Nobody was running from the house and the smoke was wrong for a fire. I inhaled. Pipe smoke. Deep, welcoming, with a hint of sweetness. Took me back to sitting with Grandpa Spreadbury listening to him tell tales of growing up in the mountains where he chopped wood, hauled water, and occasionally wrestled a bear.
Of course it was all BS, but hey. When I was a kid it was good stuff.
A female officer came out of the kitchen. “Is that you, Detective Spreadbury?”
Officer Patty Poundacre. Finally, someone competent. The woman was as plain as a bowl of oatmeal, but she knew her job. “In the flesh. What’ve we got, Officer?”
She fixed me with a stare worthy of my third-grade teacher. “Have you turned in that Maserati yet?”
“Uh, not yet. Eventually.” My gut squirmed. Hey, what red-blooded American male wouldn’t want to keep a car like that? Screaming down the highway, wind in my hair, arm around a woman, maybe Persephone…
“Detective, are you listening?” Poundacre snapped her fingers.
“What? Yes, sorry.” Stop fantasizing, Spreadbury. You haven’t had that shield so long they wouldn’t yank it back and you’d be back to pounding pavement on the night shift.
“Okay, here’s the deal.” Poundacre consulted her notes. “First, the right shoe.”
“The canvas one?”
“Yes. That’s a problem.”
“Because the victim doesn’t have a right leg, that’s why.”
I blinked. Okay, so two people had been at the Fries residence. “What else?”
“The left shoe. Not the victim’s.”
This was ridiculous. “How do you know? I mean, look at this place. Décor from the 70s, sure, but he might like to dress up on the weekend. He might have a lady he takes dancing.”
Poundacre’s gaze was steely. “It’s the wrong size. Shoes in the closet upstairs are a men’s 10. The Brooks Brothers loafer is an 11.”
Damn it all. “Okay, so victim lived alone. This place is neat as a pin. You think he–”
“I’m not done.” Her voice was prim. The woman was competent, but she was rubbing me the wrong way. My pants definitely did not react to Officer Poundacre. “Where’s the pipe?”
“The pipe. I’m sure you smelled the smoke. So why didn’t we find a pipe?”
What the…three people? This was out of hand. “Okay, Officer Poundacre. So you’re telling me that three people, including the victim, were in this house?”
She closed her notebook. “Yes, sir. Would seem to be that way.”
Visions of me, Persephone, and the Maserati vanished. It was going to be a long, damn night. “Where’s the victim?”
“This way.” Poundacre led me to the backyard. Freshly mown, by the scent of it. A small, concrete patio with those woven strap aluminum chairs was directly behind the house. Aluminum chairs in a hideous color of orange plaid and silver threads that were definitely disco era.
“Someone needed to bring this guy into the current century,” I muttered.
The body was on the grass. Mr. Fries was on his back, arms spread out. No right leg. A look of shock on his weathered face. More glitter and applesauce down his front.
“Okay, so our killer surprises him at lunch, shoots him, leaves him here and runs, leaving a shoe. Someone else comes in, sees the body, panics and flees, thus the second shoe.”
“Two problems with that.”
Did Poundacre have any solutions or just problems? “Such as?”
“He wasn’t shot. Or stabbed—or strangled, or bashed over the head. There are no marks on the body except an old bruise on his left arm.” She paused. “And there’s no applesauce.”
I looked around. She was right. No bowl of anything. I returned to the kitchen. No applesauce there, either. A few plates were in the sink drainer, standing like soldiers at attention. One coffee mug, a knife and fork, but no bowls and no damn applesauce.
“In fact, I’ve checked and there isn’t any applesauce in the house. In fact, it looks like Mr. Fries is allergic to apples, sir. I found a sheet of emergency medical information in his bedroom.” She paused again.
“Spit it out, Officer Poundacre. What else?”
“That glitter? On the shoe and the victim? It’s not craft glitter, like kids use, sir.” She arched an eyebrow. “It’s glitter they put on clothing. Like a sweatshirt.”