“I can’t believe you found another body,” my mother said, in a somewhat accusing tone. She paced back and forth in the mansion’s kitchen, where Piper, Moxie, Socrates, and I waited while coroner Vonda Shakes, some EMTs, and a few uniformed police officers tromped around upstairs. Needless to say, the fundraiser had come to an abrupt end when the ambulance had arrived. “And you had to do it when I’m trying to sell a house,” Mom added. “Really, Daphne!”
“I helped you by catching Tinkleston,” I reminded her, raising my hands, which an EMT had been nice enough to wrap in bandages. I looked like a boxer— which was appropriate. The cat had really put up a fight when I’d tried to capture him so he wouldn’t get lost in what I’d known would be inevitable excitement. I’d barely managed to carry him a few feet down the hall and secure him in the bedroom with the fireplace.
“And don’t you think it’s best that I found Miss Flynt before your big-city socialite buyer arrived? What if she’d asked to see the bathroom again? I don’t think finding a body on a house tour bodes well for getting that ‘full asking price’!”
“Daphne’s probably right,” Moxie said. “I wouldn’t be able to even think about the wallpaper if there was a dead person in the tub.”
My mother gave Moxie one of her signature funny looks.
Then the reality of Miss Flynt’s death began to sink in for me, and I suddenly felt sad.
“Could we all stop talking about Miss Flynt like she’s an object? Or an inconvenience?” I requested. “She wasn’t the easiest person to deal with, but she did a lot for Sylvan Creek and animals.”
“Daphne’s right,” Piper agreed. “I think, in our shock, we’re acting a little callous.” She rubbed her arms like she was cold, although her silk shirt had finally dried, leaving behind a water stain. “And where is this ‘buyer,’ anyhow, Mom?” she asked, taking a seat on an upholstered bench that ran the length of the bank of windows. It really would be a lovely spot for morning tea. Then my sister checked the wristwatch she always wore, in case her phone ever died. Which never happened. “It’s getting late.”
“I don’t know where she is,” Mom said. “I’ve been trying to text her, to postpone, but she’s not responding. I suppose she’s still en route. Traffic between Manhattan and the Poconos can be dreadful, even on a Saturday evening.”
That was true. A lot of city folks had weekend homes in the mountains, and the commuter route was perpetually backed up, even at odd hours.
“I’m stepping outside for a moment,” Mom told us, tapping at her cell phone. “Reception is sometimes bad in these old houses. Maybe she’s not even receiving my messages.”
Piper, always restless, rose again as the back door shut behind our mother. “I’m going outside, too, to
Either Moxie or I—or both of us—probably should have offered to help gather up the jack-o’-lanterns and take down the chandeliers, but neither of us volunteered.
Moxie began fidgeting with her nails, pretending she hadn’t heard Piper, no doubt so she wouldn’t miss any gossip-worthy news from the coroner or police.
Socrates, sitting quietly at my feet, also averted his gaze.
“Come on, Moxie,” Piper finally prompted. “I’m sure you won’t miss anything if you’re on the lawn.”
Moxie stuck out her lower lip, like she doubted that. Then her shoulders slumped. “Oh, fine. I’ll help.”
Piper turned to me, her eyebrows raised over her wire rims. “Daphne?”
Before I could answer, the doorbell rang. “I need to get that,” I said, grabbing the Falling Leaves candle off the counter again. Resourceful and brave Piper had located a fuse box in the basement, but she hadn’t been able to restore the power. “It’s probably Mom’s big commission.”
“Oh, fine,” Piper grumbled, taking Moxie by the arm. “We’ll see you in a few minutes, though, right?”
I didn’t make any promises. I just hurried toward the foyer, with Socrates lumbering along behind me, and opened the front door. “Welcome to Flynt Mansion . . .”
I started to greet the visitor in a way I assumed my mother would. Then I realized who was actually standing on the porch, and the words died on my lips.
The person waiting to come inside wasn’t speechless, though.
“So, you’re mixed up in another possible murder,” Detective Jonathan Black said, shaking his head and marching right past me into the house. Then he looked me up and down, frowning. “And are you dressed as a boxing witch?”