Earlier in the evening, as the rest of us participated in a respectful squabble over Ira’s intention to fetch further and more definitive proof of Sarah’s guilt, Leo was entertaining an entirely different line of reasoning.
(One he thankfully elucidated to the group prior to Ira leaving the Lavender Lady since it provided me with the perfect cover for ensuring Ira’s safety! It’s not that Leo, Robbie, or Ira doubted either what I saw of the conclusions I’d drawn – they just found it challenging to picture Sarah in such a dim light. But back to Leo’s dilemma….)
How on earth could we convince Little Ben he’s being eased along a primrose path?
It didn’t matter how many deductions, recordings, or eyewitness accounts we gathered. Little Ben would surely dismiss them out of hand the second he discovered I had generated the majority of them. Undoubtedly, he’d perceive my suspicions as a massive case of sour grapes due to my dismissal and his subsequent ‘success’.
Subtracting me from the equation wouldn’t work either.
Challenging his manipulation of the Board of Managers would fall just as flat. With Big Ben still in the wind and the Board itself controlled by Little Ben, Sarah, and Nathaniel – he’d turn defensive and, therefore, deaf the second we mentioned his sins.
Leaving us in the weeds – because if we can’t get Little Ben to see the ruinous route he’s traveling – it doesn’t matter a whit what we know. Arriving at this last stop of his train of thought left Leo feeling flummoxed, and the rest of us ready to spout mild abuse whilst he continued to relentlessly radda-tap-tap the edge of Little Ben’s business card against the tabletop.
Fortunately, before his syncopated beat produced a four-letter-word from any of us, he stopped.
Not because he realized the rest of were ready to reach across the table and rip the card from his fingers. But on account of the theory, Beatrice and I gave regarding the Stradivarius violin.
This was an angle we could work, which might actually work…
“Are you hoping to persuade Little Ben with the power of your deductions or the brilliance of your arts and crafts?”
Carefully placing the glue tipped piece of yarn onto the poster-board, I cautiously raised my index finger and was pleased when the fibers failed to follow. Looking over my shoulder, I saw my unusually perky roommate standing in the kitchen doorway in her pajamas and afflicted with an epic case of bedhead.
“Something can work on two levels.” Shooting a grin at her skeptical snort, I continued. “Little Ben’s a visual learner, I though a diagram might help him grasp what we found last night.”
Plus, I couldn’t fall back asleep after waking up at a quarter to five this morning.
Pausing next to me for a moment before heading to the percolator, Beatrice surveyed my work, then pointed at the upper right-hand corner where I’d placed Agata’s photo. “You might need a smidge more glitter, right there.”
“You think?” Standing back, I scrutinized my handiwork with a critical eye.
Obviously choking back a chuckle. “No.”
“Okay, so I went a hair crazy.”
Watching Beatrice out of the corner of my eye, my heart fluttered for a second when she swiped a fingertip across the kitchen counter and then carefully scrutinize it. Crap. Staring down at my creation, with the same intensity a cat regards a bowl of ice cream, I endeavored to ignore the weight of Beatrice’s narrow gaze.
Catching my furtive glance thru the fringe of my bangs, her inner Queen Victoria ‘I am Not amused’ face forced me to revise my previous statement. “A smidge crazy?”
Please don’t let her look in the sink – I haven’t had a chance to wash away the unicorn sick yet.
(Seriously, that’s what it looks like.)
In my defense, after a tiny, minuscule, microscopic amount of glitter spilled off the poster-board onto the kitchen table as I rotated it. (So the Elmer’s glue received an even coat of the sparkly stuff.) I decided to work over the sink. This brilliant idea meant I needed to move the poster-board and its mounds of excess glitter to the sink….
Superfine glitter + giant sneeze = a dazzling kitchen.
Honestly, it would’ve coated the kitchen no matter where the sneeze happened, and I did my best to clean it up…but once glitter tastes freedom, it’s a bit like a tribble with a steady food source and no predators – it multiplies rapidly. (And who doesn’t enjoy the odd sparkle festooning their person?…………………………Right? It certainly makes the multicolored macaroons on my flannel pajamas pop and spark.)
Fishing out the woven trivet from under my crafting supplies, Beatrice set down the fresh pot of coffee and joined me at the table. “Luckily, Ms. Hettie will completely understand why I need to burn down the house.”
“Ha. Ha.” Placing dot of glue on the poster-board, I held the ball of yarn above it and snipped off the correct length, connecting Sarah’s photo to Rye High’s 1998 Prom Queen. “I’ll bet you a five-spot Ms. Hettie is secretly a fan of glitter.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Think of those sweatshirts she constantly wears. Nearly all of them have little glitter or metallic paint or small rhinestones on them.”
“Huh. There might be something in that…” Sipping her mug of coffee, Beatrice leaned forward for a closer look at my work.
Turning the entire board 180 degrees, so she didn’t get a crick in her neck, I watched Beatrice’s hovering finger trace the strands of yarn I’d used to highlight the links between Josie and her collaborators. “You’d think they’d have been more careful in concealing their roles in Josie’s scheme.”
Rising from the table, I stepped over to the sink to rinse the old coffee from my mug (while also taking a moment to swish, splash and swash the water around in an attempt to disperse the glitter glaze currently coating it). “Honestly, I don’t think it ever crossed Josie’s mind that anyone would go looking – as everyone but Sarah has at least one degree of separation dividing their actions from scrutiny.”
“Any clue why she’s trying to undermine Nevermore?”
Before I could form an answer, our front door reverberated under an energetic knock – that kept going for several beats longer than Ms. Manners would ever countenance.
Looking at each other, we uttered the same sentence together. “Are you expecting someone?”
In a stunning display, that would’ve beat Wood’s personal best, Beatrice pounced. “Jinx! You owe me a Coke!” Shooting me a mischievous grin, she scooted around the table in the direction of the front door, leaving me to follow silently in her wake – trying to recall if we’d said Ms. Hettie’s name three times out loud.
Pausing to look thru the peephole, Beatrice started slightly. “Morticia, when did you say Little Ben was stopping by?”
Released from the jinx, I glanced at my watch. “One, why?”
“Well, prepare yourself.” Unbolting the door, Beatrice swung it open, revealing Little Ben standing on our doormat.
“Is Morticia home?”
Stepping around my roommate, unwittingly shielding her from the stiff northerly breeze that decided now was the time to start nipping at my bare toes, it also forcibly reminded me I was still wearing pajamas. “Ben, what are you doing here? We aren’t supposed to get together until one.”
Shifting his weight between his feet, a flush creeping across his face, he glanced around for a second before stumbling over some stunning words. “I…I…..I’ve got….There’s a problem with Nevermore, and I don’t know what to do, and I can’t wait…..because I really need your help.”
Utterly astonished, I stepped back from the door and let Little Ben in.