As Bernie sprinted towards the cart, she remembered something else. Her heart sank. Golf carts need keys to go. How could she have forgotten that? Man oh man, she hoped the key to this one was in the ignition. Usually they left them in, at least they did in the country club at Longely. It would be just her luck to have it not be there.
But when Bernie got up close she could see that it was. Thank God, Bernie thought as she jumped in the cart and turned the key. Nothing happened. Damn, Bernie thought. Of course. That's why the cart was out here. Because it doesn't run.
as the kids in town would say. She tried again. Still nothing.
This time Bernie took a deep breath and put all her energy into visualizing the cart moving. “Third time's the charm,” Bernie said to herself. She turned the switch again. The cart moved. Yes. She pumped her arm in the air and let out a whoop. Despite what her father said about New Age gobbledygook her yoga teacher was right. Visualization does work. Bernie took off.
The cart lurched forward. Stopped. Started again.
Bernie told herself. After all, this thing was really nothing more than an overgrown lawn mower engine with seats on it. After another minute she got the hang of it.
I'll be back at the van in three minutes flat,
she estimated. Actually it took Bernie five minutes because she had to remove two of the wooden cross pieces from the fence before she could get the cart through.
“Okay, ladies,” she said to Libby and Amber as she turned the key to the off position. “I'm wet, but I'm here. Let's go.”
Libby and Amber jumped out of the van and ran to the back. Libby threw open both doors and began handing boxes out to Amber, who in turn handed them to Bernie who packed them in the cart. When she had gotten four in she held up her hand.
“I think that's enough.”
Libby nodded her agreement as Bernie jumped back in the golf cart and Libby got into the seat next to her. Bernie started down the hill slowly, careful to go around so they avoided the steepest part of the hill. Even so, she could feel the cart wobbling slightly. When they got down they unloaded the boxes near the tent flap and went back for a second trip. And a third. And a fourth. Twenty-eight boxes later, not only was Bernie's back hurting her, but her tee-shirt was wet. So were Amber's and Libby's.
Bernie wiped away a drop of rain that had gotten into her eye. “We should have brought a couple of changes of clothes,” she said to Libby.
Libby nodded as she removed another carton from the cart.
“We'll know next time,” Bernie continued.
Libby put the carton down. “There won't be a next time. We're not doing this again. Not ever.”
“At least not without some more help,” Bernie said.
That was another problem with doing a job like this. Hire too many people and you ate up your profit margins, hire too few and you killed yourself and couldn't do a good job. It was a fine line and hard to gauge, but in Bernie's humble opinion Libby consistently understaffed. Which was, let's be honest here, because her sister was cheap.
If Libby had brought along another person they'd be further ahead and she wouldn't be glancing at her watch every two seconds like she was doing now and making herself into a nervous wreck.
“Come on guys,” she said to Bernie and Amber confirming what Bernie had been thinking, “let's pick up the pace.”
“We're almost done,” Bernie pointed out.
“If you want,” Amber said to Bernie, “I can go inside and start putting the table clothes and napkins out.
“Good idea,” Bernie told her approvingly as she put a finger to her nose to stop a sneeze. Boy she hoped she wasn't getting sick. Summer colds were the worst. “We're lucky to have her,” she said to Libby as Amber disappeared inside the tent. In the year she'd spent working with her sister she'd come to realize how hard it was to find responsible employees.
“Yes, we are,” Libby agreed.
A second later she and Libby heard a bloodcurdling shriek.
“Or maybe not,” Bernie said. “Stop it,” she yelled at Amber.
“You're not being funny.” Bernie turned back to Libby. “You're right. This horror thing is getting out of hand.”
She'd just gotten the words out of her mouth when Amber reappeared at the tent flap. She had one hand over her heart and was pointing towards the front of the tent with the other one.
“She's dead,” she cried.
“Who?” Bernie cried. “Who is dead?”
“Her.” At which point Amber took a few steps and collapsed in a heap on the wet grass.
hen Libby glanced down at Leeza Sharp her first thought was: this is a practical joke. Her second thought was: I don't have time for this nonsense. Her third thought was: Amber and Bernie are dead meat.
“Not funny,” she said whirling around to face Bernie. Then she saw the horrified expression on Bernie's face and Libby's stomach lurched.
Oh, please God, not again,
Not another murder.
Libby took another look at the body sprawled out on the floor. Leeza's eyes were staring straight up. Her mouth was opened in an expression of surprise. An arrow was protruding from her chest. And then there was the blood. It was everywhere. On the floor. On Leeza Sharp's no longer white robe. On her nightgown.
No, Libby told herself. This isn't a joke. Leeza was definitely dead. Not mostly dead. Not nearly dead. Dead dead. No doubt about that. No doubt at all. No one could survive an arrow through the heart. At least not in real life.
Libby heard the words, “And on her wedding day too,” coming out of her mouth.
What a stupid thing to say,
she told herself as Bernie turned towards her. Like it would have been better if it had happened the day after. Well, in a sense it would have been because then they wouldn't have been here.
“Yeah,” her sister said. “She should have eloped.”
“Well it's true.” Bernie tucked a curl back behind her ear. “Weddings never bring out the best in people and that goes double for Leeza.”
“She was a pain,” Libby conceded.
“Just a pain?” Bernie echoed. “How about annoying, vexing, and aggravating, not to mention galling and grating?”
“Fine. She was impossible,” Libby said thinking of all the napkins in the shape of swans they'd had to fold which were now going to go to waste.
“She was a Bridezilla stomping on everyone.”
“Even so that's not a reason to shoot someone in the chest with an arrow,” Libby said as she reached up and wiped the sweat off her cheeks. Why she had to sweat when she got upset was something she'd never know.
Bernie pulled up her bra strap. The damned thing kept sliding down. “It's as good a reason as any,” she noted. There was something about that arrow. Now what the hell was it? She almost had it in her grasp when Amber stepped back inside the tent and the thought vanished.
While Amber still looked a little shaky, Bernie noticed that she'd managed to reapply her lipstick and fix her hair. For the photographers? Bernie thought uncharitably as Amber ran up to her. Because they'd certainly be here as soon as the word got out. She could see the headline in the
New York Post
SHOT THROUGH THE HEART AND WHO'S TO BLAME?
SIMMONS SISTERS CATER ANOTHER SLAY
. Bernie shook her head to clear it. She didn't want to think about the last time she and Libby had been involved in something like this. The press had pestered them for weeks.
“See,” Amber was saying. “I told you there was a homicidal maniac around here. I did,” she told Bernie. “Ask her”âAmber gestured in Libby's directionâ“if you don't believe me.” Amber began wringing her hands; a gesture Bernie had never actually seen anyone do before except in the theater. “And now we're all going to die.”
“Don't be ridiculous,” Libby retorted when she heard a crack.
Amber's right, we
going to die,
she thought as she dropped to the ground. “Get down,” she yelled at Bernie who was looking at her and Amber and shaking her head in disgust.
“Guys get a grip,” Bernie said. “That was a willow tree branch breaking.”
Libby looked up at her sister from the floor. If the murderer didn't kill her, she would. “It was a gunshot.”
“How do you know? You've never heard one,” Bernie retorted.
“Neither have you.”
“Of course I have. Remember, I've lived in L.A. Besides,” Bernie continued, “I saw the branch falling.”
“That's because you were facing the wrong way.”
“Just get down,” Libby hissed at Bernie.
“And grovel in the dirt for no reason whatsoever? I don't think so.” When Libby didn't get up, Bernie said, “You don't believe me. I'll prove it to you.”
“Wait,” Libby cried as Bernie turned and started to march outside. “Don't go out there.”
But Bernie wasn't listening to her. No big surprise there, Libby reflected as she heard her moving outside the tent. For a moment Libby debated staying on the floor but then she decided, no. If anyone was going to have the pleasure of shooting her sister, it was going to be her. Libby jumped up. She'd taken about five steps when Bernie reappeared dragging a willow branch behind her.
“See,” she said.
Libby cringed. Bernie would never let her forget this. Ever. “It could have been a gun shot,” she countered. “How did you know it wasn't?”
Bernie put the branch over to the side of the tent wall. “I saw it. Anyway, I went with probability. Most violent offenders, despite media reports to the contrary, do not commit multiple homicides. Ergo, it's safe to assume that whoever killed Leeza is not here at the crime scene. At least not now. Although according to what I read he may revisit it at some later date.”
“Maybe you should stop reading,” Libby said to her sister.
Bernie turned to answer but before she could Amber said, “What about a serial killer? A serial killer could have done this.”
“There are less than one hundred of those operating in the United States at any given year so that's highly doubtful. Isn't that right Libby?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Libby said, vigorously nodding her head.
In truth, she didn't have the vaguest idea whether what Bernie was saying was true or not, but if agreeing with Bernie calmed Amber down and kept her sister from lecturing Libby was willing to go along. And then for some reason Mrs. Centra, Amber's mom, popped into Libby's head.
Mrs. Centra was so protective of her daughterâsmothering was the term Bernie usedâthat she hadn't let Amber go on a sleepover until she was almost sixteen. Libby couldn't imagine what was she going to say when she found out that it was Amber, her precious flower as Mrs. Centra liked to call her, who had discovered Leeza's body. She'd probably never let her work in the store again Libby gloomily reflected as she suggested to Amber that it would be better if she waited outside.
“Alone?” Amber shrieked. “You want me to wait outside by myself with a homicidal maniac armed with a bow and arrow running around?”
“There is no homicidal maniac. There's a murderer,” Bernie interjected. “I thought I explained that to you.”
“Like that's so much better.” Amber crossed her arms over her chest and planted her feet on the ground. “I'm staying with you guys.”
Libby tried again. “Amber,” she began. Then she stopped because Amber wasn't paying attention to her.
She was raptly staring at Leeza's body. Libby noticed that Amber no longer looked even slightly upset.
“You know,” Amber confided to Libby and Bernie. “I've never seen a dead person before in real life.”
“You're lucky. I wish I hadn't,” Libby said. I could use a chocolate cookie right about now she decided.
Her mind drifted to her backpack. She usually kept some in there along with a bottle of water, a fifty-dollar bill, and a needle-nose pliers, but this wedding had made her so crazy she'd forgotten to check her supplies to see if they needed to be replenished. Oh well, she thought as she went back to listening to Amber.
“My mom wouldn't even let me go to my uncle's wake because it was an open casket,” Amber was saying. Then she wrinkled her nose and indicated Leeza Sharp. “She looks like something from a wax museum, doesn't she?”
“A little,” Bernie agreed. “Well, a lot actually.”
Libby made herself look at Leeza's body again. Unlike Bernie she was squeamish and always had been. It wasn't the dead part that got her. It was all those bodily fluids oozing out where she could see them that did her in. But now that she'd disgraced herself by acting like a total dweeb and dropping to the floor she felt as if she had no choice but to suck it up.
“What are you thinking?” Bernie asked her.
“I'm thinking,” Libby replied, “that Leeza looks like Wendy in Peter Pan.”
“Well,” Bernie replied, “Wendy was shot by one of the lost boys.”
Libby nodded. “Only I don't think this was an accident.”