Settings
Murder On The Mind

Murder On The Mind

Murder On The Mind 44

CHAPTER 23

  That evening, I spent over an hour out in the garage, rummaging through my boxes. The cold and damp seeped through my jacket. I was ready to give up my search when I finally found what I wanted. I scrounged some tissue used in packing my stuff, and wrapped the small object. I hoped Richard would like it.

  I also tramped through the loft apartment again, and decided I’d wait until my arm was completely healed before asking Richard if I could live up there. Once I got a job, we could work out some kind of rental agreement. I wanted my own space, needed a place of my own. But I didn’t want to go too far, at least not yet.

  That wasn’t the end of my evening, however. I had one more little mystery to solve. Without a word to Richard or Brenda, I set out on foot, headed down the neighborhood’s backstreets for Snyder. The brisk wind was at my back, the clouds overhead heavy and threatening. I needed to talk—but not to Richard, or any other physician or academician at his old stomping grounds of UB. There were still so many things I didn’t understand about this crazy new ability I seemed to have acquired—like why had I been blessed with it? Only one other person understood my predicament.

  I crossed the parking lot to the darkened bakery and pressed the buzzer at the side of the door, held it for long seconds at a time. After a minute or so, a light came on in the back of the shop, then a large silhouette shuffled toward the door.

  “Stop already!” came Sophie’s muffled voice through the glass as she flipped open the lock. “Come in before you let in all the cold.”

  “Where’ve you been? I came to see you the other day and they never heard of you.”

  “You didn’t come at night. Alone.” Her tone was belligerent. Then she shrugged theatrically, as if that was explanation enough. “So, why’d you come now?”

  “I need to talk to you.”

  She nodded, and motioned me to follow her into the back room once again. “Instant coffee all right?”

  I nodded, taking my seat at the card table. She filled the same saucepan with water, set it on the hot plate above the sink. I remembered that, days earlier, the baker had sidestepped my question about electrocution.

  “Don’t you think that’s a dangerous arrangement?”

  She gestured. “This? I’m always careful.” She measured the coffee into cups. “So, you found the killer. I knew you would.” We’d never even discussed my case. How did she know? “How can I help you now?” she asked.

  “What do I do next?”

  “It’s in God’s hands now.”

  “That’s not the answer I was looking for.”

  “Who says I have answers?”

  “I guess you don’t, because you seem to answer most of my questions with questions.”

  Her eyes crinkled as her lips drew into a self-satisfied smile. Then she shrugged. “Tell me all about it.”

  She listened patiently, serving the coffee as I told her about Sharon, Sumner’s and Claudia’s grisly deaths, and all the other prominent players in this little drama.

  “You know who did it—you told the police. So what’s the problem?”

  “The problem is Sharon should be punished for what she’s done and nobody seems to care!”

  Sophie frowned. “You don’t think she’s being punished every time she looks at that child?”

  “What if she takes her anger out on the kid?”

  “That could happen. Jeffrey,” she said reasonably. “As long as one person knows the truth, she hasn’t gotten away with anything.”

  “But I don’t want to be the sole guardian of that truth.”

  She smiled tolerantly, patted my hand. “Trust.”

  “That’s your advice? Trust?”

  “Things have a way of working out the way they are meant to.”

  “Unfortunately, too often these days people literally get away with murder.”

  She shook her head sadly. “That’s not all you wanted to ask me, is it?”

  “No.”

  “Now that you believe, you want to know why, eh?”

  “Yes.”

  She shrugged. “Maybe you’re just lucky.”

  “You call this lucky?” With a gesture, I reminded her of my partially shaved head.

  “Aren’t you doing what you always wanted to do?”

  I blinked in confusion. What the hell was she talking about?

  “You always wanted to help people,” she said. “You just never knew how.”

  “How will finding Sumner’s killer help anyone? It doesn’t even help him—he’s dead.”

  “Maybe you’ll help that little boy. The one you were worried about just now.”

  “I don’t even like children.”

  She shook her head. “Everybody loves children. Even you.”

  I wasn’t going to argue.

  “What does it matter why you have it? You have it. Now you have to learn to live with it,” she said.

  “You sound just like my brother.”

  “He’s a doctor—he should know.”

  “Now you sound like my—” Girlfriend, I’d wanted to say, but that wasn’t going to happen now.

  Sophie smiled. “I told you, things have a way of working out the way they were meant to.” She glanced at the clock on the wall. “Time for you to go.”

  I got up and followed her through the shop, feeling like a child who’d just been scolded. “Will you be here the next time I come by?”

  “Maybe. Maybe not. Here, take a placek home for Easter breakfast.”

  I hefted the loaf. It felt real enough. “Thank you.”

  She drew me into a hug, kissed my cheek, then pulled back, held my face in her warm hands. “Good things will come of this. They will,” she insisted. “Now, take care walking home. Stay on the sidewalk where there’s lots of light. I’m too old to have to worry about you.”

  She radiated a sense of peace and deep affection. I recognized it, understood it. But again I wondered: why me?

  “I’ll be careful,” I promised, and kissed her goodbye.

  The lock clicked into place and she waved before turning and heading for the back room once more. I watched as first that light went out, and a minute later the light above the shop burned.

  The bakery sign over the door looked shabby, in need of repainting. Was it the same one I’d seen the other day? I couldn’t be sure. Maybe I didn’t want to know. Tucking the placek under my arm like a football, I turned and started for home.

  I followed Sophie’s instructions and stayed on the sidewalk under the intermittent flare of the street lamps. The long walk home gave me plenty of time to think. Maybe that was my problem—I was thinking too much.

  A car whizzed past, splashing dirty water my way. I checked traffic before cutting across Main Street, anxious to get off the busy road and leave behind the stench of exhaust fumes. I headed down a quiet side street, pausing at the corner to pull up my jacket collar against the damp night.

  Turning left, I picked up my pace, in a hurry to get back to the warmth of my room, where I could lie awake for endless hours, thanks to my jumbled nerves. Frustration nagged at me. The fact that Detective Hayden wouldn’t consider my evidence against Sharon Walker reinforced the reality that I had virtually no control over any portion of my life, and probably wouldn’t for weeks, possibly months.

  I refused to take the thought any further. Frustration could also be a byproduct of my present physical condition. Before the mugging, impatience had never been a problem. I knew that damned feeling of impotence would eventually pass, but it couldn’t come soon enough for me.

  Richard’s driveway was in sight when I heard the roar of an engine, saw blinding high beams as the car barreled toward me. It fishtailed on the wet pavement, jumped the curb. I leaped into the privet hedge, out of its path, an instant before it would’ve nailed me.

  Heart pounding, I rolled onto my knees, watched the speeding car recede into the night, its taillights glowing. Some trained investigator I was—I couldn’t tell the make or even the color.


  I brushed uselessly at my muddy jeans. The adrenaline surge that had coursed through me seconds before was already waning. Probably a drunken teenager out joyriding, trying to scare pedestrians.

  Or it could’ve been Rob Sumner.

  Or worse, Sharon Walker.

  No! They couldn’t know where I lived. And how would they have known it was me on the street at eleven o’clock at night? Dressed in dark clothes, I could’ve been anybody out for a walk.

  Okay, maybe the sling on my arm was a dead giveaway.

  Maybe.

  I groped in the blackness, found the placek. One end was crushed, but still salvageable. I stormed off across the lawn for the house. No point in even mentioning this little mishap to Richard and Brenda, yet I couldn’t dismiss it entirely.

  I hated feeling afraid.