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“I was in the Happy Domestic just this morning,” Julia admitted. “I bought the cutest little decoupage waste basket, and a book on organizing the home.” She sighed. “Poor Deborah. She was in such a state.”

Nikki reappeared from the washroom with a pot full of water for the coffeemaker. “Why was she upset?”

Julia shrugged. “She was on the phone when I got there. I didn’t hear much of the conversation—although she was whispering really loudly into the phone. And then she slammed down the receiver. She was so flushed, I thought for a moment she might faint, but when I asked if she was okay, she said she just needed a glass of water. She went in the back of the store and stayed there for the longest time. There were a couple of customers that needed to be waited on, and I found myself trying to help them find what they wanted. Finally, I had to call Deborah from the back room to take care of them. I wouldn’t have felt right trying to use her cash register.”

“What did she say when she finally came back into the store?” Tricia asked.

Julia shrugged. “Something about having to take care of the baby. But you know, I didn’t hear him back there. And I could’ve sworn after I left that I saw Deborah’s mother with the stroller walking up Main Street.”

“That’s odd,” Frannie said, and looked thoughtful.

“Could you tell if it was a man or a woman she was talking to?” Tricia asked, curiosity getting the best of her.

Julia shook her head. “Deborah had her back to me through most of the conversation, and of course I didn’t want her to think I was eavesdropping.”

Tricia stifled a laugh. Knowing Julia, she must have been straining to hear every word.

“Do you remember anything she said?” Frannie asked. “It could be important.”

Julia frowned, her brow furrowing in concentration. “Seems to me she said something about a gate. I have no idea what that would have meant.”

That didn’t make sense to Tricia, either.

“Tricia, I thought I saw you outside the Patisserie when it . . . when it happened,” Nikki said, and choked on the last word. “You had little Davey, so you must’ve spoken to Deborah before the accident. Did she seem okay to you then?”

Tricia frowned. “She seemed nervous. I figured it was because she had to give a speech in front of half the village and a bunch of tourists. But maybe she was upset about her phone call. I guess we’ll never know.”

Nikki brought a tray with Haven’t Got a Clue’s paper cups that Tricia supplied for customers, some packets of sugar and sweetener, some nondairy creamer, and stir spoons. She set the tray on the nook’s large square table, and passed out cups to everyone, before taking the only empty seat. “How about a toast to Deborah?”

The others nodded and looked toward Tricia to do the honors.

I will not cry. I will not cry.

She lifted her paper cup, and the others followed suit. “To Deborah. We didn’t know her as long as we would have liked—or as well. But she was our friend, and she will be terribly missed.”

The others nodded, touched cups, and then drank.

They were silent for a long time, each of them mourning Deborah in her own way.

Tricia kept thinking about what Julia said. A gate. Why on earth would Deborah be talking about a gate, and why was she so angry?

Sadly, they would probably never know.


The next morning, Tricia awoke with the dawn, and leaving a sleepy Miss Marple in bed, she got up, dressed in sweats, and ran her usual four miles on the treadmill. She glanced at the clock. It had been twenty hours since Deborah’s death. She had a feeling she’d be marking that occasion in hours and days for some time to come.

After showering and changing for the day, Tricia switched on her TV to find the Nashua TV stations had begun their newscasts with the crash story, although the reports didn’t tell Tricia much more than she already knew or had seen for herself. As expected, the story topped that morning’s Nashua Telegraph’s front page, too, along with several other related stories found on the inside pages. They, too, were of little value.

A look out Haven’t Got a Clue’s big display window proved that not much else had changed in Stoneham overnight. Amy Schram, from the Milford Nursery, watered the hanging geraniums that decorated Main Street. Customers were already flocking to the Coffee Bean for their first caffeine jolt of the day before heading to work.

Life went on without Deborah Black.

Tricia turned to take in her shop. Her first task: get the coffee ready. Maybe immersing herself in the mundane would insulate her from the pain of losing her friend—at least for a little while.

Ginny arrived some fifteen minutes before Haven’t Got a Clue was to open. She was dry-eyed but pale. Had she, too, spent the night lying awake, thinking about the plane crash? “Good morning,” she said, with none of her usual enthusiasm.

“Good morning. At least, let’s hope it’s better than yesterday afternoon,” Tricia said.

“Amen,” Ginny said, and stepped up to the cash desk. “You were much closer to Deborah than I was. If you don’t feel like working this morning, I can handle things here in the shop.”

“Oh, no. I’m fine.”

Ginny frowned. “Tricia, sometimes I get the feeling you don’t trust me.”

Tricia’s mouth dropped. “What?”

“I mean, I’ve been working for you for over two years. The only time you let me open and close for you was when Angelica broke her ankle and you had to take care of her. But since then, you haven’t asked me to open or close once. I’ve never gone to the bank for you. You’ve never even given me a key to the store.”

Tricia swallowed and felt her face flush. “Oh, Ginny. I . . . I don’t know what to say.”

Everything Ginny had said was true, but it wasn’t a lack of trust that kept Tricia from giving her more responsibility. “I’m always here,” she explained. “It didn’t seem necessary to—” Excuses, excuses, a little voice inside Tricia said. Ginny had never before voiced a grievance. What had brought this on?

And then Tricia realized what—or rather who—was behind this.

Antonio Barbero. As the in-town representative of Nigela Racita Associates, he’d already poached Angelica’s short-order cook for the Brookview Inn—what was he planning now? And then she remembered. He’d already voiced an interest in obtaining the Happy Domestic for his employer. Was he considering installing Ginny as manager? Did he feel she was too loyal to Tricia? Was Ginny more likely to leave Haven’t Got a Clue if she felt unappreciated or undervalued?

Since Antonio and Ginny were romantically involved, it wouldn’t do for Tricia to criticize him in any way. Instead, she spoke from the heart.

“I’m sorry, Ginny. It hadn’t occurred to me that you might want more responsibility. You already do so much around here. I’ve been very happy with your work.”

“And you pay me very well, I’m certainly not complaining about that. It’s just that . . .”

Tricia tried to ignore her annoyance. Damn that Antonio for filling Ginny’s head with the seeds of dissatisfaction so that he could swoop in and . . .

Ginny crossed the store and set her purse under the glass display case that served as a cash desk. “I was surprised to see the Happy Domestic is open this morning,” she said, changing the subject.

“What?” Tricia crossed to the window. Sure enough, the lights were on inside Deborah’s shop, and the CLOSED sign had been turned to OPEN. Tricia bit her lip and considered her options. Stay here with Ginny and continue a conversation that needed resolution, or escape and find out what was going on at the Happy Domestic.