A Long, Hard Look (Chapter 10)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1

I took a step back. A half a step. The typing rooms are small.

“Gilbert Breville?”

That threw her. The waterworks shut off.

“How do you know that? We don’t have the same last name. How could you know that?”

She was making me nervous. It came out in my voice.

“Apparently it’s a running gag. You’re the second sister to claim him today. First was a tall blonde. Nothing like you at all.”

Her face scrunched together, and then her eyes exploded and so did her mouth.

“No, oh no no no no. Phil, stay away from her. Where was she? She killed him. Oh, stay away from her!”

She’d been trying to climb out through the wall using her back to dig. I held my hands up to show her I wasn’t armed, then reached for her flailing wrists. On the third grab I had them, and pulled her back down into the chair.

“What’s the deal, Darcy? You don’t look a bit like Gilbert Breville, and you sure don’t look like the blonde that was in my office twice this week.”

She had the dignity to glare. “Well excuse me if I’m not tall and busty and curvaceous. We’re adopted, all four of us.”

I goggled. It’s a thing, I looked it up. I goggled.

“Four?”

“Yes, three girls and poor dear Gilbert.”

My poor broken brain offered up a preposterous snippet. I rejected it. Then I looked at it again. It either made no sense whatsoever, or made perfect sense. This whole puzzle was the same way, so I picked up the piece and dropped it in to see if it fit.

“Is her name Samantha? Does she, did she work with Gil?”

Now it was Darcy’s turn to goggle.

“How could you know that? How can you know my whole family when we only met yesterday?”

That ‘whole family’ bit gave me the willies. If her mom and dad were milling around backstage I was leaving town.

“Maybe I have a magnet. Maybe when Gil came to me, it got your long tall sister’s attention, and maybe when I went to his office Sam introduced herself.” I chewed on it for a second. “In fact, the only real mystery is why I ran into you. Everybody else makes a sort screwy sense. You, I just ran into here in the library.”

“I come here for research. I’ve done it for weeks. Ever since oh! That witch! She did this.” She jumped up and tried to open the door. I wasn’t done talking yet so I stopped her.

“Sit down and tell me about the witch. Not your mother, I presume?”

She wrestled her hands out of mine, but she sat. “No, my mother, our mother, is dead. A long time ago.” She raised her chin just enough to see me past her eyebrows. “The witch is the tall blonde. What name did she give you? She uses so many.”

Come to think of it, she’d never mentioned a name. She probably didn’t consider names important.

“We haven’t been properly introduced. What do you know her as?”

She smiled a wicked smile. “Gertrude. I am not kidding. Mama and Daddy named her Gertrude and boy did she hear it when we were little.” She was looking past me, not at me. “But maybe that’s part of why she’s so wicked.”

“So she’s wicked. How wicked? You said she killed Gilbert. Do you really believe that?”

She considered. “She could have. She’s capable of it. Did she? I don’t really know. But she could. She would, if it meant anything to her.”

There still wasn’t any reason to believe Darcy’s version of life, the universe, and everything any more than anyone else in her goofy family. For fun, I tried rattling the cage.

“She asked me to kill someone. Said Gil wasn’t around to do it.”

Darcy stood. Her tiny little purse was clutched tight in one hand. “You are offensive. She’s offensive and I don’t have to listen to this.”

She tried again to get the door open.

“Stop it. Wait. Did I say I was going to do it? I don’t kill people, not even for myself. Will you please sit down and stop slapping me?” That last because that’s what she was doing.

She stopped and sat, partly because I’d shoved the chair away from the door and pushed her into it. Now I was leaning against the door. She’d have to move me to get out. A couple of those slaps made me worry she could do it if she tried.

“Do you have any idea who she’d want dead?”

More indignance. “I certainly do not. Do I look like a gangster of some kind?”

“Is she a gangster of some kind?”

“How on earth could I possibly know that?”

“Well, she’s your sister, from what I hear.”

Her nose went up just a bit. “We are not close, not a close family. Sam and I hardly saw each other. Gilbert and I had lunch once or twice a month. Father is always too busy running the company to waste time on anything as trivial as his children.”

Something was struggling to escape from the back of my mind. “You said the witch had something to do with you being at the library. Explain.”

“Others at the office have mentioned seeing my boss with an attractive blonde. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. Trude” (she pronounced it ‘trood’) “was on the other coast the last time she phoned me for money, which I did not give her and never will.”

“And?”

She looked puzzled, then got it. “Oh, about the library. My boss insisted I spend as much time at the library as I wanted. Sometimes it has seemed as if he were making up research for me. I didn’t mind. I enjoy it, enjoy the library. But now I realize she was making sure I’d meet you.”

“That seems a little far-fetched. How could she know we’d meet?”

“Oh, she’s patient. And she knows my type.” She looked more angry than flirtatious. As a result, I wasn’t flattered.

“And am I your type?”

She looked, as if she had to check. “Your face, yes. I am not at all certain about your personality.”

I smiled. “Oh, you’ll come to love it.” Then another snippet resurfaced, something she’d said earlier.

“What company?”

“What do you mean?”

“Your father. Too busy running what company to spend time with his children?”

She laughed. “That’s just it. That’s why it’s so bizarre. The software company. He owns the company where Gilbert worked, where Sam still works. The one that’s being investigated by the government now because of what happened last night.”

She stood and leaned toward me. “Boy, do I not want to be the dead man walking who did that to my father. No sirree Bob.”

I didn’t either, but it was a little late for that.

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