Veronica was sitting on the verandah with a pitcher of tea and several glasses when I returned from the cemetery. Mrs. Moth sat with her, nibbling on a heart-shaped sugar cookie.
“He’s over at the garden center right now picking out a spirea,” said Veronica by way of a greeting. I did not correct her. After we’d finished our coffee this afternoon, Professor Sergeant said he would buy several gardenias and a mix of vegetables and herbs. He’d even offered to give me one of the gardenias. For balance, he said. For symmetry.
“I think he said camellia,” said Mrs. Moth. “And I’m sure he’ll buy something for your side, too.” Mrs. Moth is the quietest of the three old ladies of Monnish Court. She sighed and spoke with repressed passion. “He loved that little dog,” she said, brushing crumbs from her fingers with finality. “More than you love yours.”
Before I could deny this (and I don’t know how she could be right or if she’s right, what a thing to say!), Veronica interjected.
“He was very angry,” said Veronica. “He was very rude.”
“He thinks Veronica killed Astible,” said Phoebe.
I must have looked horrified and I know I pulled Juniper closer to me.
“I’m sure he doesn’t,” I said, thinking of our QuikSnak conversation earlier and how affectionate he’d sounded about Monnish Court’s three old crones. But just because he hadn’t shared his anger, didn’t mean he didn’t feel any.
“He thought she might have eaten some of the brownies I brought out last night,” said Veronica. She had the most innocent face I’ve ever seen on someone her age (mid sixties?) A big round moon, wholesome and blank as a notebook in September.
“You fed that dog chocolate, Veronica.” Phoebe used her teacher voice to good effect.
“It couldn’t have harmed her,” Veronica blustered “I fed her a crumb.”
“I think we were all feeding the dogs last night,” I said. “Juniper was a party pig.” My dog will never be called to heel except during parties when she turns into Lassie. She’s particularly fond of cheese straws.
“And she didn’t get sick!” Veronica was triumphant. Or relieved.
Juniper squirmed down from my arms. She’d seen or sensed Professor Sergeant’s return. To her this still meant Astible would be coming out. It’s evening, but not dark yet. Time to plant my own garden.