CHRISTMAS TRIFFLE by Heather Heaven / Tasty Mystery / Released Sept 1, 2019
Rain was coming down hard. Umbrella overhead, Charly walked up the front steps of Cliff’s house talking to herself, rehearsing the words she’d use once she saw him face to face.
“Just say, Cliff, I’m a different person now. I’ve changed in the year you were off being the Restaurant Guru and this year, too. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love you. Don’t you think we…” She interrupted herself with disgust. “Oh, brother. Saying it out loud, it all sounds so whiny.” She cleared her throat and tried again. “What I mean, Cliff, is…well…look, we’ve both changed, but maybe our feelings for one another haven’t and…” She made a face. “Oh, God. That’s worse.”
Shaking droplets of water from her umbrella, Charly rang the doorbell. “Aunt Pearl, you’d better be right about this, now that I’ve finally gathered up the courage to talk to him,” she muttered. “Not that my actions aren’t my own responsibility. My new mantra: my life, my responsibility.”
Without looking, she dropped the umbrella into the stand just outside the door. It was a wood carving of wild geese about to take flight, one she’d bought years before. Cliff opened the door dressed in his robe, apparently fresh from the shower. Her courage ebbed. He gave Charly a surprised smile then fought it back.
“What are you doing here at the break of dawn and in these September squalls?”
“Oh, sorry. I just…” Courage lost, she hesitated. “I see you still have the umbrella stand I got at a yard sale.”
“Did you want it back?”
“No, no, certainly not. It was bought for this porch. Listen, I want to talk to you about…something…else.”
“Sure, sure. Come on in. I like that umbrella stand, by the way, in case I never mentioned it.” He stood back and let her enter. “What’s on your mind?”
“Ah…well…I wanted to say…that is…I wanted to ask…”
“Ah…well…maybe more to talk about…”
“Talk about what?”
“The murder,” she jumped in with. “We should do something.”
“About the murder? I’ll admit, something needs to be done about it. It’s been hanging over my head for weeks now.”
Relieved, she smiled for the first time since she came into the house. “Exactly. The police don’t seem to be any closer to who did it than when it happened. And because we found the body together, we look like we could have done it.” She stopped speaking and looked at him. “My business is suffering.”
“Mine is practically non-existent.”
“Truth time.” She took a deep breath and blurted out, “I’m selling my house in order to stay in business. I’m meeting with the real estate agent to sign the papers in an hour.”
“They’re open on Labor Day?”
“For this they are. Besides, we’re going to be open today, aren’t we?”
“True enough. I’m sorry about your house, but what do you want from me, Charly?”
“I can’t stand idly by and watch Chez Felix go down the drain. I’m sure you feel the same way. Maybe you and I…maybe…we could look into who committed the crime ourselves. Help the police out.”
Cliff inhaled a deep breath, reluctant to say anything at first. Finally, he smiled. “Well, here’s a brave new world for you.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I never figured you for a Nancy Drew type of gal.”
“Maybe you don’t know me so well anymore. I’ve changed. That’s really what I wanted to say. I’ve changed.” She took a deep breath about to launch into her speech but chickened out. Cliff watched her for a moment, obviously perplexed by her visit.
“I can see that. But maybe we should leave this to the police.”
“We did. They’re doing nothing. And what I’m thinking is, we’re on the inside.”
“Hmmm. What you’re saying is because we know a lot of the players, we might have better luck? That’s possible. It has to be someone we know. Now there’s a dismal thought,” he added.
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