Nan sat alone at the gray, gunmetal desk waiting for the detective to come back. He had promised her a cup of coffee, but as yet had not shown up with a steaming cup in his hand. On his desk were stacks of papers and notes, mostly in disarray. Nan peeked over her glasses trying to read one of the reports. Reading upside down was a skill she had developed as a reporter for the Herald Bagatelle. The paper was a competing newspaper in New Orleans. The paper’s “claim to fame”, was that it reported the more sensational side of the news.
A hand ripped the report from under her prying eyes. “Hey, you’re not supposed to read that, it’s police business.”
“Grrr, I was looking for something interesting.”
The detective sat a Styrofoam cup of black liquid on top of a yellow pad. “Yer coffee, didn’t have any creamer, but I put sugar in it.”
Nan cringed. She hadn’t used sugar for years, and never sweetened her coffee, but always used creamer. She swallowed hard. “Thank you, I think.”
The detective flopped into his rolling chair and put his elbows on the desk. “So, we called your boss, and he says you were in a staff meeting when the scanner went off; and that you had been in the staff meeting since three, and at your desk from noon on.”
“Cool, then I can go?”
“Not yet.” The detective tapped his pencil. “The coroner hasn’t told us when the vic was shot."
Nan felt her eyelids open wide. “Coroner? I thought he was alive.”
“Died in route. And, you’re still the last person he pointed to when the EMTs had him.”
“Hey, you know I didn’t hurt that man.”
The detective halfway grinned at Nan. “Let’s let the finger print people and coroner determine that.”
“What? Determine what? I was in a staff meeting, you said so yourself.”
“Yep, you were. But, the victim may have been shot earlier in the day. Like I said, the coroner can tell us about when.”
Nan winced. “Am I under arrest.”
“Nope, just having coffee with your friendly neighborhood detective.”
“This is irritating.”
“So, we have been told.” The detective seemed to be reading some of the papers on his desk.
“How long do I sit here?” Nan could feel the cold steel chair pressing on her back.
“Well, you could sit over there in the holding cell.” The detective pointed at the metal bar box in the corner. “Course in a couple of hours all of the usual suspects will be arriving, tends to get a little crowded in there.”
Nan pushed a lock of hair from her forehead. “Thanks, I guess I will just stay here.”
An older woman walked up to the desk. Nan recognized her immediately. Mattie Swartz was an attorney from the firm which served the Bagatelle Newspaper. “Steve, are you going to hold Ms. McHough much longer?” It was the first Nan knew of the detective’s name.
The detective looked up from his desk. “No Ms. Swartz, soon as the coroner calls she can go.”
Mattie walked over to Nan. “Don’t worry, you’ll be back at your desk in a jiffy.”
Nan’s heart was beating harder than usual. Sheryl must have called the lawyers.
Just then the phone rang and the detective answered. He turned his head away from the two women and seemed to be nodding. The only words they heard were “uh, huh; and oh.” He hung up the phone and turned to Nan. “The coroner’s office said that in his right hand he held a tiny gold heart with the initials NM carved on the surface. Do you have a charm like that?”
Nan had no bracelet on her wrists and held her hands up to show the detective. She had a locket at home with a small heart, a gift from her fiancé, but it was in her jewel case. "Not on me."
The detective looked up at Mattie Swartz. “We’re turning this over to the D.A.; while we aren’t charging Ms McHough right now, she is a person of interest.”
Nan slammed the table with her hand hard enough that the detective jumped back just as the coffee cup tipped over. “What?”
Mattie patted Nan on the shoulder. “Let’s get out of here before they accuse you of starting Katrina.”
Nan shook her head. “Grrr, this isn’t right.”
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