greeted Kate and Rob with enthusiasm and had plied them with tea, coffee, and cookies, as they were asked about their life stories. Interviews that should have taken fifteen to twenty minutes had taken closer to an hour each.
After dinner, Betty took them into the den to show them her handiwork. She had listed the names of the members of the writers’ club on one of two large pieces of white posterboard, with room under each name to add notations. On the second, she had written the title “Other Suspects” and had listed several names. All she lacked was a bulletin board to tack them to.
You can take the teacher out of the classroom
, Kate thought.
But you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher.
They compared notes from their interviews and Betty made some notations. Their main accomplishment of the day had been the elimination of several people from their list. Both Kate and Rob had felt they were telling the truth when they’d claimed to have only known Doris in passing.
By nine, Betty was yawning. She went into her bedroom to get ready for bed, but she would be sleeping on the small settee in the living room as she had done the night before. She had insisted that her tall, big-framed nephew take the queen-sized bed in her bedroom.
“I’m way too wired to sleep yet,” Kate said. “Too much tea and coffee today. I’m not used to it anymore.” She’d been avoiding caffeine for over a year, while she was pregnant and then nursing.
“I’m still a bit wound up myself,” Rob said. “Why don’t we take a walk. I’ve got a key, so we can slip back in later and not disturb Aunt Betty.”
Kate and Rob walked down the short hallway to the atrium in the center of the building. At nine, the area was already deserted, although they could hear televisions playing and the low murmur of conversations in several of the apartments. “Pretty much roll up the sidewalks at sunset around here, don’t they?” Rob said, as they headed for the front doors of the building.
Kate glanced outside at the gray July dusk. “Yeah, it’s not even completely dark yet.”
As they pushed through the doors, Kate studied her friend’s broad face. Rob was looking downright haggard.
They chose a direction at random and strolled along the sidewalk. Streetlights surrounding the parking lots were coming on, then some blinked off again, their sensors unable to make up their minds.
“Anything the matter, Rob?” Kate asked.
Rob gave a low chuckle. “Besides the obvious that my aunt is a murder suspect?”
“Yeah, besides that.” Kate smiled at him.
“This case is getting to me a bit. It’s going okay so far, but a lot is at stake. My client’s wife is an alcoholic. Originally, she was divorcing him so she could party without him nagging her about trivial things, like not leaving the kids home alone when she wants to go to the bar, and not driving drunk with them in the car.
“So he assumed she would agree to him having custody of the kids, but she’s balked at that. Now we’re duking it out in front of a judge. If she gets custody, the kids will be at risk even more than they were before.”
“How old are the kids?”
“Six and four.”
“Yeah,” Rob said, “way too young to be the rope in a parental tug of war.”
“Not that there’s ever a good age for that.” Kate noticed a bench beside the sidewalk. “Let’s sit for awhile.”
The temperature was dropping with nightfall but heat was still radiating from the asphalt of the parking lots. A slight breath of cool breeze ruffled their hair. They sat down. Rob stretched his long legs out in front of him and let out a sigh.
“So is your client going for full custody?”
“Yeah, and supervised visitation for the mother, which he’s not going to get. Now she’s claiming she’s sober, going to AA. But she’s promised him before that she would clean up her act, and it’s only lasted a few days.”
“With the courts still leaning toward