Authors: Morgana Best
I made my way through the driving rain to Ruprecht’s store,
, which sold both antiques and books. It had a decidedly wizard-like atmosphere and looked more like Dumbledore’s office than anything. Ancient leather-bound books lined the shelves, and the scent of sandalwood and more exotic incenses that I could not name wafted from one end of the store to the other.
It was Sunday morning and that mercifully meant no work. Ruprecht had summoned us to talk about Sue’s death.
Mint met me at the door. I shook out my umbrella and placed it in the umbrella rack inside the door, and then jumped as a loud crack of thunder rattled and shook the floor. In the mountainous area of New England, Australia, violent thunderstorms are frequent in the spring and summer months of the year. In fact, I had woken up to a tree down over my front fence. I would have to figure out what to do about that later.
“Tea?” Ruprecht said as soon as he saw me. He held up a tall green teapot adorned with zigzags and pin stripes as well as stylized shapes of flowers. “It’s a new one I’m trying, Melbourne Breakfast tea. It has notes of vanilla.”
“Yes, please.” I looked around the table. I was the last to arrive. Thyme was patting Camino on the shoulder. Camino’s eyes were red and swollen, obvious even in the flickering candlelight.
“Are we going to do a spell?” I asked, looking at the candles in the center of the table.
Ruprecht shook his head. “No, the power’s out, thanks to the storm.”
I nodded and sat down. I liked thunderstorms, with the electricity hanging on the air, bringing the promise of something to come. The same feeling of something looming filled the room now.
“She was murdered, I tell you!” Camino blurted out.
Thyme and I exchanged glances. I had no idea how to respond, and I guessed the others felt that way too, because Camino’s outburst was followed by a long silence. Ruprecht made a show of pouring tea.
“I did a divination and it was a murder,” Camino finally said.
We all nodded. “But how?” I said. “If Sue was murdered by anyone present that night, it would have to be Madison, because it wasn’t one of us.”
“What was she murdered with?” Thyme asked. “What was the murder weapon?”
“She wasn’t stabbed or anything,” I said. “What about poison?”
Camino was crying softly into a tissue. “I wasn’t able to do a divination to see what killed Sue,” she said, “because I already thought it must be poison, given that we know that she wasn’t shot or stabbed, and so on. That would’ve clouded any divination I attempted to do.”
I had learned that much about divination in my short time of being a witch, or rather, in my short time of knowing that I am a witch.
Ruprecht poured himself another cup of tea. “Logic dictates that it was poison.”
“And given that Sue died at Camino’s, the poison must have been given to her just before she went to Camino’s that night,” I said.
Mint shook her head. “Some poisons build up in the system. It’s possible she was poisoned over a period of days, even weeks.”
“Sue didn’t have any enemies,” Camino said softly.
Ruprecht leaned over to pat her hand. “She clearly had
A single tear trickled down Camino’s cheek.
“Should we make a list of suspects?” Mint asked.
Ruprecht shook his head. “No. Let’s leave this to the police.”
Camino appeared not to have heard him. “I’ve been up all night thinking of suspects, but I can’t think of anyone who would have a motive. Sue was a wealthy woman and her sister, Barbara, will inherit everything, as far as I know, but would Sue’s sister murder her? I think not.”
Ruprecht opened his mouth, but Camino went on. “And who else would have a motive, apart from Madison?”
“Madison?” we all said at once.
“Madison had a motive?” I asked, shocked.
Camino waved her hand in dismissal. “Madison didn’t do it,” she said firmly. At that moment, the lights flickered and then came back on.
Thyme leaned across the table. “But why did you say Madison had a motive?”
Two faint spots of color appeared on Camino’s cheeks. “I shouldn’t have said anything, so this is confidential. I promised Sue I wouldn’t tell anyone.” She looked around the table before continuing. “Sue was having an affair with Bob.”
The others gasped, but I was still in the dark. “Who is Bob?” I asked.
“Madison’s husband,” Camino informed me, while the other three all spoke at once.
Ruprecht held up a hand for silence. I ignored him and pushed on. “But I thought that Sue and Madison were friends.”
Camino shrugged. “I didn’t say Sue was a saint, and I have no idea if Madison knew about the affair. Sue wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to scold her about it. She kept insisting she was in love with Bob. She was sure he was going to leave Madison for her.”
“No doubt the affair hadn’t been going on for long,” Thyme said.
Mint looked puzzled. “Why do you say that?”
“Small country town,” I said. “Everyone knows everyone else’s business.”
Ruprecht smiled. “You’re a fast learner, Amelia, and what you say is indeed true.”
Camino nodded. “Yes, that’s right. It hadn’t been going on long.”
“All the more reason for Madison to be a suspect,” I said. “You know, she could easily have slipped something into Sue’s drink while we were playing Clue.”
No one spoke, but I could tell by the looks on their faces that they all agreed with me—well, with the exception of Camino.
“I’ve been friends with Madison for years,” she said. “She’s not capable of murder. And mind you, it put me in a difficult spot, what with Sue telling me about her affair with Bob. If Madison found out that I knew, she’d be upset with me for not telling her.”
I murmured my sympathy. I was beginning to see Sue in a whole new light.
“Nevertheless, that is up to the police to decide,” Ruprecht said firmly. “No good will come of our involvement in the matter; mark my words.”
Camino snorted. “Hmpf! I think we should give the police some help.”
Ruprecht made to protest, but Camino forestalled him. “I mean a spell.”
“A spell?” I echoed.
Camino nodded. “Yes. A spell to ensure that the cops will find out that it was murder and not natural causes. A spell to make sure that they actually find the murderer.”
Ruprecht let out a long sigh of resignation. “All right.” He stood up. “I’ll go get what we need.”
Camino also stood up. “I’ll help you.”
“Do you both think it was Madison?” Mint whispered to us as soon as they’d left the room.
I shrugged. “Not a clue. She surely has to be a suspect, though, given that Sue was having an affair with her husband, and given that she and Sue had been friends for years. Madison must have felt awfully betrayed.”
“We don’t even know if Madison knew that Sue and Bob were having an affair,” Thyme pointed out.
Ruprecht’s return to the room stopped any further speculation. He deposited a white skull candle on the table. “Now,” he started, turning to us, “I will inscribe ‘Find the truth’ on the candle and anoint it with Clarity Oil. Amelia, Clarity Oil is made with rosemary, thyme, sage, and parsley. Well, that’s the way I make it, at least. Many use lemongrass as well.”
I nodded. I was sure I would never remember all of this.
“We will burn Solomon’s Seal root with Bay Laurel leaves to bring clarity, insight, and wisdom,” he continued.
“There’s always the black hen’s eggs,” Camino said.
Thyme gasped. “Surely you’re not thinking…”
Ruprecht interrupted her. “No!” he exclaimed. “It would be too difficult to do. Besides, we are doing a spell purely and simply so the police will find the murderer.”
I shook my head. “This is all going over my head like the joke about the ceiling. Can somebody please tell me what’s going on?”
“Black hen’s eggs,” Camino said. “You put one in each hand of the murder victim, and then bury the victim with them. When the eggs break, the killer will unintentionally reveal himself or herself as the murderer.”
I thought that through for a moment. “But how do you put the eggs there with no one knowing about it?”
Ruprecht folded his arms across his chest. “Precisely!”
Early the following morning, I went to Camino’s to check on her before I went to work. She greeted me at the front door, and I did a double take. This time she was wearing an oversized emu onesie. The brown-gray ruffles around her hips made her look like something out of a horror movie, and the beak on her head was as large as it was terrifying. She did indeed look like a giant emu, and an unfriendly one at that.
Camino had only just shut the door behind me when there was another knock. She opened it, and I could see past her to two men in suits. The one in front gasped and clutched at his throat when he saw Camino/Giant Emu. I didn’t blame him.
The other man stepped forward. “Mrs. Abre? I’m Detective Marsters and this is Detective Stewart. May we ask you some questions?”
Camino and I exchanged glances, but before I could speak, Marsters looked at me. “And you are?”
“Amelia Spelled. I live next door.”
He nodded. “Ah, Ms. Spelled. Yes, you were present. We need to speak with you, too. Detective Stewart will question you in the other room, and I will question Mrs. Abre here.”
And with that, Stewart ushered me into the hallway and then into the kitchen. I was surprised how quickly the spell had worked. The fact that detectives were here meant that the police had now discovered that Sue was murdered.
The detective wasted no time in coming to the point. He pulled a long, silver pen and a notepad from his pocket, and without even looking at me asked, “How long have you known Mrs. Beckett?”
“I only met her that night,” I said, feeling guilty, although I had no reason to feel that way.
The detective looked up at me then. “So you only met her that night?” he repeated.
“Yes,” I said. “Only that night.” I had a feeling he didn’t believe me, so I added, “I only just moved to town recently and I only met Camino and the other people in the town then.”
“I see,” he said. “And how did she seem? Was she anxious, or worried? Did she appear to be well?”
I shrugged. I wasn’t expecting her to die, so I wasn’t really studying her. Aloud I said, “I wasn’t really paying attention.”
“Did she seem short of breath or complain of being ill?”
I tried to recall. “No, she didn’t say she was ill, but she did appear to be short of breath. I do remember her gasping from time to time. I thought it was just part of playing the game. She did look quite pale, but I don’t know if she always looked that way,”
“I see,” he said yet again, scribbling furiously on his pad. “And did you all eat and drink what Mrs. Beckett ate and drank?”
I nodded. “Yes, I’m sure she didn’t eat or drink anything different. She did ask for a glass of water, though.”
The detective once more looked up from his scribbling. “And you’ve never heard mention of the woman around town before?”
I shook my head. “No. I didn’t even know of her existence until that night that we played Clue.” I still had the uneasy impression that the detective didn’t believe me.
“Have you ever been to Mexico?”
“Mexico?” I parroted. Why would he ask such a thing? What did Mexico have to do with anything? Had Sue been to Mexico recently?
“Ms. Spelled, please answer the question.”
“Sorry. No, I’ve never been to Mexico. Why do you ask?”
He ignored my question, but then proceeded to ask me the same questions about three more times. I found it extremely irritating, and I wondered if innocent people had actually confessed to crimes just because they were worn down by the incessantly repeated questions.
It was with some relief when I saw Detective Marsters finally poke his head around the door. “Please come with me,” he said. When I was back in the living room with Camino, he said, “I regret to inform you both that Sue Beckett’s death was not an accident.”
“Murder?” Camino asked coolly. She gave no sign that she already knew the fact. “Then she was poisoned?”
Detective Marsters swung his head to face her. “Why would you say that?” he asked.
“Well, surely it’s obvious,” Camino said. “I don’t know any other murder weapons besides guns, knives, or something else that looks obvious. Plus the fact that we didn’t know she was murdered at the time and thought it was a stroke or a heart attack means it was poison. Is that right?”
Detective Marsters pursed his lips. “I can neither confirm nor deny the matter,” he said. “We might have to ask you more questions later. We’ll be questioning everyone who was present that night. That’s all for now. Thank you for your assistance, ladies.”
The two detectives made a beeline for the front door. When they were safely out of earshot, Camino took me by my arm. “The spell worked quickly,” she said, but her tone was grim. “They now know that Sue was murdered, and poisoned at that.”
“Yes, but by whom?” I asked her. “I know you say Madison didn’t do it, but she had the opportunity, and if you don’t mind me saying say so, she also had the motive.”
“But we would have seen Madison put something into Sue’s food or drink,” Camino protested.
I shook my head. “No, not if she was clever about it. Some of us went to the bathroom, while some of us went to the kitchen, and mostly we were concentrating on the game. We weren’t looking to see if someone slipped something into someone’s food or drink.”
Camino walked over to a hideous, bulky floral armchair and sank into it. It squeaked in protest. I shot a look at the cuckoo clock looming over her. It was already past opening time, but Thyme always opened the cake store on Monday mornings.
That clock would be a good murder weapon
, I thought, looking at the enormous, carved deer antlers jutting out from the top of the wooden monstrosity.
I wouldn’t want to be sitting under it in an earthquake
Camino rubbed her temples with both hands. “I’m sure Madison didn’t do it,” she said wearily. “I just know she didn’t. It must be someone else.” She paused. “We have to figure out who it was. Anyway, we’d better call the others and tell them that the detectives are on their way to question them.”
“Good idea. I’ll call Thyme, if you’d like to call Ruprecht.” I headed for the door. I’d left my phone at home and wanted to warn Thyme as soon as possible.
I was about to hop over the low hedge that ran between our houses, when I saw Alder’s car out on the street. What was he doing here? The day was certainly taking a strange twist.
I hurried out to his car just as he was starting the engine. I tapped on his window and he jumped. I walked around to the driver’s side and he lowered his window. “Were you looking for me?”
“Yes,” he said. “I went to your house and knocked on your door.”
“I was next door at Camino’s,” I said. “Oh, did anything happen when you knocked on my front door? Did you feel strange?” I normally wouldn’t have said such a thing, but I was critically caffeine deficient. In fact, I had usually had my third cup by this time, so I expected a caffeine-deprivation headache was on its way.
Alder appeared to be puzzled. “What do you mean?”
I shook my head. “Never mind.” I had forgotten that my house liked Alder. It had never shown the slightest inclination to do anything horrible to him, unlike what it had done to several of my other guests, both invited and uninvited. That is one of the reasons I felt I could trust Alder. The house had always showed good judgment in the past—well, as far as people went. Its judgment in television shows was a whole other thing.
“I just stopped by to see if you were okay. I was worried when I heard that it was murder.”
“So you already know it was murder.” I said it as a statement rather than a question.
“Yes, with being a private detective, I soon find out that sort of thing,” he said. “And since it was murder and you were present when it happened, I just wanted to come by and ask you to be careful.”
“I’m sure whoever it is isn’t after me,” I said. “I don’t think the rest of us are in any danger.”
Alder frowned. “I think you should increase your protection, anyway.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant. “My house has very good security.”
Alder shook his head. “I mean your own spiritual protection.” He winked at me and then drove off.
I stood on the street for a moment looking after him. What did he mean by spiritual protection? As his parents had been vehemently opposed to witchcraft, talking about spiritual matters was the last thing I expected from him. Sure, he always said he wasn’t like his parents, but still, telling someone to increase their spiritual protection was an unusual thing to say.
On the other hand, Alder had been the one to tell me that I was a Dark Witch. Did Alder know more about witchcraft than he was letting on?