I practically skipped home for my car, stopping back at the office for my steno pad and any last minute instructions.
“You just missed Susan,” said Judith, her hand still on the telephone. “She’s going to pay rent through January.”
“Why?” I was surprised at how disappointed I felt.
“Obviously she wants time to…” Judith waved her hand in the air, clearly as bemused as I was. “Whatever she wants time for. Who knows? It’s possible there’s a problem with the ex-husband.”
Now would have been a good time for me to tell Judith about meeting Kevin (and about seeing her husband at the Pleasant Peasant.) But I held back. For one thing, this was the first bit of private business I’d had in ages and I wanted to keep it that way. For another, well, bosses are a bit like parents in the amount of power they have and how they choose to deploy it when you least expect it. The thing is, I wasn’t sure I liked giving up the office so quickly when Judith returned. She’d come in and sat down in her chair and wasn’t going to leave it. Instead, I was going to leave it.
“Did she say what she wanted me to do?” I asked
“My impression was she wanted you to do nothing. At least, not yet.”
“Did she say that she didn’t want me to start cleaning?”
Startled, Judith glanced at me. “I can’t remember exactly but that was my impression. She did say she didn’t want anyone going in there for a few days. At least, not until after the funeral.”
“That’s a switch,” I said. “She was so adamant the other day. It was like she couldn’t wait for everything to be over with.”
Judith sat back in her chair, mulling this over. “I think I can understand that, can’t you? It’s part of denying Abigail’s death. Now that she’s had a little time to absorb the shock, she can think a little. Or at least realize she shouldn’t be making any quick decisions.”
I nodded. “And who knows what the police told her.”
“That’s right! I hadn’t thought about the police. Or Abigail’s ex-husband. I suppose he has a say here.”
“He’s actually not her ex-husband, after all. They hadn’t divorced.”
“He’ll have a lot of say,” she said.
“If he wants to.”
Even now I believe I would have used that moment to tell Judith about meeting Kevin, but we were interrupted by the telephone. She chose to answer it herself, nodding at me to leave, then held up a finger, “Wait,” she whispered, nodding her head, as if the person on the other end could see her. “Ok,” she said to the receiver and hanging up.
“I’m impressed,” she said. “Things are moving along. Before you leave, would you call Greshams and order flowers for Abigail’s funeral. It’s at Patterson’s.”
“So, she really is dead,” I quipped.
“Don’t be tacky,” she snapped back, but with a grin. “We’ll make an Atlantan of you yet.”
Not a Southerner, but an Atlantan. It was to be the most I could hope for.
I decided to forsake Judith’s rule about calling three vendors before selecting either the least expensive or the most valuable. Instead, I pulled the Gresham’s card from Mr. Eberhart’s Christmas basket and ordered an arrangement of white camellias with apricot ribbons and greenery. The apricot was the only thing I knew Abigail would like. It would match her lingerie.
“Should I bill them to Buford Complex?” asked the florist. “They’re sending a wreath,” he said, his gnat-like voice implying that our smaller arrangement, though more age appropriate, was somehow cheap. “Buford’s sending a wreath?” I asked, startled. They, and by they I meant Barbara, Mr. Eberhart and the girls I hadn’t met yet, knew nothing of Abigail. This was a gesture, indeed.
“I understand the lady was a tenant of some standing,” said the florist.
“She lived here,” I said. “You can send our bill here, thank you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “Do let me know if there’s anything else we can do.”
“Actually, can you tell me if you’re sending flowers from anyone else?” Before he could tell me to mind my own business, I hurried on. “I believe some of the family will be coming up from Valdosta and will need a florist.” This was nonsense, of course, everyone knew how to wire flowers from their own vendors, but it did stop my man in his tracks.
“Well, well, well, let me see. Kevin Snowe? Her?”
“Her husband, yes. And Susan? Her sister? Susan. I’ve forgotten her last name. We met briefly Christmas Eve.”
“That’s it. My, you’ve got the whole affair.”
“We’ve worked with Patterson’s for years, my dear. I think that’s it, however. But you be sure to tell anyone else we’ll be happy to help them.”
“Oh, I will,” I said.
“A tenant of some standing, eh?” said Judith, when I related the conversation. “That is odd.” We stared at each other for a moment then burst into laughter. “Barbara is a bit of a drama queen, but you’ll see that for yourself.”
“I guess it does seem exciting to have a suspicious death on the premises,” I said. No one thought that more strongly than I.
“You’d better get going before something else happens. Don’t forget your notebook.”
“Got it right here,” I said.
At my desk, I checked my steno pad for phone numbers for Kevin and Susan. I could call them from home or from the Buford complex if I had a chance.
As I closed the desk drawer, I spotted Abigail’s keys. It was the set I’d found for Detective Boeker in the key box. Without thinking too much about it, I slipped them in my raincoat pocket thinking I’d return them the next time I had a chance (i.e., when I was alone in the office).