. “Sorry for your loss.”
Francine’s dark eyes snapped. “So am I. But the police know Candy did it and she’s going to pay one way or the other. I hope she fries like breakfast bacon.” She strode across the room and dropped onto the couch next to Mark, crossing her long legs and not bothering to tug her micro skirt down over her shapely thighs.
I pasted on the stupidest of smiles for lack of anything useful to say or do. I mean, how do you agree with a remark like that without coming across like a vigilante?
There, there, Francine. If the justice system doesn’t do its job, we’ll bring the firewood and some lighter fluid and help you take care of the problem.
And if I didn’t agree, I might send this woman into orbit. Judging by the way she’d spoken and the look in her eyes, I definitely didn’t want to be on Francine Swale’s “People Not to Like List.”
And what was up with Mark? Shock or no shock, you would have thought he'd want to defend his wife. I couldn’t help noticing that Francine’s skirt, as well as her blouse, were splotched with what I took to be blood. Brenda had said Mark had to pull her away from trying to give her husband CPR, but you would have thought she would have wanted to change into something a little less gory.
Rib nudge from Sammi. My sides were really getting a workout today and I made a mental note to look into buying a flak jacket. I nudged back to show we were on the same page—wondering if Francine really cared about her husband or if she was putting on an act. Funny how murder can bring out cynical thoughts, even in people who normally are pretty tame. But if Francine was as in love with Richard as her comments about wanting revenge would indicate, why was she sitting so close to Mark they could have been conjoined twins? If their body language meant what it said, those two had something going on.