Page 13 of Smoke in Mirrors

“Yes.”

“Why the hell would she have been concerned about an old murder case?”

“I have no idea,” Leonora said softly. “But Bethany Walker may have been concerned about it, too.”

He went very still. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“The clippings were in an envelope that is imprinted with Bethany Walker’s name and the address of an office in the Department of Mathematics at Eubanks College.”

For a few seconds he just stared at the fog-bound cove, trying to make sense of that information.

“Meredith must have gotten hold of some of Bethany’s professional stationery. I don’t know how she managed that. We cleaned out Bethany’s office. Deke burned all of the unused stationery that had her name and address on it.”

“There was a short note from Meredith in the safe-deposit box. It says that she found the clippings together with the book in Mirror House. She makes it clear that she intended to send them to you and your brother once she was safely out of your reach in the Caribbean.”

“She found them?”

“Apparently.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know. The note doesn’t say. Just somewhere in Mirror House.”

“Huh.” He tapped one finger on the window edge, looking for some connections. He didn’t see any right off. “All right, send them to me. I’ll see if they mean anything to Deke. Let’s get back to our other business.”

“My finder’s fee? Forget it. I’m not interested in your money, Mr. Walker.”

“What does interest you, Miss Hutton?”

“Finding out who murdered Meredith.”

For a split second he thought he hadn’t heard her right.

“Who murdered her? What the hell is this? She died in a single-car traffic accident down there in L.A., remember?”

“I don’t believe that anymore,” Leonora said firmly. “Not after the rumors of her using drugs and not after finding these clippings in an envelope with Bethany Walker’s name on it. Not after what you said about your brother concluding that Bethany was murdered and the drug rumors surrounding her death.”

“Damn it—”

“Something is going on there in Wing Cove. I intend to find out what that something is.”

“Fine. You want to play private eye? Be my guest. It’s a free country. All I care about is the number of that offshore account. Tell me what you want in exchange for that information and we can both get on with our lives.”

“Yes, well, it’s not quite that simple,” she said carefully. “I’m afraid that what I want in exchange for this number is your help.”

“My help? What do you expect me to do?”

“I need your cooperation and assistance, Mr. Walker. You know Wing Cove. I don’t.”

“Listen closely, Miss Hutton. The answer is not just no, it is hell, no. Got it?”

“I thought the number of this account in the Caribbean was important to you.”

“Are you seriously trying to blackmail me?”

She cleared her throat again. “Well, yes, I suppose you could look at it that way. Now, shall we discuss the details?”

“What details?”

“Well, I’ll need a cover story.”

“A cover story. Right. Got any brilliant ideas, Mata Hari?”

“I believe you mentioned a library at Mirror House,” Leonora said slowly.

“Forget it. Mirror House doesn’t need a librarian. No one uses the old library. The only books in it are the ones Nathanial Eubanks collected years ago. They’re all concerned with antique mirrors and looking glasses.”

“Are the books cataloged?”

He summoned up a mental image of the musty library on the second floor of the mansion. He had only seen the place once when Deke had given him a quick tour. There was a small office on one side. Inside the office was an old-fashioned wooden card catalog with a lot of little drawers.

“I think so,” he said.

“Cards or computer?”

“Cards. I told you, no one has touched that library in years.”

“I think it’s time the catalog was updated and put online, don’t you?”

In spite of his irritation, he was starting to see some possibilities. Mirror House was one of the few real connections that existed between Bethany and Meredith. Meredith had found the book and the clippings somewhere in the mansion and for some reason she had been convinced that he and Deke would want to see them. They had to be important, although he could not envision how that was possible.

As much as he hated to admit it, Deke and Leonora might both have a point. One thing was certain, this situation wasn’t going to go away quietly. He knew that now.

“I might be able to work something out,” he said slowly.

“Excellent.”

The not-so-subtle triumph in her voice made him set his teeth. She thought she had won.

“Before we take this any further,” he said, “there’s something you should—”

“I’ll need a place to stay,” she said.

He gave that two seconds’ worth of thought. More possibilities.

“I recently picked up a fixer-upper with a view of the cove,” he said. “It’s solid and tight. It could work.”

“Perfect.”

“Before we call this a done deal,” he said deliberately, “there’s one stipulation.”

“What is it?” she asked. Careless in victory.

“If you decide to come up here to play girl detective, you’re going to have to do things my way.”

“Good heavens, Mr. Walker. Why on earth would I agree to a clause that puts you in charge?”

“Because if you don’t agree to it, I will come down there to Melba Creek and get the number of that offshore account out of you the hard way.”

“You handed in your resignation?” Gloria put aside the yellow pad she had been using to make notes for her hotel exposé and looked at her over the tops of her reading glasses. “Oh, my. Do you think that was wise?”

“No, but I didn’t have much option.”

Leonora picked up the two cups of toasty Hojicha green tea that she had just brewed in the tiny efficiency kitchen of Gloria’s apartment. She carried the cups to the small table near the window and sat down across from her grandmother. There was a plate with four shortbread cookies in the center of the table. Gloria had made the cookies.

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