Mercedes squealed around the corner as I eased to the curb. Behind her tinted windshield I could see she was talking excitedly on her car phone, which she quickly hung up when she spotted me. She threw open her door and came bustling toward the van.
Marla’s raspberry-colored sequined sweatsuit did not flatter her portly figure. In one hand she held a covered glass and in the other a paper bag. My dear friend always brought something that she thought would make you feel better. Usually the only thing I needed was to see her, and as usual, the sight of her rushing toward me, her rhinestone-studded sunglasses jiggling up and down on her concerned face, brought a wave of relief.
Wealthy by inheritance, talkative by nature, and pretty in an unconventional way, Marla had endured being married to John Richard for six yearsless than I had. After John Richard’s first few rampages, Marla had also shown much more confidence than I had when it came to ridding oneself of a burdensome spouse. She’d shoved an attacking John Richard into a hanging plant and dislocated his shoulder. She’d then managed to cut the marital knot with great expertise. She and I had become fast friends when her divorce was final, proving that even the worst marital experiences can hold some redemption. Last summer she’d survived a heart attack. Earlier
summer, she’d survived a disastrous breakup with the one guy she’d been serious about since divorcing the Jerk. We had a history, the two of us. And I loved her dearly.
“Okay, tell me,” she began without preamble when I hopped out of the van to greet her, “are you okay? Probably not,” she added with an opulent, scarlet-lipsticked frown.
I fought off an unexpected wave of dizziness. “I don’t know. No. Probably not.”
“Let’s get back in your van, so people don’t come out and start asking a bunch of questions. Jeez, this town—I’ve already had two calls on my cellular.” Her brown eyes softened with sympathy and she proffered a plastic-wrapped crystal glass. For the first time, I noticed her hair was damp. “Look, Goldy, I brought you an iced latté. Well, actually half espresso and half cream dumped over ice. Very naughty, but oh so good.” She held up the brown bag in her other hand. “And here we have a whole bunch of meds that I just dumped out of my medicine cabinet. They’re mostly tranquilizers. Which do you want first?”
“Coffee and downers?” I asked incredulously. Isagged against the van door. I wondered if any Furman County victim advocates carried lunch-bags full of prescription tranquilizers. Probably not.
“Come on, back in you go.” Marla hustled me into the van, where the air was even warmer than it was outside. But the interior of my vehicle was familiar and smelled faintly, even pleasantly, of cooked food. The cat was uncharacteristically quiet. I rolled down my window; Marla did the same.
“Just drink this,” she commanded, thrusting the glass into my hand. “Tom said to bring you—” Abruptly she stopped. She blinked. “One of my friends on Jacobean called. Suz is
Are they sure? Lynn Tollifer, you know her? She and her nosy teenage son, Luke, live across the street from Suz. Luke told Lynn that Suz’s body was in a ditch at the end of her driveway. Who found her? You?” I nodded and took a tiny sip of the chilly liquid. It tasted like melted ice cream. Marla clutched the top of her frizzy brown hair. “Suz dead! I don’t believe it, but I do believe it.”
“It should have been me. But he got Suz Craig instead.” My voice cracked. I sagged against the headrest. “Gosh, I’m feeling—” John Richard’s glare, his anger, haunted me. And I’d had such a strong feeling that he’d been acting, playing a part, but why? And what part? Why come over the morning after you’d had a fight with your girlfriend, bearing flowers, if you’d hurt her badly? If you’d killed her? But he hadn’t meant to hurt her badly. At least