Detective Renwick approached. “We’re leaving for now. We’d like that police tape to stay up until our investigation is finished.”
“Can you tell us anything now?” I asked.
“Not yet. Let us know if you think of anything else.” Renwick followed the other officers out the gate. Their cars started and drove off. All grew quiet.
I crossed my arms. Stevie crossed hers. I felt my elastic waistband to make sure my cell phone was still hooked to my slacks under my shirt, in case I needed it. We watched for suspicious-looking people.
Few cars passed. Two white-headed women the same height ambled alongside the road. A large man in a black cap and gray jogging clothes strolled past. He stared at Stevie’s fence and then us. He gave a whistle, and a brown Lab ran close to him.
The pulse in my head beat stronger. I slid my eyes toward Stevie. She stared grim faced at the road with what seemed unfocused vision. Of course, with her luminescent eyes, who could tell? Did she know that man who’d walked past? Or was she worrying about the dead one? Had that Lab come into this yard—maybe with his owner? Had my fingers lain in that Lab’s poop?
I smelled my hand, glad not to find lingering poop odor.
Shivers accompanied the bumps sprouting across my arms. The evening deepened shadows in trees surrounding us. Stevie appeared in a trance. She sat rock still except for her tapping fingertips.
“Did you think of anything?” I asked her.
“No. But it’s almost time for my meeting. We need to get dinner.”
We went in and she fixed more coffee, thrusting condensed milk and sugar into her mug. “Want some?”
I shook my head. “Maybe it was just his time to die.”
Her intense look gave me the heebie-jeebies. She leaned against the counter, her angry eyes taking in Minnie beside her wide hand. I imagined Stevie dropping that hand on my plant. She could mash Minnie with no problem.
“I hope you don’t mind if I leave my cactus there,” I said, shifting closer.
“Don’t mind at all.” Stevie filled a cup with water and dumped it on Minnie.
“Oh no. A cactus doesn’t need much water.” I grabbed Minnie’s pot and moved it farther from the sink. “I watered her too much at first but then learned better.”
Stevie didn’t seem impressed by my knowledge. “We need to eat.” She swigged her coffee and washed everything before I could get in a good blink. I wasn’t going to dry only those things, but she did, and then set them in place. “You want leftovers, or to go and try that new place?”
New chills skittered through me. Leftover whatever Stevie’s fridge held—or mouthwatering cuisine at the place that might also hold Gil Thurman?
Uh-uh, nada, I told my sexual yearnings. I tried to summon enthusiasm. “Leftovers would be great.”
Stevie heated casseroles in the microwave.
Her creamed spinach tasted especially good. So did the lasagna and garlic bread.
“This is all wonderful,” I said, finally setting down my fork, “but I think my clothes just shrank three sizes.”
She heaped another spoonful of lasagna onto her plate and grabbed more bread, her eyes fluttering downward like someone who might be embarrassed. “I’ve gotten bigger since you last saw me.” Her gaze met mine. “But it’s because I have to take medicine. For my arthritis.” She raised a slightly bent finger.
“Medicine can be heck,” I said, but couldn’t help thinking of the gazillion fat grams in this meal and all of her mugs of coffee.
She brought out pralines for dessert—pralines! I had to eat one and a half while she gobbled three between washing dishes. I dried things, and she put them away. “Don’t you ever use your dishwasher?” I asked, tiring of this housework I always carefully avoided. “Or maybe we could stop somewhere, and I’ll pick up lovely throw-away dishes. They’re my favorites.”
“Let’s go to my meeting. I need support.”
We rode in her Jeep Cherokee. She zipped through skinny dark roads that snaked down the mountainside, making me glad she was driving. “I’m so proud of you for quitting smoking,” I said.
Her lips pressed together. Veins in her neck protruded. Her knuckles whitened while her hands tightened on the wheel. She passed a truck, barely squeezing through the curve, then the headlights of a larger truck came toward us. I held my breath. She veered toward the shoulder, the mountainside plunging beside us.
Not soon enough we were on level ground. I started to breathe normally when she nosed into a spot near a half dozen other cars. A pole lamp lit this small patch of concrete nestled between trees near what looked like a small park.
“This is it.” Stevie shoved out of her car.
We walked on a path between trees made visible only by a couple of lamps. A few men and women walked ahead of us into a small redbrick building. Our shoes clicked on the sidewalk, making some in the group turn toward us.
“Oh, Stevie,” the shortest woman said, “do you know what happened today to one of our Quitters’ members?”
“What?” Stevie asked, as we reached her near the door.
The short woman may have been in her early forties. Her face appeared pale, her figure shapely. “Somebody found him dead in a person’s yard.”
My heart leaped into my throat. My head swiveled toward Stevie.
She had lied to the police and to me. She did know the dead man.