Read Flossed (Alex Harris Mystery Series) Online
Authors: Elaine Macko
Tags: #An Alex Harris Mystery
My tone seemed to calm John. Besides, I was right. We had no way of knowing Paul’s vasectomy would be important.
“Well, it seems there’ll be several people we’ll need to talk with again.”
? I take it you’re going to continue helping Inspector Willix?” I asked.
“Don’t worry. I plan to go to Bruges tomorrow. And Antwerp, and any other place you want, but yes, I would like to keep my hand in things. That is, if the inspector will allow it. It’s fascinating seeing things handled from a different perspective. And in a different country. They do things differently here. I can see advantages and disadvantages.”
I had to smile. My husband certainly loved his job, but then I enjoyed my work as well. Exactly what work was that—my job at the agency or my job detecting? If pressed, I would have to admit I loved detecting. At the same time I didn’t want to be a cop. I didn’t want to be restricted by a silly little thing like the law.
I looked at John and smiled. “Okay, as long as you manage to fit your wife into your plans here and there, I won’t complain. I must admit, I’m interested in finding the responsible party myself. I have all the confidence in Inspector Willix but with you on the job, I’m sure this whole thing will be solved before we leave.” As an added bonus, one I would keep to myself, with John busy helping out the Brussels cops, Sam and I were free to do our own snooping.
“What about DNA?” Sam asked. “From the baby.”
John ran a hand through his hair. “I’m sure testing will be done and once we catch the killer we can compare it, but we don’t have anyone’s DNA right now.”
“Will they ask everyone to come in and give a sample?” I asked.
“I have no idea how stuff works here but I know running all those tests costs a fortune. My guess is they’ll use it if and when they have a suspect.”
“You mentioned talking with some others again. Who do you have in mind?” Michael asked.
John reached for his beer and took a few sips before answering. “Well, if what we’ve just heard is true, then someone other than Paul is the father. I’m beginning to wonder if Martine’s affair with Doug was indeed over.”
“There may be another possibility,” I offered.
“Yes. Remember Sam, what Wanda told us about Bill?”
“Would you two care to share whatever
you found out?”
“Sorry. But Wanda was wondering, that is, Wanda thinks Bill might have been having an affair with Martine.”
“Oh, Alex. That can’t be true.” John signaled for the waiter and asked for some water. Evidently bringing a glass of water to the table automatically wasn’t the norm in Belgium.
“And why can’t it be true? Because Bill is your friend? Wanda told us a few things that makes me think Bill isn’t the most honest—well, maybe honest isn’t the right word, but I got the impression he’s not adverse to anything that would get the job done.”
The water was brought to the table and I was surprised to see it was in a fancy bottle and we were expected to pay for it. Maybe the plumbing in these ancient buildings didn’t deliver water good enough to drink.
“And why exactly does Wanda think Bill was sleeping with Martine?” John asked a bit indignantly.
“Well, he’s been working a lot lately, for one thing, and also the fact he had an affair with his secretary when they lived in Germany.”
John shook his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe it. I thought they were so right for each other and happy.”
“Your puritan beliefs are very endearing and I hope you keep them in mind if you’re ever tempted to cheat on my sister, but John,” Sam said, “maybe they are happy. The affair was a long time ago. Wanda’s probably just paranoid about him now. Maybe we’re wrong. Martine and Doug were probably still getting it on. That might explain why Donna is so hostile to her. I mean, she has a right because they had an affair before, but maybe Donna suspects it’s still going on.”
We left the café shortly after and walked quite a while to the tram stop, hoping it wasn’t too late to catch one back to the apartment. About an hour later I fell into bed. I felt John toss and turn all night and knew he was having a hard time accepting the fact his long-time friend wasn’t perfect. I hoped for John’s sake a past affair would be the only indiscretion we would turn up on Bill Westlake.
Got your emails and I won’t say anything to your mother about the murder. Boy, you do have a good time, don’t you? I don’t know how you keep stumbling over bodies, but you have a real knack for it, I’ll say that. What a way to spend a honeymoon. Wish I could be there. I could use a little time away from Fred. He lost his glasses and accidentally, he says, took a couple of those generic get-it-up pills. Came over last night and drove me and the ladies crazy while we were trying to play pinochle. Kept pawing my arm like a crazy cat. If I wanted a cat, I’d go out and get one, I told him. Theresa offered to take him to the eye doctor next week for some new glasses. We can’t have him taking the wrong stuff anymore. Wears us out trying to fend him off. Well, I got to go. Theresa and I are going to a new bingo hall over in East Haven. Let me know how things are going and be safe.
I woke at six-thirty to find it had started to rain at some point during the night but had stopped by the time I finished reading Meme’s email. I went out to the terrace with my first cup of tea of the day. I dried it off, sat on one of the plastic chairs, and smiled again at the thought of being in Belgium. I still couldn’t believe I was finally in Europe. All my life I had wanted to come. I kind of thought my first stop would have been to Italy, the place where Meme was born, but with John having a friend in Brussels, and the use of an apartment just falling into our laps, well, we had to come here. It just made more economic sense.
I took a sip of tea, holding the cup in both hands while I looked across the courtyard where there were more apartments. A lot of the places didn’t have curtains and I could see into a few of the kitchens where women were preparing coffee and cutting chunks of bread. One woman had ventured out onto her terrace and waved, I waved back enthusiastically. I felt like I belonged here.
A bit of sun peeked out from the clouds. The rays hit the red bricks of the apartment buildings. Images of Martine passed in front of me. The beautiful, rich red hair—actually more auburn—framed her soft face. Her unhappy face. A beautiful young woman with everything going for her, and yet she had gotten herself mixed up with someone. And now she was dead. Here I was, euphoric at being in Europe, at being married to a great guy, at having this wonderful vacation, and Martine was dead. Murdered. I wondered if the person who killed her was the same person who had gotten her pregnant. And did they know she was pregnant? And then I thought of one of my Winston quotes.
In critical and baffling situations, it is always best to return to the first principle and simple action
. “Okay, Winston, but what is the first principle and simple action? Detecting? Going back to the picnic?”
Somewhere in the back of my mind, there was a glimmer of something I wished I could bring into focus. But it was gone before coming into focus. Whatever it was, if anything, it had left my mind for now.
I looked in my cup. Empty. I went back into the apartment to make another. There was movement upstairs signaling the others were up. An hour later we were again in the Escort, this time braving rush-hour traffic.
Bruges, the perfect example of the medieval era, was noted for its picturesque buildings reflecting a time when it was a rich Hanseatic port. Only fifty-five miles northwest of Brussels, the city had once been, from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries, a leading center for the wool industry. But after silt filled the harbor, merchant ships ceased to call, turning instead to England. The city was in ruin until a new port, Zeebrugge, along with a canal, was built some time after 1895. Today it’s one of Belgium’s most beautiful cities, attracting thousands of tourists each year.
“I think we’re going to like Bruges.” I slipped the pamphlet I had been reading back into my backpack.
An hour and a half after we left Brussels, John, who was doing the driving this morning with Michael as his co-pilot, expertly guided our little car to the underground parking lot at the entrance of the city of Bruges. The four of us took the steps indicated by signs and found ourselves above ground, standing at the entrance of the main street. To our relief, the sky had cleared promising another beautiful, warm day. There were several restaurants in front of us, but we decided to do some sightseeing first before having tea. Sam and I were growing fond of the delicious little tarts and stopping for tea was becoming one of my favorite things to do. I also found another custom we had grown quite fond of—in Belgium a piece of chocolate always came with your tea or coffee and most of the time it was a brand called
was quite delicious. I had already bought several boxes in the grocery store and planned to continue the custom once I returned back to Indian Cove.
We wandered down the central street completely filled with tourists. Since we arrived we had seen nothing but tourists. They were everywhere. I wondered where they all came from because no one ever mentions Belgium. It seems to be a place no one thinks about going to. Everyone always talks about Paris or London or Rome, but poor little Belgium is always left off of the list of places to visit. I couldn’t figure out why. The food was superb, the country beautiful…and then there was the chocolate. I found the country to be a real gem and right now I was glad more people hadn’t discovered Belgium or it would have been unbearable to get around.
We kept on walking, taking everything in until we eventually arrived at the marketplace. The market house, rising above the town with its Gothic tower, dominated the square. Where the castle of the counts of Flanders stood and the Gothic town hall, we passed an elderly woman working on lace.
“It says here a lot of Belgian lace is still handmade in Bruges,” Sam said consulting our ever-present tour book. “And a lace maker, working over twelve hours per day, only produces one third of an inch in a week! Jeez, no wonder the real stuff costs so much. I think I’ll stick to the mass-produced variety.”
“But this is divine, look at all the little stitches.” I bent close to the woman for a better look. She had a pillow on her lap and it was covered with bobbins. “Maybe we can find just a small piece to buy.”
“I would love to be able to take a piece back for Kendall. I’ll have to find something else for Henry. Maybe a medieval sword. I told them I would bring them back something special.”
My sister looked a bit sad. I knew she missed the kids terribly as did I. Sam’s children, my niece and nephew, were wonderful. I loved them both dearly, but Henry, the lively, ever-moving child, had a very special place in my heart. My mother always tells stories about how I could never sit still as a child, and what a tomboy I was. Henry is just like me. My poor sister maintains her thin figure by running after him constantly. A piece of Belgian lace would not do for Henry. We would have to find something really special for him.
“Speaking of which, maybe we should give a call when we get back and see how the office is. I also want to remind mom not to forget to pick the kids up from summer camp on Friday.”
“Yeah, right. Like our mother, the quintessential doting grandmother, could possibly forget to pick her grandchildren up at camp. And,” I said, “if I may be so bold, why on earth did you send them to camp after your own terrible experience?”
“Well, it’s a different camp for one thing and they really wanted to go. Little fools. You know, the fact they don’t allow phone calls should have made me reconsider.”
I noticed the worry creeping into my sister’s eyes, and added, “They’ll be fine. I think there are government agencies whose sole job it is to make sure summer camps are fun.” I turned back to the lace maker and watched the woman’s hands move the tiny bobbins over the pillow.
“According to this pamphlet, the Basilica of the Holy Blood is on the same square. I’d like to see that,” John said.
“And we’ve got to go on a canal ride. Doctor Dilworth said it’s not to be missed,” Michael added.
“John, I’m interested in this holy blood stuff. Does it say any more in the pamphlet?” I asked.
“Holy blood. That’s what I need to get for Henry. He would love some blood,” Sam said. “Do you think they might sell me a few drops?”
I smiled at my sister, but she was right. Henry would love a vial of Holy Blood.
“Let’s see. Here it is,” John said, totally ignoring my sister. “The Holy Blood was brought back from Jerusalem by Count Thierry of Alsace and Flanders. They have a procession of the Holy Blood but unfortunately not today. That must be something to see.”
“The whole place is something to see!” I said with eyes wide, looking in all directions.
On our drive to Bruges we had decided the topic of murder was not to be discussed for the entire day and by time we stopped to have lunch, everyone had stuck to the promise.
“So, what are we all going to have?” Michael asked peering at the menu through his glasses. My brother-in-law is a handsome man, about an inch shorter than John and with lighter hair. He’s been a great husband to my sister and a terrific father.
“I’m having the half chicken and
. That woman over there has it and it looks delicious,” I said. Frites in Belgium were one of life’s pleasures. They were double fried to perfection, crispy without being charred. Belgium was the inventor of this delicacy despite them being called French Fries in America, and I planned on eating a lot during our trip.
Sam craned her neck to see where I indicated and decided to have the same.
The waiter arrived and took our orders using perfect English.
“These people are amazing,” John said. “How they manage to switch between French and Flemish is beyond comprehension. The two languages are so different. And then added to that they speak English as well.”