b4.7 Iris poured some coffee for Wendell & joined him at the kitchen table. Evie Lane was outside, measuring the yard.
b4.8 Wendell watched Evie through one of the many windows of the dome house. “Iris,” he said. “I worry about the expense of this.”
b4.9 “Evie’s not a ‘this,’” Iris said. “But she’s expensive,” Wendell said. “& why pay for her to stay at the Sylvia Beach Hotel?”
b5.0“It’s what she wanted,” Iris said. “And it’s such a nice place. She can design there. I wanted her to be comfortable.”
b5.1Wendell shook his head. “You want EVERYONE to be comfortable. And you have no sense at all about money.”
b5.2 Iris had to laugh. “This from you!” But immediately she regretted the remark. “Oh brother dear,” she said then.
b5.3 “Don’t worry about the money. There is enough.” She poured cream into her coffee. “Is there?” Wendell asked.
b5.4 Iris had never told Wendell, or anyone, except the lawyer who wrote her will, what the New York gallery had paid her for the paintings.
b5.5 It was a private sale and she chose to keep it that way. Her life was unchanged: she still shopped garage sales, and she lived simply.
b5.6 To her the money meant little except security. The only indulgence had been the new house, and now the garden.
b5.7 But the house wasn’t really new at all. Its builder had lived in it for years, until his divorce. A terrible divorce, the realtor said.
b5.8 The builder’s name was Reese, and the house was known as the Reese Dome. His divorce had forced the sale– Iris had met him once.
b5.9 It was when she was still moving in. She had seen a man in the driveway, watching the house. He looked cold. Iris introduced herself.
b6.0 He had said, “I’m Fred Reese. This is my house. I mean it was. I built it.” Iris smiled & spoke warmly, “I love this house, Fred.”
b6.1 “Yeah, me too,” Fred had answered. He didn’t smile. “Marlene had those bedroom wings stuck on it. I never agreed.”
b6.2 “Oh,” Iris said. “Well, I need the rooms too.” She looked at Fred’s face. “But I suppose they aren’t very dome-like.”
b6.3 “They look like shit,” he had said, and he walked away without another word.
b6.4 Now Wendell put his cup down. He was still watching Evie out the window with a dreamy gaze. Abruptly he rose and went outside.
b6.5 Evie engaged him, & they stood around talking. Then he held the tape-measure for her. She smiled endlessly, & finally he did as well.
b6.6 Iris watched out the window, until they disappeared from her view. “Maybe she’s broken it off with that Mart guy,” she said to herself.
b6.7 “But I hope I don’t need to worry about Wendell. He is so stupid about people—about women in particular…”
b6.8 When she finally went outside, Wendell and Evie and Evie’s van were nowhere to be seen. “Oh-oh,” Iris said aloud, & she worried.
d7.6 Jill found 2 old books about poison plants at the Newport Public Library. She was researching & planning her garden bed.
d7.7 The books discussed Datura plants in great detail, and Jill got distracted by the poisoned cat mystery. It haunted her.
d7.8 From what she read, Billy Killin’s guess was right: Margaret’s cat was poisoned. But WHY would anyone want to murder Fluffy?
d7.9 Jill followed Billy on Twitter, and now she dug her phone out of her pocket. She smiled. Billy was just so entertaining.
d8.0 She sent him a tweet: @killinswrites Researched dead cat, dialated eyes, u r right Billy, Datura as murder weapon. #badlunch
d8.1 She walked home through the damp chill day, & looked forward to cocoa & time with books & Internet searches. Iris met her at the door.
d8.2 “Jillie,” Iris said, later in the kitchen. Jill was making hot cocoa for them both. Outside, the day had darkened to rain and wind.
d8.3 “I hope you aren’t upset about Fluffy & I don’t really understand the poison plants interest. And I’m afraid Wendell likes Evie a lot.”
d8.4 Iris was hopeless at guarding her feelings. Jill could see it was time for them to talk. It was cozy in the warm kitchen.
d8.5 “Billy said the cat was poisoned, and I believe he’s right.” Jill said, & she stirred the cocoa. “But my garden is just a project…”
d8.6 “… a study. Like when I researched natural dyes and colored all those white clothes? It’s how I like to learn.” She looked up.
d8.7 “Don’t worry, I won’t kill anyone.” Then Jill laughed, and she was so pretty and so smart, Iris had to smile.
d8.8 Jill continued. “But I don’t know about Wendell and Evie. She seems a bit of a femme fatale, if you ask me.”
d8.9 Iris was surprised. “I thought you liked her!” she said. “I do,” Jill answered. “But she looks dangerous.”
d9.0 “How on earth did you decide that?” Iris asked. “Really I think you watch too many movies.” But Jill just smiled.
d9.1 Her English teacher, Blue, had been asking lots of questions about Evie, and said he’d met her in town. Jill felt just a little jealous.<
c2.8 In the James Young pub, in Bathgate Janice Boyd was having an early lunch with Euan Mccrum. So far, it was not a success.
c2.9 Janice had done all the right things. She’d found Euan’s workplace on Facebook, found his number at the tax office and phoned.
c3.0 Putting on her poshest accent, she’d explained the West Lothian courier would like to discuss his tweet about Broxburn Plants
c3.1 She’d asked him to lunch. Euan was expecting something rather better than a local pub, especially since he’d had to drive.
c3.2 He wasn’t to know that Janice had no authorised expenses. It was her meagre wages that were buying his fish and salad.
c3.3 In a few words he’d explained getting a random tweet and seeing the police at Broxburn Plants. Then the conversation dried up.
c3.4 Janice was disappointed. She’d hoped he’d seen something interesting. But he’d done a bunk as soon as the police saw him.
c3.5 Janice wouldn’t have done that. She would have gone in search of the story. Even if she was arrested, it would be worth it.
c3.6 “And that was it?” She asked. “You just turned round and drove to work? You didn’t even bother to ask more questions….?”
c3.7 “No, but I did get another tweet later on,” said Euan, nettled. It was from @morecrime news this time.””What did it say?”
c3.8 “It said ‘@emccrum Please RT Happy Birthday to all at @Broxburnplants #uncannydeath’. So I did.”
c3.9 “You’re crazy,” said Janice. “You re-tweet that? The polis will be all over it. Look.” From boredom she had taken out her phone
c4.0 and had been paging through Twitter under the table. She held it out to Euan. Bill’s statement was already on Youtube…
c4.1 ..and @RadioForthnews was updating from Broxburn Plants (not that they had anything new) every few minutes. Euan went white.
c4.2 “Jesus, what do I do? What if work finds out? And my mum? She’ll be scared stiff if the police turn up. I’d better go and see.”
c4.3 Janice looked at him with contempt. She had already missed breaking the story. But Euan was involved somehow. He was a source..
c4.4 ..even if a pathetic one, and she wasn’t letting him go. “You’ll do no such thing,” she said. “Phone work and say you’re sick..
c4.5 Then you’ll drive home, with me. Pick up a few things and then..”
“Then what?” asked Euan, eyes wide.
“Then you’ll disappear.”
c4.6 “Why would I do that?” Euan’s life in the tax office had not prepared him for this. Janice wasn’t hanging about waiting…
c4.7 “You’ll do it..”she said, leaning over the table. “..You’ll do it for love.” She reached an arm round his neck and kissed him.<
c4.8 The impact of being suddenly kissed out of the blue by an attractive girl is not to be underestimated.
c4.9 Especially if most of your life is spent in online forums and girls are an unplumbed mystery. The impact could be compared…
c5.0 …shall we say, to a mild dose of a hallucinogenic drug. Scopalamine, for example. Enough, in any event, to override..
c5.1 …common sense, and the instinct for self-preservation. Such was the case with Euan Mccrum. For a moment he sat stunned.
c5.2 The remains of his fish grew cold. “Let’s go,” said Janice Boyd. Euan rose to his feet. Janice paid. She went. Euan followed.
c5.3 By the time they arrived at his Mum’s house in Broxburn, Euan was beginning to come to his senses. “I can’t do this,” he said.
c5.4 “It’s too late now, Euan,” said Janice. She knew not to repeat the dose yet. “We’re in this together.” She said nothing more.
c5.5 “What shall I say to Mum?”
“Just that you have to go to Stirling tonight and you’ll be staying over. Grab some stuff and leave”
c5.6 Euan got out of the car and went into the house. Janice waited. After a time Euan came back, as she had known he would.
c5.7 He was carrying a small backpack and a brown parcel. “I don’t know what this is,” he said. “Mum said it arrived for me”.
c5.8. Janice waited while he undid the Amazon cardboard packing. “I didn’t order this,” said Euan. A small gift card fell out.
c5.9 “Happy birthday Euan, from #uncannydeath,” it read. “It’s not my birthday,” said Euan. “What is this? Is it a joke?”
c6.0 Janice said nothing, but she knew she wasn’t wrong about Euan. He was involved. There was a story. Euan looked at the book.
c6.1 He turned it over. “Death in Orkney and other tales of crime,” he read. “By Billy Killins. I’ve heard of him.”<
9.2 There was a knock at the door & Evie let herself in. She’d been gone for hours and her rain parka was dripping.
9.3 “But where is Wendell?” Iris said. Evie carried a notebook. She smiled at Iris and accepted a cup of cocoa from Jill.
9.4 “Wendell? Oh, I left him at the pub downtown. After we went to Beekman’s Nursery to look around. He was helping me.”
9.5 Iris felt defensive about Wendell. She resolved to bring up that man from the hotel. “Did Mr. Cruikshank–did he get off to Japan?”
9.6 “Seattle first,” Evie said, and she opened her notebook. Jill looked confused but listened closely.
9.7 “I’m thinking of a wall of English laurel,” Evie said. “To seclude the yard from the neighbor to the south.”
9.8 Iris had been a gardener in her time, and she knew about English laurel. “Really?” she said. “In my small garden?” She looked doubtful.
9.9 Evie immediately shifted gears. “That was a joke,” she said, and laughed. “Wendell & I were kidding about it, at the nursery.”
10.0 “So what are you really thinking?” This from Jill. She held the hot chocolate with both hands–a ceiling light glinted off her glasses.
10.1 Evie tilted her head, which revealed a large diamond stud earring beneath her blond hair.“What if we start with your poison plants, Jill?”
10.2 “Groovy,” Jill said. Evie looked at her sharply, then, “I’m thinking a long bed, maybe 4 feet by 15, with a southeast exposure…”
10.3 “I have to go,” Iris said. “I promised Margaret Benson I’d come by. She spends so much time by Fluffy’s grave…”
10.4 “Back soon,” she said. Then Jill & Evie were alone. “I bet you have some idea what you want to grow,” Evie said. She had her pen ready.
10.5 Jill set her cup on the table. “Jimsonweed,” she said. Evie made a hasty note. Jill continued. “And monkshood in two shades of blue…”
10.6 …nightshade, mayapple…and a foxglove vine, to start.” Evie kept writing.“These could be nice together,” she said, “very pretty &–”
10.7 “Toxic,” Jill said. Then she added. “So, who is Mr. Cruikshank?” ( Iris would have never allowed this prying, but she was absent.)
10.8 “An old friend. He travels. He stopped to see me. That’s all.” Evie looked irritated. Her notebook made a ‘slap’ sound as she closed it.
10.9 “It’s been fun Jill, but I have to get back to my drawings.” As the front door closed behind Evie a new text beeped Jill’s phone.
11.0 It was from Billy Killins: “rain letting up—off for a walk by the old lighthouse–see you there?
11.1 Jill grabbed her coat & cap & headed off on her bike to the park that was home to the Yaquina Bay lighthouse. She found Billy waiting.
11.2 They headed up the park trail to where the old building perched above the beach. “So,” Billy said, as he lit a cigarette.“Dead cat.”
11.3 “Yep,” she said. But there were other mysteries, & Jill desperately needed a confidant. Besides, Billy was the best listener around.
11.4 Mist drifted low around the old lighthouse. They climbed the steps to the porch and looked at the ocean far below.
11.5 “But Billy, you know that woman Aunt hired, that Evie landscaper person? She doesn’t know jack-shit about plants.”
11.6 “Language my sweet,” Billy said. Then, “sounds like a goddam con artist. How do you know she’s a fake?” The day was darkening.
11.7 “She thinks foxglove is a vine,” Jill said. “And she was going to fill the place with English laurel until Aunt almost fainted.”
11.8 “Sounds unqualified, to say the least,” Billy said. “How did you say you found her?”
11.9 “Blue,“ Jill said, & Billy’s eyebrows rose. “Blue,” she said again, this time to herself. “He was so sure she was the best applicant.”<