the deacon mystery (part ten)

This story started here.

"Shall I state the obvious?"

Her mouth quirked. There was a brief period of intense internal struggle as we reached the corner of Main Street, and then she said, "You usually do."

The snort of laughter she'd been suppressing finally erupted.

"I'm sorry," she said, not looking even remotely sorry. "You walked right into that one."

I smiled as she looped her arm through mine. "I know. I threw it right over the plate–"

"Oh, please. No sports metaphors." She gestured with the head of her cane. "Please proceed."

"One: Rhonda didn't tell Miss Deacon about your conversation with her father at the book sale."

"Agreed. She wouldn't."

"Two: Mr. Deacon offered you substantial money to hire you, but his house is very small and shabby, and one of his daughters is attending Claremont College – which has very inexpensive tuition for townies – and it sounds like his second daughter may go there also, although I got the impression that she'd rather go somewhere else. There were brochures on the table for Harvard and Yale."

She nodded. "And?"

"This is Sunday. Did she go to church this morning, perhaps to see if her father would be there, or to ask her uncle what happened at the book sale? Or, if she was afraid to leave the house, worried about missing a phone call, why not call the church?

"Also," I continued, "I do not believe she was being entirely truthful with you." Her eyes widened expectantly. "She's in high school. Yesterday was Saturday. Who studies on Saturday night?"

She snorted a laugh and punched me, very lightly, on the shoulder.

"Very good. I might consider handing this entire case over to you." She smiled and squeezed my arm. "If I had something more compelling to think about right now, of course."

She released my arm. "So, for you, right now: research, at the office of the Crier. They have a complete back issue file – more complete than the one the town library had, but not as easily accessed. However, you can talk to the editor, Mr. Merchant. Tell him that you work for me. He owes me a favor." She shrugged. "If he insists that, on balance, I owe him a favor, tell him that I said he's wrong.

"Once you've demonstrated that you're serious about the research, it is possible that he will loosen up and answer a question or two himself, depending on his mood. He knows many, many things about this town, including some interesting items which have never appeared in the pages of the Crier." She held up a long, bony finger. "Don't try to initiate any questioning of him if anybody else is around."

"Particularly if it's Kate Lane."

She smiled. "Let's just keep it as 'anybody else.'" She raised an eyebrow and waited.

I nodded. I was there to receive instructions, after all, not to write my own.

"Check with me around dinner time. I may or may not be available."

She squeezed my forearm and turned to go. I was tempted to say something, but I didn't.

"Needless to say," she said over her shoulder as she waited at the corner for a car to pass, "I know what I'm doing."

I stuck out my tongue, half expecting her to comment on that as she limped across Main Street, not looking back at me. She was moving in the direction of our home, but I would not have placed a cash bet on that being her actual destination.

I watched her cross the street, then I turned and walked down Main Street, mostly so I wouldn't be standing there at the corner if she turned around to check on me.

I strolled slowly, though. I wouldn't have minded talking to someone at that moment, but nobody appropriate came to mind, and in any case what I was thinking was not to be shared.

Well, it was time to get to work and fulfill my assignment. It was around that moment, as I quickened my pace, that I realized I was walking in the wrong direction.

I turned around and retraced my steps.

 
To be continued...

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