After the discovery of the murder weapon, Liam and Arthur had taken our statements and the evidence, as well. The sight of the costume and the gun in the dumpster had stuck in my mind, and I’d gone home with it on my mind.
Griz was still at the Burger Bar, and I had a date with Liam later on, but my night was free for contemplation.
I stood in the kitchen, warming up some enchiladas that Griz had made for us the night before, and avoiding Curly Fries’ intense food-seeking stare. Poirot had already finished his kibble and retired to the living room where I’d set up a movie for us to watch. But Curly? Well, she was relentless.
Food was her credo. And since she’d been going on more weight-loss walks, her appetite had only grown.
“You have to lose more weight,” I said, firmly. “You can’t afford to snack on chicken enchiladas with that much booty.”
Curly whapped her tail against her bowl.
“Anyway, if I was to—”
The doorbell buzzed, and I checked my watch. Odd. Liam was still at work. I wasn’t due to meet up with him for a while.
“Wait here. Don’t touch my enchilada.” I pointed at Curly, then hurried through to the front door.
I opened up and found Mona waiting for me in a pink shawl and a pair of glittering sunglasses. Even though it was past sunset.
Mona snatched the sunglasses off her face and glared at me. “You. Do you really think you’re equipped to investigate Gossip Circle business?”
“And hello to you too, Mona,” I said. “I’d invite you in, but I’ve got a rule about not letting vampires into the house.”
“Funny,” she spat. “But not at all, actually. You know, just because you’ve solved a few cases around Sleepy Creek doesn’t make you anything special. You’re a second-rate investigator. You’re—”
“If the point of this visit is just so you can vent, save it. I have better things to do.”
“I’m here to tell you to stay out of Gossip Circle business or pay the consequences. You have no right to look into it.”
“I have every right,” I replied. “More than you in fact. And from what I’ve heard, you’ve been interfering yourself. I saw you over at Ray’s the other night. What was that about?”
Mona’s jaw dropped. It took a lot to shock her, but I’d done it. I’d take that as a point of pride.
“That was none of your business. That was just… I didn’t… Megan was in a relationship with Ray,” Mona blurted it out, then clapped a hand to her mouth, shaking her head.
My eyebrows lifted. “In a relationship.”
“Friendship,” Mona said, quickly. “Just a friendship. Nothing else.”
“Ray and Megan?” Now, that I hadn’t seen coming. Was that why I’d found Megan’s glasses in the garden? But why had they been buried? That didn’t make any sense at all.
“I have to go.” Mona practically ran down the steps, nearly tripping along the way. She darted toward her car, got inside and peeled off down the road.
I considered following her, but it wasn’t worth it. She wouldn’t lead me anywhere of note. But I had another lead. If Ray and Megan had been together, did that mean Ray had had some form of motive? It was another lead to tick off my list.
I walked back into the kitchen, frowning at Mona and her oddities. Did she really think she could come here and threaten me? Curly meowed at me from next to the fridge, but I barely heard her.
Ray and Megan had been seeing each other.
Now, there was a fact I hadn’t considered. But if they had been seeing each other, why on earth had Megan’s glasses been buried in the front yard? Had Ray done that? Buried them right along the fence line? Surely not.
Another knock came at the front door, and I drifted through.
“There you are,” Liam said, offering me a smile.
Warmth flooded me. I’d nearly forgotten I had a date tonight in all the Mona-related hubbub. I hugged Liam and dropped a kiss on his cheek, softening as I did only for him.
“Are you ready to go?” he asked.
“I completely forgot. I was just warming up some enchiladas.”
“We can stay in if you like?”
“No, no, I want to go out. I need to think. Let me grab my coat.” I snatched it up from the back of Grizzy’s sofa and slipped it on, then followed Liam out into the night. “You look nice. No uniform?”
“Not tonight. No active leads.”
“Uh oh,” he said, slipping an arm around my waist as we walked down Grizzy’s front path and to the picket gate. “I know what that ‘oh’ means.”
“You know something,” he said. “And I’d like to know what that is.”
In the past, Liam would’ve snapped at me or tried to stop me from investigating his cases. But now, he understood that I saw things he might not. It came with the territory. The whole Boston homicide thing had taught me a trick or twenty.
“Apparently, my neighbor, Ray, and your victim were in a relationship. Jury’s out on whether it’s rocky.”
“Oh really?” Liam opened the gate for me.
We walked toward his car.
“Really,” I said, rubbing my hands together. The fall breeze nipped at my cheeks.
Liam opened the car door for me without comment, and I got in, thankful for the interior heating. He got into the driver’s side and started the engine. He had no questions about Ray and Megan, apparently, that or he wanted to work it out on his own.
That was fine by me. It gave me more time to think about it. And to enjoy the scent of his cologne. Sheesh, I really had gone soft.
“Where do you want to go tonight?” Liam asked.
“I don’t know.” I plucked at my sweatshirt. “I’m not even dressed.”
“All right, then let’s pick up a pizza from Sal’s and head back to your place. We can watch a movie. Got anything good?”
“Ooh, there’s that new crime series on Netflix.”
“I’ve had enough crime for one day,” Liam said, grimacing.
“Right, well, what about an action-adventure?”
“We’ll find something.” Liam steered the vehicle past the Burger Bar, still bustling with activity, patrons seated at their tables, and toward Sal’s Pizzeria. We parked, and he went to open the door, but I frowned, my hand closing on his arm before he could. “What is it? Christie?”
“Look there.” I nodded.
Ray Tolentino, my overweight neighbor, stood in front of the pizzeria, holding a pie in one hand, the other clasping a woman’s. And that woman just so happened to be Kensington McCree—the pretty blonde in her thirties. Mona’s new right-hand woman.
If that wasn’t a double whammy of a motive, what was? She was with Ray? Ray who had potentially been dating the victim? The same Ray who seemed to have moved on faster than a bullet leaves a gun?
I tensed to jump out and question them, but Ray had already set off down the sidewalk, taking Kensington along with him. They paused on the corner and shared a chaste kiss before getting into Ray’s beater car.
“What do they usually say in those mystery books you like to read?” Liam asked, nodding toward the pair. “The plot thickens, right?”
“It’s thicker than a double choc milkshake from the Burger Bar.”