82 R.I.C.E.

On Tuesday afternoon Kitty heard a knock, suppressed a hiss, and stalked the peephole.

“Miss Doyle. Police.” Martin announced to the closed door. “We know you’re back today. Your car’s in the garage. I’d like to speak with you.”

“What do you want?” came the snarled reply. “I’m busy.”

Designated parking for each condo is mapped on a plat included in the association documents.

“Do you really want me to yell through the door?”

She opened the door, not really caring what anyone here heard. She was packing up, leaving this stupid building for good.

“Moving, are we?” Martin observed the boxy state of the place, sniffed the lingering odor of smoke damage loosed in the upheaval of removal. “Anyplace special?”

“Told you last time. What do you want?”

“Where were you yesterday between ten in the morning and one in the afternoon?”

“Here. And then out.”

“I want to know more about the ‘out’ part. What time did you go, precisely?”

“After noon. Ask that pesky secretary. She was there, in the garage with her nose in everything.”

“Did you see anyone else?”

“Only her.”

“What were you doing stopped in the driving lane?”

“I heard a clunk. Something shifted in the trunk.”

“Do you carry wire cutters, by chance?”

“I keep a tool kit. So maybe.”

“And driving gloves. Do you wear those?”


“Did you see a bike in the Karons’ parking space?”

“Which space is that?”

“The one next to where you stopped.”

“Can’t recall.”

“Do you know Lee Karon?”

“Which one is she? Carrie Karon has a spa.”

“Lee is her niece. Know her?”

“Wouldn’t know her if I saw her.”

“She does live here.”

“So do lots of people. Not my job to know them. It’s a condo, not a group home.” Kitty re-opened the door. “Are we done?”

“Please leave a forwarding address, when you do go.”

“What for?”

“We’re in an ongoing investigation. You’re a witness.”

“To what? This is my legal address. Is that all?” Martin walked to the elevator, wishing that his Aunt Lil were there, going ‘Well, La-Di-Dah’ right in Kitty’s uppity face.

He discovered for himself that the elevator complaints were valid. It was slow. Slow to arrive, slow to depart. He took it up to Karon’s fifth floor unit. Their door was open but he knocked and called out a hello. Voices from inside summoned him. In the living room he found Lee, propped up by pillows on a sectional, her legs elevated on a hassock, Mrs. James hovering beside her, and Guy, fetching and carrying. An end table was littered with ice packs, towels, water, magazines, and an array of TV remotes.

“Afternoon all. How’s the patient today?”

“Home now at least, thanks,” replied her distracted father. “In pain, but safe. Badly broken arm, badly sprained ankle, bruises, strains. She’ll have her feet up for awhile.” Lee made a face, refuting the recuperation period. “You heard what they said. Rest, ice, compression, elevation.”

“Dad, I have to go to school, remember. It’s nearly exams.” She wanted to fuss but heard her voice strangely cracking with fatigue. Mrs. James adjusted her pillows.

“Nothing new to report but I’d like to arrange a time when we can fingerprint the family, when your sister is here too, so we can eliminate those prints lifted from the bike. We’ll have somebody come in to do it, as Lee here can’t easily make it to the station. Can your friend, Gwen, come over at the same time?” They agreed on Wednesday evening, giving Lee another day to rest.

“So, Lee,” Mrs. James sat down after Martin had left and offered her some quiet conversation, hoping that she’d comfortably nod off. She often had this effect on people, she realized. “There’s a new game plan this week. Thought you’d find it interesting.”

“What’s that?” Lee rested her head back on the pillow. Sticks and Oblio materialized, also ready to hear this news, once comfortably sprawled on Lee.

“Their father has arranged it with Gina, who called to tell me, that he’ll pick up the girls from school this afternoon and keep them ’til bedtime, when he’ll take them back to the house.”

“Are they going out someplace?”

“No. This is what’s interesting. He’s promising to do this every week ’til school lets out for summer. He told me he’s going to bring them here and do homework. They have book reports due. He’s supposed to work with them.”Chapter 82 RICE

“I remember those reports. You had to read a non-fiction book and then do a write-up. Then the teachers made us do fancy covers, add artwork, make a storyboard, whatever, so it all turned into this huge competition. Aunt Carrie used to grumble we were doing all the work so the teachers’ rooms looked good for conferences. I did a clay castle once, then decorated it. It took over the whole dining room table for weeks. We couldn’t figure out how to get it to school without breaking it. Then I got a crummy grade.”

“Sounds maddening.” Mrs. James thought of her own, already crowded table. ” A bit strange for me, knowing they’re here and not with me.”

“Bet you,” Lee supposed, “you end up with them anyway. Cutting and pasting.”

“It’s supposed to be quality time, spent with him!”

“Guess he’s not used to it, and neither are they. They always said all they ever did there was watch TV.” Lee sighed. “Always thought it’d be fun to just watch TV but when you’re stuck with it, it’s not so great.”

“Sounds like we all have some adjusting to do.” Lee was squirming. “Uncomfortable?”

“Could you please get me a fresh ice pack?” Mrs. James made a beeline for the freezer, then gingerly placed the colder pack around Lee’s ankle.

“I’m sure we can find something else for you to occupy your time, other than TV. You’ll be on the road to recovery in no time.”

“Bit worried about school, actually, and getting too far behind.”

“You know we’ll all help you. Your school friends, like Gwen, will too. She stuck with your bike like glue, yesterday.”

“Shouldn’t I be worried? That somebody’s still out to get me, or my family? Nobody wants to talk about it.”

“Let the police do their work, first. Your job is to heal up, get back on your feet. Rest now.”

“I want to forget…” Lee’s eyes drooped.

“I’ll be back to see you later. Then we’ll talk.”

Mrs. James would never say so to Lee, but she worried, too. Could this possibly have something to do with the drowning? Guy might have made some connection by now. There must be one. Otherwise, why that bike? The world, though odd, wasn’t completely random, was it? Not like that.

Back at her place, her glance fell on the set aside but augmenting pile of recipes, pet stories, and photos on her table, this response a good start from the Saturday flyer. Gervase said more were dropped off at his desk. Perhaps she could rope Lee into sorting these, give her something to do, a little each day. Maybe Gertie could be some in-house, more youthful, company for Lee.

“Gertie? Mrs. James. Told your Dad I’d get back to you yesterday. Waylaid by this business with Lee. What? You hadn’t heard? Why don’t you come down now? I’ll put the kettle on. It’s a two teapot story.”