the town hall mystery (part fifteen)

This story started here.

My employer looked at Rhonda and shrugged, clearly asking, “How did I do?”

Rhonda nodded. “Patricia Devane is really Patricia Devane, and the rest of them are frauds, as you figured. We’re still finding out things from the West Coast, but apparently she got involved with some rather shady characters when she was trying to raise money to keep her company going. Two of them, the couple, were actors, though they weren’t very successful at it.

“Emily Armstrong, who had been impersonating Felicia Devane, is under arrest for the murder of Thomas McQueen, who had been impersonating Barnabas Devane. The charge is that she threw him from the roof of the News Store to his death. The trial is scheduled to start next week.”

“She has to find a lawyer, of course,” Phyllis put in. “Rance Palmer has said that he is not going to represent her. Knowing Rance, this may possibly be related to the fact that suddenly nobody in the whole business has any money.”

My employer nodded. “Or any immediate prospects of any. What about Patricia Devane?”

Rhonda shrugged. “Palmer is still representing her, at least for the moment. There have been no charges filed yet. She says she had no idea the murder was going to happen — which is probably true — and she denies any attempt at fraud. She may get away with it, since she hasn’t actually taken any legal steps to claim that the impostors were her real children. The will hasn’t even been read yet.”

“Do her real children exist?”

“Oh, yes. All three of them. They’re on their way, and nothing will happen on the legal front until they are here and have local representation.”

My employer glanced at me and I went to pour her some more coffee.

“What was the connection to Millie?” I asked over my shoulder.

“Thomas, the dead impersonator, met her at a party in Dover one night. They apparently… um… hit it off…”

“We get your drift,” my employer said.

“It turned out to be more than a one-night stand, though. They stayed in touch. There were some long phone calls between the pay phone by Sunshine Housewares and Mickey’s home phone, usually at times when Mark and Mickey would have been at the store.”

“What did Millie say?”

“She liked him. He’d given her a fake name, and told her that he was living with a girlfriend, so he couldn’t give her his phone number. She didn’t know anything about the con, or so she says, but she could tell he was into something bad.”

“Beyond just infidelity,” my employer put in.

“Exactly. Something he didn’t want to tell her about, though she urged him to share it with her. According to her.

“Anyway, she says she has no idea why he was trying to see her in the store that day, but perhaps he’d decided to tell her everything.”

My employer nodded. “And his girlfriend was after him, either because she’d found out that he was cheating on her, or because she was afraid that he would reveal the plot they were partners in.”

“Or both,” I said.

“Right. We’ll have to see what comes out at the trial.”

“But why did she have a wig that so resembled her boyfriend’s hair?” I asked.

Phyllis laughed. “That was my question. And wait until you hear the answer.”

Rhonda shook her head. “Well, we don’t have a definite answer on that yet…” My employer raised one eyebrow, something she saved for special occasions, and Rhonda continued, speaking slowly and apparently struggling to continue to be serious and professional.

“As I say, we don’t know for sure, yet, but here are the facts. They were struggling actors, and at some point it was noticed that their facial features and manner of speaking were similar. They were even close to the same build. Perhaps because of this, it seems that, recently, they took a job acting in a… in an adult movie, playing a brother and sister…”

“Whose sibling affections went somewhat beyond the norm,” Phyllis finished. “Repeatedly.”

“The local police in LA have obtained a copy of the film in question. They have apparently been studying it carefully, but they need to watch it a few more times to be sure of its exact relevance.”

“Ah,” I said after a moment.

My employer nodded. “So,” she said, “where is everybody now?”

“Patricia Devane is still at the house, at least for the moment. She’ll be arrested if she tries to leave town, and the house is, for now, technically between owners. Emily is in jail, held in connection with the death of her boyfriend. Nancy Williamson, the fake Deirdre, has apparently skipped town. We have bulletins out on her, but…” She shrugged. “We’re not really focused on her. Patricia’s real children are on their way, as I said. We’ll see what happens when they get here.”

My employer pulled out her pocket watch. “This has been very enjoyable, and dinner was excellent, but we shouldn’t tax your hospitality any longer. We can call a taxi–“

Rhonda wouldn’t hear of that, so she drove us home after we said good night to Phyllis.

To be continued…

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