The broadcaster warned that the upcoming scenes might be too graphic for some viewers so Angie Deacon went back to her reading--the latest copy of American Theatre Magazine. Not that she couldn't take blood and gore, she'd been an ER nurse, after all. And heaven knew she'd seen enough of it over the course of her relationship with Detective Colby Jarvis. But why topple this peaceful moment--there were so few of them in her life.
When the newsman said, "Tonight, the murder of the Carlson South High School's drama teacher rocked the community," Angie slapped the magazine shut. On the television was a picture of the woman. She was pretty, maybe of Polynesian descent, with short dark hair and black rimmed glasses over deep brown eyes. She had a tiny blemish on her left cheek.
The scene shifted. Police and ambulance strobes illuminated a pair of EMTs like dancers on a disco floor. The men rolled a gurney through a glass door and eased it down six cement steps. As they loaded it into the back of a waiting ambulance, the broadcaster said, "I'm standing here outside 1606 Maple Avenue where the body of Gwen Forest was discovered in her second floor apartment."
The camera panned up and across a row of picture windows, then zoomed in on one about midway along the right side of the building. Two small windows flanking the wide one were open. White ruffled curtains fluttered against the screens.
"Apartment manager David Vickers..." The scene switched to a squat balding man with a bulbous nose sandwiched between two uniformed police officers. He clutched tiny wire-rimmed glasses in his left hand and appeared as though he might crumple onto the grass at any moment. A picture of the apartment building splashed back onto the screen. "...was preparing to wax the second floor hallway when he noticed Ms. Forest's door ajar. Receiving no response to his knock, he went in and discovered the body. At this point authorities will only confirm that Ms. Forest was murdered, and that no suspects are in custody. By our morning broadcast we hope to have further details." The camera zoomed in on a clear plastic bag dangling from one of the officer's hands. Angie squinted. It looked like a tube of toothpaste. Murder weapon?
The camera moved to the apartment manager's myopic face. He spoke to the officer on his left then gestured with his chin toward the building. The officer jotted something in his notebook. A reporter stabbed a microphone in their faces but was shooed away. Two men, one uniformed, one not, joined them. That's when Angie sat up straighter. The magazine slid to the carpet. She snatched at it but missed.
What the heck was he doing there? She leaned forward, unfolding her legs and setting both feet on the floor. No mistake. The man in plain clothes was none other than Detective Colby Jarvis. He stood half a head taller than everybody else, that ridiculous deerstalker hat prominent in the strobing red and blue lights. Nothing unusual to see him at a crime scene here in Alton Bay, New Hampshire, quite surprising for him to be at one in Carlson, some sixty-five miles to the south. She watched him for a moment--her friend, her lover, her occasional crime-solving partner, but most of all, the man who'd asked her to marry him. Angie didn't want to think about marriage proposals. That's what she'd told him again yesterday--that she wasn't ready to remarry.
She turned off the television and went to the kitchen to pour a glass of pinot noir. Too bad about that drama teacher. In the photo she looked happy and friendly, smiling openly, comfortable facing the camera. Angie took the glass and the magazine to the bedroom, undressed and climbed into bed. She ruffled past twenty-six pages of advertising and had just begun reading an article about stretching last year's wardrobe when the phone rang. The caller ID said it was Jarvis on the other end. After seeing him on television she hadn't expected his call tonight.
"Hey, love. You see the news?"
That was Jarvis, always to the point.
"What brought you to Carlson?"
"Remember the Johnson kid I arrested last week? We finally got a break in his case. I found his father at a bar there."
"The case isn't related to that teacher's death, is it?"
"No. I was talking to a fellow officer when the call came in."
"So, what happened?"
"Suffocated. Whether by accident or on purpose, she was knocked unconscious then a tube of stage makeup was shoved down her throat and duct taped in place."
That explained the tube in the evidence bag: stage makeup, not toothpaste. What a horrible way to die. "Do they know who did it?"
"Nah. Just once would it be too much to find the perp standing over the body with the murder weapon in his hand?" She didn't remind him how often that actually happened. And how often that person turned out to be innocent.
"So, that was the makeup in the evidence bag?"
"Yes, the one the cop was carrying outside the building."
He laughed in the way that never failed to curl her toes, and vowed he had no inside information on the case. That he did not know what was in the bag.
If he'd been here in person, she could've coerced the information out of him. Which made her smile. They talked a few more minutes then said good night. For the first time in ages, he didn't end with the dreaded M word.
Angie leaned back on the fluff of pillows and contemplated going back out to watch television. She didn't watch very often though Jarvis had gotten her in the habit of turning on the news before bed. Two weeks ago he'd arrived with the new 42" flatscreen and she laughed while he installed it, knowing he bought the thing to replace her ancient 13" he had to strain to see. She'd teased him that he should get glasses rather than a bigger television.
Instead of more TV, she finished the wine, beat the pillows into submission then settled on her left side. But sleep wouldn't come. The image of drama teacher Gwen Forest wouldn't leave her head. Not that she had any idea what the woman looked like as of today--that picture could've been forty, or a hundred, years old--but they were of a kindred spirit, they shared a love of the theater. Gwen taught acting to kids; Angie owned a community playhouse where everyone acted like kids.
Two teens from Carlson had acted in one of her playhouse's performances. It wouldn't be surprising if either were Ms. Forest's students.
Suffocation. What a terrible way to die.
Early in their semi-professional relationship Jarvis taught Angie a few things. One was, that type of murder usually signified somebody was trying to keep the person from talking. That the murdered person knew something they shouldn't.
Angie cursed. This was the real reason she hadn't wanted to watch when the broadcaster recommended turning away. She knew she'd lie here and speculate about the dead person--their life, their death, and most of all, the person or persons who caused it. What was wrong with her? Other women were content puttering in a garden or cooking gourmet meals. Once she'd tried learning to knit. That lasted almost an hour.
Well, this time the mystery could stay a mystery. The authorities could do their jobs. She had no vested interest in the outcome.