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I didn’t want to get involved in a conversation with Li and Becky at that moment, so I followed Elsa to the front door.
“Come on in,” I said to the deputies. “I’m the one who called the sheriff. My name is Marshall O’Connor.”
I had never met these deputies before, and they didn’t seem particularly interested in meeting me now. They had a perp to pick up, and they wanted to get it done.
I led them back to Elsa’s bedroom. I could hear Elsa talking to Li and Becky behind us, but I couldn’t make out the words. That was fine with me.
Kim was still sitting on Elsa’s bed, her legs folded under her, and she didn’t look up as we came in. Her expression was somewhere between stoic and fierce.
One deputy, who seemed to be in charge of this two-man operation, asked for Kim’s name and she gave it. He handcuffed her, and then stood aside for me to remove my handcuffs, which had been keeping her attached to the bed.
They took her out, one walking in front of her and one behind. Li and Becky were sitting on a sofa, talking to Elsa, but Li jumped up and ran over as soon as Kim came into view. She tried to talk to Kim, but her friend was still as blank-faced as before and kept walking forward, her eyes on the back of the deputy in front of her. I was starting to wonder if her defense for her actions was going to depend on a claim that she was insane. (Which is not to say that I had some kind of worked-out proof that she wasn’t insane.)
In desperation, Li grabbed a pen from a small shelf by the door, yanked up Kim’s shirt sleeve, and wrote something on her arm. The deputies paused to allow this, and then they left with their captive.
I started to wonder where exactly the deputies were taking Kim, since the road to the mainland was going to be under water until morning, but I caught Elsa’s expression and I knew there were more important things to deal with now.
Li plopped herself back onto the sofa, looking upset but determined. Her thin face was sharp and angular in the light from the table lamp next to her. Becky was looking up at the ceiling, tears welling in her eyes, and Elsa was giving me a look that was somewhere between a demand and a plea that I come and help her out.
I pulled a chair over next to Elsa’s wheelchair.
“I wanted to help her,” Li said defensively. “I gave her my lawyer’s number.”
“But she tried to kill Elsa,” Becky said. Tears were dripping down her cheeks, which were creased with sleep wrinkles, and she still wasn’t looking at Li. Other than me and Elsa, nobody seemed to be making eye contact with anybody.
“She was probably confused,” Li protested. “She thought that Elsa killed Mary–“
“No,” Elsa said patiently, “She said she — Kim — had killed Mary because she thought Mary had killed Manfred.”
“But–” Kim began, but Becky turned to me.
“Mr. Marshall, do you know what’s going on?” She squinted at me and wiped her face with her sleeve. “Can you explain all this?”
As I started to explain, at least the parts I was willing to explain, I interrupted myself. “What about Jo?” I asked.
“She’s probably got her ear plugs in,” Becky said. “With those, she can sleep through anything.”
I hesitated. “Can you run up and check? It’s up to you whether you want to wake her up, but the way things have been going, I want to make sure she’s okay.”
Becky nodded and made for the stairs, ascending into the darkness. Our little corner of the dark living room was illuminated by two small table lamps — it felt almost like were were huddled around a camp fire together.
Li brought her legs up her chin and wrapped her arms around them. “You think Jo is dead, too?” she asked in a tiny voice.
“No,” I reassured her. “That is, I have no reason to think so, but this is not the part where everything gets explained. I don’t want to take anything for granted.”
Becky padded back down from the second floor and rejoined us in our little circle of light. “Fast asleep and snoring,” she reported as she sat next to Li again. I noted that she was wearing glasses now. “She has the covers pulled up over her head.”
Elsa caught my eye, her puckish grin starting to come back. “We must have been keeping her awake, poor thing.”
Becky looked a question.
“Mr. Marshall and I were in my room together earlier, loudly pretending to have sex. When Jo has a guest over, I can sure hear everything that’s going on up in her room. I guess it works the other way, too.”
I could tell that calling me “Mr. Marshall” was amusing Elsa, and it seemed to be helping to lift her mood, so I didn’t complain.
Li grimaced. “Forget all that, please,” she said, waving her hands. ‘Why did those cops take Kimmy away? What did she do? How can we help her?”
Calmly and matter-of-factly, I laid out what was known:
1) Manfred had been murdered, by person or persons unknown, his body dumped on the beach below Heron House during the storm on Monday night. The weapon had been a knife, which had been left in the body.
Mary was not on the island on Monday night, and Kim claimed that she hadn’t been there either.
2) Mary had been murdered, by person or persons unknown, on Tuesday night, her body left on the deck of Heron House. The weapon had been a knife, which had been left in the body.
3) Tonight, Wednesday night, Kim had threatened to kill Elsa, with a knife, claiming that she (Kim) had killed Mary the night before. Kim had apparently believed that Elsa knew this and was a threat to her. Kim said that she had killed Mary because Mary had killed Manfred.
I shrugged. “Did Kim really kill Mary last night? I have no idea. I’m no detective, but I’m not aware of anything that rules her out. If she did kill Mary, was it for the reason she said? I have no idea. If she did think Mary killed Manfred, why did she care enough to seek vengeance? That I’d rather not say — I have no direct evidence.” I didn’t glance meaningfully at Elsa, but I was pretty sure she was paying attention to what I was, and was not, saying. Whether she was going to follow my lead or not was another question, of course. “And here’s the real stumper. If Kim does think that Mary killed Manfred, how is she getting around the fact that Mary was not, as far as anybody can tell, on the island at the time of the murder?”
To be continued…