Page 83 of Smoke in Mirrors

Keep going. Keep moving.

“I gave you the strong dose, of course. The same dose that I gave to Bethany Walker and Meredith Spooner.”

She put one hand on the wall and turned her head. Roberta was coming toward her through the shadows. She had something in her hand.

A gun.

“You killed Rhodes,” Leonora whispered. The words were thick and cumbersome in her mouth. “You were the one Thomas and Deke saw running away that night.”

“Ah, yes, Mr. Rhodes. Such a handsome man. He was the one who came up with a name for my hallucinogen. Smoke and Mirrors. I thought it was very creative. He said a good name was essential for proper marketing. Mirror House gave him the idea, I believe.”

“How did he . . . how did he know about you? And the drug?”

“He figured out that I was mixing up the drugs the night I pushed Bethany off that bluff.”

“How did he know that you killed her?”

“I was a trifle careless, I must admit. Alex was out running rather late in the evening. He passed by Mirror House just as I was getting Bethany into her car. He knew something was wrong. He followed me. Watched me push her off the cliff. The next day I very carefully planted the rumors of Bethany’s drug use. And Alex put it all together.”

“He tried to blackmail you?”

“No, no, dear. He offered to form a partnership. I was the manufacturer and supplier. He was the middleman who actually sold the product. He’d had experience in that line, you see, and I had none. Most of his transactions were with out-of-town clients, of course. Wing Cove is such a small community. He feared that if he sold too much locally, others would soon figure out that he was the source. But he couldn’t resist experimenting with it from time to time, especially on some of his female clients.”

“Why . . . why did you kill him if the partnership worked?”

“It was a lucrative arrangement for both of us, but when everything started to fall apart I knew I had to tidy up before I left town. Mr. Rhodes knew too much about me. I couldn’t let him live, now could I?”

“Why . . . why did you kill Meredith Spooner?”

“Because for some reason that I was never able to determine, she grew extremely curious about the circumstances of Sebastian Eubanks’s death.” Roberta frowned. “She somehow managed to link it with Bethany’s suicide. I simply don’t understand how she put it all together. But that is neither here nor there now, is it?”

“Why did you feed that drug to me? You were in the clear after you shot Alex. No one was even suspicious of you.”

Roberta’s hand tightened around the gun. “I really couldn’t leave town without punishing you, Leonora. I blame you for stirring things up here in Wing Cove. You very nearly ruined everything. You must pay for causing me so much trouble.”

“Why are you okay?” Leonora whispered. “You drank the coffee, too. I saw you drink it.”

Roberta chuckled. “The drug wasn’t in the coffee. It comes in the form of a powder, you see. I merely sprinkled a little in the bottom of your cup before I poured. It dissolves instantly.”

There were other questions she needed to ask, but she couldn’t do it now. Time to prioritize. The first job was to survive. She had that dinner date with Thomas tonight. Couldn’t be late.

For a very important date.

Oh, damn. She was losing it fast here. Get a grip.

She realized she was sliding down the wall. Fear lanced through her. She closed her eyes, summoned all of her will and straightened. She had to plant both palms on the wall to hold herself upright.

When she opened her eyes she found herself gazing into another dark looking glass. It was framed in gilded wood.

You can’t sleep yet.

She reached out with both hands. Gripped the old mirror and lifted it off its hook. It was heavy.

“Oh, my, whatever do you want with that?” Roberta said. “Put it down. We must be on our way.”

She held on to the mirror, never looking away from the nearly opaque reflective surface. “Where are we going?”

“Why, to your car, of course.”

“So that I can fall asleep at the wheel the way . . . the way Meredith did?”

“Sleep is what you want most now, isn’t it?”

“I can’t sleep yet.”

“Put the mirror down, Leonora.”

She ignored the order. Staring into the mirror as though transfixed by her own image, she turned and staggered into the library.

Roberta would not shoot her here unless she felt she had no choice, she thought. Blood in the library would be hard to explain.

“The hallucinations must be very, very bad.” Roberta came to stand in the doorway. “Don’t you want to sleep now, Leonora? You should be very sleepy. Perhaps I didn’t get the mix quite right this time. It is unpredictable and I was in something of a hurry when I made up this batch. What with getting rid of Osmond Kern and Mr. Rhodes and handling all the details of the alumni reception, things have been quite hectic around here lately.”

“Kern. How did you manage his suicide?”

“Oh, that was no trouble at all. He was already quite drunk when I phoned him and told him that something important had come up and that he had to meet me at the boathouse. When I gave him some coffee to drink, he didn’t hesitate at all. Probably thought it would sober him up. But the effects of the drug are intensified with alcohol. I got him into the boat, took him out a ways into the Sound and pushed him overboard. Then I went back to shore and set the boat free.”

“Thomas will know. If you kill me, he’ll find you.”

“By the time the authorities have finished investigating your accident, I will be long gone, Leonora. A new name, a new identity, a new life. I have been planning it for several months. It is all in place.”

“No.”

Leonora dashed the heavy mirror against the metal upright of the nearest bookcase. The old glass fractured and shattered, breaking into a dozen tinkling, screaming shards. The jagged pieces of mirror bounced and skittered on the floor at her feet.

“Now, see what you’ve done.” Roberta chuckled. “Seven years’ bad luck, I’m afraid. But the good news is that you won’t live long enough to worry about it.”

Leonora crouched slowly, cautiously, one hand clutching the edge of a bookshelf to keep herself from toppling forward.

“Oh, good, it’s finally hitting you,” Roberta said. “Come along now. On your feet. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to sleep soon enough.”

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