There was a large bowl with fresh fruit in the kitchen of Heron House. I took an apple and a banana and brought them out to the deck, where my employer was sitting and smoking. I felt virtuous because I had not taken the peach. It had smelled wonderful — perfectly ripe and ready to eat — but it had been the only one.
I had offered to get something for my employer, but she had declined. She would have accepted a cup of coffee, I knew, but I wasn’t comfortable making myself at home to the extent of brewing a pot of coffee. I wondered how long it was going to be before we (or at least I) got a real meal.
“Where is everybody?” she asked, looking out at the water.
“Interviews are happening on the second floor,” I told her. “On the far side of the house.”
One of us was about to comment that this was undoubtedly to try to keep the snoopy lady detective on the deck from eavesdropping, but then the door to the living room opened and a red-headed woman joined us. She’d greeted Rhonda and me when we’d arrived, but I hadn’t learned her name.
She grinned. “The sheriff had better be willing to interrogate me at ground level.” She wheeled herself over to us. “Do you think all of this will take a while?” She gestured at the second floor windows.
My employer held out her hand, smiling. “My name is Jan Sleet. I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“I’m Elsa,” she said, leaning forward to shake her hand. “Welcome to Heron House — I guess that’s what I’m supposed to say.”
My employer gestured at me. “This is Marshall, my assistant. And I have no idea how long the questioning will go on. Mary has requested that we stay and be present when the sheriff gets to her.” She smiled. “I get the sense that the word ‘interrogate’ might be a bit strong, but I could be wrong about that. We’ll find out.”
I had stood when Elsa had joined us, of course, but now I sat again, feeling rather awkward. My employer noted this, and it clearly amused her, but she didn’t comment.
“So, Mary’s your client?” Elsa asked, smiling. She seemed to be enjoying herself.
My employer shook her head as she stubbed out her cigarette. “Oh, no. I’m not a private investigator — I couldn’t take on a client even if I wanted one. No, we’re just… concerned citizens.” She suppressed a grin. “A nosy reporter and a concerned citizen, I suppose. As a nosy reporter, may I ask you some questions?”
Elsa shrugged. “Sure. I didn’t know the dead guy very well, but if I can help I will.”
“How well did you know him?”
“Not at all, really. He came to parties here sometimes, and I could tell he was checking out all the female flesh, but I… wasn’t his type.” She tapped the arm of her wheelchair. “I was invisible to him.” She laughed. “Which was absolutely fine with me, I can tell you.”
“As far as you could see, was there something — anything more happening with any of your roommates, or any other regular guests at the parties?”
“I guess you mean… No. I…” She made a face. “I don’t think so.”