well, if there actually happened to be a "this time."
Sex was pretty close to the bottom of the list of things I wanted to discuss with my mother, so I changed the subject, quickly. "Were you over at BigJohn's the night he was killed?"
Lucille's eyes flickered a little at the abrupt change in topics, and her acrylic nails clattered against one another almost as if she were nervous about something. "What difference does it make where I was? I didn't kill him."
Nice clear answer. Actually, the only thing clear was that she'd been lying all along. "You told me, and the sheriff, I might add, that you hadn't seen the mayor privately for a couple of weeks. That was your official statement to the authorities. You hadn't seen BigJohn in a couple of weeks."
"Until that night." When she clamped her lips together and tilted her chin up, I added, "How did you know his wife wouldn't be there?" She looked me square in the eye. "I knew she would."
* * * *
I parked my mother in the kitchen in a straight-backed chair by the bay window. I did not do this so Mother had a nice view of the azaleas and canna lilies, rather so I could keep an eye on her while I found a locksmith willing to drive out from the big city at four o'clock on a Friday afternoon. Yes, there would be an extra charge, several of them, in fact.
With Earl's Locks and Safes headed our way, I replaced the phone and grabbed a Dr Pepper from the fridge. My mother really does love me or she wouldn't make a special effort to always have a six-pack of liquid tar, as she calls my favorite soda, on hand for whenever I might show up. I popped the top and took a long swig, then sat down. Facing her was a bit of a problem since she'd become terribly engrossed in the flowers and bushes in the garden.
"I'm going to have to call that Terrell boy," she said, clucking her tongue and tsk-tsking. "He didn't get all the weeds pulled from around the roses, and the zinnias are going to be choked out. I already paid him, too. He was supposed to have trimmed around the pecan trees. Did you notice if he did that or not? I'll just bet he didn't. I sure get tired of paying for jobs that don't get done. Just can't get good help anymore."
"Yes, good help is hard to find. And some people will lie to their only child when it suits them. Tragic situations, both."
Lucille sighed dramatically and turned around to face me. "Might I have a diet soda before the interrogation begins, warden?"
I grabbed a Diet Pepsi from the fridge and filled a glass with ice. Lucille Jackson does not drink from a can. When we were both settled again and our thirsts, if not our blood pressures, under control, I said, "You may as well start telling the truth right now, Mother--the whole truth. Jerry knows you were at BigJohn's near the time he was killed. For all I know, the whole neighborhood saw your car there as well."
"No, ma'am, they did not. I did not park anywhere near his place. I had gone for a walk over at the school track as I do three times a week, unless of course my knee is acting up, then I only go once or twice. But I try to not ever miss a week, you know. And I always keep a record of my mileage around the football field. Merline and I have a contest going. The one with the most miles in by Friday gets treated to a big old sundae with nuts."
I skipped the easy comeback on the nuts, rubbed my temples and tried to get back to the point. "So, you were walking around the track and just happened to stray across the back lot, past the tennis courts and down about ten blocks to the mayor's residence. Is that about it?"
"I was home by nine," she said, as displeased with my attitude as I was with hers. "And I did watch Lucy ."
Okay, if she'd been out walking it had to still be fairly light out. That meant she hadn't been at the house when BigJohn had been shot because that happened around ten thirty p.m. or so. But she had been there at some point--and so had the mayor's wife.