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In today’s excerpt, Martha and Maeve have arrived home from their vacation in Napa, with Martha eager to learn more about Maeve’s new plan. But an unexpected call from her assistant turns Martha’s thoughts away from Maeve’s mischief and toward something else entirely. From Interior Designs.
After Maeve pulled into her own driveway a few hours later, I waited to see what would happen next. But she just shook her head and started unloading her baggage. “Go home, get unpacked, rest up a bit…and wait for my call.”
Wow! Could her idea be that good to warrant all this cloak and dagger stuff? But at least she’d been successful in diverting my attention from what hadn’t happened between us and our “romantic partners.”
Maybe that’s all we really needed, anyway—something to turn our minds toward so that we wouldn’t look back. I pondered this while driving home, and once I’d unpacked my bags a little while later, I curled up on the sofa in my family room. I picked up the cordless phone and listened to my messages. A few work calls; a message from Hal reminding me that he would be bringing Meadow back on Saturday morning; a couple of calls from my mother, neither of which sounded urgent; and finally, a mysterious sounding call from Caroline. I wondered what that was about.
Before I could decide who to call first, the phone rang.
“Hello,” I answered cheerfully.
Silence greeted me, so I repeated myself.
“Hi,” a somewhat restrained voice spoke up. Caroline?
“Well, hi…is that you, Caroline? I just now got in from my trip and had been listening to my messages. What’s up?”
“I’m not sure how to tell you this,” she replied in a very odd voice. “Have you read the newspaper since you’ve been back?”
“Uh, no, remember…I told you that I just now got in.” What was going on with her, anyway? I was starting to get a really odd feeling in the pit of my stomach. What could possibly be coursing through that mind of hers? As I waited for her to enlighten me, I noticed the stack of newspapers piled neatly on the coffee table. My housekeeper must have brought them in, I thought idly. I picked up the paper on the top.
As I opened it up, I glanced at it nervously, almost as if I were expecting a snake to uncoil itself and strike.
I didn’t see anything right away, but then it hit me between the eyes. A bold caption taking up most of the page beneath the bottom fold of the newspaper; that spot reserved for important local news.
LOCAL ARCHITECT ARRESTED FOR MURDER
Local architect, Zachary Lowenstein, was arrested for murder early Thursday morning, after his ex-girlfriend was found bludgeoned to death in her apartment. Apparently the victim, Sydney Barbour, age 28, had been accused of vandalism and stalking by the suspect a few weeks ago. The murder weapon, a golf club, was found in Mr. Lowenstein’s garage….
“Oh, my God,” I exclaimed. “Are you talking about Zach? And the murder?”
“Yes,” Caroline sobbed. “He told me, awhile ago, about some troubles with his ex-girlfriend, but I thought he was making up a story to excuse his absence…” She paused, then, as if worried how I might take these remarks.
“Well, there doesn’t seem to be much doubt about his guilt…but then again, sometimes the newspapers twist the facts, or the police jump to the most obvious conclusions without even looking into other possibilities….” I knew that my words seemed lame in the face of Caroline’s obvious distress, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.
“Had you seen him recently?” As she posed this question to me, I wondered at her motivations. Was she trying to find out if I’d really let him go, as I’d said I would?
“No, Caroline. Remember? I told you I wouldn’t be seeing him anymore. What about you?”
Her fierce “no” told me all I needed to know. She hadn’t seen him, but she’d still cared about him. Maybe she’d even wanted desperately to connect with him again. This news must have sent her reeling.
I struggled for a more sympathetic tone. “I’m really sorry, Caroline. I know that you’re probably feeling a lot of things right now…maybe even a little guilt about not believing his stories. But you have to remember that he wasn’t all that forthright with you. It was only natural for you to doubt him. I certainly would have.”
We exchanged a few soothing words for one another, and then ended the call.