Kelly settled at the empty library table, anticipating the meditative relaxation that knitting quietly could bring. But this time it didn't come. Her mind would not slow down. Bits and pieces of the conversation with Jennifer kept flitting through her brain.
Diane threatening Derek at the bar. Diane returning home and passing out drunk. Diane having it out with Derek at his ranch. Diane lying to the police. Jennifer's worried expression and defense of her troubled friend. Had Diane killed Derek? How? Did she shoot him? Where did she get the gun? Kelly knitted another row of stitches, but her thoughts didn't slow down. Where was Burt anyway? The last she saw him, he was flirting with Mimi over the yarn bins. Where was he when she needed him?
"Good, I was hoping I'd find you here alone," Burt's voice startled her as he walked up from behind. Pulling up a chair beside her, he sat down, hands clasped between his knees in what Kelly recognized as his "talking pose."
She released an audible sigh. "Burt, I must have summoned you telepathically. I swear my curiosity won't let me alone about this Derek Cooper murder."
"I figured," Burt said with a grin.
"So, tell me. How was Derek Cooper killed? The newspapers aren't giving any details except that it was a homicide."
"Well, they were told to wait until the next of kin is notified. It seems Derek's mother and father were on a cruise in the Caribbean, so it took a while to reach them. They'll be coming later this week to take his body back to California for burial."
"Was he shot?"
"Nope. He died from a severe blow to the head which led to fatal bleeding inside the brain. The weapon was an old shovel found on the barn floor, still bloody. No good fingerprints, unfortunately."
Burt nodded. "He died within minutes, apparently. Too bad there was no snow on the ground. They could have gotten some footprints. As it was, there was nothing found near his body except the shovel and a lot of cash lying around."
"They found money?"
"Yep. Lots of dollar bills scattered around. Derek's wallet was empty, too, so they figured it was his money."
Kelly tried to picture womanizing Derek Cooper, lying dead in a pile of his own cash. "That's strange, don't you think?"
"Well, it's different, I'll say that," Burt admitted with a smile.
"It couldn't be a robbery gone bad," Kelly mused out loud. "Otherwise, the killer would have taken the cash. And I can't imagine a killer carrying around a shovel as a weapon, can you?"
"It would be a little awkward."
Kelly pondered another minute. "Sounds to me like a crime of passion, Burt. I mean, shovels are naturally found in barns. Derek and the killer are having an argument or a fight, and the killer reaches out for whatever is handy. Wham! Derek's dead."
Burt's careworn face crinkled into a grin. "Right as usual, Kelly. That's exactly what the investigators are thinking. There's certainly no way this was accidental. You have to hit someone really hard to kill them. Exam showed that Derek was hit on the right side of the head. Death was quick."
"If Derek was hit on the side of his head, he was probably turning away or walking away from the killer."
Kelly pondered for another minute. "There's no way Derek Cooper would turn his back on a menacing stranger, certainly not if they're having a heated argument. That means the killer was not a stranger. It was someone Derek knew. Someone he felt safe walking away from."
Burt chuckled. "Sharp eye, Kelly. The investigators are looking at everyone, though. They can't afford to rule out any possibility, even the intruder theory. They're interviewing Derek's friends and business acquaintances right now."
Remembering that Jennifer's friend, Diane, had lied to the police, Kelly deliberately kept quiet. The detectives would find out soon enough about Diane. She didn't need to point them in that direction. "Keep me posted, will you?"
"You bet," he said as he stood up. "Right now, I'm going to spin some of those fleeces that have piled up in the storage room. See you later, Kelly."
"Thanks, Burt," Kelly said as he left.
Picking up the grey and white alpaca scarf in her lap, Kelly began to knit while her mind sifted through everything Burt had said about Derek Cooper's death. A crime of passion. It had to be. A violent argument taking a nasty turn into murder. A little shiver ran through her, recalling what Jennifer had said about Diane and Derek's many fights. The last argument sounded pretty violent. Diane tried to attack Derek, threatening him. That on its own looked bad. Then Diane lied to the police about her whereabouts that night, when there were plenty of witnesses ready to contradict her story. Not good, not good at all.
Not knowing Diane personally, Kelly didn't know how to feel about Diane. But she did know Jennifer, and Kelly trusted Jennifer's judgment. Jennifer might be a free-spirited party girl, but she was also smart and an extremely shrewd observer of people. Had Jennifer's friendship with Diane blinded her keen vision in this situation?
© Maggie Sefton