This case was getting weirder – and more out of hand – by the moment. Persephone and Aloysius had resumed their bickering. Elton Fries was staying clear of them. Wise move.
I had to think and think fast. Old Mr. Fries had been covered in applesauce and glitter. The Brooks Brothers loafer had been, too. No glitter or applesauce at Claudia Fries’s house, but there had been the matching pipe smoke. Claudia had accused her ex, Duncan Meadows, the man Alo had left Persephone for. Why? And who owned that green canvas slip-on?
I debated interrupting Persephone and her ex. On second thought, let them argue. I had two phone calls to make. The first was to Officer Poundacre. “I need to know the size of that green canvas shoe,” I said when she answered.
“Size seven,” she said without missing a beat. “Probably a woman’s seven. I wear an eight and it looked too small for me.”
I thanked her, hung up, and called Fred Boschman. “Freddie.”
“Have you talked to Persephone MacGillivray since you saw her earlier?” he asked. “I’m trying to get in touch with her about tonight and she’s not answering her phone. Damn, man, who’s the shrew in the background?”
Uh-oh. Fred was what one might call “touchy” about women. No need to let him know his date was only feet away from me, shrieking at her ex. “No, I haven’t. Sorry. As for the shrew, one of my witnesses is getting feisty. You run any tests on the applesauce from the Fries homicide earlier?”
“Don’t nag me, Spreadbury. I’m working as fast as I can.”
“I just need to know, in general, what kind of applesauce it is. Like do you know what kind of apples it was made of?”
“No clue. But it has a lot of cinnamon in it. I can smell it.”
I glanced at the empty cans in Everslam’s garbage. Bingo, cinnamon applesauce. I thanked Fred and hung up. Then I put my fingers to my lips and whistled, cutting through the chatter. “Listen up. I’m gonna need some things from each of you and I don’t want any arguing. You.” I pointed at Everslam. “What size shoe do you wear? And don’t even think of lying to me.”
His face turned brick-red, then sulky. “A ten-and-a-half.”
“He’s not lying, Detective,” Persephone said, shooting a scornful glance at her ex. “I picked up after him enough to know.”
I focused on Elton Fries. “What about you?”
“M-me?” his voice squeaked. “Uh…”
“Think hard, Mr. Fries.”
“Eleven,” he said, swallowing hard.
“Do you own a pair of Brooks Brothers loafers?”
“I don’t see…”
I arched an eyebrow, daring the younger Fries to continue his protest.
He didn’t take the dare and his shoulders slumped. “Yes.”
“Do you have them with you?”
“One.” He went to the back bedroom and returned with the mate to the loafer we’d found at the scene.
“What were you doing at your father’s house, Mr. Fries?” I glanced at Everslam, who continued to pout. “I understand you’ve been away for a while.”
“Yes.” Fries flopped into a kitchen chair. “You might as well know, Detective. My father and I argued years ago right before I left town. Alo and I…we met up when he was out in the Gulf for vacation. He’d just broken up with Meadows and was looking to drown his sorrows.”
Persephone started to speak, but I cut her off. “Let me guess. You helped him.”
Fries nodded. “We’ve been writing ever since. I came back so we could go to this big disco charity dance tonight. That’s why I have the shoes. I figured I’d stop and see Dad, see if we could bury the hatchet.”
“Another guess. The answer was no.”
That got him to look up. “You’re right, Detective. But not for the reason you’re probably thinking. Dad was dead when I got to the house. I swear it. I dropped my shoes when I saw him and I decided it was better to leave the one covered in glitter and applesauce behind.”
“That applesauce.” I turned to Everslam. “It’s the same kind you have in your garbage. Care to explain that?”
His ears turned red to match his face. “I’m not the only one in town who likes cinnamon applesauce.”
“No I mean it’s the exact same kind. I called my lab guy.” Okay, Fred couldn’t tell me it was a match, but I was playing a long shot.
Everslam stared at me for a long second, then gazed at the floor.
“Maybe your boyfriend here,” I jerked my thumb at Elton Fries, “came home and said he argued with his dad? Maybe you went over there to teach him a lesson? Forced a little applesauce on him, knowing he was allergic?”
“I want to see your shoes. Now.”
“You’d better do it Al,” Persephone said, her voice sugar-sweet. “Detective Spreadbury doesn’t like to be told no.”
Everslam muttered, but he led me to his bedroom and opened his closet. Pairs of shoes were lined up on the floor. No green canvas slip-ons. Damn. But Poundacre said they were probably a woman’s shoe.
“Thank you, Mr. Everslam. We’ll be going now,” I said.
“We are? But Ster…Detective Spreadbury,” Persephone said. “Don’t you have more questions?”
“Yes, but not for these two.” I took her arm and half-dragged her back to the Maserati. Then I made her face me. “That glitter was from clothing, Persephone. I need to see your sweatshirt.” I eyed her. “By the way. That date with Boschman? I think it’s definitely off.”