The gossip of a small town was faster than twitter, not that Clayton did that, but he knew enough people who did. The locals debated and argued about the death of Margie Webster, and whether Malcolm Sinclair had anything to do with it. In less than two days the town was either for or against the man. When Pepper went missing from right down the road after Malcolm’s book club let out, it was fodder for the internet. Yet what exactly had Malcolm done other than to act like a narcissistic asshole? It was all just hunches and guesses and nothing that got Clayton any closer to solving Margie’s murder, or more critically, finding Pepper.
The guests at Malcolm Sinclair’s house had been sent home—except none of them went home. Most had stopped in at the other restaurants in Lamont, ones that stayed open later than the diner, just to see who could tell the story faster about the commotion at Malcolm’s estate. Then there was the bowling alley where people drank beer, discussed the business of others, and once in a while threw a ball down the alley. When Jessie Belmont wasn’t found at home to be questioned about what happened at the book club, Sheriff Clayton Nazzaro’s deputy figured this was where she would be—single, lonely, sitting at the bar of Pin Drop Alley. The deputy was right.
Clayton had stopped at the station first to hear the tape of the recorded conversation from the wire Pepper wore. His tech forwarded it to the part where Pepper, posing as Hazel Brewster, was sitting at the table with Jessie Belmont, Mrs. Sophia Lyons, and Malcolm Sinclair. What would Jessie say about it was the question.
Clayton weaved his way through the bowlers who meandered back and forth to the bar where Jessie sat on a stool drinking something with an umbrella in it. Shouts from jubilant or pissed off bowlers as the pins slammed against each other could make a man deaf. Jessie sipped her drink unaware.
Clayton walked up beside her. “Evening Ms. Belmont.”
Jessie flinched. “Jeez sheriff, you just about scared the crap out of me.”
“Sorry,” said Clayton. He sat down on a stool next to her. “Didn’t mean to sneak up but it’s not hard to with the noise. If you got a minute I’d like to talk to you about tonight at Malcolm Sinclair’s place.”
Clayton ordered a Coke and went over the book club meeting with Jessie. What she said matched the conversation that the sheriff’s department tech had recorded—sailing, fishing, and Margie Webster being found murdered.
“At first I thought Hazel was recently divorced and that’s why Malcolm called her Ms. Black,” said Jessie, “but the gossip now she’s one of your detectives. And kidnapped of all things. I hate when I leave before the excitement happens.”
“What time did you leave?” asked Clayton. “Was Investigator Black with you?”
“No, I left alone shortly before nine,” said Jessie. She motioned to the bartender and slid her empty glass his way. “Malcolm had walked away and Sophia was complaining about her husband. I didn’t feel like listening to it anymore, so I left.”
Jessie Belmont’s glass was full again. As long as she was still sitting and drinking he’d keep asking questions. “How well did you know Margie Webster?”
“Not very. She was quiet most of the time. I think she had a crush on Malcolm at first. He wasn’t interested though. Too average for his taste.”
“At first?” Clayton asked. “What happened?”
Jessie sipped her screwdriver. “Don’t know. I overheard her and Malcolm talking. She didn’t want to go on the field trip, the one to Malcolm’s other house, where that famous writer lived. But he insisted he needed her.”
If Margie had trusted her gut instinct, she’d still be alive. “Did she say no when he asked for her help?”
“Ask?” Jessie laughed. “Asking wasn’t his style. Voluntold is more like it. Too bad too, huh? She wouldn’t be dead now with her head lopped off.”
Clayton was stunned; someone in his department would lose their head too over this. “Where’d you hear that?”
“It’s bowling league night sheriff, Joe Burnhart was in.” She switched her leg one over the other, and leaned into Clayton. “He told me about finding her dead body in his field, told me about the scarf too.”
Clayton could feel his blood pressure rise. They made very clear to Joe not to say anything about the details of how he found her.
“You know,” said Jessie, she paused to sip her drink, “Sophia had a polka dot scarf on that day.”
Today's word - V is for Voluntold - is brought to you by Jen Claud.
This post is part of April's Blogging From A-Z Challenge and Camp NaNoWriMo. The rest of the A-Z bloggers can be found pinned in the links section of my sidebar. Hope to see you tomorrow!