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Quarantine Mystery XXII

April 16, 2020

Sergeant Romano isn’t available when I call the police station. The operator, or whoever it is, says he’s in an interview and can’t be interrupted but I can leave a message. When I hear the signal, I say, “This is Karen McKenna. I have just seen Sukey’s—that is, Susan Anderson’s—car go down Battery Street past Judge Anderson’s house, but there was a man driving. I don’t think where was anyone else in the car.”

Marian is still with me, listening to my half of the call. “Let’s go to Sukey’s house,” she says.

I can’t think of a good reason why not. “I’ll drive,” I say, trying to remember where I left my purse. It’s been more than a week since I drove old Toto (the Toyota) and I have to let it run for a minute until the strange clicks in the motor subside. We head west, out of town, and I am merely following Marian’s directions. I don’t know where Sukey lives. I’m surprised that Marian knows, either. When we hit the loop that skirts the main part of town, Toto starts making a distressing noise. The usual metallic scrape I’ve become accustomed to hearing from under the hood turns into a metallic thunk. “Come on, kid. Don’t quit on me now.”

Marian’s hands tighten on her shoulder strap. “It’s been years since I was out here. Poor thing. Sukey has practically nothing, you know. But it’s partly her own fault.” She pauses to check a street sign. “Look for Amelia Drive,” she says then continues. “Her parents—hers and Victor’s—had money to pay for Victor’s education straight through law school, but not for Sukey. Girl’s education wasn’t important, so Sukey did the secretarial school thing. Married Ed Green. Her boss. Meanest man in the world. Stingy and abusive, I’ve heard. She divorced him, but got absolutely nothing in the settlement.”

I flip my turn signal and exit to Amelia Drive. Marian keeps talking, using her hands to direct me to Sukey’s street. “What does she live on?” I ask.

“She quit her secretary job several years ago and since then—I’m not sure. I think Victor gave her some.”

Sukey’s car is in the driveway. I park in front of the house and shoot Marian a let’s roll look. If the man driving the car is inside the house, we may be in for a few awkward moments. I turn the key and Toto emits what sounds like a death rattle. Marian and I don our mandatory face masks.

Sukey answers the door and looks at us quizzically. Marian says, “We were just in the neighborhood and I said to Karen, I said, I want to check on Sukey. You’ve been through so much recently—losing your poor brother . . .” 

I punch Marian in the back, as in, don’t lay it on too thick. There is no man inside the depressing little living room with faded chintz upholstery. No noise, no suggestion of anyone there but Sukey. I look at my watch. It has been about forty-five minutes since we saw a man driving the car that is now parked outside.

Plumping herself in an armchair while Marian and I take the sofa, Sukey talks about the trials and tribulations brought on by Victor’s death. “It looks like I’ll be getting a small annuity after Victor’s will is probated. I say small, because the stock market, you know, since the pandemic . . . I wonder if there is anything left.”

“The market has been hit hard, but I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t bounce back,” I say, trying to sound upbeat. I’m assuming she will need the cash. “You may want to wait a while before you sell.”

Sukey offers us something to drink. A glass of tea?  Water?

I say water would be nice. Sukey gets up and I follow her, keeping up a running commentary on the style of houses on this side of town. She pulls two glasses from a cabinet and opens the refrigerator door. I hear a noise, like the sound of a toilet lid dropping, coming from another room.

There, sitting beside the butter dish, sits a tiny vial with a pharmacist’s label. I step as close as I can without bumping into Sukey’s back while she reaches for a water pitcher. I can’t see the whole name of the pharmacy because the label wraps completely around the vial, but I see a part of the patient’s name: Victor An . . .

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