Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters and events in the Seasons Series and the Murder Mystery Series are the creation of the author.
Although a mummy conference was held in Arica, the characters and events in this story are totally fictitious.
My thanks to Lisa, Inga and Susan, my beta readers and friends, who are always willing to offer assistance in editing and researching my stories. Thanks.
Note: The Seasons Series and the stories in the Murder Mystery Series all interrelate. It is best to start at the beginning.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction. Please do not read on if you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp.
Special Warning: These stories deal with the practice of forensics in a fairly accurate manner; more sensitive readers might find some of the scenes upsetting. This particular story describes in part the process of an autopsy.
Visit Anne Azel's World at < http://www.jes.com.au/~azel/ > or write Anne at <email@example.com> The Anne Azel Murder Mysteries Book 1 can be ordered through Amazon.com or Openbookltd.
NOTE: The story "Dead Right" that is referred to in this story will be posted 11.2002.
Janet met Dawn down in the hotel's café for breakfast. Butter croissants, wine jelly, and coffee made by mixing a combination of water and rich, syrupy Columbian coffee were served to them on the terrace overlooking the ocean. "How is she doing?" Janet asked.
"Slept like the dead until three o'clock and then threw up until nearly six. I think she lost a good deal of brain cells because so far the only communication has been grunts and moans." Dawn smiled, reaching for the preserves. "What about Robbie?"
"She's sitting on the balcony staring blankly out into space. She told me that as soon as her body had absorbed enough energy to get her blood moving again, she would try getting dressed. She wasn't sure she could manage it though, what with the earth pitching about so badly this morning."
The two women laughed. "It was nice to see Aliki relaxed and smiling," Janet went on more seriously, as she buttered a roll.
Dawn nodded. "I think we have buried a ghost that has been haunting Aliki for a very long time. Maybe now she can finally commit to a relationship."
Janet put down her coffee cup. "Can I ask what ghost?"
"Her mother. Her mother told Aliki that she wasn't to worry because she wasn't going to die and then of course she did. I think deep inside, Aliki couldn't trust love after that. She wanted to but she had never resolved the anger she had towards her mother for leaving her," explained Dawn, playing fretfully with her napkin.
"How did you find out all these things?"
Dawn looked out at the beach, recalling yesterday afternoon. "We went for a walk. And suddenly it came out and she crumpled to the sand crying. I just held her for a long time and comforted her until she was able to talk."
Janet put down her cup. "Poor Aliki. She's like Robbie in that way. They both feel they have to be so strong and yet they are such softies inside."
Dawn nodded her agreement. "Aliki did her best by Baba and her brothers trying to fill her mother's shoes, but it is not the life she wanted and she felt so trapped and betrayed and that in turn made her feel guilty because she loved her mom and her family."
"And then she had to deal with the guilt of that girl's suicide after Aliki didn't believe her when she told Aliki that her brother had got her pregnant," Janet observed, recalling some of Aliki's past that Dawn had shared with her before.
Dawn sighed sadly, as she folded her napkin. "Aliki went through so much emotional pain then and no one noticed. She just kept it all inside and took care of the family like her father wanted. It is no wonder she made some pretty surprising decisions at that time of her life. She must have been just weighed down with guilt and responsibilities."
"So as soon as she could, she left and has been avoiding emotional commitment ever since," concluded Janet, nodding in understanding as the pieces fell together in her mind. She signed her room number to the bill.
"Seems that way," Dawn agreed, getting up. "I just hope that this time she is really ready to make a commitment to Mac and me. Mac was really shook up about Aliki's breakdown and her walking out on us." The two women headed out onto the terrace.
"Aliki thought she was doing the right thing. She was following her old pattern of taking all the responsibility on her own shoulders and not showing her own pain," Janet tried to justify.
Dawn nodded. "Is Robbie like that?"
Janet snorted. "Robbie I-have-a-half-dozen-Oscars Williams? Not likely! Oh, she is brave and very protective of us but believe me, if she is upset we ALL know about it!"
Dawn laughed and the tension broke. They went on to lighter conversation as they had a morning walk along the beach.
On shaky legs, Aliki managed to get to the door and open it to find a near mirror image of herself staring back. "You lived too, eh?" Robbie muttered.
"I'm not sure yet," Aliki croaked through a sand paper dry throat.
"Come on. Balcony, sunlight, it helps." Aliki's sister headed across the room then stopped and turned around with some difficulty. "Bring water. Lots of it."
Aliki tried to nod, decided it was a bad idea and went and got the ice bucket to fill with water. The bathroom glasses rounded out the supplies and she joined her sister on the balcony. Robbie was in the process of unfolding two lawn chairs with great difficulty. "There. Sit."
"Around three o'clock I thought I was going to puke up my guts," Aliki groaned, settling down and closing her eyes against the sun's glare. The heat did feel good.
"At least they didn't make you swallow that disgusting toe."
Aliki moaned. "Don't even go there. I have nothing left to heave."
Robbie risked turning her head to look at her sister. Physically, Aliki looked like hell. Zombies had more colour and meat on their bones. Yet somehow, Aliki looked happier more calm than she had in a very long time. "Well, look on the bright side, whatever happens in your marriage to Dawn it can't be any worse than last night."
"My marriage to Dawn is going to be perfect," bragged Aliki confidently.
"Ahh! That's what I thought when I married Janet. Believe me it has been a roller coaster ride. I've been shot at, jailed, knocked out God knows how many times, roasted in a firestorm and nearly drowned. And that was only the first year! Our love is perfect but believe me, married life is a real grab bag of surprises."
"You got regrets?" Aliki asked in surprise, risking opening her eyes to look at her sister.
"Hell no! It's been great! I'm in for another hundred years or so."
Aliki smiled. "Yeah, that's the way I see my life with Dawn and Mac too."
After that they sat quietly, sipping water cautiously and letting the sun bring some energy back to their fragile bodies. Hangovers were hell.
"Hey, Janet, they are both in here," Dawn called down the hall sometime later having spied the two sisters through the sliding door across the room as she came in.
Janet came trotting back. "How are they doing?"
"Looks to me like they have regained the ability to walk on two legs but no sign of language development yet," Dawn stated matter-of-factly.
Janet laughed. "Isn't evolution a wonderful thing."
The two women joined their partners on the balcony. "We brought coffee and dry toast. Do you think you are up to it yet?" Dawn asked.
"I need to put something on my stomach even if it is only so I have something to throw up again," sighed Aliki.
By the afternoon the two sisters had sufficiently recovered from the night before to join their mates downstairs. The Mummy Congress members were enjoying an off day for touring the area. A few had hit the tourist sites, but most had either nursed their hangovers or taken the organized field trip to see where the local mummies had been found.
The terrace was nearly deserted and the local band that usually played by the outside bar were not around either. The four woman stretched out on lawn chairs and enjoyed some quiet family talk and reading. Robbie had her nose in a new script because she was far too vain to wear her reading glasses in public. Janet was chuckling her way through the Harry Potter series, Aliki was deeply engrossed in a book on the Guanch mummies that had been recovered on the island of Tenerife, while Dawn was not reading at all but was jotting down ideas for a new book.
It was some time later then, when the women became restless with their individual activities and conversation started up again. This time the topic was the mummification and possible murder of Tidwell Jennings.
"We gotta solve this crime," Robbie stated, putting her script down and blinking like an owl.
Aliki looked up from her book. "It has yet to be established whether a crime took place."
"Come on, Aliki! She didn't finish dinner and decide to pop off and get herself mummified! Someone dried and tanned her and then wrapped her up for storage."
"I think it was Hilda Katz," Dawn stated. "It is always the quiet mousy ones that have the bloody remains in their basements."
"I think the court would need more information than that." Aliki smiled, good-naturedly.
"What about Gerald Flex. Jennings made him a laughing stock with her sexual harassment charge. My money is on him. Older people are not given enough credit for the passion they feel," observed Janet, reluctantly marking the place in her book. She was just at an exciting part.
Robbie snorted. "That guy's passion is located a lot lower than his heart. Nah, my bet is on Victor Van Vogt. The guy likes cutting up bodies. He gives me the creeps."
"Victor is a good guy!" Aliki protested.
"Ha! It is always the one you think you can trust, " Robbie argued, tossing her script on the table.
Dawn ripped off a piece of paper from her writing pad and put the heading 'suspects'. "Okay, let's be systematic about this and go through the list. Aliki, who are the most likely suspects?"
Aliki frowned but it was clear the others were not going to be put off. "There were 187 delegates at the last Mummy Conference. Any number of those people might have wanted to get rid of Tiddy. She made enemies. She was just that sort. Don Reinaldos handled the investigation himself and I was allowed to assist. We felt that seven people had significant motives for murder and also had the opportunity that night to have committed murder."
"Well?" Robbie asked impatiently, coming over to sit on the end of Janet's lawn chair. Janet reached out and rubbed her lover's back.
"It's the seven we already talked about, Fenwick, Philby, Flex, Katz, Tagore, Van Vogt and myself."
Dawn looked up sharply, sensing Aliki's embarrassment. Janet was quick to step in. "Let's clear your name first; that should be simple."
"Tidwell Jennings was gay and years ago, she came on to me pretty forcefully. I made it clear I was not interested and she was pretty spiteful about it. She took every opportunity she could after that to put me down and twist the knife. Over the years, we'd had a number of rather public and hot arguments at conferences such as this one. Everyone knew that I disliked her intensely."
Robbie being Robbie had to ask. "So did you two ever get it on? Is that why she was pissed?"
Janet could have throttled her. She looked over and saw that Dawn was staring at the blank page she held intently.
"No! Damn it, Robbie!"
Robbie looked at the other three annoyed women in surprise and protested, "Well, it was long before she knew Dawn. She might have!"
"Well, I didn't," Aliki stated firmly.
Janet swatted Robbie lightly. "Don't consider the diplomatic service okay, olive? Alright, Aliki, you had motive. What about opportunity?"
"I'm afraid so. I'd headed to the washroom first and Tiddy followed me. We had words in the Ladies. She said that she was going to make mince meat of me in the question period after I presented my findings on some early Inuit sites. I told her she could stuff her fat head in a toilet and flush for all I cared. As far as I know I was the last person to see Tiddy alive. She gave me the finger as I walked out. I returned to the table fuming and told the others what had happened. Tiddy never returned."
"And I'm not diplomatic?" Robbie asked Janet, nodding towards her sister.
"Weren't the police concerned about you working with them?" Janet asked.
Aliki shrugged. "They gave me the third degree like everyone else. No one figured I was gone long enough to have killed her and stashed the body."
Dawn had written the information down quietly but said nothing. Now she changed the subject with relief. "Let's look at Archie Fenwick."
Aliki was quick to accept the change of subject. "Tiddy wanted his job as chair of the Mummy Congress."
"Not to mention keeper of the toe," snorted Robbie in disgust.
Janet gave her a poke. "Good, let's not."
Aliki went on, "Fenwick found her very abrasive and it was pretty obvious that he avoided her. Of course, you know Fenwick, he was far too polite to say anything to her. I know he takes some pleasure in being the Chair of this rather outlandish organization and he does a good job in arranging the conferences. He's had the job along time and Tiddy argued it should go to someone else, but frankly no one really wants the headache and we're all pretty satisfied with Fenwick's efforts."
"But Tiddy wanted the job?" Dawn asked.
"Tiddy wanted anything she couldn't have. One thing is for sure, none of the rest of us wanted Tiddy to have the job. She is one of those individuals who abuses power. She'd have wrecked the conference for everyone."
"Did he have opportunity?" Janet asked, sipping on her fruit juice.
Aliki nodded. "Yeah, he got a headache and left to get some pills at the hotel. He was gone about a half hour and it was during that time that Tiddy disappeared."
Dawn frowned. "If he was not feeling well it seems strange that he came back to the restaurant. Why didn't he just lie down for the night?"
"That's Fenwick. He was in charge and he felt he needed to be there to make sure everything went smoothly."
"Wouldn't things go more smoothly if he'd offed Jennings?" Robbie asked, stealing a sip of Janet's drink.
Aliki rolled her eyes and didn't answer.
"Next on the list is Gerald Flex," Dawn stated.
"He's harmless," Aliki sighed.
"He doesn't think so. He thinks he is still packing a loaded pistol." Robbie laughed.
"Doesn't he have a motive?"
"Oh sure he does. Tiddy charged him with sexual harassment. It was very embarrassing for him."
"Was there any truth to it?" Janet asked.
"In this politically correct world, sure there was, but not anything beyond flirting. He is of another generation and we let him away with his nonsense because he is old and harmless. Besides, beyond the dirty old man there is a first rate pathologist."
"Did he have an opportunity?"
"Yeah. He didn't have dinner with the rest of us. He said he had a date with a local girl. He came in much later after Tiddy had disappeared, all upset because he had been stood up. The rest of us figured that whoever the girl was she was just going along with his nonsense to be friendly and never had any intention of showing up."
"Could he have overpowered Jennings?" Janet asked. "I mean, he must be in his late seventies or early eighties."
Aliki considered this. "Hard to say. Tiddy was in pretty good shape although I am not sure how fit she really was. Flex has always kept himself fit and despite his age he is still lecturing. He would also know and have access to drugs...I don't know, maybe. I'm not sure he could have carried or pulled Tiddy's body very far. She would have had to go with him willingly and that seems out of character of her."
"Hilda Katz?" Dawn asked.
"Hmmm, I don't know a lot about her. Her speciality was paleopathology. She's retired now but still occasionally puts in an appearance at conferences. I haven't really talked to her about her field but I have found her published work still very informative and relevant. She is very polite, and formal, and very, very private. I've seen her over the years at conferences and yet I know virtually nothing about her outside of her work. She keeps to herself."
"My point exactly! Still waters run deep," Dawn emphasized. "And didn't you tell me once that Jennings had crucified her work on Tollund Man? She seems rather young to be retired, too."
"Maybe the dust-up over Tollund Man made her decide to take an early retirement. Tiddy sure made a stink over Katz's findings. She said some pretty ugly things about Katz's lab work in print. But the truth of the matter is no one gave her criticism much credence. Everyone knew that Katz did fine work and that Tiddy was a flaming bitch."
"Why did she have it in for Katz?" Janet asked with interest.
"Don't know. With Tiddy there didn't necessarily have to be a reason."
"How about opportunity?" Dawn asked, as she jotted down points.
"She had dinner and left to go back to her hotel. That is not unusual for Hilda. She usually stays and has a drink to be sociable and then leaves. She's just not a party animal."
"So she certainly had the time to come back and waylay Jennings then?" Robbie pondered.
Dawn looked up and put her pen down. "The trouble with Katz, Fenwick and Flex is that although they all had opportunity, none of them would have known that Jennings had left to go to the washroom."
"That leaves, Aliki," Robbie joked. "Come on sis, fess-up. We'll help you escape and get you a new identity. We promise." Aliki flicked a paper coaster at her sister by way of an answer.
"There are still a few more to consider," Janet reminded them. "Who's next, Dawn?"
Aliki grimaced. "That was a bad scene. It is still a pretty touchy topic. Jed married for the first time in his early forties to a woman some ten years younger. He was head over heels in love with Chris and basically told the world so. You know Philby. Anyway, after a few years with Jed, she ran off with Tidwell Jennings. They had a stormy and very public affair for about six months that pretty well scandalized everyone. Then Jennings gave her the boot."
"What happened to Chris?" Dawn asked.
Aliki shook her head. "I don't know. She wasn't in the field. I think she was a nurse or something. If I remember right, it was Katz who introduced her to Philby."
Janet frowned. "How did Philby take being rejected?"
"He was pretty shattered, I think. He doesn't talk much about it. I don't know if he divorced Chris or not. It was just like it never happened. After that, he just avoided Tiddy at conferences. I don't think he ever spoke to her again."
"I feel really sad for him," Janet sighed.
"Yeah, he is a great guy once you get over the size and noise of him."
"What was his opportunity?"
"He was doing work in the area that summer and was out in the field. He didn't arrive until some time after dinner because his jeep had got a flat tire and he'd had to change it."
"So he knew the area and would know where to stash a body," Robbie stated.
"We all knew the area. We'd spent a few days touring around, just like they are doing today."
Dawn wrote down the information and then looked at the top of the page to see who was next on their list. "What about Samir Tagore?"
"He's a palynologist. One of the best," Aliki boasted. The group looked at her blankly and she went on to clarify. "He studies pollen. In particular, he is interested in ancient pollens and how plant communities have changed over time."
"Be still my beating heart!" Robbie dramatized, slumping back into Janet's lap with some enjoyment.
"Hey, it is important work!"
"So what was his beef with Jennings?" Robbie asked, stealing a quick hug before she sat up again.
Aliki frowned and tried to recall what she had heard. "He had a chance to work in the States at the same university that Tiddy lectured at. He would have had the job too but Tiddy argued that it should go to an American and he was turned down for the position. It was a real blow to his career and it was a few years later before he got an opportunity to lecture in England.
"He argued with Tiddy that night. She was riding him, arguing that a degree from a developing nation wasn't the same as a "real" degree from a university in the industrialized world. He took it for as long as he could and then told her that if she was the representative of the professional standard of the industrial world, the level of competency was not all that high to reach."
"Ouch!" Janet grimaced.
"Tiddy had it coming. Anyway, he stormed off after that. I got up to go to the washroom shortly after and Tiddy followed me out a few minutes later."
"Okay, our last one is Victor Van Vogt."
"The man's a ghoul among ghouls. He's guilty," Robbie said with confidence.
"We are not ghouls," Aliki stated firmly.
"So who thinks it is a great tradition to drink beer laced with ancient toes?"
Janet changed the subject before the two hot headed sisters could get into it. "Van Vogt had a grudge against Jennings too?"
Aliki nodded. "Yeah, they worked together in the Netherlands just after they graduated. All through Europe, over the years, there have been finds of well preserved bodies in old peat bogs. The lack of oxygen in the bog water prevents decay and the natural tannin often found in swamps basically tans the corpse like leather.
"Van Vogt did some real ground breaking work on parasites but Tiddy scooped him, publishing his findings along with hers almost six months ahead. It made it look like Tiddy was the brains in the partnership and Victor was just along for the ride. That couldn't have been farther from the truth. As a result, Tiddy got picked up as a lecturer and Victor didn't. He worked as an assistant lecturer in the Netherlands for a few years before he finally got a position in California."
Dawn rolled her eyes. "Is there anyone she hasn't offended?
"I don't think she has many friends."
"Did Victor have opportunity?" Janet asked.
"Yeah, he went to get a drink and was gone a long time. When he did come back he said that he'd been talking to some local guy at the bar about burial sites. But he couldn't support that alibi. The man had left, I guess, and no one had seen them talking."
"That seems strange." Dawn frowned.
"Not really. There were nearly two hundred of us at the conference that year. And people were coming in for dinner at different times all evening. It was a pretty lively gathering with a lot of comings and goings. You know how these things are."
"That's the lot," Dawn sighed. "It doesn't look like we got very far with this."
Aliki smiled. "That was the problem the initial investigation had, too many suspects and not enough concrete evidence. The reality is it could have been almost anyone at the restaurant that night, or for that matter just some stranger lurking about."
"Do you believe that?" Janet asked, looking Aliki straight in the eye with her calm, serious gaze.
Aliki blushed. "No. This was a well planned-out crime. One of passion, and it was done by someone who knew about mummification." Aliki looked down at her glass and frowned. "I am very much afraid the murderer is one of us."
For a minute, the group of women was silent as they pondered this statement. Then Robbie spoke up. "What we need then is more data. I suggest we split up. There are six main suspects if we don't count Pateas here and three of us if we leave Pateas out again. That's two suspects each."
"First of all, you three are not going to investigate anything. Leave it to the police. Second, why do I get left out?"
"As a suspect or as an investigator?" Dawn teased.
It was Janet who answered. "I think, Aliki, we are willing to trust you didn't do it. We would not really be investigating, just being good listeners and seeing if we can pick up any information that we can pass on to you. These people are your friends, Aliki. We know that is awkward for you and besides, you are a cop and no matter how friendly these people feel towards you, they are going to be on their guard knowing that."
"It's just for fun." Robbie smiled. "It's gotta be better than sitting through another lecture on petrified intestinal worms."
Aliki was about to protest when Philby stuck his head outside. "There you are! Come on, Aliki, we need you to settle an argument about the effects of rickets on bones."
Aliki looked at the group. "I'll be back. Don't even think about this madness while I am gone."
The three women watched her go. "Well?" Robbie asked.
"I'm in," said Dawn.
"Me too," chuckled Janet. "But what if Aliki comes back?"
"She's talking bones here, Janet. I'll be lucky if she remembers to join me for dinner."
Glasses were set down and the women stood and Robbie smiled. "We'll meet for breakfast at eight. The person with the least information has to pay the bill."
"I'll take Tagore and Fenwick,"said Dawn.
"Flex and Katz are mine," Janet put in.
"Oh great! That leaves me with Van Vogt and Philby. Mutt and Jeff," groaned Robbie. She wrapped her arm around Janet. "You be careful around Flex, darling. He's the grabby-feelly type and if he touches my girl I'll have to kill him."
Janet gave her wife a reassuring pat. "I'm used to the type,"she teased. "I'll be on my guard."
"Hey!" Robbie protested, hands on hips as Dawn and Janet walked away laughing.
Robbie found Van Vogt clicking through pictures in preparation for his presentation. "Hey, I didn't think anyone was lecturing today."
Van Vogt frowned at the intrusion. "I thought I'd just take the opportunity to run through my material and make sure everything is alright. I'm presenting first thing tomorrow morning."
"Aliki says you are one of the best."
"Aliki?" asked Van Vogt in puzzlement, looking up at Robbie with small grey eyes.
Robbie sat on the edge of a table, unconsciously looking both relaxed and sexy at the same time. "Alberta. Her real name is Aliki. It's Greek."
"Really? I have known her for years and never knew that. That she would admire my research is indeed flattering. I have been impressed by the detail and extent of her own work," Van Vogt stated, clicking to the next slide.
A photo of bacteria attacking the intestinal lining popped up on the screen. Robbie grimaced and carried on bravely. "She's a pretty private person. Finding Jennings' body has really opened up a can of worms, huh? I know my sister is pretty upset about it."
"It's sometimes better to let sleeping dogs lie," came the bitter, muttered response.
"I'm beginning to think so. Were you there that night when she disappeared?" Robbie asked, looking at him closely to see what reaction he might have.
Van Vogt showed no emotion. "Yes, but as far away from her as I could get. As soon as she arrived, I went and joined some others in the bar. I talked to some local who claimed he knew where to find more mummies." Victor shrugged. "I think it was the beer talking but it filled in an hour or so. Philby thought so too when I told him about it. After she left I came back to the group."
"You know, no one seems to have liked that woman."
"She could be charming," Victor conceded reluctantly, as he slipped the disc from his computer.
"But it was barely skin deep. She had a truly poisonous personality."
"You got any idea how she ended up mummified?"
"Don't know. Don't care," Van Vogt stated bluntly, dropping his disc of photos into his briefcase and snapping it shut. "But my hat is off to whoever it was. You'll excuse me, I am meeting Fenwick at five." Robbie watched him go with interested eyes, pleased with herself. A bit of the puzzle might just have fallen into place.
Then she hopped off the table and followed the big booming voice to Jed Philby. "Victor, there you are! We were afraid you were off carving up the local mummies! Tagore is looking for you, something about wanting to swap slide samples, and Alberta's leading a hot debate on rickets with a young group of my students in the morning room."
"Hi Jed." Robbie smiled, walking across the lobby.
The big man spun and almost knocked over a potted rubber tree. He grabbed it around its thick stem just in time as if he was throttling it and set it back in place, knocking several branches off in the process. "Hi Robbie! So how is the head? You and your sister were the life of the party last night. If it hadn't been for your lovely partners keeping an eye on you I think the two of you would have ended up in jail again!" Philby laughed heartily, wrapped an enormous arm around Robbie and gave her a one armed hug.
"Aah, yes, well, I'm just on my way for a coffee now. I think the stomach can handle it. Would you like to join me?"
"Never turn down a coffee or a job offer is my philosophy. Where's that gorgeous girlfriend of yours?" Philby asked, as they headed over to the coffee shop.
"Wife. She is my wife,"Robbie reminded him firmly.
"Oh yeah. I keep forgetting. Waiter, two coffees. Thanks."
"Janet wanted to talk to a few people. She is always looking for documentary ideas for her students. She is president of the Bartlett College of Film and Animation."
Jed looked up from picking up the sugar jar that he had knocked over in sitting down. "No kidding, more than a pretty face, huh?"
"A whole lot more. You were married weren't you, Jed?" Robbie asked, helping him pick up little paper packets of sugar and place them back in the jar.
The buoyant personality sank instantaneously. "I was once. Turned out she was gay. It sure as hell shot me out of the God damn tree. Felt like a fucking fool."
Robbie squirmed a bit, feeling bad about bringing Jed down. " Sorry. It happens. Sadly a lot of gay women marry thinking that it is what they need in their lives and then realize that it is just not them, no matter what society and their families say. It was not a reflection on you, Jed. It was the action of a confused woman. I'm sorry you got hurt."
Jed looked over Robbie's shoulder, his eyes pained as he recalled the past. "She ran away with Tidwell. That is what really jerked my strings. Then the bitch dropped Chris like you would a dirty shirt. Now even the bitch's body is causing trouble. Shit."
"Chris was a nurse, wasn't she? How did you meet her?"
"Nurse! No way. She was a mortician. A good one too. I met her at a conference much like this one in Rome. Said she was there with her sister. I thought we had a lot in common but I guess not. It's funny, you know, I still care about her. She had a little problem with gambling," Philby admitted with a blush, playing with his spoon nervously. "I sure hope she stayed out of trouble."
Robbie stirred the sugar into her coffee, letting Philby unload. When he stopped she asked, "I heard you and Victor hid out over at the bar until Jennings disappeared that night."
"Victor? He said that? I was late getting there. Flat tire," Philby explained awkwardly. "Maybe I talked to Victor when I came in. I don't remember. So tell me what it's like to be a famous movie star." Robbie took the hint and let the conversation drift to other topics.
In the conference room, Janet was having her own problems. "Dr. Flex, you don't seem to quite grasp the situation here. Robbie Williams is married to me and there isn't a chance in hell of me helping you arrange a date with her."
"Shame that. Soon as she's been with a real man." He stopped here to hitch his pants up with his elbows. "Well, then she'd see things differently. So if she isn't available, what about you taking a spin with me tonight?" Flex asked, as he wrote tomorrow's schedule up on a plastic bulletin board.
Janet leaned back against the wall and crossed her arms. "When hell freezes over," she stated firmly, but without any real anger. There was no use banging your head against a stone wall. "Now how about you tell me what happened the night Jennings disappeared. Like I told you, I'm collecting data for a possible documentary about the mystery."
Flex snorted and rolled his eyes comically. "What mystery? Katz killed her."
"What?!" Janet asked, her eyes getting big with surprise as she stood up straight.
"Sure. Crime of passion. It was a woman and Katz is the most likely. No one notices the quiet ones but still waters run deep. Katz told me once she had a sister that was bad to the core. Those sort of things run in families I figure. Just because she's lady-like people trust her. I like my women with a bit more fire, I do."
"I thought passion was your thing," Janet said dryly, settling back against the wall again when she realized that the old man's views were not based on any real evidence. "Maybe you killed her. You were angry at her weren't you?"
"Made me look like a fool, she did. All that nonsense just because I pinched her bum. Hell, she should have been pleased. Don't suppose it happened to her very often."
Janet closed her eyes and counted to ten. "You were out on a date that night weren't you?"
"Got stood up! Now there is a damn good reason to go to the police! Led me along she did and then stood me up. That's much worse than a pinched bum any day. Pretty young thing she was too. Her loss. I got back just about the time people started to wonder what had happened to Tiddy. Alberta, that's Dr. Pateas, went and checked and came back to say that no one was in the washroom."
"Aliki, I mean Alberta went back into the washroom?" Janet asked in surprise.
"Yup, not that I think it was her who done it. She's queer you know. I don't think them kind go in for passion, they haven't got the parts. Them lot are more into body buildin' and mountain bikes and the like."
Janet shook her head in amazement. "Dr. Flex you did hear me say I was married to Robbie Williams, didn't you?"
"Sure, sure. One of them Hollywood marriages of convenience to keep her name in the paper, I imagine. She's gettin' up there to be a heart throb. Women don't age well like men. Not that I'd mind finding her high heels under my bed in the mornin". He laughed, putting the top back on the felt pen he had been writing with.
Janet mentally declared defeat. "Nice talking with you, Dr. Flex. I know you have things to do, so I won't take up anymore of your time."
"Sure. But if you really want to get that story," Flex said, his eyes suddenly bright with mischief, "ask Katz about the blue scarf she had in her pocket that night." Janet stood in surprise and watched the old man walk away with his rather bandy legged shuffle. Then she wandered off to find Hilda Katz and to see if she could pass on Flex's remark to the others.
This proved an easier task then she thought. Dawn was sitting at the bar talking to Fenwick when Janet looked out the patio doors to the terrace and pool area beyond. She took a small note pad and pen from her pocket and wrote down the information and then sauntered over in Dawn's direction. "Hi Dawn, Aliki asked me to pass this note on to you. Hi, Dr. Fenwick. Lovely day isn't it?
"Why yes, it certainly is."
"You haven't seen Hilda Katz have you? I am very interested in her work. It sounds like a field that would make a very interesting documentary."
"Palaeopathology? Well, yes, I suppose so. Not Egyptology, of course, but interesting enough. I believe she mentioned going to her room to freshen up."
While Janet was passing the day with Fenwick, Dawn used the opportunity to read the note. 'I just talked to Flex. He suggested we ask Katz about the blue scarf she had in her pocket the night Jennings disappeared. I'm going to do that now. Janet'
After Janet had moved off, Dawn finished her drink with Fenwick and then took her leave. She had done well she thought. The man was not a gossip but quietly and carefully she had managed to get a good deal of information from him. To start with, Philby had not had a flat as he had told everyone. Fenwick admitted that there had been a "complication" of a personal nature that neither he or Philby felt had any bearing on the investigation.
Secondly, she had learned that Fenwick had not planned to come back to the party but that he had
"regrettably" overheard a private conversation and felt it better that he return to the gathering in case an "unfortunate" incident arise. What had happened that evening Fenwick was not prepared to elaborate on. In fact, he seemed rather surprised that he had told Dawn as much as he had and asked for her discretion. Dawn smiled. She felt that she might be on a hot trail. She'd have to pass the information on to the others as soon as she could.
Janet found Hilda Katz just getting off the elevator and asked if she might have a word with her. The palaeopathologist frowned but agreed cautiously to sit in the lobby for a few minutes and hear what Janet had to say.
They sat across from each other on two over stuffed couches. "As you know, Robbie and I have started a school for film. We are considering having our students work with us on a documentary on the strange disappearance of Tidwell Jennings at the conference three years ago. I wondered if I could ask you about the night she disappeared."
Katz looked very uncomfortable. She hesitated for sometime and then answered stiffly. "There is really very little I can say. I had dinner and left while Doctor Jennings was still there."
Janet saw that Hilda was not going to be an easy nut to crack. She appeared to be an individual with a highly developed sense of what was proper. The best approach, Janet concluded was to appeal to her sense of moral justice. "Doctor Katz, if you have read one of my books you will know that I don't sensationalize. I know Jennings was not a particularly nice human being and that a lot of people had good reason to hate her, but someone took her life, Doctor Jennings. Someone crossed over that moral line. No one has that right for any reason. A grievous wrong has been committed and maybe this documentary might help to correct that wrong."
Hilda Katz's eyes grew dark blue with anger. She swallowed, looked at her clutched hands in her lap for some time and then swallowed again. Janet waited. "I don't want to talk here. Can we go onto the terrace?"
"Of course." Janet followed Hilda Katz out and they sat in a quiet corner away from the few people who had ventured into the afternoon sun.
Katz stared for a long time out at the ocean considering and when she spoke it was as if she was reading out loud, her voice barely a whisper above the roar of the surf. "Kris was like that," she started giving a north European pronunciation to the name, "She always was. The family said she had bad blood. Maybe you have met someone in your life that was just naturally bad. Then you'll understand what I mean. I loved Kristiana, but I always knew what she was like. I foolishly hoped... I don't think anyone realized but we had gone together to the conference in Rome, that's where Jed met her. The next thing I knew...she'd left me."
For awhile there was only the beat of the waves marking the seconds and the lone, sad cry of a seagull. Katz seemed to struggle with the demons of her past while Janet slowly realized what Katz had just told her. Katz sighed and spoke once more. "I would have liked to warn Jed. He is such a ... nice man really but," she smiled at Janet for confirmation, "he wouldn't have believed me would he?"
"No, I doubt very much if he would," Janet said sympathetically.
Katz nodded. "I wasn't surprised, you see, when she ran off. The only thing that did surprise me was that it was Tiddy who walked out on Kristiana. Kris would have been furious. Kris hated losing and to lose face to that bitch..." Katz's voice choked with anger and again she looked out with hard eyes across the vast Pacific Ocean.
"Tell me about the blue scarf," Janet said gently.
Katz turned and looked at her, blinking in shock. "I wouldn't want any of this in a documentary," she warned. "I just want to be seen as being co-operative. I have nothing to hide. Nothing. I should have spoken up then about the scarf but to the police...I just couldn't."
Janet nodded; such a reaction was common. "You have my word. I will not use any material you do not wish me to."
Katz nodded. She had held a secret for too long and it would be a relief to tell someone. Then her conscience would be completely clear. She would enjoy being able to tell someone. "I bought Kristiana the scarf. It was a Hermes, pale blue to match her eyes. She loved it because it was expensive and she thought it suited her very well."
"How did you get it back?"
"I found it here."
"At the hotel?" asked Janet in surprise.
"No, at The Restaurant of the Dead. It was lying on the floor in the hall," Katz answered briefly.
"Chris was here then?"
Katz shrugged. "If she was no one saw her that I know of. I still have the scarf. You'd think I'd have the strength to throw it away, wouldn't you, but I keep it to remember. I'll tell you what I think. I think Kris is dead. I think she probably lost that scarf in a card game here and whoever won it must have lost it at the restaurant that night. Kris had developed some big gambling debts and people wanted to collect one way or another. That's why Tiddy dumped her. She told me so."
Janet gave Katz arm a gentle squeeze. "I'm sorry. Maybe now you will be able to find some closure." She left Hilda Katz sitting there, looking out onto a dark sea with eyes now concealed behind sunglasses.
Dawn found Samir Tagore on the beach, his nose in a book and seemingly totally unaware of the beauty around him. "Hi, Doctor Tagore. I'm Dawn Freeman. I don't know if you know me."
Tagore stood up quickly and looked a bit flustered. "Of course. You are our Alberta's close friend. Please won't you be seated."
Dawn smiled at the young man's old fashioned graciousness and sat on the edge of the lounge while Tagore hurriedly pulled up a lawn chair to sit in. "A very fine day, is it not? I have found it hard to stay focused on my reading with such magnificent beauty all around me."
Dawn smiled. There was a good deal more to Samir Tagore than she had given him credit for.
"Yes, it is a very beautiful place. I don't wish to take you away from your reading for very long, Dr. Tagore, but I wonder if I might talk to you about the night Dr. Jennings disappeared. We are considering doing a documentary about the event to see if we can shed some light on the mystery."
"Please call me Samir."
"Dawn. That is a very pretty name. Your father must have loved you very much."
"I think so," Dawn smiled. "My parents died when I was very young."
"Ah, yes, that is right. I have read your book and found it most refreshing."
"Thank you. Samir, could you tell me what happened that night?"
Samir gathered his thoughts for a minute. "It was, Dawn, a night when there was a tension in the air. There was so much discord you see. No one could remain still for long and the conversation was disjointed and awkward. It was all very difficult. I must admit that I argued that night with Tiddy. I regret doing so."
"I understand that she was a very difficult woman."
Samir smiled. "I am a Hindu. We see polarities in everything. Creation is balanced by destruction, good by evil, light by dark and so on. Doctor Jennings blocked my chances of a position in the United States but in the end I ended up with a position much more to my liking. We believe in the Law of Karma. People get what they deserve. I very much fear that Doctor Jennings did at any rate."
"It is pretty clear that she must have been killed."
"Yes. It is likely that the autopsy will establish the cause of death to be an act of murder."
"Shouldn't the person who committed this crime be held accountable too?"
Samir smiled again. "I believe he or she will, you see. If not in this life then the next."
"Did you see anything that night that would shed light on who might have killed Jennings, Samir?"
"I saw many things that night that foreshadowed the emergence of the darker side of life, Dawn. Any one of those small details might be the clue that points to the killer but so many more would be dead ends or worse still misinformation that might incriminate the innocent wrongly. Perception can make us see what we want. It is better, Dawn, I think, to let life find its own balance."
It was not the answer that Dawn had wanted but she had to respect the man for his discretion and calm belief in the balance of all things. They talked a while longer of his world view and then, late in the afternoon, Dawn went to find Aliki so that they could get ready to go to dinner together.
She found Janet waiting for her in the lobby and they exchanged information. "So Hilda was one of Chris's conquests. Dawn sighed.
Janet considered. "She certainly knew Chris well. She called her Kristiana with a north European inflection and she knew Chris had a bad gambling problem. Yes, they were close. But I don't know...she said she always loved Kristiania, but that the family came to believe she had bad blood."
Dawn told Janet what she had learned from Fenwick. "In light of what you found out about the scarf, I wonder if Philby knew Chris was in town," Dawn pondered. "Maybe that was the complication of a personal nature."
"Could be. I'm off to find Robbie and see what she knows. We'd better have a meeting tomorrow and compare notes.
"Okay, talk to you tomorrow, if we don't see you at the Restaurant tonight," Dawn smiled. "I don't know if Aliki is going to be up to eating." Janet laughed and the two women went their separate ways to find their partners.
Dawn found Aliki where she had been most of the afternoon, leaning on a table in the bar with a group of others, going through a stack of black and while enlargements of grave bones. "You have to remember that rickets is caused by a lack of vitamin D resulting in calcium and the trace mineral phosphorus not being assimilated properly. This results in poor mineralization of the bone. Look at how this piece of femur has such a thin cortex and a narrow medullary cavity. Check the length against the charts, growth rate has clearly been slowed. Here's another clue, the metaphyseal ends are cupped."
Dawn smiled at Aliki. To know her was to love her no matter how weird her interests. "Hi Aliki."
"What? Oh hi, Dawn. One of the students has brought some very interesting photos of bones from a grave site in Iceland."
"So I see. Are you going to be finished in time to head out to dinner with me?"
"Dinner? Is it that late? Oh sure. We were just talking really. I'll see you guys later at The Restaurant of the Dead."
Aliki followed Dawn out, feeling just a little bit sheepish for having been gone so long. "Sorry, lost track of time," she said, once the elevator doors had closed. Dawn laughed and gave her partner a big hug.
"Aliki did you know Chris Philby?"
"Not personally. I saw her from a distance once or twice but the opportunity to meet her never arose. She was only with Philby a very short time."
"Would you recognize her?" Dawn asked, as they stepped out of the elevator at their floor.
" I'm not sure; maybe."
Dawn stood deep in thought for a minute, then mumbled. "Perception can make us see what we want."
"We need to talk," Dawn said with determination as she pressed the down button and pulled Aliki back into the elevator.
It had taken some convincing but finally Aliki started to see the pattern that Dawn presented to her. If is was true, the killer was far more scary a person than any of them had realized. Before they could take Dawn's theory to the police, however, they needed some concrete evidence. Once again, Aliki found herself walking through the olive grove to the shed that housed the university mummy collection. This time, she had got the key from the security office on campus, using her position with the local police as a forensic advisor to justify her actions.
With Dawn at her side, she unlocked the padlock on the shed door and flipped on the lights. They walked past the bones that still lay on the work bench and headed for the back room where the mummies were stored. Aliki explained to Dawn what they had to do, and slipping on plastic gloves, they started sorting through the mummies, lifting each in turn so that Aliki could feel and smell any differences.
"I really wish you hadn't worked it out, Miss Freeman," came a voice from the doorway. Slowly, Aliki and Dawn lowered the mummy remains that they were holding. "It is not that I have any problem with killing, it is just that all the effort to silence the two of you is such a bore."
"If more people go missing, the police will not stop until they find you," Aliki stated, coming to stand close to Dawn, unconsciously shielding her partner with her own body.
"I'll take my chances. There is a door at the back. Head towards it slowly. Don't try anything. I am an excellent shot."
Aliki put her arm around Dawn and they moved off. "Don't worry," she whispered. "I know my sister. As soon as Robbie realizes that we are not around the hotel tonight, she'll swing into action"
After a light meal with Janet at the hotel, Robbie had met one of the Chilean professors from the university. She had been introduced to him by a colleague that afternoon and had agreed to come to meet in the hotel bar with some of the university students studying media so that they could ask her about film making. Robbie would have preferred to have gone with the others to the Restaurant of the Dead to gather more information but such good will gestures were important. Besides, she felt it was good for the future of film to encourage young people into the field and share her experience.
Janet begged off, saying that she wished to phone Elizabeth and see how the girls were doing. She had, too, some other ideas in mind. After a long talk to their daughters and to Elizabeth,
Janet had lit candles just before she knew Robbie would return and the room glowed in soft light. The music she put on her CD player was hard and sexy.
When Robbie came in, she smiled sexily and locked and bolted the door. They hugged and kissed deeply, their hips already moving against each other to the rhythm of the music.
Robbie slowly unbuttoned Janet's blouse and stole kisses from her sweet skin as they moved and ground in their own form of dirty dancing. Janet slipped Robbie's t-shirt over her head and unhooked her bra. Then she moved back, still swaying to the music, and slipped from her own. Robbie got that roguish smile of hers, that just curled the right side of her mouth as her eyes roved over her partner's naked body.
Now it was flesh on flesh and the arrow of desire shot straight to Janet's sex, making it throb painfully with need. Kisses become urgent and demanding. The music ended, another piece started unnoticed. It is not long before jeans and panties were gone and their dance was earnest foreplay.
Janet felt Robbie's mood change from romantic partner to the raw passion of her lover. "Where?" she whispered into her olive's ear.
Robbie took Janet's hand and led her there holding her close as she got the water ready and placed the candle she had brought with her on the counter. Fire and water, passion and strength, elements of my lover, Janet thought as Robbie ran her hands confidently over Janet's body covering her with peach sherbert lotion. Janet groaned with delight and rubbed her form against her partner sharing, teasing, demanding. The warm water beat down; rivulets of passion running hot from one body to another.
Robbie pushed her leg between her wife's and pinned her against the steam-covered tiles. Janet felt her entry and groaned with pleasure. The ride was wild, exciting and when Janet came calling Robbie's name she saw her lover's cocky smile of triumph.
Later, in bed, Janet would feast long on Robbie's excitement and make her cry out when she came too. For now though, her lover needed to hold her and to feel the after shocks of Janet's climax course through her body. Candle light, warm water, hot music, and two lovers, the women's senses, bodies, and hearts were filled with the joy of their love making. All else was forgotten.
fiction index | xena
homepage | what's new |