Rawlings propped his elbow on the edge of the table and carefully examined his
notes. Taking a deep breath, he furrowed his brow slightly. There
were just too many unanswered questions as far as Annabelle
Lake's murder was
concerned. The police had some good evidence on Reginald
presence at the scene of the crime while holding the murder weapon being the
most important---yet all they'd done so far was arrest him for
questioning. None of it made sense!
He took a lengthy sip of his
coffee and turned the page in his notebook. There just had to be something
he was missing. He'd found Reginald back at the scene of the crime and
acting very nervous. Why? Why was he there? Larry was certain
he was hiding something.
coffee, mister?" the waitress, Stella
Wagner, asked as she stood at Larry's
"Yeah, fill 'er up,"
he muttered, never taking his eyes off of his notebook. "I have a
feeling that I'm going to be up late."
As Stella poured the coffee,
she casually glanced at the papers that were strewn across the table. A
copy of The State Examiner with the headline "Police Still Quiet
About Lake Murder" immediately caught her attention. Even more
interesting for her was the numerous underlines through the article along with
random notes jotted down in the margins.
"I see that you're
fascinated by that murder, too," she finally spoke up as she craned her
head to see what he was writing. "I've been following it in all the
newspapers." She paused and scrunched up her nose. "Well,
in The Examiner, at least. The Daily Post doesn't seem too
interested in reporting too many details. I guess that's natural since the
guy who runs the paper is a suspect in the murder."
"Well, The Post
can act a little high and mighty," he grumbled, still not bothering to look
at her as he spoke. "If you want the real story about what's
going on, you've got to read The Examiner."
"Oh, that's what I think,
too!" Stella exclaimed. "In fact, I read it every day so that I
can see what's going on with the murder. I read that article there
twice! I think that The Examiner is doing a great job covering the
murder. The Post seems to think that it's not worth covering, but
how can it not be? This town doesn't exactly have a very high crime
rate. A murder's big news! I guess that The Examiner is the
only paper we can rely on to print the truth."
"Well, thank you,"
Larry smiled broadly as he finally looked up at her. "You know, I
wrote that article."
"You did?" she
gasped with surprise. "You mean that you're a reporter?"
"Yes, I am," he
nodded and took a sip of his freshly poured coffee. "In fact, the
Lake murder is my exclusive story at The Examiner."
"Oh, gee!" She
paused for a moment and bit her lip with giddy nervousness. "This is such
an honor! You wanna know why I'm so fascinated by this
"Because I was
there! Well, not exactly there in the room where that woman was
murdered, but there in The Grand Sunset Room that night."
Larry eyed her closely as ideas for a new angle on the story started to churn
inside his head.
"Yes! And, to be
honest, I really don't think that that Callison guy did it."
His eyes grew wide and he leaned closer to her. "And why is
"Because of that other
woman?" This was getting better by the minute!
Stella let out a long sigh and
went into her story. "Well, you see, I pick up extra waitressing jobs
to help pay the bills. I'm always working those big parties.
Times are tough and a girl's gotta eat. Well, anyway, I was working at the
party that night. Oh, I saw everybody! Everyone was there in their
fancy dresses and monkey suits. I try to read all of those fashion
magazines, so I know that all of those clothes must have cost a pretty
He looked away for a moment and rolled his eyes. Was there really going to
be a point to this story? Maybe he'd gotten his hopes up a little too
"Anyway, I know that it couldn't
have been Reginald Callison that did it."
"And why is that?"
"Because of the other
woman!" She looked at him in annoyance. "Weren't you
"Oh, yes. The other
woman." He paused and took a deep breath. "What
"I was working right by
the lounge---you know, where the body was found---and I saw Reginald Callison go
in. It must have been about the time of the murder. Well, actually,
I know it was! I read about what time it supposedly happened in the
paper. I remember the time exactly because it was about time for me to
take my break and I was watching the clock. I'd been on my feet all day
and I sure was tired..."
"About this other
woman..." Larry spoke up, trying to keep her on topic.
"Oh! Oh, yes,"
she nodded, realizing that she still hadn't fully explained that.
"You see, before Callison went in, there was this woman who I saw go
on. She was in there for quite a while. I heard some horrible
yelling---I was right by the door, so that's how I could hear over the
music---and then it got real quiet. Then she just ran out! It was
right after that when Callison went in. He was only in there a few minutes
before that poor woman's daughter found him with her mother. Oh, that poor
girl's scream! I can still hear it!"
"So you don't think
Callison did it?"
"No! He couldn't
have," she replied, seemingly confused as to why it wasn't all obvious to
him. "He wasn't in there long enough. There wasn't enough
time. It had to be that other woman!"
"I see." Larry
leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin as he thought. Now, this was
an interesting new piece of information. "Do you know who that other
woman was? Would you be able to recognize her?"
"Well, I really didn't
get a good look at her," Stella sighed. "All I really remember
about her was that beautiful scarf she was wearing."
"Yeah! I might not
be able to recognize her, but I sure would know that scarf anywhere! You
see, I saw one just like it at Lerner's before Christmas and...."
"Yes, yes," he
nodded, not really wanting to hear any more of that story.
"You know, I'm really
surprised that I haven't read anything about what I saw in your paper," she
spoke up curiously. "I mean, after I told everything to her daughter,
I thought I'd at least get a visit from the police or I'd see my name in the
paper, but nothing!"
"What do you mean that
you told everything to her daughter?" She had his full
attention again. "You mean Annabelle Lake's daughter? Stephanie
her!" Stella nodded. "I waited on her in here one day. We
started talking about her mother's death and I told her everything that I just
told you. She was just as interested in what I saw as you are. I was
sure that she'd go straight to the police with what I told her. You
see, she doesn't think that Callison guy did it either."
"No! She thinks
he's innocent!" She let out a bemused laugh. "I was sure
that after I told her that I didn't think he did it either, she'd go running
right to the police. You'd think that she'd want to make sure that they
found out who killed her mother."
"Yeah, you'd think."
As Stella continued on with
her rambling, Larry began to tune her out. He'd heard all that he felt he
needed to hear from her and her amateur analysis of the murder---with its many
detours---was growing increasingly uninteresting. However, the revelation
that there had been someone else in the room with Annabelle Lake immediately
before the body had been found was quite a scoop. Even more so, the fact
that Stella could identify the woman because of what she was wearing was an intriguing
piece of information. Surely, Stephanie Lake had gone straight to the
police with the information. This just had to be further proof that they
weren't being as forthcoming with the press as they were claiming. Also,
the existence of the mystery woman only reinforced his growing suspicion that
Reginald Callison was covering for someone. Now, the only question that
remained was "who?"