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46

Fleeced

At a candlelit table down in the stately dining room, Thomas and Janey were recuperating from their day of woe. They had each had a salad and a bowl of pasta and were now finishing the last of their bottle of wine. Before dinner, Thomas had made the dreaded calls to several of the members, assuring them that of course the party was still on and everything would be fine. He had also put a cold compress on Janeys face and persuaded her to lie down on the couch. When they emerged from his apartment, she was wearing a pair of his sunglasses. Her eyes were red and swollen from the Mace.

When Regan walked in, she found them at the corner table, underneath the portrait of the founder of the club. He must be rolling in his grave, Regan thought.

Did you sniff out anything up there? Thomas asked as he wiped his mouth with a napkin. On the way back from Bens apartment they had discussed the perfume Janey had smelled as well as the reference to perfume in Bens journal.

Regan smiled wryly. There were a lot of women wearing perfume. 1And everyone claims to have seen nothing. She turned to the waiter who had approached her. Ill have a glass of red wine, please.

Im sorry I couldnt go up there with you, Janey said. I just didnt feel up to it, and I look a mess.

Dont worry about it. Lydia wouldnt have been too happy anyway. She doesnt want it to seem as if we suspect any of her clients, and if you had walked into a singles party while youre still recovering from a Mace attack, it might have seemed a little odd.

Or people might think Im desperate.

That too, Regan agreed.

But Im not desperate. I have Thomas. Janey reached for his hand as he beamed.

And youd better hang onto him, baby, Regan thought. Because something tells me youre going to bring the Settlers Club into the papers tomorrow. And it aint going to be pretty. As the couple gazed into each others eyes, Regan took a sip of the wine the waiter had just put in front of her. I may as well continue, she thought. I got the names of the perfumes all the women were wearing. Im going to go out tomorrow and buy each one of them. Then we can see if you recognize any of them as the one you smelled today. Regan paused. Whoever ransacked Bens apartment might have no connection with the woman Nat was seeing. It could just be a coincidence.

The Fragrance Foundation would be thrilled to know how many people are spritzing themselves, Thomas remarked.

You might say the whole situation stinks, Janey said before she drained her glass and started to giggle.

How many glasses of wine have you had? Regan wondered as she smiled at Janey. I guess Id get a little giddy too after being locked in a cold, dark closet for a good part of the day, not knowing when Id be rescued.

Claras coming in tomorrow, Thomas announced. In an attempt to make amends for her disastrous phone call to the crime show.

I want to talk to her, Regan said.

Of course.

After several minutes of small talk, Regan stood. Time to call it a night. Ill see you in the morning.

We have a lovely breakfast here in the dining room. Why dont you come down?

Sounds good, Regan said. As she walked out of the room, she looked at her watch. It was eleven-thirty. Ive been here nearly fourteen hours, and I only have two days left to solve this crime.

Crimes, she thought. With each passing minute, she was becoming more and more certain that Nat had been murdered. Thats why she had to talk to Clara. She felt sure that Clara, unknowingly, had information that would be helpful.

When she got off the elevator and walked down to Nats door, she could still hear a small group of people inside Lydias apartment. The diehards, she thought.

Within fifteen minutes she was in bed in the guest room, the alarm set for seven oclock. I want to get up early and take a good look through this apartment, she thought. Theres got to be something around here that gives me a clue. Regan turned out the light and put her head down on the pillow. Five minutes later, she was asleep.


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