the heron island mystery (part forty-four)

This story started here.

“I have a question,” Elsa said.

I wondered how things would go if her question turned out to be something like, “Miss Sleet, why do you always call me ‘Miss Peabody’ when you’re on a first-name basis with everybody else?” but I needn’t have worried. After my employer nodded in her direction, she said, “You mentioned that Kim thought that Manfred would somehow get her a lot of money. I know Kim is… she’s always looking for money, but why would she think Manfred would get it for her?”

“That’s a good question. Manfred was known to promote the idea, in various indirect ways, that he was an illegitimate son of the Loomis family. This theory is visible in his book, too, if you read between the lines. My opinion is that he told Kim he was going to be rich because of that connection.”

Elsa frowned. “Is that true?”

“That he was going to become rich? Of course not. Even if he were a relation of the family, legitimate or not, that wouldn’t automatically entitle him to any money. And it wasn’t true, as far as I can tell. If it had been true, I think he would have tried to do more with it. He was not one to let any opportunity for profit slip by him.”

She looked around. “Are there any more questions?”

Li shrugged. “What happens to Kim now?”

My employer gestured in the direction of the sheriff.

Rhonda sighed. “She’s in jail. I don’t know beyond that. We’ll have some investigations to pursue, based on what I’ve just learned here, and then I imagine she’ll be charged. That’s all up to the county attorney.”

Li frowned, and Becky turned to her. “Li-Li,” she said softly, “Kim killed Mary, and she tried to kill Elsa. She was our friend, but…”

Li nodded, looking down at her hands, which were folded in her lap.

“If I may,” I put in, “it might be helpful to consider that she, your friend, is suffering from an illness.” I shrugged. “I’m not saying she’s insane, and I’m certainly not proposing insanity as a defense — I’m neither a psychiatrist nor a lawyer — but in human terms she’s clearly not very well connected to reality at the moment. She murdered Mary in revenge for something which Mary didn’t do — and there was absolutely no direct evidence that Mary was guilty — and which would not have justified Mary’s death even if it had been true.”

Li nodded, still not looking up. Becky reached over and took her hand.

Elsa turned her wheelchair to face me. “Mr. Marshall,” she said, “you said ‘which wouldn’t have justified Mary’s death even if it had been true.’ Does that mean you think that there are circumstances which would justify murder?” She managed to raise her eyebrows in question and to wink (with the eye which only I could see) at the same time.

Rhonda glanced at Cheryl, and the deputy said, “Excuse me, ma’am, but we should think about leaving now, or we’ll be stuck on the island all night.”

I winked back at Elsa.

  To be continued…

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