Murder in the Collective

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

Book: Murder in the Collective by Barbara Wilson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Barbara Wilson
Tags: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths
keyboard. The big light table had been shattered by some sharp object so that the glass top swirled out in fern patterns; the smaller light table had been pushed to the floor and part of its glass was missing. Scattered over everything, like wet black leaves in autumn, were cut-up bits of phototype fonts and negatives. In the darkroom there were more torn negatives and plates, and the plastic bottles of developing fluid and photographic fixer had been opened and overturned. The smell was lethal.
    “Don’t anyone light a match,” Penny muttered to no one in particular.
    Otherwise, no one could say much of anything for a minute. Even the cops seemed overwhelmed by the viciousness of the attack.
    Then the male cop spoke. “Any idea who did it?”
    “You said on the phone you found some blood,” added the woman cop. According to her tag her name was Officer Alice Hawkins. She was a well-muscled Black woman with skin like shiny walnut wood and the heavy, wide-legged walk of the holstered cop.
    Elena nodded and, not quite trusting herself to speak, led the way to the office. In a dark corner was the missing glass from the light table, sharp as a surgical knife. Along one side was a line of coagulated blood; there was a small stain of it on the carpet as well.
    “I saw it when I went to the telephone to call,” said Elena, in a shaking voice, fumbling in her pockets like an old cigarette smoker for some comfort, and then catching herself.
    The boyish, husky male cop, Officer Bill Rives, pulled out his pad. “What time did you get here to work this morning, Ma’am?”
    “Well, I…” Elena half-searched her pockets again and darted a quick look at me and Penny. For the first time I began to see how complicated this could be—not just in the usual ways that dealing with the law is if you’re “living an alternative lifestyle” (“How many people live in this house, did you say? And what is their relationship to each other? And you say you all work in an ice cream collective?”)—but complicated also in that none of us knew exactly who was involved in this and whether we should be trying to protect anybody, or in what way.
    “Well,” said Elena again, nervously. “I don’t actually work here. I mean, I wasn’t coming to work exactly. But I got here around seven. About ten after seven, because I left my house at seven and it’s about a ten-minute drive away…”
    “You don’t ‘actually’ work here?” Officer Alice prodded.
    “Elena has been helping us out,” said Hadley, speaking for the first time, and in a firm voice. “She works with these women over here, in a printing business,” she gestured to me and Penny. “The two businesses are thinking of merging, and Elena has been doing some of the groundwork.” Hadley made it all sound quite normal and above-board.
    Officer Alice asked, “Do you think that someone…” her eyes flickered around the room, “might have been against this merger?”
    “It’s quite possible,” said Hadley calmly. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all.”
    I wished I could be as matter-of-fact as she was. My mind was racing with possibilities. Zee had dashed off to a meeting, she said. But could she have come here? What about Jeremy and June? Jeremy seemed far too wimpy for something like this, but who knew about June? Maybe she’d just been acting persuadable to fool us? Ray? I couldn’t imagine it. Yet he wasn’t in favor of the merger and I doubted he ever would be. I knew where Penny had been all night, Hadley was out of the question, and as for Elena—just look at her, how upset she was, she must be suspecting Fran too.
    Officer Bill had walked back into the typesetting room and was looking around again. His heavy boots echoed on the wooden floor. “I’m going to call another team to do the fingerprinting,” he said, and then, as if to himself, “Sure as hell looks like somebody went crazy in here.”
    Elena blanched, hearing him, and I knew she was thinking

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