Margie found her tongue and asked, "Mr. Adkison, you also a special agent?"
"Very," he said with a quick quirk of his lips, "but call me Harry. Erika here didn't mean to upset you all."
Again I felt like I was missing the joke here. I did catch that he didn't call me Lynn after Cinda had corrected him. That was interesting. But the East Coast types tended to be a bit stuffier than us real Midwest folks, and from what I had seen on television or read in the newspapers he probably thought we were a bunch of country rubes. He would be right to a degree but it wasn't like I had much opportunity to go around the country seeing new and exotic places. Most exotic places were ones I read about in books or watched in movies. It didn't mean that I was ignorant about what all was out there in the world, just not well traveled.
Cinda had kept quiet as long as she possibly could so it didn't surprise me when in a rush of words she burst out with, "Why is the FBI here? How did you know to come to Lynn's house? Is Lynn going to be safe? I mean is there like an escaped federal prisoner or somebody in the area?" A pretty good set of questions and the answers could go a long way to explaining my mom's murder.
The agent nodded without replying and indicated that we should sit back at the table. I had stood when Harry Adkison introduced himself after he had walked in behind Cinda and Erika Thomason. His sheer existence seemed to require formality. There was an awkward pause since there were five of us and only four chairs at the table. With a sigh I walked over to the pantry and pulled out one of the folding chairs we usually used outside. I found it funny to see Margie and Cinda quickly scramble to sit at the table on regular wooden kitchen chairs while I simply handed the folded camping style chair to the woman. I could tell from the look on her face she had never sat in such a chair much less ever went camping. I took the seat I had vacated earlier and the man, who wanted us to call him Harry, walked to the other chair opposite of me. Once Agent Erika figured out how to open the chair she firmly placed it between me and Cinda. I think she wanted us to think she was just 'one of the girls'. Not likely given her pricy suit and the expression of ill concealed disdain she wore on her face. She was definitely a city gal and now that she sat closer to me I could see there were many thin lines on her face. She wasn't as young as she wanted us to think. Cinda and I exchanged a look that she noticed and said, "What?"
Across from us Harry just shook his head in dismay at his partner's reaction and said, "Leave it, Erika." There was no room for argument with his tone. She was in trouble once they left. She wasn't doing what Harry wanted and I didn't think he would let that pass.
Once we were all seated he began, "Very good questions, Cinda."
Wow, he even got her name right. At first most people kept erroneously called her Cindy or Linda. Which was how Margie got her name, truth be told, by combining her favorite two names. I made a point of mentally putting away that little tidbit about the agent. He listened and paid close attention to what was said and how it was said. Given his job for all I knew that was probably some requirement but still fairly rare as far as I ever had noticed. It was then I caught that he hadn't bothered to continue and answer any of the questions. Cinda was busy beaming and looking proud at the compliment. Margie furrowed her brow as she also noticed the questions had been avoided and then asked, "Okay, so why again are you both here?"
Erika clenched her jaw and let him reply. It was obvious to me that this was a new partnership. They didn't have their nonverbal cues worked out and both wanted to be in charge. It was pretty clear to me that Harry had seniority and Erika was not pleased. I had heard that the administration of the FBI was actively hiring more women for jobs other than secretaries and file clerks but Erika was bristling at every little thing that happened. Didn't appear to me she would have a very long career with her present attitude.
"Well, Margie, may I call you that?" Oh, Harry's oozing good manners went over well. I found myself distracted by sounds from the other room. Some of the voices were raised and Bobby burst back into the kitchen saying, "Lynn, I need you to come look at something."
I began to rise when Harry looked at Bobby saying, "No, she doesn't need to look at anything. Erika, go handle this." The direct command put a spark of fury in her eyes but she nodded and got up carefully to follow Bobby. Bobby began to object when Erika said something to him very quietly. Whatever it was shut him up and he led her out of the room to see whatever it was he had wanted me to see. I sat back down and waited to see what Harry was going to say.
Margie answered his earlier question with, "Of course, Mr. Adkison, you can call me Margie."
"Please, like I said you can all call me Harry. Mr. Adkison was my father." He smiled politely. Margie was looking completely infatuated by Harry's firmly charming manner and I was noticing Cinda wasn't much behind her in that department.
It was odd but I was already thinking that both the agents would be the ones who would figure out my mom's death, dismissing whatever it was Bobby thought I had to see. There was something about the way they held themselves that gave me confidence. Granted it could be completely misplaced, but then I was still reeling from the whole day. I waited for Harry to continue. My hands felt empty and I remembered my cigarettes were back in my bedroom. I had no desire to walk past all those people in the living room. I knew that my mom was not there but I somehow expected to see her leaking blood into the living room carpet. Harry must have noticed my fidgeting fingers because he reached in his coat and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, he shook out two and offered me one saying, "Gwendolyn, is it okay to smoke in the kitchen?"
I grinned and took the offered smoke while grabbing an ashtray from the countertop behind me. Next to the ashtray was a box of matches I grabbed and pushed over to Harry to use as we lit up. He graciously offered the pack to Margie but she declined saying, "No, thank you, I am trying to cut back." I bit back a laugh because I had never seen her smoke. That was the one thing I was worried about when I went to her place was how often I would be stuck outside smoking because she didn't allow any smoking in her home.
Never one to let a comment go unsaid, "Momma, when did you take up smoking again?" Cinda quietly asked while looking intrigued. I hadn't ever realized Margie ever smoked. Pretty much explained the no smoking zone. Reformed smokers are evil, sorta.
"You just hush now, Cinda, let's find out what the nice FBI man wants with our girl here." Margie shot her daughter a blistering look while trying to avoid Harry's curious glance.
Nice to see they remembered that I was still here, even if they were talking like I was invisible. I blew a soft smoke ring into the center of the table. Harry smiled and blew a steady stream right through the middle. They drifted upwards still in place.
"Wow," Cinda was impressed easily. "That was really good." Harry and I exchanged a quick glance while he said, "Thanks, I just aimed for the center. She did all the hard work."
Again these inappropriately strange and yet vivid images were going through my head and apparently Margie's too because she blushed again. I, on the other hand, paled as it struck me odd that we were sitting around bantering at the kitchen table when my mom had been murdered a few hours ago just a room away. I dropped my head down in shame and felt sad. My mom had taught me to blow smoke rings late at night while watching bad movies. We would take turns blowing rings through each others attempts. That too was lost to me now.
Erika briskly came into the room and leaned to Harry saying, "She has to come look. No choice." She didn't seem too upset at the idea. Whatever she had found intrigued her. I don't think it was ever good when the FBI found something interesting.
Harry appeared to be angry at Erika's comment and quickly stood saying, "I don't think so. If you ladies will excuse us for a moment, my colleague and I need to confer." He stubbed his cigarette out and followed Erika out of the room quietly. As he passed out of view I could hear Erika whispering something to him and his rumbling reply. It sounded like an argument from my spot in the kitchen. Cinda was torn between asking me a bunch of nosy questions and getting up and following them to eavesdrop. I watched the play of emotions flutter across her features. A look from her mom and she stayed firm and gave into her curiosity.
"Lynn, what happened to your mom? Why do you think the FBI is here? How come you didn't tell me that your momma was dead before I called the police? Do you really think that they going to make you look at something? Or maybe do you think that cute Harry is going to keep you out of it?"
She had to stop as she took a gulp of air or I think there would have been a dozen more questions.
Margie reached over and tapped her daughter's hand to get her attention.
"Little Bit," and yes that was Cinda's nickname from her mom, it was bad enough she had a name nobody heard of but to add in to the mix she still called Cinda by a cutesy babyish nickname in public many years after childhood was well behind her was a constant source of amusement to me. Cinda never said how she felt about it but she cringed slightly when her mom called her that in public.
Margie continued, "Little Bit, I really don't think you should be bothering Lynn with all these questions right now. Some things she doesn't know and the rest are too painful." Cinda looked crushed by her mom's reprimand then equally frustrated that she hadn't followed Harry out to listen to whatever was going on out in the hallway. The rumble and grumble could be heard in the kitchen but not clearly so we had no idea what was being said about me. The voices were sharp and soon all we could hear was the deep tones of Harry.
Bobby must have had to walk past them because he was at the kitchen door saying, "Well, sorry to have to meet up with you again, Lynn, under such a tragic situation. We have to be leaving now. It seems the FBI is in charge of the rest of this investigation. Besides we need to get back to town to make sure none of the old guys leave the mayor's too drunk." He blushed a bit and wandered off to our half hearted farewells.
Bobby was barely out of earshot when Cinda quickly said, "He likes you, Lynn. You know he was married to Barbara Joe Parker for, like, ever don't you? But they got a divorce just a few months back and she moved out of town to live with your mom's mechanic. BJ was cheating on Bobby for quite a while I heard say. June was telling me about that over at the Mayor's house. Mom, that mechanic, what is his name?"
She hadn't forgotten whatever she heard, she just wanted her mom to include whatever bit of gossip she had culled earlier at the gravesite and afterwards the wake. Their social standing would have dictated a quick hello to the bereaved and maybe an hour or so at the home of the widow. Pretty much the same would have been expected from us if my mom and I had bothered to go. Bobby on the other hand had to deal with the remaining folks. Because whichever of the town shakers and movers had gone would be required to stay for a few hours and give their condolences to the widow properly while cementing the next mayor before the night was done. That definitely required liquid refreshments. The police were the unofficial taxi service of the mayor and his cronies. The rest of us usually walked if we got stranded out at a party or gathering. Cinda always thought that perk alone was worth getting into politics. Her mom didn't allow her to drive their family car either.
The talking died off in the hall and soft footfalls let us know someone was coming. Harry walked in without Erika saying, "Okay, Gwendolyn, you are heading over to Margie's home, right? It's over the beauty shop I was told."
I nodded while I looked past Harry to see Erika briskly walking by him while saying, "Harry, I still think she should stay with us until we find out who targeted her mom."