Murder in the Collective

Murder in the Collective by Barbara Wilson Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Murder in the Collective by Barbara Wilson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Barbara Wilson
Tags: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths
where’d you all go? The Bar & Grill?” Penny asked.
    “No. To Sappho’s. The lesbian bar, you know. Nah,” I said, considering them coolly as I swept past the table and on up the stairs, “I guess none of you would .”

6
    P ERHAPS BECAUSE OF THE late-night sundae I slept badly that night, and my dreams were filled with dancefloor floozies who were the very opposite of the politically correct lesbians I knew, but who were quite provocative in their own way, with ruffled, deep-cut blouses and tight short skirts. I remember thinking in my dream, well if this is what goes on here what’s the big deal? And being both disappointed and somehow cheered.
    I’d turned off my alarm clock in my sleep and probably would have overslept if I hadn’t heard the telephone ringing downstairs. I didn’t feel able to get up to answer it, but it did have the effect of waking me up. I managed to struggle to a semi-sitting position as I heard someone’s steps pound down the stairs.
    I was still semi-sitting, pondering my dreamlife, when there was a knock at the door and Penny came in. She was wearing her own peculiar form of nightdress—tee-shirt and socks—and her spiky hair stood up like a fence on her head. I was about to remark that she’d better dip her snout in the shower before she let Mr. Olympic catch sight of her, but something in her face stopped me.
    “What’s wrong?” Since we were both here and our parents were both dead, I knew no immediate family member had come to grief, but that didn’t mean there weren’t plenty of other people who might be in trouble. “What happened?”
    “That was Elena,” said Penny. “She’s down at B. Violet. She came there looking for Fran because she didn’t come home last night.”
    “What happened to her?”
    “Elena doesn’t know. She says she found something that shows Fran might have been there, and there’s a little blood or something, but what’s happened is…” Penny suddenly sank down on my bed. “The place has been completely vandalized.”
    “What?”
    “The two machines are smashed, and the copy ripped into shreds. The negatives cut up. A hammer through the big light table. Everything.”
    We sat staring at each other.
    “Who could have done such a thing?” Penny said.
    I kept thinking of Fran sitting at the table in the Bar & Grill. The suppressed violence in her voice. If she’d continued to drink, could she have, for some reason, gone back to B. Violet and smashed everything? In anger at Elena, me, herself?
    “I just hope to God it wasn’t anyone from our collective,” said Penny.
    I stared at her open-mouthed. That possibility had never even occurred to me.
    Penny and I said little on the way to B. Violet. Any conjecture was far too frightening. We arrived to find a cop car out front and two cops, a man and a woman, in the doorway, along with Hadley and Elena. Anna and Margaret were on their way, Elena said, but there was no sign of Fran. Elena seemed glad to see us but otherwise she looked awful, with ashblue rings under her eyes and a haggard, dustmop-against-the-floor look to her blond curls.
    Hadley, on the other hand, just looked confused, like any late-sleeper somehow set on her feet before the gears are clicking. She kept stumbling, which actually wasn’t so odd, considering the amount of stuff on the floor now.
    B. Violet occupied a pleasant storefront in North Capitol Hill, on a street that was more residential than business. It consisted of three rooms: the office/waiting area, the typesetting and design room, and the tiny darkroom. But everything was in shambles now; it looked like the set of a TV sit-com after a free-for-all scene. The office wasn’t so bad—just a chair or two knocked over, some files pulled out and strewn around. But inside the second room there was complete havoc. The tabletop Compugraphic was on its side on the floor; the freestanding one had its screen dashed in and gummy rubber cement poured through the

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