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76

Fleeced

Back in Nats living room, Regan sat down on the couch, glad for a quiet moment, and turned on a table lamp. It was only three oclock, but the room felt dim and gray. It was the kind of room on the kind of day where one would be inclined to curl up with a good book, a cup of tea, and a blanket. Maybe even take a nap. But not after last night. Regan shuddered. Or the night before. Now Regan had no desire to ever close her eyes in the place again. She didnt even want to let herself blink.

Clara had put all the books back on the shelves. The space in front of the window once occupied by the sheep was now empty. Thomas had said Nat and Wendy used to joke that Dolly and Bah-Bah were like their kids. They certainly had a place of honor in this room, Regan thought, the room where the Suits used to play cards.

Thomas had also mentioned to her that Nat and Ben told him that theyd bring the diamonds out of the safe during every card game and have some fun with them. Theyd explained, What good is having valuable diamonds all these years if you dont enjoy them in some way? So what could you do with them that would be so much fun? Regan wondered.

She picked up the phone and called Detective Ronald Brier. When he answered, she told him about the towels and the perfume.

So who wore the perfume? he asked.

Georgette Hughes.

You dont have an address for her, right?

Right.

And of course none of these people from the singles group gave a date of birth.

It is a singles group, Regan said.

Brier checked his list. We have nothing on her. The club employees were easy to look up since we had a social security number and date of birth for each of them. But the others are much more difficult.

Okay, Regan said. Georgette is going to be at the party tonight. Ill see what else I can find out.

Youre going back to California on Monday, arent you?

Yes. And Im afraid Ill be leaving without having been of much help on this case. Its all pretty frustrating.

Well keep digging, Brier assured her. The prints take time, and well follow up on any leads from these lists.

Ronald, Regan began.

Yes?

Did you find anything on Lydia-the woman who owns the dating service?

On the other end, Brier tapped his pen on the desk. Not much. I called the funeral home. Im sure you know how it is, Regan, with your father being in the funeral business. When someone dies theres a lot of gossip. Apparently, Lydia lived right across the hall from this woman, Mrs. Cerencioni. Shed show up with food, run errands for her, that kind of thing. Lydia would joke with her about how they should both find rich husbands. The policeman who arrived on the scene when Mrs. Cerencioni died said Lydia was very upset at the time. It was the neighbors in the building who were saying mean things. Brier laughed. I think they were jealous the old lady didnt leave them any money.

So thats all it was?

Regan, you never know. Maybe she did have a motive for being so kind. But no one knew how much money the old lady had. Who knows? Maybe Lydia had somehow found out and set her sights on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, as they say. Mrs. Cerencioni didnt have any relatives.

I guess theres no need for me to call the Connollys, Regan thought. By the way, she said. What did Mrs. Cerencioni die of?

She fell in the bathtub.

Oh, great, Regan thought. Thats just great.


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