"You mean someone shot Jimmy? In my house? Like a burglar?"
Weathers shrugged his shoulders. "At this point we're not sure. There doesn't seem to be any sign of forced entry."
"Oh, that doesn't mean a thing!" I said. "My house is so old, all you need do is slam your fist upside the front door lock and the thing'll fall open. Just about everybody close to me knows that."
Weathers sighed softly. "Well, we haven't looked all through the house and premises. I'll need your permission for that to happen."
"Sure," I said, "do it."
Weathers whipped a form out of his pocket and passed it over to me. "Just sign right there."
I didn't even read it. My eyes blurred with fresh tears as I scrawled my name across the paper and shoved it back.
"All right," he said, "this'll get us started." He pushed back his chair and started for the door, then stopped, as if he'd had one more thought. "You own a gun?" he asked.
"Yes, I do. A Smith and Wesson thirty-eight. My ex gave it to me." I hated the thing, but Vernell had insisted.
"Where is it?" His tone was even, almost as if this were an afterthought, but I knew it wasn't. I watched enough TV to know. A little tingle of fear ran down my spine.
"I keep it in the closet, just off the kitchen. It's kind of my closet and the pantry. See, my house is so tiny, and well, they didn't leave me much space to put things, so I have to make do. I mean, my bedroom used to be a sunporch! That's why the back door opens right into it."
I was running on like a faucet as Weathers listened patiently, waiting for me to drip to a stop.
"Where in the closet do you keep it?" he asked.
"The gun," he reminded.
"Oh, that. In a basket full of cookie cutters, on the top shelf."
If this seemed strange to him, he didn't let on. He merely wrote it down on a piece of paper and shoved it in his pocket.
"Okay," he said. "Wait right here. I'm gonna send this out to your house and let them get on about checking everything. I might have a few more questions for you. You want some coffee or something?" he asked. He was halfway out the door, his mind already on the murder scene. I don't think he even heard me say no.
I was alone again. Waiting. But now I knew. Jimmy was dead.
I'd lost track of the time, my mind drifting back over the fifteen years of my marriage and all the different memories I had of Jimmy. But when Marshall Weathers walked back into the room, I knew in an instant that something was wrong.
He was staring at me, as if trying to reach inside me for something. He was sizing me up. His eyes, deep blue lie detectors that darted across my face, seemed to be trying to take a read of my personality.
"When was the last time you saw your gun?" he asked.
"I don't know. It's not like I make a habit of checking all the time. Maybe two weeks ago?" My stomach tightened and I found myself fumbling with the flap of my purse. "What does it matter?"
"Well," he said, drawing the word out into one long sigh, "it wouldn't matter so much, except we can't find it."
"Well, that's funny. I haven't touched it. Nobody lives there but me. Where could it have gone?" I looked at him. He was staring right back at me, the lie detectors in full swing. "You mean, the guy who killed Jimmy could've stolen it?"
"Did you have it hidden real good?" he asked. He was rocking back in his chair, lifting the front legs up off the floor, just like a teenaged boy.
"Well, I thought so. It was at the bottom of that basket full of cookie cutters,"
He brought the legs of the chair down, hitting the floor with a sharp snap.
"Maggie, Jimmy was shot with a thirty-eight-caliber gun, just like yours."
"So you think the killer somehow dug through my cookie cutters, found my gun, and killed Jimmy?" I asked. "That doesn't make sense."
Weathers spread his hands out, palms up, on the table. "Exactly," he said. "It just doesn't make a piece of sense."
"So, it must've been another gun." I leaned back away from him, edging myself backward on the chair and feeling the cold metal slats dig into my spine.
"Thirty-eights are a dime a dozen," I said.
He shook his head again. "True, but then, where is your gun, Maggie?"
My head was starting to spin. Where was my gun? What did all this mean?
"I don't know," I said.
Marshall Weathers pushed back away from me, his hands resting on the edge of the desk, pushing his chair back on its rear legs again.
"I gotta be honest with you, Maggie, and I'm probably not supposed to tell you this, but I will 'cause I think I know what kind of woman you are. But if it turns out that Jimmy Spivey was shot with a thirty-eight-caliber gun, in your house, with no sign of forced entry, well, it's gonna start looking bad for you."
I was so afraid that I felt tears beginning to well up and close off my throat. This wasn't happening to me. It couldn't be. Weathers was watching me, noting my reactions, waiting for my response. I couldn't say a word.
"Maggie, why don't we do this: Tell me everything you did from about seven o'clock on tonight." He slipped a notepad out, flipped it open, and sat ready to write down my every word.
"I left home to go to work at around seven o'clock. That was early on account of something I do every night before I go in to the club."
"What would that be?" he asked, looking up for a moment.
"Well, I ride over to where my daughter, Sheila, lives and just kind of drive by the house. You know, just to check, see if she's home. When it's dark, sometimes I can see inside. That bimbo Vernell's married to keeps the house lit up like the Statue of Liberty."
"You just ride by and then go on to work?" He looked up quickly, making eye contact, and holding it. My stomach got that warm, electric tingle that let me know he was looking straight through me. I shivered deep inside.
"Well, not exactly. I drive by, and then I circle back around and park across the street. There's a big tree out in front of the house across from Vernell's palace. The limbs hang down so. far you can almost hide under them." I hated admitting this. It was my secret ritual, my way of watching my baby. I knew it was as pathetic as it sounded.
"How long were you there?" he asked.
"Maybe twenty minutes, maybe a little longer. No one was home, so I sat there hoping she might come in."
"Did anyone see you there?" Again he looked up, watching me.
"I don't think so. They live on a cul-de-sac There weren't too many people home and not much traffic." Damn, I was hanging myself.
"Then what?" he asked.
"Then I drove on to work, got there about eight, and that was that until your men showed up."
"You've got people who can vouch for you the whole night?"
"Yep, except for going to the ladies' room, I was there all evening, in plain sight of everyone." I was feeling much better. I was at work when Jimmy got killed, so I wasn't going to be a suspect after all. "So, you see, all these questions were for nothing. I couldn't have killed Jimmy. I was at work."
Weathers was still staring at me, a disappointed look in his eyes. Slowly he closed the notepad, capped his pen, and folded his hands on top of the book, just like a schoolmarm. Then he unclasped his hands and brought them up to rub his face.
"Oh, Maggie," he sighed, "we've got us a problem. The medical examiner is fixing time of death somewhere between six and eight P.M. That don't let you out." The trip-hammer started in my chest again. I had begun to feel like a caged animal. "It'll get more specific after the autopsy and after we figure a few more things out, but right now, I can't count you out. It sure would help if you knew where your gun was."