86 A Dish Best Served Cold

It was a first at the Karons’, where the demand for seating generally centered around their bar in the living room. Now, that was Lee’s space. In the kitchen, there weren’t enough chairs for everyone. Whispered conversation was fairly new to that room too but there they all were, a huddle of henchman in her service: Martin and Martinelli, Guy, Mrs. James, and Carrie due in any minute. Gwen had given up on adult company and gone to Lee’s bedroom, to wait.

“Do you have any enemies?” Martin felt foolish every time he asked this of anybody.Chapter 86 A Dish Best Served Cold

“I’m in business. Everybody in business makes some enemies. Plus I deal with the end user, so there are complaints.” Guy refused to believe that this could even remotely be the act of an irate customer. “There are ways to handle people and payback in business. For instance, I’m on the committee to try and stop a development next door. No secret about it. Does that make me hated to this extent? Maybe, but I doubt it. So no, I can’t think of anybody who’d take it out on me this personally, to try and hurt my kid, to get back at me. It’s obviously a girl’s bike.”

“Woman’s bike, actually,” Martinelli corrected.

“Okay, okay. Anyway, how could anyone get in to even try?”

“A recurring question in your building,” Martinelli concurred. This conversation was echoing the one they’d had with Morrie Mangold, who’d also questioned if somebody at the POPS, to get back at him, had taken out a business matter on his nephew and, fatally, succeeded.

“Of course, now I’m starting to look at everybody sideways. It’s horrible to think about neighbors this way.” Guy had been ruminating about his actions the night of the drowning. He hadn’t discussed his role in it with anyone, even Carrie, since parting from Bert that night. Was he a hypocrite? He’d been honestly trying to rescue the man with the pole, intending no harm, unlike this tamperer. Granted he and Bert had agreed to abandon the body, once they’d figured out who it was. Had he feared a reprisal, even then? Had it happened that way?

“Are there any people with whom you don’t get along, anybody with a grudge?” Martin persisted with the stock questions.

“Can’t think who. Can you, Carrie?” His sister had just come home from her salon, looking as though she could use some tender loving care herself. “Long day?”

“I hoped it might be better, losing Kitty Doyle as a regular. She didn’t show up yesterday, her regular day, so I assume we’re done whether she moves away or not. Not that she bothered to cancel her appointment, mind you.”

“Oh right, you’re her stylist.” Martin remembered not to say ‘hairdresser’. “She’s packing up her place. She was faking a drawl last week when she told us that she’s taking a new job, somewhere down south.”

“She’s sure not going to be getting that one, if it’s the one she mentioned to me.”

“How’s that?”

“After the stunt she pulled she’s best kept far away from impressionable young girls, in my opinion, which I freely gave to my friend who works with twirlers here in town.”

“Sorry, not following,” Martinelli frowned. “Stunt?”

“My friend is Lee’s former coach. Her cousin manages the twirlers where Kitty applied, down south. I may have been her hair and nail stylist but I’m not responsible for shaping her personality, or what she gets up to, either.”

“But what did she do, exactly?” Martin tried to pry it out of Carrie.

“She was caught last week having an affair with a parochial school principal. To get back at Greg, knowing her. How’s that for using your head, I ask you?”

“Greg?” Martinelli considered getting his own hair attended to more often if it meant finding bounteous information laid out like this, on a platter. Carrie dished up dirt like mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.

“Mendel. He lives here. Has two little girls, the ones Lee and Mrs. James sit for. He ditched Kitty, last week.” Mrs. James had more on the subject.

Southeast lake, harbor, and lagoon view the Karons enjoy. The iconic Calatrava opens on the right.

Southeast lake, harbor, and lagoon view the Karons enjoy. The iconic Calatrava opens on the right.

“She flushed Greg’s farewell flowers goodbye and overflowed a toilet, causing a leak and that stain on the meeting room ceiling. It’s fixed now, by the way, if you need to use the room again. The bill’s already been given to her.”

“So, Kitty had a grudge against Greg, big enough to finish off his flowers,” observed Martinelli, who now remembered talking briefly with the man.

“After she chopped them to bits, first,” explained Mrs. James. “According to Gervase, that is. He delivered the box up to her and later saw them in pieces all over the floor, when he took in the plumber.”

“Does she know that you gave a bad reference, Carrie? I heard you tell Cindy but Kitty couldn’t have heard about that, could she?” Guy, with an ear half-tuned to the bitch sessions his sister routinely reported from her salon, feared the undetectable, complex communications of women.

“No way I’d tell her.”

“And Cindy was Lee’s coach. For twirling?” Martin kept up with women rather well in his own estimation, helpfully summarizing details for the benefit of his superior. Carrie nodded, impressed.

“Lee was in it for a long time, up until last year.”

“This is a long shot,” said Martinelli, “but did Kitty happen to know that Lee was a twirler?”

“I may have mentioned it to her. I do chat up my customers, have to have something to keep the conversation going. I doubt she’d ever remember. She never cares much about anybody else.”

“I think I can answer that,” offered Mrs. James. “Lee often talked to us about being a twirler, made it sound like a lot of fun. The girls told me that they’d asked their father if he thought it would be something for them to try. Kitty, so I heard, was with them on that occasion and dismissed it all as nonathletic and kitschy. I remember having to explain the word ‘kitschy’ to them. I’m their walking dictionary, it seems.”

“But didn’t you just say that she’s applied for a job working with twirlers?” Martinelli continued, perplexed.

“Welcome to the mind of Kitty Doyle,” Carrie pronounced. “Weird but certainly not wonderful.”

The mechanics of fingerprinting then proceeded with the technical difficulties of a broken arm overcome by the experience and unlikely cheer of the scheduled technician who, when asked about it, extolled the bliss of a simple vocation. Prints achieved, the police contingent left the condo. Martin and Martinelli began one of their summary chats on the way back to the station.

“Martin, I need to think this through and you’re going to listen. Everyone seems to assume that this was a vicious attack. What are the alternatives to that idea and do they throw up any clues our way?”

“Clues would be good.”

“I’m thinking of random, or generally bad behavior, or bikes themselves as a target, or mischief looking for a place to happen, or the Karons being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or a warning message – as in, don’t annoy me anymore – before I do something worse.”

“Or maybe the tamperer assumed that most riders would check over their bike before they rode, at least the brakes…”

“What’s the matter with my list?” Martinelli burst out. “I’m in charge, so we’ll do mine first, okay?”