Katrina folded the last blouse and slid it into her suitcase, zipping it securely closed. The last three months had been very hectic and she was looking forward to the cruise. She carried her suitcase out into the living room of her apartment, setting it down next to the two smaller, matching cases containing her toiletries and lingerie.
She glanced at the clock, then quickly walked through her apartment, checking that everything was turned off, empty, and otherwise ready for her to be gone for an extended length of time.
The doorbell rang, and Katrina hurried to answer it, checking carefully through the peep hole that it wasn’t a reporter. Jerilynn’s cheery face was centered in her field of vision, and Katrina slid back the deadbolt and opened the door for her friend.
“Are you ready?” Jerilynn asked, a little breathless from the climb to Katrina’s apartment.
“Yes, but we’ve got a few minutes before we have to leave. Do…would you like to see my new place?”
Jerilynn rolled her eyes. “Duh! Why do you think I made sure to come early? Actually, though, I haven’t had a chance to really talk to you since you drove off with ‘Mr. Nobody-in-Particular.’ So tell me all about that first, then you can show me your new apartment!”
Jerilynn plopped herself onto the middle of the couch and crossed her arms, giving the impression she was not about to go anywhere until she had heard every last detail.
Katrina laughed. “I know. Between court appearances here, there, and everywhere, plus moving, and meetings with every kind of lawyers you can think of, I’ve hardly had time to breathe, myself.”
She glanced at the clock again. “We don’t have time for the full story before we have to leave, though. I can give you the bare bones of it on the way to the court house, then we’ll have all the time in the world for the nit-picky details while we’re on the cruise.”
Jerilynn heaved herself out of Katrina’s soft, comfortable couch. The girls quickly went through the apartment, Jerilynn making all the proper ohhing and ahhing noises in the right places before they came back into the living room.
Katrina picked up the two smaller cases and placed them close to the front door. Jerilynn picked up Katrina’s bigger suitcase and began wrestling it out the door and onto the porch.
Katrina laughed. “Jerilynn?”
Jerilynn looked up from her tussel with the case. “Yeah?”
“It has wheels.” Katrina pointed to the wheels, and then to the small zipper which enclosed the folded-away handle.
Jerilynn smacked her hand on her forehead, opened the handle and pulled the case out the door before resuming her wrestling match as she took the case down the stairs.
Katrina laughed delightedly. She knew the case wasn’t nearly as heavy as Jerilynn was making it out to be, so she decided to enjoy the show her friend was putting on in an attempt to make sure she had at least one bright moment in her day.
Katrina slung her purse over her shoulder, turned off the light, and moved the smaller cases out the door, setting them down while she securely locked her front door.
She gathered up her luggage—Luggage!—and a matched set, no less—it had been one of her first purchases—and followed Jerilynn to her car.
Once Katrina’s cases had been stowed in the trunk alongside Jerilynn’s, the girls climbed into the car and Jerilynn threw it in motion. As soon as the car was into traffic, Jerilynn glanced over at Katrina and their eyes met for a moment. Katrina tried to smile, but couldn’t quite do it, the seriousness of the coming events of the day had resumed their position in center stage.
“Do you feel up to talking, Katrina?” Jerilynn’s voice held concern with her curiosity.
Katrina looked out the window at the passing houses and trees, children playing on large green lawns as the car swept passed them. She bit her lip to still its trembling, then took a deep, slow breath. Turning toward Jerilynn, she swallowed hard, realizing she was tense. She squared her shoulders and took another calming breath before she asked,
“What do you want to know?”
“Okay, well, first, the newspapers said you helped catch a pair of killers who were on a multi-state crime spree. You? The original timid mouse? I don’t believe it. So what’s true about that and what isn’t?”
Katrina frowned as the memories came crashing back. “Actually, it’s all true,” she said. “Jason and Charleston murdered their uncle for his money—”
“Fifty million dollars, I heard,” Jerilynn put in as she glanced to the left before turning right onto a larger, busier street.
“Forty-three,” Katrina corrected. “They didn’t know Uncle Andrew had changed his will at the last minute.”
“Who’s Uncle Andrew?”
“Charleston’s uncle, actually. I’d met him on my honeymoon—”
“Honeymoon?” Jerilynn gasped.
Katrina nodded. “I met Charleston when I was seventeen. He was all charm and sunshine and swept me off my feet. I never saw his dark side until it was too late. Anyway, Uncle Andrew liked me because I had been nice to him. He changed his will to leave his fortune to me…but only if it could be proven I wasn’t in on his murder.”
“So Mr. Nobody-in-Particular came looking for you to see if you’d been involved?”
“Right,” Katrina agreed. “Of course, I hadn’t been, because I’d left Charleston six years earlier; Jason and Charleston followed Gavin to me. Jason’s plan was for them to kill me. He knew if I died without a will, then Charleston would still inherit Andrew’s money. I had been too frightened of Charleston when I left him to actually get a divorce, so legally, Charleston and I were still married.”
“Oh, my.” Jerilynn’s face was pale with concern for her friend.
Katrina laughed. “‘Oh, my’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. If you’ve read all about how they tried to kill me at the zoo, the papers reported the details right about that, too.”
“I have all the clippings,” Jerilynn said, “in my ‘Katrina-just-got-famous’ scrapbook, but that doesn’t tell me how you caught the guys.”
Katrina stared open-mouthed for several long seconds. “You’re kidding me, aren’t you? Please say you’re kidding me,” Katrina said.
“What are you talking about? Kidding you about what?” Jerilyn asked.
“Do you really have a ‘Katrina-just-got-famous’ scrapbook?”
Jerilynn laughed. “I do. I wanted to have everything, so I could tell my grandchildren I knew you when…. It’s great! You can see it sometime if you want, but give me the dirty details, Katrina! I’m dying here! How did you catch the jerks?”
Katrina shook her head at her friend, then took pity on her anxious expression and continued the account.
“Well, I’d gone home to get my bank book,” she said, “and Charleston showed up at my place. He had a gun and he kept pointing it at Gavin and me. He actually gloated over telling us about Andrew and how they’d killed him, because he knew Gavin couldn’t repeat it in court because it was all hearsay evidence.”
Jerilynn nodded, “Right; everybody who watches Law and Order knows all about the hearsay rules.”
“Yes, well, what he didn’t know,” Katrina continued, “was that a confession made to your legal spouse doesn’t fall under hearsay. Nobody can make the spouse testify, but if she does, it isn’t hearsay. Gavin knew that, which is why he goaded Charleston into the full confession before Jason showed up.”
“Ooohhh…and…you’re still married to him.” It was a statement, not a question.
“Well, I was then,” Katrina said. “Getting the divorce was one of the things I’ve been doing lately.”
“Good! You deserve someone much better than that scumbag! So. What did you do when Jason showed up?” Jerilynn demanded. “The paper said you helped catch them, not just testified against them.”
“They couldn’t take me to get the money until morning when the bank opened, so they were going to sit and wait, holding us hostage all the time. In the meantime, they got hungry,” Katrina giggled, “and robbed Gavin to send out for pizza. What I didn’t know until later is that Gavin had an agreement to check in with the security guard he’d hired. He was supposed to call her every hour. When he didn’t, she knew something was wrong, so she called the police. They couldn’t get an actual bug on my phone that quick, but they could watch and see if calls were made from my phone, and who was being called.
“When Jason called out for the pizza, the police went to the restaurant and intercepted the pizza. Nobody wanted the regular delivery guy going into that kind of situation, plus, it gave the police a good ‘in’. So the security guard, Sally, comes to the door with the pizza….” Katrina rubbed her newly mended arm, not long freed from its cast.
“And?” Jerilynn demanded, sounding exasperated. “Come on, Katrina! You sure know how to string a story out for the best effect!”
“Okay, okay,” she wrinkled her nose and swallowed. “After Gavin took the pizza boxes, Sally kicked Jason in the stomach and then knocked him out. In a sort of muffled voice, Gavin called into the living room; he was trying to sucker Charleston to come into the hall so they could hit him, too, but as soon as his back was turned, I grabbed up that heavy crystal lamp Great-Aunt Monalee gave me for Christmas last year, and beaned him with it. Then the police came in and arrested them both, and that was about it.”
“So you’ve been busy since then collecting your inheritance, divorcing your husband, and putting him away for life, right?”
“That’s about it,” Katrina said. “At least I hope the judge will put them away for life. We’ll find out today. In the meanwhile, it’s been a busy time…which is why I am sooo looking forward to this cruise. I’m really glad Mr. Leonard gave you the two weeks off so you could go with me.”
“Me, too! Like I told you; I’ve never been on a cruise before. It’s going to be great! I hope there are lots of eligible bachelors along for the boat ride, too! I love great ‘scenery’!” She giggled, then shifted a glance at Katrina. “So when was the last time you saw ‘Mr. Nobody-in-Particular’…Gavin did you say his name was?”
“I haven’t seen him since he signed Uncle Andrew’s estate over to me,” Katrina said flatly. A grey blanket of frozen lead wrapped around her heart at the very thought of how he’d seen to her safety, then vanished from her life. She dashed a solitary tear from her lashes, despite her resolution to shed no more of them on his account.
“Well, I can see you’ve been spending a lot of your money,” Jerilynn said. “There’s the new clothes, new luggage, new apartment—”
“I couldn’t stand staying in the house after everything that happened there,” Katrina said.
“I can see that,” Jerilynn agreed, “but then there’s the jungle gym that suddenly appeared at the orphanage where you volunteer, and now you’re taking me on a two-week cruise in the Caribbean…you’re going to spend all your money and be broke again, if you’re not careful. Are you sure I don’t have to pay you back? It would take a couple of years, but I could, you know.”
Katrina laughed in delight that her friend was concerned about her finances. “I won’t run out of money, Jerilyn.”
Jerilyn snorted. “Fifty million—all right, forty-three million—is a lot of money, but it won’t last forever if you keep spending it like this.”
Katrina smiled. “Like I said, don’t worry about it, I’m not going to run out of money. What I should do, is hire you to be my personal secretary, and then we can take off and explore the whole world together.”
“Katrina!” Jerilyn seemed shocked at the idea, then brightened, giggling. “Hey! If you’re serious, I’ll take the job!”
Katrina didn’t say what she was thinking; that the only way for her to forget Gavin would be to put as much time and distance between them as possible, and maybe then she’d be too busy to think of him and she could forget him. ‘Hah!’ scoffed the little voice in her head.
“Great, you’re hired,” Katrina responded to Jerilynn, “because I am very serious.”