(If you'd like to read from the beginning go Here.)
Anne crossed her ankles demurely, and removed her stained white gloves. If it weren’t for the unyielding, uncomfortable, unbearable chair in which she sat, she would have fallen asleep. Detective Morris returned to his desk and handed her a steaming mug. The bitter scent of burnt java singed her nose, warned her against drinking the brew so she simply held it in frigid hands.
Still she shivered as if the death’s cold finger had come too close and chilled her from the soul outward. Maybe she was next. A morbid thought. Anne shook herself. This was no time for melodrama; it was time to be practical and businesslike. It was the last thing she could ever do for Carol.
Detective Morris perched on the edge of his chair with his feet spread wide and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. He clasped his hands together in front almost as if in prayer.
“What can you tell me about all this?”
“Carol and I had dinner together. She went with me to the train station to see me off. We were talking and waiting, when she remembered an appointment and had to hurry away.”
“Did she say where she was going, or with whom?”
“She didn’t give me any details. For some reason I assumed it had to do with her work, rather than her personal life. We said good-bye and then a couple minutes later I heard a woman scream.”
“So you were on the platform, you didn’t see it happen.”
Anne shook her head. She breathed through her nose, willing herself to stay in control.
“What happened next?”
“I went to see what had happened and I… I saw Carol on the ground.” An image of her friend’s broken body flashed against the movie screen of her mind and made her want to retch.
“Did she say anything to you?” Morris waved a hand, like a director wanting more.
“She was already gone.”
“I see.” He sat back in his seat and picked up a pen, in what must have been a habitual gesture he flicked it back and forth through the fingers of his right hand.
Anne watched the play of the pen as if mesmerized. She was so tired. She breathed a prayer for strength.
The detective asked some questions about Carol’s background, character and lifestyle, which Anne answered to the best of her ability.
Detective Morris set down the pencil with which he had been jotting a few notes and clasped his hands together. “Okay, it seems your friend was fairly inoffensive. Didn’t cause anybody any trouble and didn’t run with a bad crowd.”
“Of course she didn’t”
“So my gut is telling me this was an accident.” He continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “It’s still a crime—a hit and run. We’ll canvas all the repair shops around and see if anyone brings in a car with the right kind of damage. Frankly, this is a hard kind of case to crack.”
“Are you saying that no one saw anything?”
It was his turn to shake his head.
Something was wrong with all this. Anne shut her eyes. Deliberately she reconstructed the scene she had been trying to avoid remembering all evening. Her eyes popped open.
“She was on her back when we found her.”
The Detective’s brow furrowed but he nodded.
“She had a gash across her forehead.”
Again he nodded.
Anne spread her hands. “Well there you have it. She would have had to be facing the car, and if she could see it, why wouldn’t she get out of the way?”
“She may not have had time.”
Anne crossed her arms. “But then there is the cut. It makes no sense that she would have an injury to her forehead. She ought to have been flung backwards. Any injury should have been to the back of her head when she landed.”
“So maybe she tripped or was bent over to tie her shoe. That would explain why the driver didn’t see her, and why she didn’t have time to move out of the way.”
Anne’s brow furrowed. It still didn’t seem to make sense. She started to protest.
The Detective held up a hand. “Listen, Honey, do you have any reason to believe that someone wanted your friend dead?”
“Then trust me, it was an accident. I saw the tire marks. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s as simple as that. “ He placed a hand on her arm. “I know it don’t feel great to think it could be something so senseless, but it’s the way the world works. Things aren’t always tied up in a neat package with a bow on top.”
Anne subsided into her seat, defeated, and too tired to try to think anymore.
The detective had a few more questions for her and she answered them numbly. When at last he released her she swayed a little as she stood. A wall clock declared that it was nearly midnight.
She fumbled with her purse. Morris looked up as if surprised to find her still standing there. She held out the blanket to him.
“Are there any more trains into New York tonight?” Her words felt thick on her tongue.
“Nah, I don’t think so. Wait a minute and I’ll get a patrolman to drive you home.”
“Thanks.” She could force no enthusiasm into her voice.
* * *
Anne sat on the edge of her bed with her head in her hands. It could not possibly be morning yet, but her clock declared otherwise. Declared it loudly and at length.
Sighing she reached for her robe and put it on. She padded into the kitchen and put some coffee in the percolator. Her handbag lay where she had dumped it when she had come in last night. She sat down and pulled it toward her. Might as well try to get organized while the coffee was brewing.
She pulled out the sheaf of papers Mrs. Adams had given her and perused them. Her eyebrows rose. It was titled The Mystery in the Mango Grove. This shouldn’t be too difficult. The outline was detailed enough that if it had been about flying, she could have landed a bomber on an aircraft carrier.
The warm scent of coffee curled through the room, the scent doing much to push back images of the night before. Anne poured herself a mug and picked up the papers to carry them into the living room where she could begin work.
Several folded sheets of paper fluttered to the ground. As she bent to retrieve the escapees a knock came from the front door.
Startled, Anne checked her watch. Who could it be at such an hour?
* * *