Orville sat mute as her words just echoed through his brain over and over. This had to be a really, really bad dream, right? He pushed his coffee away as the caffeine seemed to be more acidic to his stomach now more than ever. He handed a wad of napkins to Kathryn so she could wipe her eyes and regain her composure.
“How? Where?” Orville finally asked calmly when she had finished.
“The police found him in his apartment early yesterday morning. They say time of death was maybe between 2 and 4 in the morning.”
“Holy shit, Kathryn!”
“I do not have a lot of other details while they track down his family, but the inside poop is he was stabbed to death. No signs of forced entry or signs of like a robbery or anything.”
“She’s a wreck, naturally…”
“Your ‘inside poop’ contact have any idea who or why?”
Kathryn just shook her head no.
“I guess more will come out as the investigation goes along, but for now that is all I know.”
Orville felt numb. It had been bad enough to have gone down to Guatemala to find out his friend, Francisco, had vanished. But this hit a little too close to home for comfort. Laconia was a quiet, peaceful little place. Orville could not recall a time when something more serious than a simple robbery or car theft had been the biggest case on the local police blotter. He guessed there had been more serious issues, but a violent murder like this? It was beyond comprehension at the moment.
“Anything we can do for Sarah?”
“Well…the thing is Orville…”
“It looks like the police have made her their prime suspect.”
“Sarah? Have they lost their collective minds, Kathryn?”
“You know how it is, Orville. In these cases it is normal to look at a husband or wife first. Seeing as how Joe had no close family anymore, and they knew of his relationship with Sarah…”
“Oh, for fuck sakes, Kathryn!”
Orville shrank back in his seat as heads of the few customers in the café nearby whipped his way glaring at his language.
“Sorry…” he said quietly as they all went back to their respective business. “But they have got to be kidding? Sarah Holding has got to be gentlest, most easy-going person in all of Laconia.”
“I know…I know. And I am sure she will be cleared quickly once they look more closely into this and see that that accusation is ridiculous.”
“But in the meantime Sarah gets put through the wringer, huh?”
“OK. Thanks for filling me in. Let’s go.”
Orville and Kathryn got back in her car and continued the drive home with no more than a few words between them as Orville was still stunned to his toes over this development. He thanked Kathryn again when she dropped him off at his house and he went in just dropping all his stuff in a pile in the living room suddenly feeling totally drained and spent. Orville sank into the easy chair in the den where he often read before heading to bed as a soft but steady rain began to fall outside. It seemed to match his mood at the moment and though he desperately wanted a beer he just could not seem to summon the energy to get up and go to the refrigerator to grab one.
Orville jerked awake when a loud clap of thunder struck outside that was loud enough to rattle his house. He looked around wildly unable for just a few seconds to figure out where he was and what time it was. As his heart pounded from the booming thunder he gasped as a massive bolt of electricity tore across the sky lighting the inside of his den like it was broad daylight before being plunged back into deep darkness again. Orville made himself take some deep breaths once he realized his situation and that he was back in his own home again. After so many weeks and months bouncing from one country to the next, he laughed at himself for his momentary confusion, though he guessed it was understandable. He looked over at the clock on the table beside his chair and saw 3:28AM.
He had fallen asleep in the chair apparently and his neck and back let him know that had not been the best decision he had ever made as he stood and stretched. Orville caught a glimpse of his pile of travel bags just inside the front door and was just too tired to deal with them right then even though the electrical storm had certainly brought him to full wakefulness. He wandered out of the den and toward his bedroom when the light rain that had been falling ever since Kathryn had dropped him off picked up and began coming down in torrents as the thunder and lightning seemed to get stronger and more frequent.
He sighed sadly as he suddenly recalled the whole Joe Garrity/Sarah Holding debacle and found the weather outside to be a pretty good reflection of that. He flinched slightly as he went into the bedroom to lay down as the thunder exploded violently above. This time of year was not the norm for these kind of storms, but not unheard of either, he mused, as he fell into his bed and closed his eyes to try and block it all out so he could grab a few hours of sleep. When he woke, the sun was out and all that he could hear as he squinted into the sun drifting through the gap in the curtains of his bedroom was the dripping of the rain from last night’s storm through the gutters of the cottage and off the vegetation around the house. Orville rose slowly, his stiff back and neck still lingering, a reminder of never to fall asleep in that chair again. He got some coffee going while he began to sort through all his gear from the trip and made an appointment with Bill Everett to work on his neck and back.
Orville sat at his kitchen table sipping at the coffee while he pondered Joe Garrity’s murder. He knew it was inconceivable that Sarah Holding was responsible. And in time, he told himself, the police would figure this out as well. But that did not bode well for the sensitive and gentle Sarah who would surely age very rapidly while she got put through the investigation as the prime suspect. Orville had only had experience with such things from television, but if it was half as bad as some of the better shows portrayed it, then he had no idea how Sarah would ever hold up under the pressure and accusations. But the bigger question, Orville told himself, was if not Sarah, then who? As far as he knew, Joe was well-liked in Laconia. But he knew little of him prior to his arrival here. Had something or someone in Joe’s past come back on him? Or was Joe Garrity perhaps not the person he had seemed to be?
Orville shook his head as all these questions flew around in his brain. He had no answers and all it was doing was giving him a headache. He tossed out the last dregs of coffee in his mug and called Kathryn to see if she had any new information.
“Hey, Kathryn…it’s Orville. Any news on Sarah?”
“Not that I know of. It is still rumor this morning, but in Laconia, as you know, that often turns out to be a good source of info. They released Sarah this morning without any further incident…so I hear.”
“That’s good, right?”
“I guess. It seems they are still considering her a person of interest—that famous line—but not a suspect for the time being. My best guess is that either her reputation in town or the timeline for Joe’s death or some other piece of evidence they might have are not in alignment enough to hold her.”
“But no other arrests or suspects as far as you know?”
“Nope. It is all so…I don’t know…just hard to believe it has happened is all, I guess.”
“I mean, I was just having lunch with the two of them a few days ago. And now Joe’s…”
Her voice trailed off as she began to sob.
“You want me to come by Kathryn?”
“No, Orville. I’m OK. I just need to get my mind off this and focus on something else for a while.”
“Sure…sure….maybe we should run by and see if we can do anything for Sarah?”
“I called her already. She asked me not to come right away. She is just trying to adjust to it all and needs some alone time for now.”
“OK…whatever she wants. You interested in coming with me to look at shelter dogs?”
“You were pretty distracted yesterday when I told you, but yeah…I am thinking of adopting a dog from one of the local shelters here. Want to tag along?”
“I appreciate the offer, Orville, and I know you mean well, but I think I will pass. Like Sarah I just need some alone time I think.”
“OK. Call me if you need anything. Or if Sarah does either.”
“Will do, Orville. Happy hunting…”
Orville hung up and tossed his laundry from the trip into the machine before heading out the door to keep his appointment at Bill Everett’s and was looking forward to getting some relief in his bones from his night in his easy chair. He touched the Mayan medallion through his shirt as he always did when leaving home. It had become a habit ever since he had acquired it from Francisco and as his finger rubbed across the etching on the disc he did feel better.