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Authors: Diana Killian

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BOOK: Dial Om for Murder
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“You mean they developed an actual real-life friendship?” Jake inquired.
Again, A.J. let Andy answer. “I don’t know about real-life friendship—I guess it developed into a kind of friendship. I can tell you that Nicole was all in favor of Lydia being president of her fan club. I can also tell you that A.J. and I didn’t have a lot to do with Nicole after that point simply because she decided she needed a bigger and more prestigious firm to handle promoting her career.”
“And how did you feel about that?”
Jake couldn’t honestly think Andy was a suspect—let alone A.J. It just had to be his cop reflex kicking in.
A.J. said, “It was a relief.” Andy started to protest, but she overrode him. “Come on, Andy. She was totally self-absorbed—to the point of egomaniacal. We worked our tails off for her, and the minute her career started to take off, she dumped us.” She turned to Jake. “It was a relief, though. She put the tense in high maintenance.”
Jake nodded thoughtfully. “Okay. So basically, you two hired this Lydia Thorne to head Nicole’s fan club—and Nicole was all in favor of the idea. Is that pretty much it?”
Andy and A.J. nodded uncomfortably in unison—Raggedy Ann and Andy, judging by Jake’s expression. A.J. said, “You suspect Lydia Thorne? Is that it?”
“Well, I guess we would if such a person existed,” Jake said a little sardonically. “ The fact is, there is no such person as Lydia Thorne. There never was.”
Seven
Even
when you loved your day job, Mondays were . . . Mondays.
And when A.J.’s alarm went off at five thirty, she moaned and hit snooze. Two snooze slaps later, she dragged herself out of bed and into the shower.
Judging by the closed bedroom door, Andy was still sleeping. That was uncharacteristic of Andy, but depression could do that, and A.J. was sure Andy was depressed, although he certainly hadn’t said anything to that effect—in fact, he had been unusually uncommunicative about himself.
She left a note for him in the kitchen, fed the critters—who seemed to have achieved an uneasy truce over the weekend—and left for work. On the drive she listened to the radio. The local station was still talking about Nicole’s murder, but it didn’t sound to A.J. like the police were sharing their theories on the case with the media.
Jake had definitely been closemouthed last night, although it was obvious to A.J. that he was looking hard and long at Lydia Thorne—whoever she might be in real life—as a suspect. He had gone out of his way to stress to A.J. and Andy that Stillbrook PD were entertaining a couple of ideas about this high-profile homicide, and that they had more than one suspect, but as Andy had said after Jake departed, that could just be Jake trying to keep A.J. and Andy from jumping to obvious conclusions.
“Not exactly a barrel of laughs, is he?” Andy asked as they had listened to the sounds of Jake’s SUV dying away in the summer night.
A.J. said defensively, “Murder isn’t funny. Anyway, he has a great sense of humor once he relaxes.”
“So he does occasionally relax?”
A.J. made a face. Jake was pretty serious, but that wasn’t a bad thing necessarily. The only thing that bothered her was the feeling that maybe Jake didn’t trust her. Not in a serious thought-she-might-be-capable-of-murder way, but just on general principles. She figured it was a cop thing. She
hoped
it was a cop thing.
The parking lot behind Sacred Balance was empty as A.J. pulled into her space. Unlocking the glass front door of the studio, she stepped inside and disarmed the alarm. She turned on the full-spectrum lighting, and the iconic black and white posters of women doing yoga were sharply illuminated. Beneath each poster was the slogan that embodied Diantha’s philosophy for the studio and her students:
It Could Happen.
One of the posters was of a very young Diantha, circa 1960. She looked like one of those sleek English fashion models from an early Beatles film. A.J. smiled at the poster. She loved arriving at the studio before anyone else got in, loved the quiet and the peace of the place before the activities of the day began.
Not that she didn’t love the energy and focus of Sacred Balance when it was buzzing like a spiritual hive, but in the cool quiet of the morning she fancied she could feel her aunt’s presence. It was comforting. It helped her believe that she was up to the challenge of fulfilling Diantha’s legacy.
In her office, A.J. started the small indoor fountain, switched on the hot plate for tea, and turned on her laptop. She checked her e-mail while the hot water brewed and the fountain softly played over the polished stones. Elysia had sent photos of diving and snorkeling in the Red Sea—and of herself enjoying various shipboard activities.
Shuffleboard?
Did people outside of Agatha Christie novels really play shuffleboard on cruise ships? Apparently so. Elysia appeared to play with gusto.
Faintly smiling, A.J. studied the digital images of her mother. She was mildly surprised to realize that she missed her. During the past few months they had grown close for the first time in A.J.’s life. The vacation seemed to be doing Elysia good. She looked radiant in a variety of summery ensembles that showed off her new golden tan.
Who had taken all these photos of her?
A.J. thoughtfully considered the image of a very handsome, very tall, very
young
Egyptian man beaming down on Elysia in two of the photographs.
Hmmmmm
.
A.J. sincerely hoped her mother would not be bringing home a new daddy for her—especially not a daddy young enough to be her brother.
There was no message with the photos, but then Elysia had never been one for letter-writing.
A.J. sipped her tea and started on the resumes she hadn’t finished checking Saturday—it seemed a very long time ago now.
She found it astonishing the things job candidates put into their resumes. One young man included his complete medical history. One young woman submitted a resume on colored paper with animal stickers in each corner.
A.J. sighed and kept reading. After all, she wasn’t looking for nuclear physicists, just a conscientious, reliable, reasonably intelligent person to answer phones and open mail.
Outside her office she could hear the other instructors arriving—shortly followed by the first of the day’s students.
“Morning, A.J.!” Simon Crider, who taught the sunrise yoga course, poked his head in. Simon was a very trim, very fit sixty-something. Handsome and pleasant, he apparently provided the incentive to drag over twenty women out of bed at the crack of dawn, for his classes were always packed. “I heard about Nicole,” he said. “Unbelievable. Have the police said whether they’re closing in on a suspect?”
“Not that I’ve heard.”
They chatted briefly. Simon wandered away, and Denise Farber, their Pilates instructor, looked in. “A.J., you poor thing! How are you holding up?”
“Good. How was your weekend?”
“A lot quieter than yours. Any word on who killed Nicole?”
“I haven’t heard anything.”
“What does Jake say?”
A.J. made a face. “Jake makes the Sphinx look chatty.”
Denise chuckled, they visited for a bit, and she went on to her office.
A.J. heard Lily walk by, unlock her office, and go inside.
More students arrived. A.J. could hear cheerful voices in the front lobby. Another day at Sacred Balance was beginning. She looked at the photograph of her aunt and smiled.
Four minutes before her Yoga for Tweens course was due to begin, Suze rushed into A.J.’s office. “
Oh my gosh
, A.J.! I can’t believe Nicole is dead. What does Jake say?”
A.J. looked up from a magazine article on using yoga for pain relief in such hard-to-treat conditions as carpal tunnel, back pain, and even asthma. If only it cured tardiness. She said, “ They’re working on it.”
“No way!”
“Seriously, Suze, he doesn’t discuss his cases with me.”
Suze’s blue eyes went saucer wide with disbelief. “After you cracked his last homicide for him?”
“I didn’t crack his last homicide,” A.J. objected. She really wished people would stop saying that. “I just had insider’s knowledge. The last thing I would ever want would be to be involved in another murder investigation.”
“But you already are,” Suze said cheerfully. “You found the body. You took pictures of the murder weapon before it melted. Didn’t you see today’s paper? They referred to you as our local Miss Marple.”
A.J. stared at her, aghast. “ Tell me you’re kidding. They didn’t. Really. They didn’t, did they?”
“Sure they did! Well, you
did
find the body. What’s wrong with being compared to Miss Marple? I think it’s kind of cool.”
“Sure! Who wouldn’t want to be compared to a ninety-year-old busybody with support hose and sensible shoes?”
Suze giggled. “Hey, she always gets her man!” Then she checked her watch, exclaimed at the time, and backed out of A.J.’s office.
A.J. dropped her head in her hands. This was the last kind of publicity she wanted for herself or the studio. And instinctively she knew it wasn’t going to do wonders for her relationship with Jake, either.
She waited until the first classes of the day were in session before she went down to Lily’s office and tapped on the door.
“Come in.”
A.J. pushed open the door and Lily looked up from her laptop without pleasure. “Yes?”
Somehow Lily always made her feel defensive. It didn’t matter what kind of pep talk A.J. gave herself before approaching the other woman, Lily managed to push all A.J.’s buttons with the uncanny accuracy of a crazy person in an elevator.
“You wanted to talk on Saturday?”
“Right,” Lily said, as though it was so insignificant it had skipped her mind. “Have a seat.”
A.J. pulled a seat out in front of Lily’s desk. She started to fold her arms, remembered that such body language might imply she was closed off to Lily, and tried to find a comfortable way to sit without actually relaxing—because one thing she always felt was the need to keep her guard up with Lily.
Lily said, “I’ve been thinking—and before you instantly shoot down my idea, just hear me out.”
Could there be a more annoying start to a discussion? A.J. smiled—she hoped—and said, “Shoot.”
“I think Diantha has been gone long enough that it’s time to reconsider our direction. Our mission, if you will.”
As every single molecule of A.J. objected to each and every word of that statement, she was very proud of herself for her calm, “All right.”
“We don’t have to start remodeling right away, but one of the most symbolic changes we could make is our slogan. That’s fundamental. It’s our philosophy.”
“You don’t like our philosophy?” A.J. inquired politely.
Lily’s expression grew cold. “I was here when ‘our’ philosophy evolved. I was part of that process with Diantha, so don’t you dare take that tone with me.”
“I’m asking a question.”
“You’re making a judgment.”
A.J. took a deep breath. She recollected a quote from an ancient samurai text,
A Book of Five Rings
, one of Andy’s favorite business strategy books:
In strategy, timing is all.
“Go on,” she invited. She could see her calm response caught Lily by surprise. That alone recommended it for future use.
“I think it’s time for a new slogan. A new direction. A new focus. Frankly, I always thought ‘It Could Happen’ was . . . corny.”
“I disagree,” A.J. shot back. So much for timing. “I think it’s optimistic, promising—which is what I think Sacred Balance is all about. It’s about opening your life to the possibility of amazing chances and terrific surprises.”
Lily’s mouth curled. “I know your background was marketing, A.J., but you don’t have to sell me on Sacred Balance. And I think we’re about a lot more than fluffy, sentimental platitudes. Yoga is serious. Yoga is not a trend or a fashion. Yoga is not for everyone.”
Now there was a slogan:
Yoga Is for Nazis!
A.J. said mildly, “You’ve obviously given this some thought. Did you have a new slogan in mind?”
Lily smiled. “I’ve been jotting down ideas as they come to me. I was thinking of something along the lines of ‘The Time Is Now.’ Or ‘The Time Is Right.’”
A.J. said dryly, “How about ‘The Time Is Right Now’?”
“Nnn.” Lily wrinkled her nose, dismissing that one. “I think ‘Now Is the Time’ is quite good.”
“‘Now Is the Hour’?” suggested A.J., tongue in cheek.
Lily said grudgingly, “ That’s not bad.”
Oh boy. That was enough fun for one morning. A.J. said, “Lily, let me think about it. I have to be honest; I hadn’t given any thought to changing our philosophical direction.”
“I’m sure you hadn’t. I know you’re still . . . getting up to speed. I’ll jot the possibilities down and e-mail them to you.”
“Great!” A.J. said brightly, rising. “I’ll look forward to those. Talk to you later.”
BOOK: Dial Om for Murder
5.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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