Just when you least expect it, trouble comes knocking. I was setting out the cups for tea when it arrived at my door in the form of Sala Ambrose Kinney who burst into tears and threw herself into my arms.
“Oh Helen, I can’t believe she’s gone.” She uttered the words through wrenching sobs. “Someone killed her. You have to help me find whoever it was. We can’t let them get away with this.”
I wrapped my arms around Sala and led her to the garden in the back of my townhouse. It was quiet and peaceful and I hoped the serenity would help calm her. I guided her to a seat at the wrought iron table and poured her some tea.
The death Sala was speaking about was her mother’s, Chloe Ambrose Odeon, one of my oldest friends. She’d been found dead in her living room after what had appeared to be a robbery.
Sala took a tentative sip of her tea and a deep breath. “I’m sorry I was so dramatic when I arrived,” she said, “but I’m just trying to understand something so senseless. Mom trusted you so much.” She paused. “You will help me, won’t you?”
“Of course, I will.” How could I refuse? That I hadn’t known Chloe had died was unthinkable. How had I missed something so important?
Chloe and I had been friends since the fourth grade. She was my ally, my co-conspirator, my partner in crime in whatever mischief we, well I, cooked up. A tall, willowy brunette with luminous grey eyes, she had her pick of suitors. She’d picked and married George Ambrose right after college, had been widowed a few years ago, and had recently remarried. I hadn’t seen her in years. And, just like that, she was gone.
The first I heard of her death was in an email from Sala. She’d scanned and enclosed a copy of Chloe’s obituary.
Chloe Grace Odeon, aged 53 has died. She was the CEO of BioTec International and is survived by her husband, Clément Odeon, and daughter Sala Ambrose Kinney. A service will be held at Green-Wood Cemetery on Saturday, June 30th at Eleven a.m.
Helen, I know how close you and my mom were. She passed away last week. I need to speak with you. It’s a matter of life and death. –Sala
I was thankful for the information but had wondered about Sala’s state of mind. You couldn’t miss the desperation in her words. I texted her that I would attend the memorial service and we would speak later in private.
If you were looking to get a jump on immortal bliss, you couldn’t do better than the Green-Wood Cemetery. An oasis of beauty in the middle of Brooklyn, it offers spectacular views, shady tree-lined paths, shimmering lakes, and mausoleums as large as some homes. It feels like a piece of heaven on earth. The only problem is, being dead, you wouldn’t get to enjoy it.
I’d attended the service, standing at the back of a small cluster of mourners.
A few like Sala were weeping openly. Her husband Barry was standing near her. He was surrounded by three men who were huddling close like some kind of football squad. One of them kept one hand on Barry’s shoulder while his other hand kept reaching up to the bridge of his nose as if adjusting a pair of nonexistent glasses. I wondered if he had new contact lenses he wasn’t used to yet. Other mourners were dabbing their eyes with tissues, and some looked impassive. I’m naturally suspicious. Put that together with my training as a private investigator and I can’t help watching people and sniffing out anything that might be just a little off. If one of these people was guilty of murder, they sure weren’t showing it.
I paid particular attention to Clément Odeon. His handsome face was a stoic mask as he watched Chloe’s coffin being lowered into the family plot next to her parents and her first husband, George Ambrose. Was it heartache that was etched there, or something else? Cool your jets, Helen, I told myself. Not everyone was a bad guy. And the spouse isn’t always guilty.
At the end of the service, Sala stepped up to the edge of the grave and tossed a white rose onto the coffin. That’s when I noticed her wrist was bandaged. I nodded to her, left the gravesite, and headed to my car for the ride home. The next day, we made an appointment to meet.
Now, here we were.
“Sala start from the beginning and tell me what you know,” I said.