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Authors: Liz Mugavero

Murder Most Finicky (7 page)

BOOK: Murder Most Finicky
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Chapter 13
Maria went first, since she really wanted to get out for some cannoli time in downtown Newport. Owens came to their suite. Stan grabbed one of the investor packets off the kitchen table, headed upstairs to her room, and quietly locked the door behind her. She tucked the packet in her bag to read later and hoped Therese was fine with the couch for the rest of the weekend, because she did not want to share a room with the disagreeable young woman. She wanted a space no one else could invade. Nutty didn't want company either. He sprawled in the center of the other bed, legs in the air, one paw covering his face. He didn't even stir when she came in.
She sat on the bed, taking a moment to center herself. If she were home, she'd go to the kitchen and bake if she were feeling like this—adrift, sad, anxious. Here, she'd have to share the space with virtual strangers. Any one of whom could've, theoretically, been involved in Pierre LaPorte's murder. At home, she could make herself some of Izzy's coffee or tea, put some jazz music on, and lose herself in new recipes and the feel of dough between her fingers. Instead, she had to go talk to a cop about a guy who'd gotten his throat cut. She wondered sometimes about the way her life had turned out.
She leaned back against the pillows, intending to rest just for a minute. Next thing she knew Maria banged on the door and called her name. She'd totally fallen asleep. Jumping up, she hurried over to open the door.
“I'm coming,” she said, trying to smooth her hair back into place.
Maria stared at her. “You taking a nap?”
“Just resting for a minute. He ready for me?”
“Yes. Be careful what you say,” she said in a stage whisper. “He's looking to pin this on one of us.”
Because one of “us” probably did it
. Stan managed a smile and nodded. “Got it. Thanks.” She waited until Maria disappeared up to her room, then shut the door behind her and walked downstairs.
Owens sat on a stool at the counter, notebook open. She slid onto the seat opposite him. Stan got the vibe that behind the all-business demeanor hid a good cop, one who cared. But he had to figure out who were the bad guys and who were the good. Her turn to prove which side of that fence she lived on. She didn't envy his job.
“Ms. Connor. Thanks for taking the time again. How are you doing?” he asked.
“Yeah?” His cop eyes searched hers, looking for—what? Lies? Guilt? A weighty conscience? “That had to be a disturbing find yesterday.”
“Of course it was.” She shuddered a little just thinking about it.
“Although, not completely a foreign concept to you.” His casual tone belied his the glint in his eyes. The guy had done his homework.
“Meaning?” she asked, struggling to keep her tone casual.
“Well, you've come across your share of murder victims, right?” He flipped his pad open and read from it. “Carole Morganwick, the veterinarian whom you stumbled upon in her office last year. And you were part of the crowd that found the farmer's body—Hal Hoffman—in a corn maze? And the Frog Ledge town historian.”
Stan sat up straight. “So what are you insinuating? They caught the murderer in all those cases.”
Owens flipped back to his blank page. “I'm not insinuating anything. Just making an observation. Seems like an unfortunate coincidence it should happen to you again here.”
Stan said nothing. Owens let it go.
“So anything else come to mind since we last spoke?” he asked.
“Any rumblings among the group? Speculation on who would've wanted him dead? Names of people Mr. LaPorte may have had a beef with? Or people who may have had a beef with him?”
Just Sheldon.
Stan shoved the thought away. Frederick, the motorcycle-riding chef, came to mind again, but she didn't want to mention him and have it come back to haunt her. Especially since Sheldon had been the only source of that information. “No.”
“You know anything about his family?”
Maria appeared again, this time with her purse on her shoulder. She ignored them as she hurried out the door, closing it behind her with a
“I don't,” Stan said. “I'm sorry. I'd never actually met Pierre, remember?”
“You're right. My mistake. Tell me about your business,” he said, changing gears.
“My business?”
“Yes. I have a dog. I'm interested in hearing more about what you do.”
“What kind of dog?” she asked, feeling her guard drop a bit.
“Rescue pup. He's a Lab mix.”
“Rescues are the best. And feeding him organic, human-grade food is the best thing for him.” Stan gave him the elevator speech about Pawsitively Organic, her mission, and why she'd started the business.
When she finished he said, “Sounds fascinating. Do you take orders?”
“I do. For both treats and meals. I do parties, too.”
“You'll have to leave me your card,” Owens said. “So how did you come to know Mr. Allyn?”
“Sheldon heard about my treats through a friend who does rescue. He approached me last year at an event I did. This was during the Carole Morganwick . . . incident, and our conversations never amounted to anything. Then last winter I did a doggie wedding—”
“A what?” Owens interrupted.
“A dog wedding,” Stan said, unflinching. She had no shame about hosting that event. The old Stan would've made a joke about it, or worse, offered some apology for doing something that other people found idiotic. “Two rescue dogs. They already lived in the same house,” she added.
A smile twitched at the corner of Owens's lips. “Okay. So Mr. Allyn heard about this how?”
“Social media. I had the wedding plans splashed all over Facebook and Instagram. Well, my assistant did. She loves social media. Anyway, he showed up and asked me if I wanted to give it another go, and said he had big plans for a pet patisserie.”
“And here you are,” Owens said.
“It wasn't that easy. He wanted me to do it in a real city. I said I wasn't leaving Frog Ledge—that's my town in Connecticut—but I would love to do it there. It took him a while to come around.”
“But you didn't back down.”
“Nope. I didn't need what he was offering. I wanted it. There's a difference.”
Owens nodded. “And something tells me you're not like your colleagues.”
She shrugged. “I can't comment. I don't know much about them.”
“I didn't think so.”
Stan couldn't tell if that was a compliment or not, but decided it was time to change the subject. “Do you know who actually saw Pierre last?”
“I'm the one asking the questions here,” Owens said.
“Of course. But maybe it'll help you to talk it through,” she said.
“I'm sure it will,” Owens said. “With a colleague. One with a badge.”
“Did you find a murder weapon?” she asked.
Owens raised an eyebrow. “Why? Do you have a tip?”
“No, but I'm curious.”
He regarded her with that look she knew so well from Jessie—the one that said,
Nice try.
“Ms. Connor—”
“Call me Stan.”
He frowned. “Again, I'm happy to take any information you have.”
“I don't have any. Did any of the cars pan out?”
He set his jaw. “We found nothing of interest in any of the cars.”
“What about Pierre's luggage? He had to have luggage somewhere. Any sign of it?”
“You're persistent, I have to give you that,” Owens said.
Stan smiled. “I try. Was Kyle's car in the parking lot?”
Owens's eyes narrowed. “Why?”
Stan shrugged. “He's not here.”
“Didn't Sheldon say a couple of people went out?”
“Yes. Joaquin and Therese, to buy food.” She let the implication hang.
“But he doesn't know where Kyle is.”
Stan shook her head. “No one seems to.”
“Interesting.” He scribbled a note and snapped his notebook shut. “Thanks for your time. Keep both eyes open this weekend, and be careful. Call me if you think of anything else.”
Chapter 14
Stan showed Owens out and went back to her room, deep in thought. Had Kyle just gone out and Marcin panicked? He could've been simply overwhelmed and needed to leave this environment. His colleague had been murdered at the house they were supposed to share for the weekend. That was a lot for any of them to absorb. Maybe he'd show up for dinner, apologetic and ready to cook. Stan hoped that was the case.
She locked the bedroom door behind her. Nutty still slept. This time he opened one eye and observed her, then decided he wasn't interested in debriefing and went back to sleep.
Stan grabbed her iPad out of her purse and flopped onto her own bed again, hoping she didn't fall asleep. She needed to find out more about the people with whom she was supposed to spend the next three and a half days. And Pierre, in case there was anything in his past that would direct her with blinking lights to his killer.
She Googled Pierre first. A story about an award for which he'd been nominated last year came up at the top of the feed. The picture accompanying the story showed a dashing Pierre on a red carpet and an elegant, movie-star-looking woman with acres of blond hair. He had his hand on the waist of her tiny, fire engine red minidress. They both smiled at the camera. A girlfriend? She made a note in her notes app to ask around about his love interests. According to the story, he hadn't won the award, which had been for Best Bakeries in NYC. He'd lost to a place called Sugar.
She zoomed in on the picture and studied it. Pierre hadn't simply been handsome. He had a perfectly proportioned face, with strong cheekbones, a well-defined chin and jaw that didn't overshadow his other features but accentuated them. Good hair, not too short, not too long, no obvious product holding it in place. A tiny earring glinted in one ear. In the picture he wore a Cheshire-cat smile with his three-piece suit.
She searched his name and “arrest.” Nothing came up. Maybe Sheldon had helped get it squashed. Or maybe he'd lied. She looked up Pierre's bakery. Big potential for drama there—his pastries could have come under fire, or perhaps he'd gotten a bad rating from the health department. But she couldn't find anything other than a couple of five-star reviews on Yelp and someone ranting and raving about his amazing lemon blueberry cupcakes with ginger frosting. Which admittedly sounded pretty delish.
She started a new search and typed Maria's name, taking some juvenile satisfaction in learning that she'd been right. The Italian chef did hail from New Jersey, not Italy. But her restaurants had phenomenal reviews. Maria had been lauded as a chef to watch by
Food USA
and received an award for her marinara sauce; she'd been named an ethnic chef to watch by
International Food Times
; celebrities including George Clooney and Oprah frequented her restaurants. Luigi Rosa was her fourth husband. She'd lost her mother last year and named her signature dish after her: Fettuccine à la Lucia.
Maria had proximity to Pierre, both from her hometown in New Jersey and her restaurant in New York. Stan couldn't figure out from the articles where Maria currently resided, but would bet she hadn't strayed far from her roots. Or her restaurant. So how many of Pierre's fancy pastries had she paired with her fettuccine? Or did she make her own cannoli?
She added the word “scandal” to her search. An interesting headline popped up:
The three-year-old piece identified Maria as a cousin on her mother's side to the New Jersey Scalia family. Stan's eyes widened. Maria's family had heavy mob ties. Apparently one of the main players, Joseph Scalia, had been picked up in an extortion case. There were questions about how far into the extended family the extortion had gone. Maria claimed ignorance in the lone piece. Stan Googled Joseph and found that he'd been sentenced to fifteen years. That certainly put a new spin on this. Although mobsters tended to shoot, not slice. At least that's what she'd learned from
The Sopranos
After bookmarking those pages, she ran through a mental list of her cohorts and decided to search for Marcin next. The search results had just popped up with a photo of Marcin and Leo together on the red carpet somewhere when her phone rang, startling her. She jumped nearly a foot off the bed, almost throwing her iPad in the process. Nutty dove under the bed, awakened by her insane scrambling.
Jeez, Stan. Relax.
She grabbed the phone off the night table and answered.
Her eyes widened at the voice on the other end. “Caitlyn?” No one called her that but her younger sister. Caitlyn didn't approve of her chosen nickname either—her mother's daughter—and instead had christened her with her own nickname when they were kids. Which Stan hated. But that was typical of their relationship. At four years apart and completely different personalities, they'd always just missed each other's wavelength.
“What's going on? Is something wrong?” It wasn't like Caitlyn to call her out of the blue, and it had been months—maybe longer—since their last conversation. They weren't exactly best buds. She and Caitlyn were only four years apart in age, but it may as well have been a lifetime given their different paths.
“Are you in Rhode Island? I heard you were.”
“I am. How did you know that?”
Caitlyn ignored the question. “Are you busy?”
Stan cast a longing glance at her blankets and supersoft pillow. “Not until eight. Why?”
“Can you meet me?” Caitlyn asked. A note of urgency had creeped into her voice. “I really need to talk to you.”
“I don't have my car,” Stan said.
“I'll pick you up.

Caitlyn Connor Fitzgerald never begged. She'd never had to. Stan couldn't remember her ever wanting for anything. And if she did, someone—usually their mother or Caitlyn's husband, Michael—made sure she had it within the blink of an eye. Unlike Stan, Caitlyn had embraced the rich and privileged lifestyle easily and effortlessly. And if she did need something, chances were she'd reach out to people other than her older sister. Unless it was serious and not for prime time. Stan had a sudden, disturbing thought.
“Is Mom okay?” she asked. Her relationship with her mother had hit another rough patch last winter, and their contact had been minimal despite her mother's ongoing relationship with the mayor of Frog Ledge. Talk about awkward. Frog Ledge was small enough—her mother's presence made it claustrophobic. But lately she hadn't been around much.
“Mom's fine,” Caitlyn said dismissively. “She's away until Sunday. This is about

“Of course it is.” Stan rolled her eyes.
Wasn't it always?
She checked her watch. Almost four. “Sure, I can slip away for a bit. I'm at the Newport Premier.”
Caitlyn promised to be there in twenty minutes. Stan dragged herself to the bathroom to freshen up, the familiar family-drama dread settling in her belly. What could Caitlyn possibly need to talk to her about? Why this weekend, of all weekends? And more importantly, how had her sister known she was in town?
BOOK: Murder Most Finicky
10.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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