Bob’s gaze was intent upon her soup. “Not so far. At least he wasn’t at the . . .” He paused, hesitating. “Accident scene.”
“Some accident,” Angelica said. “I’ve been wondering, why didn’t the plane explode on impact?”
“That’s the crazy thing. It looks like it was out of fuel.”
“You’re kidding,” Tricia said.
Bob shook his head. “The firefighters were all set to hose down the area, expecting there to be a gas leak, but there wasn’t any fuel on the ground.”
“The plane ran out of gas,” Angelica repeated, as though she couldn’t believe such stupidity.
“Who was the pilot? Was he local?” Tricia asked.
“Monty Capshaw. He flew out of a grass airstrip north of Milford.”
“Monty Capshaw,” Angelica repeated. “Sounds like a movie star from the silent era. Did he wear a leather helmet and a bomber jacket?”
Bob shrugged. “He had on grease-stained coveralls the last time I saw him. Can I buy a bowl of soup from you, honeybun?”
Angelica’s expression was bland. “Sorry, Bob, Tricia got the last bowl.”
A flat-out lie. Still, Tricia took another spoonful of broth and closed her eyes, savoring the flavor. “Mmm-mmm, good.”
Tricia left Booked for Lunch, intending to go straight home, but up ahead on the sidewalk she saw her friend Captain Baker from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department. Unfortunately, he was speaking to Russ Smith. Still, Tricia decided to plunge ahead and picked up her pace to intercept them.
Fire and rescue trucks, and half the Sheriff’s Department cruisers, lights still strobing madly, along with TV vans from Manchester and Nashua, still surrounded the village square. Ray Dempsey’s lunch truck was also still in evidence, and by the crowd around his shiny chrome vehicle, it looked like business was booming.
Captain Baker looked up, saw Tricia approach, and the corners of his mouth quirked up.
“Hello, Grant,” she said in greeting, ignoring Russ.
Baker sobered. “I’m so sorry about your friend, Tricia.”
“Thank you.” That he’d even remembered she and Deborah were friends said something about him. No wonder she liked him so much.
“They’ve taken the bodies away,” Russ volunteered.
Not something Tricia was interested in knowing. She turned her attention back to Captain Baker. “Mr. Everett said you probably wouldn’t head the investigation.”
Captain Baker nodded. “We’re glad to help with crowd control and the cleanup, but it’ll be up to the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause of the crash. From what witnesses have said, the plane’s engine had shut down. There was no explosion, no fire. From the looks of it, the pilot simply ran out of gas.”
“Can I quote you on that?” Russ asked.
Baker frowned. “No.”
Again, Tricia ignored Russ. “That’s pretty much what Bob Kelly said. I don’t understand how that could have happened.”
“It’s a known fact,” Russ said. “More light aircraft crashes are attributed to lack of fuel than any other cause, including pilot error—although if you ask me, not filling the gas tank is the biggest error a pilot could make.”
Nobody asked you, Tricia was tempted to blurt, but thought better of it. Russ was really beginning to irritate her.
Tricia looked back to the fire and rescue trucks that blocked her view of the carnage. From where she stood, the gazebo wouldn’t be in sight, anyway. Would she ever be able to walk past the once-charming park without thinking of Deborah and the terrible way she’d died? Unbidden tears began to form in Tricia’s eyes, and she swallowed hard to keep them from spilling over.
“Mr. Smith tells me you witnessed the crash,” Baker said, his voice soft.
Tricia nodded, and lowered her gaze so she didn’t have to meet his eyes. “It was . . . horrible.”
“Did you notice anything out of the ordinary before . . . ?” He let his words hang.
Tricia shook her head. “Only that the plane kept buzzing the crowd. I suppose so everyone would see the banner behind it.”
“Have they tracked down the pilot’s wife yet?” Russ asked.
“I wouldn’t be at liberty to say,” Baker said.
Russ shrugged. He’d find out somehow. Probably make nice with the reporters and crew from the TV stations—buy them coffee and plead that his weekly was hardly a threat to their up-to-the-minute coverage.
If Mrs. Capshaw was smart, she’d tell every member of the press “no comment” and take an extended vacation until the whole thing blew over. Then again, what would she have to tell him? If what Russ said was true, these kinds of crashes happened all the time. That fact brought Tricia no comfort—nor, she suspected, Deborah’s survivors, either.
Baker looked back toward the crash site. One of his deputies signaled him. “If you’ll excuse me,” he said, and jogged toward the park again.
Russ waved a hand in front of Tricia’s face, to pull her attention away from Baker’s retreating form and back to him. “Tough day,” he said.
“Very tough,” she agreed.
“You should spend the evening with friends. How about me? I’ll take you to dinner. It doesn’t have to be here in town.”
“No, thank you.” He was the last person on the planet she wanted to be with. “I think I’ll just go home to my cat and lose myself in a good book.”
Russ nodded toward Haven’t Got a Clue, where several people stood clustered around the entrance. “It doesn’t look like you’re going to get a quiet evening, after all.”
Tricia recognized the women standing in front of her shop and barely said good-bye to Russ before jaywalking across the street. Before she even made it to her doorstep, Frannie Mae Armstrong lunged forward and burst into tears. “She’s dead. Oh, Tricia, Deborah’s dead!”
Tricia found herself patting Frannie’s bony back, as the other women clustered around her. Nikki Brimfield, owner of the Patisserie, and Julia Overline hurried close, and Tricia found herself in the middle of a group hug, with much snuffling and wiping of eyes with damp tissues. The three women were all members of Haven’t Got a Clue’s Tuesday Night Book Club, as Deborah had been—not that she managed to make it to many meetings. But the women—and Mr. Everett—had shared a lot in the past two years. It was only natural they’d come together in their grief as well.
After what seemed like a full minute, Tricia managed to extricate herself from the warm, weepy mass of women and jangled her keys. “Come on inside and we’ll commiserate.”
Frannie tried to pull herself together, and the women waited for Tricia to open the door, turn on the lights, and usher them inside.
“Coffee, anyone?” she called.
Nikki raised a hand. “I’ll make it.” She’d done it before on nights when either Mr. Everett or Ginny had been unable to attend the club meetings, and Tricia let her. Tricia led the other two women to the reader’s nook. Miss Marple had been sleeping on a pile of magazines. She raised herself, stretched, and began to purr as Frannie and Julia took their seats.
“I just can’t believe it,” Frannie said, and another tear seeped from her eye. Tricia was determined not to start crying, but just in case, she figured she’d better retrieve the box of tissues she kept under the cash desk.
“Now, now,” Julia said, trying to comfort Frannie. “Deborah wouldn’t want you tearing yourself up like this.”
“I spoke with her only yesterday,” Frannie said. When she was upset, her Texas twang grew more pronounced. “It was about the Founders’ Day ceremony. I apologized because I couldn’t be there. Now I’m so glad I wasn’t. I don’t think I could live with the memory.”
Tricia winced. She was going to have to learn to live with that particular memory, and the thought of hashing it out again and again held no appeal, and she said so.
“Oh, Tricia, I had no idea,” Frannie apologized, and Tricia took the third of the chairs, flopping into it. Immediately, Miss Marple crept across the table and arrived on her lap, giving her chin a friendly head butt, and revving her purrs into overdrive. Tricia petted the cat, wishing she could just go upstairs to her apartment, pour herself a glass of wine, and stop thinking about the day’s events.