All the Pretty Hearses

All the Pretty Hearses by Mary Daheim

Book: All the Pretty Hearses by Mary Daheim Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Daheim
start when she saw Mayo asleep in the bathtub. The animal didn’t stir while she cleaned her mouth with a tissue, but Judith was not pleased that the dog had turned the tub into his sleeping quarters. His owners should have brought the animal’s bed with them. It was possible that Jean Rogers might want to use the tub instead of the shower.
    Judith went back through the hall and down the narrow corridor to Room Two. She knocked twice. No one responded. Maybe Jean was asleep. Judith knocked again, but heard nothing. Jean had indicated that she was staying in to prepare for her conference. Judith called her name. There was no answer. She turned the knob. The door opened. The room was empty. Jean must have changed her mind. Judith decided to leave a note about the dog in the bathtub. As she looked for something to write on, it dawned on her that the room was not just empty—it was devoid of any signs of occupancy. No handbag, no laptop, no carry-on bag. It was as if Jean had never been in the room.
    But she had been there earlier to make her acerbic remarks about the accommodations. Judith wondered if, for some unforeseeable reason, Jean had suddenly checked out. Given the B&B’s track record, Judith could only hope that yet another Hillside Manor guest hadn’t checked out permanently.

Chapter Seven
    J udith went back downstairs to the dining room. The Beard-Smythes were almost finished with dinner. Reggie, in fact, was just getting to his feet. “Time to take Mayo for a walk,” he announced. “I wonder if it’s still raining.”
    Any reproof about the dog sleeping in the tub had slipped down on Judith’s priority list. “Did either of you see a woman in her thirties leave the house in the past hour or so?”
    The couple exchanged puzzled glances. “Do you mean,” Reggie inquired, “someone who was in the living room during the get-together?”
    “No,” Judith replied. “I don’t think Ms. Rogers joined them. She’s a professional woman. Not particularly striking, but she would have been carrying her belongings.”
    They both shook their heads. Alicia stood up. “I didn’t come out to the dining room until we were ready to serve. Reggie set the table.”
    Reggie shrugged. “I didn’t hear or see anything. Quiet around here after those guests went on their way.”
    “Good.” Judith started to pick up the blue bowl and the salad tongs. “By any chance, do you know how—”
    “No, no!” Alicia cried, snatching the bowl away from Judith. “We can clean up after ourselves. It’s the least we can do to repay your . . . oops!” The bowl slipped out of her hands, fell onto the hardwood floor just beyond the Persian carpet, and broke into a half-dozen pieces. “Oh no!” she exclaimed. “I’m so sorry. Do you think it can be mended?”
    “Probably not,” Judith said bleakly. “It’s my grandmother’s Depression-era LuRay mixing bowl.” On a whim, she’d recently checked the bowl’s price on eBay. The minimum bid was a hundred dollars.
    “Just as well, then,” Alicia said, picking up the broken pieces. “Who needs depressing cookware? I buy all my everyday china from Williams-Sonoma. I save the Sèvres and Limoges services for entertaining.” She elbowed her way through the swinging half doors between the dining room and kitchen.
    Judith cringed as she heard what was left of Grandma Grover’s beloved bowl clatter into the garbage can under the sink. Reggie, meanwhile, was clearing the rest of the table. By something akin to a miracle, he didn’t drop, spill, or break anything. Judith followed him into the kitchen.
    “I must ask how your big suitcase crashed down the stairs,” Judith said in what she hoped was a conversational tone. “I don’t mean to pressure you, but it may have something to do with Ms. Rogers’s early checkout. She may’ve been in a rush.”
    Reggie placed the dishes and cutlery into the sink. “Hmm,” he murmured, stroking his thin mustache. “Can’t think of

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