Linford?" Stephanie repeated the name as she carefully rubbed her
chin in thought. The name sounded oddly familiar, but she just couldn't
place it. "I'm not sure I know who that is."
"Oh, he's some big shot
attorney from....hey! Wait a second!" the waitress exclaimed with a
touch of surprise. "I know who you are! You're the daughter of
that woman who was murdered! You're Stephanie Lake!"
am," Stephanie winced slightly from being reminded of her mother's horrible
fate. "I...um...I'd rather not talk about that."
I understand," the waitress replied with a more serious tone.
"I...hope I didn't offend you. I was just...well...I kinda feel
connected to the whole murder."
"How do you feel
connected?" Stephanie eyed the woman curiously.
"I was there!" she
exclaimed before pausing to stick out her hand for Stephanie to shake.
"My name's Stella
Wagner. Usually I'm stuck here waiting tables, but
sometimes I pick up some other jobs at the hotel for some extra money. I
was working in The Grand Sunset Room the night of the Callisons' big party---the
night your mother died. So...I kinda feel connected to it since I was
there and all. I'm...so sorry about...what happened."
Stephanie muttered softly, quite uncomfortable with the attention.
Quickly, however, she returned her focus to Helen and Mark. "So, you
say that you overhear things?"
"Oh, yes!" Stella
laughed. "Now, I'm not one to eavesdrop, but you just can't help but
hear more than you care to know. For example, I know that Mark Linford is
Stephanie fought to contain her gleeful shock. Helen Van Dyne was
cavorting with a married man? Oh, the scandal! "Go
"The funny thing is, I
remember seeing you at the Callison party, but I also saw Mr. Linford and that
"They were at the
party together?" Stephanie struggled to suppress a gasp.
"Now, I don't think that
they were together together. I kept seeing them sneak off.
They looked like they didn't want anyone to know what was going on."
Stella leaned in closer. "I bet it's because his wife's sister was
"How do you know all of
this?" Stephanie looked at her with much suspicion.
"Oh, I read a lot!"
Stella laughed. "The gossip and society column in The State
Examiner is just the best! There was even a picture of Mr. Linford and
his wife Judith in the paper back when they first moved to town. I even
saw her in here once. Just once, mind you. I don't think she was too
keen on this place."
"What makes you say
"Because she passed out
as soon as she walked in the door! I've never seen her back in here
since. I think that's why he comes in here with that other woman.
Because he won't run into his wife."
interesting." Indeed! Stephanie was growing more intrigued by
"You know that his wife's
sister is engaged to marry the man that the papers say killed your mother, don't
Stephanie's eyes grew wide. Surely she didn't hear the waitress
correctly. His wife's sister? Why, that would be....
Stella spoke up, finishing Stephanie's thought. "You wouldn't know
her would you? That's his wife's sister. Anyway, she's supposed to
marry that Reginald
Callison. I know the police think he's the one that
killed your mother, but---truth be told---I really don't think he did it."
"Um, I'm not too sure he
did it, either," Stephanie commented carefully, making extra sure not to
tell the overly talkative waitress too much information. "But, why do
you think he's innocent?"
listening?" Stella snapped with a tone of annoyance. "I told
you I was there! I saw Reginald Callison go into the lounge right
before they found your mother. But...he really wasn't in there long enough
to do anything to her. I personally think that it was the other
"Yes! Before he
went into the lounge, there was a woman that went in. I didn't get a very
good look at her, though. All I really remember was that beautiful scarf
she had on. I saw one just like it at Lerner's back before Christmas, but
it cost way too much. I wanted one, but I couldn't get it."
Stephanie interrupted in an attempt to keep Stella on topic. "As you
were saying about the woman..."
Anyway, I was right by the lounge working when the woman went in. It
happened real quick, like, and I didn't get a good look, but, boy, did I hear
what went on."
Stephanie leaned closer.
"Yes! Oh, my
goodness, they were having a huge fight!" Stella's hand fluttered up
to her collar as she remembered the events that had happened. "I...I
heard them screaming and yelling and...and then...well, it just stopped."
continued. "It got real quiet and suddenly this woman---you know, the
one with the pretty scarf---just ran right out and into the crowd. I...I
was a little embarrassed for having overheard so much."
"When...when did Reginald
Callison go in?"
"Not for a bit after
"Oh, I'd say maybe ten or
fifteen minutes. He sure wasn't in there very long before I saw you come
walking up. That's when you went into the lounge and the next thing I knew
everybody was just rushing in and I'd heard that there'd been a murder. It
all just happened so fast and I... Oh, gee, I've been talking your ear off
for way too long."
"Oh, Stella, that's
okay," Stephanie muttered as her mind began to race. Reginald couldn't
have done it!
"I really have to get
back to work." Stella glanced down at her watch. "The boss
gets kinda upset when we bother the customers."
"Oh, it was no bother at
all," Stephanie smiled warmly. "In fact, you've helped me a
"Well, you have a nice
day," Stella nodded before picking up a few dirty dishes and quickly
As Stephanie's mind begin to
fill with a myriad of thoughts, she turned to glance at Mark and Helen again,
but was disappointed to discover that they'd slipped out while she was talking
I'm sorry I took so long," Patterson Monroe sighed as he came back to the
table and sat down. "I stopped by the pay phone to call home and
check on Todd.
Mrs. Oliver said that she thought he was coming down with a
"Oh, that's okay,"
Stephanie muttered as the gears inside her head began to turn.
"Um...look, Paddy, I've got to go see Reginald."
replied, more than a little curious about what she was up to. "What's
so important that..."
"I don't have time to
explain," Stephanie snapped as she grabbed his hand and pulled him from the
table. "But I've got to tell him something that he's going to thank
me for later."
Although still unsure about
what was going on, Patterson realized that he had no choice but to go along and
quickly followed Stephanie out of the restaurant. Little did either one of
them know that a pair of mysterious eyes was watching them from a table in the
back of the restaurant, not that far away from where Stephanie had been focused
on Mark and Helen.