The smell of Shockey’s slaughter house coated the thick fog over Ellensburg. Two inches of compact ice covered the off ramp of exit 109 from Interstate 90. A tan 1980 Honda Civic hatchback slid down the off ramp using the frozen snow bank for a guide, fish tailing to a stop just short of Canyon Road. Turning left the Civic drove under the freeway driving one short block. It veered left into the parking lot of The Husky Station Restaurant coming to a stop near a light post.
Her watch read 11:15 p.m. Holding her breath and pulling her parka tight, Blanche Delfonz skated across the near empty parking lot toward the entrance holding her breath.
Kat Williams stood behind the cash register talking to a trucker. She waived as Blanche burst through the entrance the cold and fog swirling in behind her.
“Louise is already here, Blanche, she’s waiting at your usual table,” Kat said, pointing into the main dining room.
Louise Vander Kinter sat huddled in a corner next to the window, hugging a cup of coffee, the steam rising into her face, her cheeks and nose bright red.
“You’re late,” Louise said, looking up from her coffee.
“I know, some kids slid off the road passed my place and through the Barton’s fence. I had a driveway full of sheep to contend with,” Blanche said, taking off her parka and laying it in the booth next to them. “You sounded pretty shaken up on the phone, what’s so urgent?”
“I have proof, real proof this time and I need your help,” Louise said, looking hopeful and desperate.
“Louise, Thor’s death was a suicide, you’re not going to be able convince anyone else otherwise.”
* * *
“So what do you think?” I asked.
Bunny and Clarissa stared at me.
“Tell me again why you wrote that?” Bunny asked, with her refined Texas accent. Her furrowing eyebrows.
“I was waiting for my dental appointment and saw an ad in a magazine for a mystery writing contest. They wanted a novel opening in 500 words or less that re-imagined ‘it was a dark and stormy night’,” I said, picking up my coffee and taking a sip.
“Well,” Clarissa said, “I have to confess, I don’t read murder mysteries, I’m more of a chick lit gal myself. So maybe I’m not the right audience, but why did you name the dead guy Thor?”
“Well, Bill, Bob or Joe seemed really boring,” I said, smiling.
“You might want to rethink Blanche and Louise while you’re at it it sounds like something from a 50’s dime store novel,” Clarissa said, shaking her head.
“Honey, I’m with Clarissa, I’m not the right audience, but I’d be happy to proofread it for you before you send it in if you want a second set of eyes. On the other hand, have you read Fifty Shades of Grey?” Bunny asked, her blond pony tail bobbing with enthusiasm.
“Oh, I have,” Clarissa said, jumping in. “I read one of the chapters out loud to Devon a couple of weeks ago and the next morning all of his neck ties disappeared from the house. I think it was a little much for him.”
“Oh not George,” Bunny said, laughing, “he calls it Fifty Shade of Yeah and has been reading along with me.”
“Fifty Shades of what?” I asked, looking from Clarissa to Bunny.
“Fannie, you can’t tell me you haven’t heard about the hottest book on the market, it’s total mommy porn,” Clarissa said, laughing.
“Guess I’ve missed that one.”
“It takes place in Seattle,” Bunny said, smiling. “Some of the hotels downtown are offering weekend packages for the “Fifty Shades” crowd. George and I were thinking of staying at the Hotel Max for the Fifty Shades of Seattle offer or the Edgewater for the Fifty Shades of Romance package with the Audi sports car, for our anniversary.”
“Do I want to know how much that will set you back?” I asked, leaning forward.
“No,” she said, “you don’t.”
“But you may want to know why Devon hid all of his neck ties so you and Richard can try it out yourself,” Clarissa said, cutting Bunny off and leaning forward, “you see. . .”
Richard cleared his throat.
Richard and Devon stood in the entrance to the family room. Devon standing even with Richard’s shoulders, his face bright red up to the roots of his blond hair.
Facing Richard, he asked, “Now do you understand why I told you to hide all your neck ties?”
“Ladies, we’re sorry to interrupt at the most interesting part of the conversation, but I was telling Devon about the chocolate cherry scones. We came in to liberate a few and some coffee,” Richard said, smiling his devilish grin. And winking at me.
Devon shifted his stance, glanced at Clarissa, and looked around the room.
“We’ve got plenty,” I said, smiling, “let me put together a plate for you. Clarissa would you hand me a plate?”
While I plated the scones, Richard walked into the kitchen. He poured two cups of coffee. Clarissa stared at her husband.
“Do you want anything in your coffee?” Richard asked, holding up a container of milk.
“No thanks,” Devon said, concentrating on the kitchen counter.
“Why don’t we go out and enjoy this in the back yard,” Richard said, handing Devon his cup. I handed Richard the plate as they walked out.
“Well that was awkward,” Clarissa said, clearing her throat. Her pink cheeks clashing with her red curls. “I guess I’ll have some apologizing to do when we get home.”
“Is it really that bad?” I asked, looking from Clarissa to Bunny.
“Fannie, honey, bad may not be the right word,” Bunny said, smiling, “I’ll loan you my copy when I’m done. You can decide for yourself.” Winking at Clarissa, she said, “I’ll just send you a post card.”