Herbie was right. Just the intrigue alone took my mind off the troll’s announcement that Guy was her recent prey. As I drove to The Diner I wasn’t even thinking about the horrible nightmare. I was too curious about Herbie’s remarks to lend any brain cells to secondary issues. Just as I reached the restaurant my phone rang. It was Ginger. I would have let it go to voice mail but, because I had just dialed and hung up on her, I thought it best to answer and let her know nothing was wrong.

            After clearing up the call and hang up, I told her that after meeting EJ I was surprised they were friends.

            “Oh honey. We are not friends. My husband finds her interesting due to his interest in Geology. I’ve only been around her a couple times and she seemed to be a little too friendly with Matt if you know what I mean” Ginger said with a strong Georgia drawl.

            “Do I hear jealousy?” I loved to take a jab at Ginger now and then.

            “I though you said you had met her?” We both laughed at her quick sarcasm.

            I saw Herbie at the front door and ended the conversation with Ginger. We found a booth in the back, Herbie ordered a BLT, and I ordered a Coke Zero. When Herbie’s sandwich arrived it came with a huge mound of French fries so we shared them as we talked. There was something earnest and comfortable about Herbie and I was glad that Kathleen had found him.

            “Herbie Carmichael, do not keep me in suspense any longer. Spill it” I insisted.

            “OK, here is the deal. Let me explain the whole thing before you comment.” With those words, his cell phone rang. He explained to Kathleen that he was meeting with me and then he put me on the phone to say hi to my old friend. I really like that – he didn’t try to hide from his wife that he was having lunch with one of her friends. After hanging up with Kathleen, he proceeded to tell me the reason for our meeting.

            “Herbie, I am shocked. I don’t know what to say. You know I do not have magical powers, right?”

            He cocked his head and lifted one eyebrow. He was right; I guess my ability is in some way a magical power.

            “I meant I can’t conjure up Hope, or get a story from her belongings or anything like that. I can tell truth from lies but I don’t see or speak to dead people.”

            “Well, the Wilson’s think you do. They saw how you were drawn to her things in a trance-like state. Whether you like it or not, you left us for a few minutes and that made a big impression on them. They want you to come back to the house because they believe you might be able to figure out who left their daughter for dead in the woods.”

            “Left her for dead?” That was news to me. I assumed she was left there after she died. “You mean she was alive?”

            “Yes, there was enough evidence at the scene and preliminary autopsy reports would indicate that she was left out there prior to death.”  I was stunned to hear his words.

            “Could she have been saved if she was found earlier?” Herbie shook his head yes.

            “But the more important question is, why did someone leave her there instead of taking her to the hospital?” I pondered his question.

            “I can think of a few but the most logical seems to be that he or she did not want to be associated with her.”

            “Right on” was Herbie’s only response and he finished his sandwich. “I’m thinking it was a married guy.”

            “I’m thinking prominent?” I added tentatively.

            “You are thinking like a detective. If you are on board with this, let’s head over the Wilson’s and let you snoop around in her things for a while. It will appease the parents and, who knows, perhaps we will find some more evidence.”

            “OK, as long as the family isn’t led to believe I am something I am not.”

            “Brinkley, they have come up with this all on their own. They believe in all kinds of things that you and I dismiss. Maybe they aren’t as far off as they seem. Perhaps they can sense something different about you and assume you are clairvoyant or something,”

            When we left the restaurant my car was a little cranky starting. I made sure to park across the street, in front of the park, in case it wouldn’t start when we left the Wilson’s. I didn’t want to leave a dead car in their driveway.

            Both Mr. and Mrs. Wilson met us at the doorway and without a single word, escorted us up the stairs to Hope’s room. Another teenaged girl followed us up the stairs and we were informed that this person was Hope’s best friend Jennifer.

            Everything in the room looked as it did the day of the funeral. I wondered if the door had remained closed the entire time. I wanted to explain to the parents that I did not have the ability to communicate with their daughter but before I could explain, I was drawn into her again. I touched her belongings, and looked through her drawers and closet. Before I knew it, a half hour had passed in silence.

            “I am sorry Mr. and Mrs. Wilson but I do not have any news for you. I cannot communicate with the departed; however, I do believe that she was with someone she knew prior to her death.” Herbie gave me a quick glance that I knew meant tread lightly and cautiously.

            “The police think it was us but we could not kill our daughter. We loved Hope” said Mr. Wilson.

            “I know you didn’t kill her but someone else close to her may have.” I looked at Jennifer and bluntly asked “Do you know anything about this? Who might be responsible?”

            “I’ve already given my statement to the police” she replied and avoided my question,

            I asked her a series of questions, such as who Hope was dating, and for the finale I flat out asked Jennifer if she knew or suspected who killed Hope. She said no and it was a lie.

            “I don’t believe you” I said. Hope’s parents gasped and all eyes turned to the young girl now squirming in an old chair. “I believe that you either have more information than you realize or you are choosing to hold back.”

            “What are you, some kind of witch or something?” She got up and left the room.

            I followed after her and confronted her in the living room. “Who are you protecting? Why are you letting your best friend’s murderer go unprosecuted? Are you involved in some way?” I was asking too many questions and too rapidly to get a read or an answer.

            “Ok, ok” she said. “I have my suspicions but I do not know for sure (lie). I don’t want to go stirring up trouble for someone if I am wrong (another lie). And, I do not want to talk to the police (true).” With those words she left the house and there was nothing I could do to stop her.

            I wasn’t surprised when my car wouldn’t start. It wasn’t a premonition; it was experience. Once again, my friend at the Ford dealership was the consummate professional by delivering a loaner and towing away my vehicle. I was home within fifteen minutes of calling for help. The afternoon had slipped away and now I was rushing around to get ready for Aunt Cecil’s memorial. I felt a tinge of guilt when I realized the reason I was taking so long was because I was actually dressing to impress Guy.

Eventually I settled on a pair of snug fitting black slacks and a black, white, and turquoise wrap around top that accentuated my curves in a positive way. I really wanted to wear my flattering black wrap around dress but it looked much too funerary and not memorial service. Pointy black mules, an up do, and dangling turquoise earrings finished off the outfit. Satisfied, I herded the ratties back into the house and headed to the service expecting a quiet, somber night.

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