Shakespeare's Trollop Page 12

"How was it set?"

"A package of cigarettes. Not just one cigarette was lit, but a whole pack. They were left on the couch to smolder. But the flames ran away from the couch, didn't consume it, and the traces were still there."

"How is Joe C?" I asked.

He looked surprised for a minute, as though he'd been expecting me to exclaim and ask a different question.

"Nothing can kill Joe C," Bobo said, almost regretfully, pushing his hair back off his forehead. "He's like a human cockroach. Hey, I saw that twitch again!"

I looked away.

"Lily, this isn't the end of the world."

I saw I was hurting him, and I didn't want to. I didn't want to have done any of the things I'd done today.

And I was determined to stick to an impersonal topic.

"If Joe C had died, who would have inherited?" I asked.

Bobo turned red. "I'm not supposed to know the answer to that, but I do," he confessed. " 'Cause I saw a copy of the will at Joe C's house. He had it stuck in the old rolltop desk. I've always loved that desk. Gee, I guess it's all burned up now. But I played with it since I was a little boy, you know, looking in the secret compartment that he'd shown me."

"The will was there?" I prodded when memories seemed to wrap him up.

"Yes. The last time I went to see Joe C ... last week, I guess it was... I was sitting with Toni in the living room while Aunt Calla was helping Joe C get his shoes on after his nap. He'd asked all of the greats to come over -  grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Deedra, me, Amber and Howell Three, Becca. The other three live in North Carolina.... So, I was showing Toni the little place you push to open the compartment. And there it was. I didn't mean anything by reading it, I promise."

After a brief period of being his sex bunny, I was now back to being Bobo's wise woman who had to approve of his actions. I sighed.

"What did it say?"

"There was lots of lawyer language." Bobo shrugged. "But what I could tell, I guess, is that Great Uncle Joe C left one thing, one furniture item, to each of us Winthrop kids. So Amber and Howell Three and I could each pick something. I was hoping I'd get the desk. I was thinking I'd try to pick first. Now everything's burned or water damaged, I guess." Bobo smiled his beautiful smile, amused at the confounding of his greed. "Of course the main thing is the house. Joe C left proceeds from the sale of the house to his great-grandchildren. Walker's three kids, and Alice Whitley's two, and Lacey's ... oh, but..."

His voice trailed away. "But Deedra's dead," Bobo resumed slowly.

I digested this slowly. I thought that whom Joe C'd included was just as interesting as who he'd left out. "Nothing for Calla," I pointed out. "She's a granddaughter."

Bobo actually looked horrified. "But she's taken care of him all these years," he said.

I remembered Bobo's grandfather. He'd only been a brother-in-law to Joe C, but they were from the same mold. I wondered what Shakespearean mothers had fed men-children in those days to make them so mean.

"Did anyone know this besides you?" I asked.

"Yeah. Well, I guess I don't know," he muttered. He still seemed stunned at his great-uncle's mean-spiritedness. His thoughts must have followed the same trail mine had, because suddenly he said, "What kind of people do I come from?"

"You come from your parents, and they're both nice people." I had reservations about his mother, but this was no time to think about that. "Your father is a nice man," I said, and meant it. "Your grandmother is a true lady." That encompassed some less-than-desirable attributes as well as some great ones, but there again, I was always more clever at not saying things than saying them. Sometimes that was the better characteristic.

Bobo was looking a little less miserable.

"You're a good man."

"You mean that?"

"You know I do."

"That's the best thing you could've said to me." He looked down at me soberly for a long minute before his smile cracked through the serious facade. "Other than calling me your incredible stud and permanent sex slave."

All of a sudden, I felt better. I could see that the brief sexual connection we'd had had faded out of existence and that our old friendship might replace it; that we might actually forget this past twenty minutes, or at least make a good enough pretense of it.

But Jack was still coming the next day, and any reprieve from self-loathing I'd felt was washed away in the flood of anguish the idea of seeing him caused me.

Bobo raised a hand to touch my hair, or caress my neck, but something in my face stopped him.

"Good-bye, Lily."

"Good-bye," I said steadily.

He opened the front door and buttoned his suit coat to cover, at least partially, the stain on the front of his pants. He half-turned when he was almost over the threshold.

"Do you think Calla could do that?" he asked, as though he were asking a student of the dark parts of the heart. "You think she could do that to Joe C? Set the fire? The door was unlocked. She has keys."

"I think she could want him to die if she knew about the will," I told him honestly.

He was startled, but he took my word for it.

Shaking his head, he headed off down the street to find his Jeep and go home to his girlfriend and parents.

Then I was left alone with my own damn conscience.

Chapter Nine

I'd just put away my groceries when I heard a quiet knock on my front door.

Becca Whitley was there, still in brilliant makeup, though she'd changed into jeans and a T-shirt.

"You busy?" she asked.

"Come in," I said, actually relieved to have someone else break into my thoughts.

Becca had been in my house only once before, so she didn't exactly relax once she was inside. "Your boyfriend here this weekend?" she asked, standing in the middle of my tiny living room.

"Not until tomorrow. Would you like a drink?"

"Fruit juice or water," she said. "Whatever."

I poured her a glass of pink grapefruit juice, and we sat in the living room.

"Have the police been by again?" I asked, since I couldn't think of anything else to say.

"Not for a couple of days. They ask you for a list of men she'd had up there?"


"What'd you tell them?"

"That the men were gone before I got there in the morning."

"Naughty, naughty."

"What'd you tell them?"

"I gave them a list."

I shrugged. I didn't expect everyone to do what I did.

"I hear that the sheriff's department has an automatic door that zips open and closed all day, so much traffic is going in and out."

"You hear?" Someone's lips were awfully loose.

"Anna-Lise Puck."

Anna-Lise was Becca's workout partner. She was also a civilian employee of the sheriff's department.

"Should she be talking about that?"

"No," Becca said. "But she enjoys being in the know so much that she just can't resist."

I shook my head. Anna-Lise would find herself unemployed pretty soon. "She better watch out," I told Becca.

"She thinks she has job security."


"Well, she was tight with the first Sheriff Schuster." Becca shrugged. "She figures the second Sheriff Schuster won't fire her because of that."

We exchanged glances, and Becca grinned at me. Right.

"When I went to pick her up for lunch yesterday," Becca told me, "guess who I saw coming out of the door?"

I looked a question.

"Jerrell Knopp," she said significantly. "The stepfather himself."

Poor Lacey. I wondered if she knew.

"And," Becca continued, stepping on the word heavily, "our esteemed neighbor Carlton."

I was shocked. I had always figured Carlton as too fastidious for Deedra. I could feel my lips tighten in a small sneer. It just went to show.

"In fact," Becca said, "all the guys in our karate class have been in, including our esteemed sensei."

"Raphael? Bobo?" Raphael was the most married man I'd ever met, and Bobo was Deedra's cousin.

"Yep, and the new guys. Plus a few men that haven't been to class in a long time."

"But why?" Even Deedra couldn't have arranged a rendezvous with every single karate student.

Becca shrugged. "I have no idea."

Obviously, there was some reason, something that had been discovered during the investigation that had led to this. "Are they bringing in the tae kwon do people?" I asked.

Becca looked pleased with me. "Exactly what I asked Anna-Lise," she told me. "Yes, all the martial arts guys in Shakespeare are visiting with the sheriff. Whether or not they are really known to have known our late neighbor."

"That's quite a few men." I hesitated, then went on. "I just wonder if they'll ever find out who did kill her."

"Lily, I want the police to solve this. You know one of the men she slept with did this to her."


"They hauled out lots of sheets."

"She had a drawerful of condoms." Of course, I couldn't be sure she'd used them, but I thought fear of pregnancy would have prompted caution, if fear of disease didn't.

Becca stared at me, her eyes like bright blue marbles, while she thought that through. "So, most likely there won't be semen stains on the sheets. So, no DNA to test and compare." She'd crossed her legs, and her foot began to swing. "There may not be DNA inside her, anyway. Hey, she ever go with women?"

I returned her stare with interest, trying not to look shocked. I was learning a lot about myself today. "If she did, I never knew about it."

"Now, don't get all tight-ass, Lily," Becca said, seeing I wasn't happy with the conversation. "You know, lots of women who went through what you did would be inclined that way afterwards. Maybe Deedra had run the gamut of men, wanted something different."

"And that would be equally no one else's business," I said pointedly.

"Oh, you're no fun!" Becca recrossed her legs, picked up the morning newspaper, and tossed it down. "Well, how's old Joe C?"

"I haven't called the hospital yet, but I hear he's still alive."

"He's lucky you came along." Her narrow face was utterly sober.

"Eventually someone would have called the fire department, and the firefighters would have gotten him out."

"Well, I'm going to say thank you anyway, since Joe C is my great-grandfather."

"Did you visit him often?"

"I hadn't been to Shakespeare since I was a little kid. But since Uncle Pardon died and I moved here, I've been by to see him maybe once every two weeks, something like that. That old rascal still likes short skirts and high heels, you know?"

"Yes, I know."

"Kind of pathetic. But he's a peppy old bastard; I'll give him that. Still capable of launching into you in the wink of an eye, you give him cause. Rip you another asshole."

"You specifically?"

"No, no. I was speaking in general. Not me."

Was I supposed to ask who? I decided not to, out of sheer perversity. "I understand you inherit, with the other great-grandchildren," I said instead, not knowing why I was commenting on what Bobo had told me.

"Yep, that's the way I hear it." Becca was smiling broadly. "But the old so-and-so isn't dead yet!" She seemed pleased to be related to such a tough bird. But then her face grew serious. "What I really came here to tell you, Lily, is that you may be getting another visit from that woman sheriff."


"Anna-Lise says all the karate women will come next. Because of the way Deedra died."

"How did she die?"

"She was - ."

A heavy knock on the door interrupted this interesting bit of dialogue. "Too late," Becca said, almost blithely.

Before I could say anything, Becca just got up and went out my back door. I was left to answer the front with an increasingly bad feeling.

"Sheriff Schuster," I said, and it was impossible for me to sound anything but grudging. This day had been too much for me already.

"Miss Bard," she said crisply.

Marta stepped in with Deputy Emanuel on her heels.

"Please have a seat," I said, my voice cool and insincere.

Of course, they did.

"The results of Deedra Dean's autopsy," Marta Schuster said, "were very interesting."

I raised my hand, palm up. What?

"Though various things were done to her after death" - I couldn't help remembering the glint, of glass between Deedra's thighs - "she died of a single hard punch to the solar plexus." The sheriff tapped her own solar plexus by way of visual aid.

I probably looked as stumped as I felt. I finally could think of nothing to say but, "So ... ?"

"It was a massive blow, and it stopped her heart. She didn't die from a fall or strangulation."

I shook my head. I was still clueless. Whatever reaction Marta Schuster was expecting from me, she wasn't getting it, and it was making her angry.

"Of course, it might have been an accident," Clifton Emanuel said suddenly, so we both looked at him. "It might not have been intended to kill her. Someone might have just punched her, not knowing how hard they hit."

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies