A Taste of Death (Maggie Olenski Series) (26 page)

She remembered Regina taking the rifle from her and ordering her onto the sofa. A few brusque questions, and then she was gone. The next thing Maggie remembered was being in the hospital emergency room, in the hands of those medieval torturers/life-saving saints.

Maggie had many unanswered questions left, and could only hope, immobile as she was at the moment, that someone would show up soon with a few answers. She closed her eyes at this thought and it seemed to her the next instant she was hearing Dyna's voice.

"Maggie, Maggie are you okay
?"

Maggie suppressed the groan begging to be released from her throat as her awareness of the scattered pains returned with consciousness. She peeked at Dyna's worried face through squinted eyes.

"The doctors said you'd be all right, but how do you feel?"

Maggie opened her mouth to speak, managed only a croaking sound, then tried again. "Peachy keen."

Dyna's face lit up. "Really? I'm so glad. I felt so bad since I'm the one got you into all this."

Maggie shook her head. "I got myself into it. Can you find the control that will raise up this bed?

Dyna fumbled around until she got Maggie elevated to a sitting position, then pulled a chair close to the bed rails and sat down herself. Maggie instantly felt better to have Dyna at her eye level. "When did you get back?" she asked.

"Just minutes ago. I drove like a maniac from the airport in Boston. When I couldn't get hold of you last night I figured it was a storm or something that knocked the lines down. But by this morning I was worried enough to call John. He told me what happened, pretty much.
Thank heaven Regina goes out walking as early as she does."

Maggie remembered Dan's final lunge at her and, shuddering, wondered if she would be alive now, if not for Regina. "Does she always carry a gun with her?"

"She said she started to after Alexander was shot. She also said she was concerned about you, that your poking around
might be "stirring up the cess
pool" as she put it. She deliberately hiked toward the cabin just to look things over, like she's the town's unofficial security guard or something."

"I'm glad she feels that way," Maggie said, managing a weak smile.

"You look kinda beat," Dyna said. "Do you want to rest awhile?"

"Oh
,
no, I'm ...
okay," Maggie said, need
ing to take two breaths to get all the words out. She let her eyes close, just for a moment, and when she opened them again Dyna was gone, the sun was coming through her window at a different angle
, and she realized she felt
better. The healing power of sleep.

Someone brought her a tray of broth, cranberry juice, and jello, and it actually tasted good. She was just polishing off the jello when Dyna knocked at the partially open door.

"Hi! You're looking better."

Maggie's hand wen
t to her hair, and she wondered for the first time
how she really did look.

"I dropped my things at Elizabeth's," Dyna said. "John still has the cabin roped off as a crime scene."

"How's Elizabeth doing?"

"She's okay
. Of course she's more worried about
you
and feels guilty about what you went through for her. The whole town is in a turmoil. I could hardly get away for people stopping me and wanting to know about you, and talk about Dan."

"What are they saying about Dan?"

"Well, now they're saying stuff like 'I had my suspicions about him', but I don't think anyone really had a clue about him."

"He was a tortured man," Maggie said.

"Yeah. John told me what you told him about his killing his wife and all."

Maggie thought back, and the memory of talking to John at some point in the emergency room came back, dimly.

"The funny thing is, though," Dyna said, "it doesn't seem as though Brenda, his wife, ever had an affair with Jack Warwick."

"What?"

"No. I got this from Vickie. She says Brenda told her Dan had become insanely jealous back in Atlantic City after learning she had been alone once or twice with "someone". She didn't name names to Vickie, but it must have been Jack. She insisted they were only discussing business connected with the restaurant. But Dan wouldn't believe her. She agreed to leave Atlantic City and come to Cedar Hill to mollify Dan, and she thought he had finally come around to believing her. And there he
went and
killed her after all."

Maggie grappled with this information. "So Dan killed his wife because of something he only imagined she had done?"

"Seems that way."

"And Jack, who was certainly not an innocent, ended up being murdered for the one thing he hadn't done?"

"Uh-huh."

Maggie thought back to the town meeting where Jack had been poisoned. She remembered the spirited debate that had gone on about the zoning change that would facilitate the sale of Big Bear. Dan Morgan had been pointed out as one of the owners of a business that would suffer if Cedar Hill changed from a ski town to a min
ing town. She remembered how he’
d sat there that night, grimly silent, not adding a word of protest against the change.

Maggie remembered Regina's comment later, at her house, that any clear thinking person who cared about his life here would speak up against Jack Warwick's plan. That should have alerted Maggie to Dan Morgan. He never spoke up. He had kept silent during the debate, since he was going to put an end to Jack's plan that night.

She wished fervently
that she had picked up on that clue inadvertently presented by Regina. Alexander might still be alive if she had, and others, including herself would have been spared much suffering.

"John's not mad at you anymore," Dyna said, interrupting Maggie's self-castigation.

"Oh?"

"Well, he is, kind of. But since you're still alive and the town murderer is done away with, he forgives you."

"Kind of him," Maggie said. But she understood John's difficulty. "Will he have some free time now to spend with you?"

"Pretty soon, I think." Dyna smiled. "Maybe I'll cook up a nice vegetarian dinner for him. At his place. The cabin's probably going to take a while to get cleaned up."

"What time is it, by the way?" Maggie asked. "Did I just have lunch or dinner?"

"You had dinner. Which reminds me, I haven't had mine yet. I wanted to take Elizabeth out, to celebrate, but guess what? She's going over to Paul's. I've got my fingers crossed about those two. She wants to come see you too, later. Are you up to it?"

"I'm feeling better by the minute." Maggie suddenly
straightened up. "Ali! Is he okay
?"

"Oh, sure. He's at Elizabeth's right now."

Maggie sank back. "Get h
im something special from me, okay? He deserves
kitty caviar. He helped save my life last night."

"I sure will. Hey, I just thought of something. Do you suppose Dan was the one who poisoned Ali?"

Maggie thought that over. "He just might have. He probably
knew how Leslie felt about Ali
and decided to get rid of him for her. I think by that time he was becoming obsessed with Leslie."

Dyna shook her head, looking distressed, and to turn her thoughts away from the painful path they were probably going down Maggie said, "Dyna, when you get Ali's caviar, would you mind picking up a hairbrush for me? And maybe...." Maggie ran down a short list of things, and Dyna, successfully distracted, made a note and promised to gather them all. She then took off to investigate the cuisine of the hospital cafeteria.

Left alone, Maggie mulled over what she had recently learned. So much misery, it seemed, had been brought about by relationships falling apart. What must have begun with much love and hope between two people had somehow disintegrated. Dan and Brenda, Karin and Alexander, Leslie and Jack. Had the foundations of each union been on such shaky ground from the beginning? Or had tiny cracks formed that were never patched, allowing huge wedges to form?

She'd likely never know, but it made Maggie think about things in her own life. She had been close to losing that life, frighteningly close, and she began taking a closer look at what was truly important.

Her parents
and Joe were truly important to her. Rob was becoming very important to her. But had she treated them as such? When Joe worried about her safety, she had brushed him off with impatience, possibly causing a crack to form. When Rob became hard to reach, instead of understanding t
he hectic schedules of his work
and allowing for the fact that hers was just as unpredictable, she began to pull back, allowing another little crack to form.

Maggie didn't want wedges to form between her and the people she cared about. It was time to start patching. She reached for the phone.

Maggie hesitated as she held it, wondering who to call first. It should probably be Joe, she thought. After all, he knew the most about what she had been involved in, and he would therefore be the one most worried. He deserved to hear that she was alright, although she would get an earful as he learned what she had gone through. Rob, on the other hand, had been kept in th
e dark about most of this
. Therefore, other than perhaps worrying about why he hadn't been able to reach her, he wouldn't be nearly as stressed. Yes, Joe probably should be called first.

Joe or Rob, Rob or Joe. There really shouldn't be a problem, she knew, when it came to choosing between boyfriend of some months and brother of one's lifetime. Except, that is, when one could expect a chewing out.

Maggie punched in the familiar numbers.

A chewing out that one knew was deserved. Which, of course, made it all the
harder to –

The phone clicked, then that familiar baritone voice answered. She drew a breath.

"Rob! Hey, I'm
glad I caught you!"

 

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The End

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

 

Mary Ellen Hughes is the author of RESORT TO MURDER, the first of the Maggie Olenski myst
eries, as well as
the Craft Corner Mystery series – WREATH OF DECEPTION, STRING OF LIES, and PAPER-THIN ALILBI. Her new Pickled and Preserved mys
tery series will be out soon.

 

To learn more, please check her website at:

 

http://www.maryellenhughes.com

 

 

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