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Authors: Liz Mugavero

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BOOK: Murder Most Finicky
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Chapter 15
Nutty had moved to the velvet bed with jewel trim strategically positioned on the windowsill. He didn't give her the time of day before she left. Stan made sure he had snacks, left her iPod on playing her cat-calming CD for him, then grabbed her bag and went downstairs. Leonardo and Sheldon sat in cushy chairs in the lobby near the elevator doors, talking quietly. They looked up when she got off the elevator, and Sheldon raised an eyebrow. “Are you walking, or do you need my car?”
Stan gaped at him. She didn't know if she was more surprised that he'd let her borrow the pink Cadillac, or horrified at the thought of driving that beast around. Especially where people might know her. “My sister's picking me up. She needed to . . . give me something.”
“Ah. Well, I'll walk you out,” Sheldon said. “Be back, Leo.”
Leo raised his glass. “Enjoy.”
Sheldon waited until they were through the revolving door, then said, “Things have been quiet so far, but I've heard rumblings that we'll need to be aware of.”
“Such as?”
He glanced behind him. “I don't want to say it now. We can talk later tonight after our cooking session,” Sheldon said.
Great. Another fun-filled night to look forward to.
“By the way—what's Pierre's real name?” Stan asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Come on, Sheldon. If he's from some little town in Michigan, he must have given his name a little tweak to get it so French sounding,” Stan said. “I'm sure that's why the cops can't find his family. Did you really not know, or were you stalling?”
“Stalling! Never. We simply had to refresh our memories.” He smiled. “Joaquin dropped off our food, and I've sent him to the office to see if there's emergency contact information in our files. When Pierre came to work with us we weren't automated, and some of that information is filed away in the basement of our office. What can I say?” Sheldon shrugged. “Short staffed.”
Stan waited.
“What?” Sheldon asked.
“His name? If I know it, I can be on the lookout for anyone talking about it. If I don't, I can't help you.”
Sheldon didn't like being backed into a corner. Stan could see his brain running quick rationales and calculations before he answered. “It's Pete Landsdowne.”
Definitely not a name that conjured up an image of an eclectic French pastry chef. Stan pulled out her phone and tapped the name into her notes. “I'll let you know if I hear anything. Did Kyle get here yet?”
Sheldon shook his head.
“Heard from him?”
Another shake.
“What if he doesn't come back?”
“He'll come back,” Sheldon said. “Don't you worry.” He blew her a kiss, then went inside.
Stan sat on the bench out front to wait for her sister. She realized she had no idea what Caitlyn drove. She felt a pang of regret about her dysfunctional relationships with her mom and sister. A black Jaguar SUV careened into the driveway and parked in the valet curve. The passenger window whizzed down. “Get in,” her sister said.
Stan obliged. The car sped away before she'd even completely closed her door.
 
 
Caitlyn waited until they'd exited the hotel's long driveway before leaning over to air kiss Stan. Her Jackie O sunglasses smacked Stan on the temple but she made no move to remove them. “Thanks for coming,” she said, before hitting the gas again, jerking Stan back against her seat. The one thing they had in common—aggressive driving skills.
“Not a problem,” Stan said, adjusting her seat belt. “You look great. Your hair is different.” Stan regarded her sister from the side. Her blond hair was cut shorter in the back, left longer in the front, with red highlighted strands sweeping across her forehead. The colors accented her tanned skin. She wore a casual chic sundress in a vibrant teal. Stan bet on matching shoes and a matching purse somewhere in the car. Caitlyn always looked good. Then again, she spent most of her time at spas or shopping.
“Thanks,” Caitlyn said. “You do, too. It's . . . been way too long.”
Stan raised an eyebrow. Again, unlike her sister's usual demeanor. Maybe she'd mellowed with age.
“It has. So where are we going?”
“I thought we could get coffee.”
“Coffee's good. Where's Eva?” Stan hadn't seen her six-year-old niece since last year, which made her feel like a bad auntie. She sent the little girl a gift every Christmas and every March for her birthday, but without her presence that's all it was—a gift from some faceless person.
“With her nanny.” Instead of heading into downtown Newport, Caitlyn drove down Ocean Avenue past First Beach, heading into Middletown. “I thought we could go somewhere quiet,” she said at Stan's questioning look.
Stan shrugged. “Fine with me.”
Five minutes later, they pulled into the parking lot of a small, happy-looking café. The bright yellow building had a sign out front depicting smiling people standing next to a pile of coffee grounds holding letters that spelled out G
ROUNDS OF
H
OPE
.
“They support local charities,” Caitlyn said. “And the coffee is fabulous.” She shoved open her car door and got out, reaching into the backseat for her purse. Stan noted the matching shoes—Manolos, of course. Fabulous shoe taste did run in the family. Stan still loved her shoe collection, even though she didn't dress up nearly as much these days.
Stan got out of the car and followed her inside. Caitlyn took her glasses off, settling them on top of her head. Stan saw dark circles under her eyes beneath the perfect makeup.
Caitlyn went right to the counter and ordered a skinny vanilla latte with an extra shot of espresso. Stan ordered an iced coffee. Caitlyn pulled an American Express gold card out of her purse and handed it to the barista.
“I'm buying,” Stan began, but Caitlyn waved her off.
“It's the least I can do for interrupting your weekend.... You can add fifty dollars for the Boys and Girls Club,” she told the young girl behind the counter with the silver hoop in her lip.
“You rock! Thank you so much. Enjoy your drinks,” the girl said.
Stan raised an eyebrow. Caitlyn going to a charity-driven coffee shop? Her sister usually didn't concern herself with those in need. Not that she was mean or unfeeling—Caitlyn simply didn't think of many people but herself and her small circle. Then again, Stan hadn't really seen much of her in the past few years. Maybe she'd had an epiphany and changed her ways.
Caitlyn didn't speak again until they'd collected their drinks and retreated to a table in the back.
Stan's cell vibrated. She checked the readout. Brenna. She felt another pang of homesickness, but pushed it aside. She'd have to call her later. She pressed Ignore and focused on her sister. “So what's up? And how'd you know I was here?”
“I have a situation,” Caitlyn said, deflecting the question.
Stan sipped her iced coffee. Delicious, but made her miss Izzy's gourmet coffee. Izzy Sweet's Sweets in Frog Ledge was, next to McSwigg's, her favorite place. “What kind of situation?”
Caitlyn fidgeted a bit in her seat. She'd never been good at cutting to the chase. “Kyle McLeod,” she said finally.
Stan's eyes widened. “The chef?”
“Yes.”
“The same vegan chef from Florida who's supposed to be at this retreat with me?”
“Yes,” Caitlyn said impatiently.
Stan tried to make the connection. “How do you know Kyle McLeod?”
“We'll get to that,” Caitlyn said. “The important thing is, he's missing. And I think he's in trouble.”
Chapter 16
Stan stared at her sister, not quite sure how to respond. “Forgive me for being dense, but I'm not following you. Let's back up to my first question. How do you know Kyle?”
It wasn't until the blush rose up her sister's neck, slowly turning her pale skin red, that she caught on. “Caitlyn.”
“We've been seeing each other,” Caitlyn said evenly. “And I don't want to hear it if you're going to criticize me.”
Stan's gaze dropped to her sister's left hand and the giant diamond ring and matching wedding band. Caitlyn curled her fingers defensively. “Michael and I . . . have been having problems for a while now.”
Don't judge. Do not judge.
“Okay,” Stan said carefully. “Where did you meet him?”
“He's been spending time in the area. Working with that weirdo chef guy.”
“Sheldon Allyn,” Stan said.
“Yeah. Him. You're working with him, too.”
“Sheldon and I are working on a business plan,” Stan said. “But I hadn't met Kyle or any of the other chefs before this weekend.”
Caitlyn nodded, running her finger around and around the top of her coffee cup lid. “Kyle's opening a new restaurant with him. He's been here looking at locations, working on menus, the whole nine. And teaching at Johnson and Wales one semester a year. That's where I met him, a year or so ago. I took his basic cooking class.” She smiled wryly. “I thought I could get Michael interested in me again if I was a better cook. So lame, right?”
Stan felt sorry for her. “Not at all.”
“I found out later Kyle's vegan. How funny is that? He wasn't thrilled about the menu for the class. But anyway, he was very sweet. One night I stayed late. I was having trouble with my lemon meringue pie. We got to talking . . . and the rest is history.”
“Why did he teach the class if he didn't want to?”
“Maybe he needed the money, or was doing someone a favor. I didn't ask,” Caitlyn said. “Honestly, I hadn't heard of him as a fancy chef or anything, so I didn't know.”
“So he lives here?”
“No. He lives in Boca Raton. With his wife.” She made a face. “He spends a semester or two here, but I think he had plans to be here more because of the restaurant.”
Good grief.
Caitlyn had always known how to do drama well. “Okay,” Stan said again. “So Kyle's married, you're married—I'm just stating the obvious,” she said when Caitlyn opened her mouth in protest.
“Our marital statuses are not the point. The point is that other chef got killed and now Kyle is missing.”
Stan's body tensed, going on high alert. “How do you know about anyone getting killed?”
Caitlyn sighed. “He told me. He called me after it happened. While you were waiting for the police. He was pretty upset.”
“Was he afraid? Did you get the sense he thought he was in danger?”
“I don't know. He was . . . upset. In shock, I think.”
Hopefully not because he killed Pierre and was trying to figure out how to cover it up.
Stan pushed the thought away. “So why do you think he's missing?”
“Because . . .” Caitlyn glanced furtively around the café, gauging the hearing distance of the few other customers. “We were supposed to meet last night and he never showed up. That's not like him.”
“What time were you supposed to meet?”
“Ten. He figured that would be enough time to get done with everything. He said he really wanted to see me.”
“Where were Michael and Eva?”
Caitlyn's eyes dropped to the table. “Michael's traveling. The nanny lives in, so Eva's no problem.”
“Where were you going?”
“We were meeting downtown. We've been finding new places to meet, not going to his apartment much lately.”
Stan sat up straight. Of course. If Kyle spent that much time here, he needed a place to live. “Where's his apartment? Have you checked there?”
“He has a place right near the river in Providence. I called, but no answer,” Caitlyn said. “I didn't have time to drive all the way to Providence. My nanny had a doctor's appointment this morning. I don't have a key anyway. But I'm telling you, something's wrong.”
Something was definitely wrong. Pierre was dead and Kyle's absence screamed either
guilty
or . . . “Why don't you have a key?” Stan asked.
Caitlyn shrugged. “He had to get the lock changed last month. Like I said, we haven't been spending time there lately.”
“It's his place?”
“Who else's place would it be?”
Stan didn't answer that, but she wondered if Sheldon might be financing this venture also.
“Krissie. I need to find him.” Caitlyn looked desperate.
“Do you think he's in trouble because you haven't heard from him? Or is there another reason?”
“Are you kidding me? Someone killed his buddy. Why wouldn't he think he was in trouble?”
“They were buddies?” Kyle hadn't given any indication he and Pierre had been close in that whole half hour she'd spent with him.
“Well, if they're spending the weekend together I figured they were,” Caitlyn said.
“Not necessarily. I'm spending the weekend with them and I don't know any of them. I'd never even met the dead guy.” That image of Pierre in a pool of blood flashed through her mind again, turning her stomach. “Finding his body would've been even worse if I'd known him.”
“You found his body?” Eyes wide, Caitlyn leaned forward. “That's horrible. Was it horrible?”
“Of course it was horrible. Did you know the man who died? Did Kyle ever introduce you?”
“No. I never met any of them. Do you think it's some plot to kill the chefs?” she asked.
“Thanks,” Stan said. “Did you forget I'm one of the chefs?”
No answer to that. Stan could see the wheels turning in her sister's head. “Well, you're not missing,” Caitlyn said finally.
This conversation was starting to make her head hurt. “Did you check the hospital? I hate to say it, but maybe he was in an accident.”
“Thought of that,” Caitlyn said. “No one with his name or description was admitted. Plus he had no car. I was supposed to pick him up.”
“Does he have a lot of friends around here? Would he have asked someone else to come get him?” Stan asked.
Caitlyn shook her head. “He was always so busy with the restaurant deal. He worked so hard on it, plus trying to manage his place in Boca, too. No, he didn't just go out to a party and forget we had plans. Kyle would
never
do that to me. If he says he's coming, he'll come. Unless . . . he can't.”
Whatever else her sister held back, she was telling the truth about that. Or at least what she believed to be the truth. “So what can I do?” Stan asked.
“I need you to help me find him.”
Stan leaned back in her chair and looked around the café. There still weren't a lot of people in it. A young couple talked softly over a muffin they shared. The girl looked pensive, the guy brooding. They reminded her of the Hemingway story “Hills Like White Elephants.” A man wearing a leather cap read a newspaper on one of the window stools. Stan could see his face in the reflection of the window—frown lines, bushy eyebrows, and a goatee. His eyes met hers. He looked away first.
She refocused on her sister. “What do you think I'll be able to do that you can't?”
“I don't know. You're in with these guys; they have to know something.”
“No one seems to know anything.” Stan checked her watch. It was almost seven. “I'll see what I can do, Caitlyn. Look, we're all here for this big event. It's still moving forward, despite the fact that we're down one chef. There's still a chance Kyle could show. I know Sheldon believes he'll be back. And Sheldon holds the purse strings. He may answer him. I'll keep my ears open, but I can't promise anything.”
She hoped that would be enough, but Caitlyn didn't look satisfied. “I'm telling you, he's in trouble,” she insisted. “I know some places where he hangs out, but it's hard for me to be everywhere because of Eva. Maybe you can ask some questions. Make some calls. I have names.” Caitlyn slid a sheet of paper across the table. “These are his colleagues at the school. And his wife's number is on there.” She wrinkled her nose and tapped at a name. Dahianna McLeod.
Stan looked at her in amazement. “You want me to call his wife? And say what? My sister, who's been sleeping with your husband, is worried because he missed a rendezvous?”
Caitlyn drew herself up into that haughty pose Stan knew so well from her mother—shoulders back, chest puffed, head high, lips pressed in a thin line. “You don't need to be vulgar,” she said, sounding exactly like Patricia. “You're working with him this weekend. Everyone is concerned for his whereabouts. Has she heard from him? That's what I meant. I tried his house last night. I blocked my number and hung up when
she
answered. I know I shouldn't have called. I just hoped he might answer so I could hear he was okay. Although in retrospect, it was a little crazy to think he'd made it back to Florida that fast.”
It did sound crazy, but one never knew in this celebrity foodie world. “Does he have access to transportation that could do that? Like a private plane or helicopter?”
Caitlyn laughed. “Not that I know of. He wasn't that famous.” She sobered. “Yet. He totally could be. His specialty is so necessary. More people should be vegan, don't you think?”
The last Stan knew, her sister had been the furthest thing from vegan, but she didn't say that.
Caitlyn snapped her fingers. “But that reminds me. Here's his license plate number.” She grabbed the paper and scribbled it, then slid it back to Stan. “He drives a black Jeep. Just in case.”
Stan folded the paper and slipped it into her bag. “I have to get back, but I need you to make a detour on the way.”
“To where?”
“Downtown. The parking area. I need my car.”
BOOK: Murder Most Finicky
4.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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