“Here’s the autopsy report, Sheriff. Ry and that Conrad Shears woman were poisoned before they were shot,” Deputy Randolph said to Linc.
They disappeared into Linc’s office and, coincidentally, I disappeared outside. Those men setting fire to Linc’s house didn’t let Clary off the hook as I had figured when it happened. The men at Linc’s house were probably the ones who shot Ry and Lily Conrad Shears, never thinking that a scorned woman might have done the job before them.
I “borrowed” the bike locked to the bike rack outside the Sheriff’s office after I picked the lock with a paperclip. I sped off in the direction of my big sister’s house.
Clarice was married once to Rowdy Rolls, who went on to be a semi-decent guitar picker in Nashville. He was a nice enough guy for a narcissist. You just had to remember that Rowdy was the world and the world was Rowdy when you were around him. I sometimes forgot, on purpose. Don’t judge. You have to find your fun where you can. Unfortunately Clary thought my purposeful prodding of her husband was one of the things that made him leave, which I can guarantee wasn’t true. To Rowdy, I was pretty much something you got on your shoe and tried to scrape off in the grass. Clary thought that Rowdy would always stay with her. She just never asked him.
Dusk settled as I biked the last mile to Clary’s place. It was a small one-story clapboard house, painted white, but that was chipping giving way to gray wood. There was one light on in the house, her kitchen. I leaned the bike against the front porch and then knocked on the door.
The curtain in the front window moved slightly, exposing her face. I waved. Her face twisted very quickly before returning to its usual pretty façade. If I hadn’t been studying her so intently, I would have missed it.
“What are you doing here?” she asked. She stood aside for me to entire. I made a mental note not to accept any sweetened iced tea.
“How are you doing, sis?”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine. You?”
I grinned. “It’s been a rough couple of weeks, for sure. What with all of the poisoning and shooting and adultery and—”
“Why are you here?”
“You tried to kill me?”
Her eyes went wide and her jaw fell. It might have been a reaction that would fool other people, but I knew her. That was not her surprised look.
“You’re crazy,” she said.
“That’s sometimes a given. Okay. Let’s start with something else. Why did you poison Ry? I’m taking it you were in love with him.”
“I think you should leave, Annie. I’m not just going to stand here and listen to you accuse me of things,” she said, but saw I wasn’t leaving. “What? You think I had an affair with Ry?”
I shrugged. “It seems like every other woman did.”
This time her face fell a little. That unintentionally hurt her. She really did have feelings for Ry.
“How long were you and Ry involved?” I asked.
“We’re not having this discussion,” she said.
“I think we are. Linc is going to be here in a few minutes. I called him to tell him that I was positive you’ve been poisoning people,” I lied. “I heard Margie Ollstead is in the hospital now.”
“You didn’t call him.”
I stared at her. While the staring thing might not work on Linc, it has always worked on Clary.
“I was in love with Ry from the first moment I saw him. When he walked into the café and asked me for a sweet tea. Before he ever saw you,” Clary said, putting a lot of emphasis on that last line.
“I didn’t know.”
“Of course, you didn’t. You were completely wrapped up in that weird thing with Linc and when he married Georgia Peach, you went a little nuts. You didn’t notice anything around you, but you set your sights on Ry and decided he would be your revenge on Linc. You didn’t care that Ry and me had been seeing each other,” Clary said.
I gulped and felt guilt wash over me. This all was true, in a manner of speaking. It felt like the world had imploded when Linc married Georgia Peach. Ry had definitely been my rebound guy. It was also true that I hadn’t noticed whether he had been seeing anyone else. I’m telling you honestly, I wouldn’t have gone after him if I’d known he and Clary were a thing.
“I’m sorry,” I said, meaning it.
“Sure you are. Ry’s gone and you have another chance with Linc. Your whole world just works out. It always has. Meanwhile, I accidentally killed the love of my life,” she said and then burst into tears.
She nodded. Between sobs she said, “He wasn’t supposed to be drinking sweet tea with that bitch.”
“I’m sure that’s the least of what they were doing.”
“Oh, I know what they were doing all right even if you didn’t know what your husband was doing. That just proves how little you loved him. You didn’t even notice that he’d been fooling around for years.”
Again, all true, but I never wanted to see Ry dead.
“How come you had someone shoot them after you poisoned them?”
“I don’t know who that is. I figured maybe you shot them never realizing that they’d been poisoned,” Clary said. “But then I realized you didn’t. Funny, for a bit there I thought you might actually have loved him.”
I heard the slam of a car door and moved to the window to see who had pulled up. That’s the last thing I remembered as something hard impacted with my head.