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Smoke in Mirrors Jayne Ann Krentz 2022/8/3 13:51:30

“Meredith and I weren’t involved,” Thomas said evenly. “We had a few casual dates, that’s all.”

“Meredith and Thomas stopped seeing each other after a few casual dates,” Leonora said smoothly, “and Meredith went on with her project to rip off the endowment fund. She had a few casual dates with Alex Rhodes, probably because she figured he would be a good source of local information. She found out he was dealing drugs and stopped seeing him.”

“At some point she found the catalog and the envelope full of newspaper clippings,” Thomas said. “She guessed that Deke and I would want to see them. But she didn’t want to jeopardize her own scheme, which was nearly completed. So she put the clippings and the book into a safe-deposit box.”

“And then she made her fatal mistake,” Deke said. “She had worked with Roberta Brinks for six months. Long enough to know that Roberta had been around at the time of the Eubanks murder. So she tried to pump her for information. As soon as she started asking questions, she was doomed.”

“Roberta pretended she didn’t know anything about the murder except the old gossip, but she got very nervous,” Leonora said. “First, Bethany had become suspicious and now, only a few months later, another woman was probing into the past. She waited until Meredith had left Wing Cove. Then, one day, she contacted her via email saying she had learned something very interesting about the old Eubanks murder.”

“She met Meredith in Los Angeles. Had dinner with her, fed her the drugs and then arranged the accident,” Leonora said. “When the news of the funeral reached Wing Cove, she learned that Deke was trying to weave new conspiracy theories.”

Ed nodded soberly. “So she started the second round of rumors, hoping to deflect any serious murder investigation.”

“In the end, it was the fact that none of us believed the rumors that ruined her scheme,” Thomas said.

They all sat in silence for a while, letting the details settle into place.

Eventually, Ed pushed himself up from the chair. “Appreciate the conversation, folks. I’ll be on my way. Got a lot of paperwork waiting for me.”

Thomas got up to see him to the door. He took Ed’s jacket out of the closet.

Ed studied the tile work in the hall with an approving eye while he zipped up his jacket. “First time I’ve seen this place since you bought it, Walker. You did a real fine job with the remodeling.”

“Thanks,” Thomas said.

“Let me know if you decide to sell,” Ed said. “Elissa Kern and I will be getting married in the spring. We’re looking for a place. Elissa doesn’t want to live in her father’s old house and my apartment is too small.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Ed.”

Ed went out onto the porch. Thomas closed the door and went back into the front room. Leonora looked at him. He spread his hands and smiled.

“I told you my houses always find the right owners,” he said.

“What about us?” she asked. “Where are we going to live?”

“I don’t know yet.” He looked around. “But it won’t be here. At least not for long.”

“Why not? I love this place.”

He grinned. “It’s not big enough. We need more room. For the kids.”

A week later Leonora sat in front of the fire with Thomas and Wrench. There was a bowl of freshly made popcorn on the table. Wrench was eating most of the popcorn.

“Something I wanted to give you before we pick up your grandmother and Herb at the airport tomorrow,” Thomas said. He handed her a small box.

She studied it closely. “Very tiny tools?”

She fed Wrench the last of the popcorn, wiped her hands on a napkin and opened the box.

A ring sparkled against dark velvet.

Happiness shimmered through her. “The answer is yes.”

He grinned. “I haven’t asked the question yet.”

“Doesn’t matter. The answer is still yes.”

“I like a woman who knows her own mind.”

“I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.”

“Neither have I,” he said.

The thing about Thomas Walker, she thought, was that you never had to worry about illusions or false reflections in a mirror. Thomas was for real.