Authors: Miranda Bliss
"Then she's lying," Eve interjected. And I had to admit, her theory about Beyla was growing more and more convincing. "They were fighting, her and Drago. Right before he keeled over."
After a year of dating her and another few months of engagement, Tyler was well aware of Eve's tendency to overstate things. He turned to me. "Is it true?"
"And when exactly was that?" he asked.
I thought back to everything that happened that night. "It was just after nine o'clock," I told Tyler. "I remember because Eve left her watch here. We were already on our way home, and we turned around and came back. When we got here, we saw Drago and Beyla in the parking lot. We couldn't hear everything they were saying, but it was pretty obvious that it wasn't a friendly chat. A couple minutes later, we came up here and got Eve's watch. When she slipped it on, she commented that it was exactly nine twenty-five."
"That's impossible, officer." Though we'd kept our voices down, John, the accountant, had apparently been listening. He walked over and joined in the conversation. "Beyla and I went for coffee after class that night. By nine twenty-five . . . well, I'm certain we'd already ordered and had our lattes in front of us. There's no way she could have been anywhere near here at that time, or even for a half hour or so before then."
I shook my head, certain of the facts. "Eve checked her watch. It was--"
"I'm sure I have the receipt somewhere." John patted down the pockets of his brown polyester pants and peeked in the pocket of the yellow shirt he had buttoned all the way to the neck. (After all, he is an accountant.)
"Maybe it's at home in the jacket I wore that night," John said. "Yeah, I'm sure that's where I stuck it. I'd be glad to stop at the police station with it when I find it. Then you'll see, officer. Beyla and I got to Starbucks just a couple minutes before nine. I know their receipts are stamped with the time. There's no way these ladies could have seen Beyla arguing with that man. At nine twenty-five, Beyla was with me."
Tyler dismissed John with an appreciative nod, then turned toward Eve and me. "You were saying?"
"We were telling you what happened!" Eve stepped toward him, her eyes snapping. "If you'd pay half the attention you need to pay, Tyler Cooper, you'd know--"
"What? That you'd like nothing better than to see me fall flat on my face when it comes to this investigation?" Tyler snorted. "Oh yeah, don't pretend it isn't true, Eve. Kaitlin told me how uncooperative you were the night she was here."
"We told her everything she needed to know." I butted in. Better fudge the truth than to watch Eve and Tyler go at each other. Even though they kept their voices low, there was no mistaking the animosity between them. The other students in class had stopped what they were doing and were watching the show. "We reported everything just as it happened."
"Except that when you talked to Officer Sands"--Tyler turned to me, automatically making the
plural--"you never mentioned that you saw Drago with Beyla. And Beyla says she never laid eyes on the man. Seems kind of odd, doesn't it? Plus, in case you weren't paying attention, Beyla has an alibi. You swear she and Drago were at each other's throats at a time when a witness says they couldn't have been together. You admit you didn't bother to mention any of this to Officer Sands. And now all of a sudden, you remember? I can't believe it, Eve." He looked her way, and suddenly, it was personal again. "Don't you have anything else to do but leave the scene of a man's death and go home and concoct a crazy story just so you can make my life more difficult?"
"It's not like that at all," I said. "We didn't mention Beyla to Kaitlin because--" Eve shot a dagger look in my direction, and I stopped short. I knew exactly what that look meant. I'd better not mention how jealous she was of Kaitlin, or more to the point, how jealous she was of Kaitlin's relationship with Tyler. If I did, I'd have to start looking for a new best friend.
"There is something else we should tell you," I said instead. "Drago mentioned somebody named Alba. Alba Stru. Right before he died."
"Sure he did." Tyler smiled at me the way I'd seen a mother smile at a child who was clearly making up a tall tale. "What else did he say to you?"
"Nothing." I nodded, sure of it. "He mentioned Alba, and that was it. We thought he was having a heart attack."
"Exactly what you were meant to think." Tyler nodded. "The symptoms of a heart attack and foxglove poisoning are very similar."
Foxglove. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered my mother mentioning foxglove. She was an avid gardener, and she liked to tell me stories about the flowers she grew.
"Foxglove is what's used to make digitalis, the heart medicine," I said.
Tyler nodded. "And too much of it . . . well, you saw what can happen."
see Beyla fight with Drago." Eve stepped toward Tyler, her arms close to her sides, her hands curled into fists. "Just like we saw Monsieur Lavoie arguing with Drago earlier in the evening, before class even started."
"Now you've got another cock-and-bull story to tell me?" Tyler rolled his eyes. "Give me a break, Eve. Why don't you just admit that you can't get me out of your system and you'll do anything to make my life miserable, just so you can have a little revenge? Even if it means trying to mess with my mind by introducing all this nonsense into the investigation. Let me remind you that in this case, what you're doing is called obstruction of justice. It's not cute, and I'm not going to fall for it--or for you."
Tyler's words were as sharp as a slap. If I felt their sting, I could only imagine how much they hurt Eve.
I was just about to tell him to mind his manners when Eve stopped me, one hand on my arm. "You got me there." The smile she turned on Tyler was sleek. "I was pulling your leg, Tyler, honey. And you had it all figured out. You always were as smart as they come. I should have known you'd see right through it. I
just trying to mess with your mind. We never saw Beyla and Drago together. We never saw that cute little ol' Frenchman argue with Drago, either. Why, we're just two little girls who are trying to add a little bit of excitement to our dull, dull lives." She batted her eyelashes at him. "Forgive me?"
Tyler didn't answer. He flipped his notebook closed and walked away.
"What was that all about?" I asked Eve as soon as he was out of earshot. "You know that's not true."
"I sure do." Watching Tyler say something to Jim, Eve smiled. It wasn't until he'd left the classroom that she turned back to me. "Don't you remember when he broke up with me, Annie? I do. Like it was yesterday. He told me he couldn't marry me because I wasn't smart enough."
"So you lied to him to prove how smart you are?"
"Don't be silly!" Eve tossed her romaine leaves into her salad bowl and reached for the olive oil. "How on earth could I prove how smart I am by lying to the man? No, I've got a better way to do it, and to make that Tyler Cooper look like the fool he is. And you're going to help me."
I didn't like the sound of that at all. "How?"
She hummed a little tune while she drizzled on her olive oil. "Why, that's simple, honey. We're going to solve Drago's murder ourselves."
I choked out a laugh. It died the moment I realized she was serious.
"You're nuts," I told her.
"Maybe, but I'm going to do it. And you're going to help me."
"Why ever not?"
"That's what the police are for."
"The police . . ." She glared at the spot where she'd last seen Tyler. "The police aren't listening to us. And Beyla is lying. So is John. Doesn't that make you want to find out what's really going on?"
"No." I wasn't kidding. There were professionals who were paid to do this kind of thing. "Eve, we don't know how . . ."
My voice trailed off as I watched Eve start to toss her salad. I might as well save my breath. She wasn't listening. She added blue cheese to her bowl, her eyes shining in a way that told me I'd never change her mind. Not about this.
That's when I knew one thing for certain: We'd just gone from Scrumptious Salads and Dazzling Dressings straight into hot water.
I'VE NEVER MET A BRUSSELS SPROUT I LIKED.
Which is why when I finally got around to checking my e-mail the next afternoon and found the little buggers on Jim's list of what to bring to our fourth class, I wasn't exactly thrilled.
But there were those twelve years of Catholic education to consider, and if I'd learned nothing else at Saint Charles Borromeo Elementary and then Bishop Ireton High, it was that homework was homework. Thrilled or not, I wasn't about to argue. I dutifully wrote out my shopping list.
Canned chestnuts. (Canned? They came that way? And what was a chestnut, anyway? Aside from the fact that they roasted on an open fire in that Christmas song, I wasn't sure I'd ever made the acquaintance of a chestnut.)
Salt and pepper.
Sugar. (Now there was something I knew something about.)
A quart of your favorite fruit. (I'd already decided on apples.)
I finished my shopping list, fully aware that I was spending too much time on it, but nevertheless taking care that my writing was neat and perfect, checking and double-checking the supplies I needed to purchase against the copy of Jim's e-mail that I'd printed out. All so I didn't have to think about Drago's murder, my near-death experience with the stove, and Eve's crazy idea about the two of us as Jessica Fletcher clones.
Even thinking about Brussels sprouts was better than pondering all that.
By the time I was done, I still had twenty minutes left on my lunch break. I'd just decided to take a walk and clear my head when Eve breezed into the employee lunchroom.
No, she didn't work at the bank with me. But she came to visit often enough. Everyone knew Eve and just naturally accepted her as one of the family.
She said hello to Dave and Stan, fellow tellers who were chatting near the coffee machine, then plunked down in the chair across from mine. "We have work to do," she said, and as if to prove it, she plopped a briefcase on the table between us.
Seeing Eve with a briefcase is a weird sort of thing. Like seeing a dog pull a watch out of his back pocket. Half real, half cartoon. I might have laughed if there was anything funny about it.
Instead, I weighed what I wanted to say (which was something along the lines of
What on earth are you up to now?
) against my desire not to hurt Eve's feelings.
I shilly-shallied too long.
Tired of waiting for me to respond and apparently convinced that I was going to again point out that she was off her rocker (which I was), Eve raised her beautifully arched golden eyebrows and tapped her finger against the briefcase. "Don't tell me you've forgotten our investigation? I've been going over my notes all morning. There are some things we need to discuss before we continue our case."
There were so many weird miscues in her statement, I didn't know where to begin.
Investigation? Notes? Our case?
It was enough to boggle the mind.
Fortunately, I am not the type who stays boggled for long. I shook myself out of my momentary stupor and decided to start with the most salient point and work my way backwards. "Eve,
don't have a case. And what notes, anyway? You haven't been taking notes. You never take notes. You spent four years in high school not taking notes."
Eve's smile was sleek. "That was then, this is now. And now that we've got an investigation to conduct, I figured I'd better turn over a new leaf. I knew you'd be too busy here at work this morning to do anything, and fortunately, I've got the day off. I sat down and made a list." She dutifully pulled it out of the briefcase and waved it in front of my nose. "This is everything we know. Seems to me, all we have to do is prove that our friend Beyla had access to the poison and--"
"You've been watching too many
Law & Order
reruns." I pushed back from the table, making it clear that I was putting some distance between myself and my friend's lunacy. "We can't do this, Eve."
I swear, she wasn't even listening.
"Remember what that hardheaded, cold-blooded scum-bag Tyler said?" she asked. "He said Drago was poisoned with foxglove. I went to the library this morning, Annie, and the nice librarian there helped me out. Did you know that foxglove used to be called witches' gloves? And goblin's gloves? And dead men's bells?"