Rhonda looked at the window for a moment, then she turned back to Kim. “While I think of it,” she said, “I didn’t get to talk to you yesterday, obviously, since you weren’t here last night. Where were you when the murder — Manfred’s murder — happened?”
Kim looked surprised. “I wasn’t on the island. Other than that, why does it matter?”
This was obviously what Rhonda had been hoping she would say. She straightened up and looked around the room.
“I need to make something clear to everybody,” she said. “Yesterday, there was a dead body on the beach. He was a local character, and many people around here knew him. There was no evidence that he had come from this house on that night, or that he had visited you recently. So, when I was here yesterday, I was collecting information, but I thought it likely that nobody here was even involved in the death.”
Kim started to speak, but Rhonda kept going. “Tonight, your roommate died, on the deck of this house — your house — and you are all suspects, in both murders. I’m not taking no for an answer when I ask questions.” She glanced at the deputy. “What time is the road clear this morning?”
“Around seven, I believe.”
“If I don’t get straight answers here and now, to all of my questions, I’m going to make a call and — the minute the road is passable — cars will come and take all of us to police headquarters, and we’ll continue the questioning there. For however long it takes.”
“I want to call my lawyer,” Li said.
“No.” Rhonda replied. She looked at Kim again. “So, where were you last night?”
Kim did not reply or move, or even, as far as I could tell, breathe. After a moment, my employer sighed and said, “Kim, you’re wasting everybody’s time. I can understand that you’re reluctant to admit that you’re in a sexual relationship with a professor, but there’s no way it won’t come out. Your best bet is to admit it now, tell us the details, and try to convince the sheriff that it had nothing to do with the murder of Manfred.”
Kim looked like she was about to throw up. My employer was stone faced — not at all triumphant about her deduction — and I thought she was well aware that she may have been brought along, at least primarily, as a sort of lie detector for the sheriff.
Rhonda looked around. “What about the rest of you?”
Li, the tall one (so far — until this moment at least — being tall was her only memorable characteristic), said, “Becks and I woke up when we heard the scream. We ran to the window–”
Then, realizing how that sounded, she turned bright red and stopped talking. Becky looked as if she was struggling to suppress a laugh — so as not to further embarrass her friend — but finally she got herself under control and said calmly, “Li was really upset about Manfred’s death, and so she — as she sometimes does — slept in my room with me.”
Li looked mortified, and I could tell that Rhonda was controlling herself also.
Becky, the aspiring doctor, looked quite competent and not easily rattled, which was probably going to be good for her in her chosen profession.
She took over for Li.