Penumbra

Penumbra by Carolyn Haines

Book: Penumbra by Carolyn Haines Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carolyn Haines
Tags: Historical, Mystery
she worked a bed of pansies. As Jade watched, Maizy looked up, her face unadorned. “Okay,” Jade said. “I know now. I’ll do my best.”
    With a light touch she applied Vaseline to Maizy’s lips to keep them closed and then added a hint of color. She took her pot of rouge and tipped her finger in it, using the merest smudge. The flesh beneath Jade’s fingers was cold, but she worked the rouge until it covered the high point of Maizy’s cheekbone, leaving only a faint flush when she was done. Jade got the curling rod and wrapped the hair, which had already taken on the texture of death, around it. In ten minutes, she had the hair curled and lightly combed out so that it fluffed around the sunken cheeks. She stood back, nodding. Maizy Campbell had been a woman without adornment throughout her life. She’d never come to Jade’s shop, but Jade had spoken to her in the market on occasion. Maizy had lost two children to fever and had four living. She looked as natural and peaceful as Jade could make her. Jade packed up her things and walked down the hallway to speak to Elwood.
    He wasn’t in a parlor, so she turned right, toward his office. Her hand was on the knob when she heard voices. She didn’t want to interrupt Elwood when he was with a family, so she hesitated.
    “Frank’s not talking, but I heard through the grapevine the slut was with a man,” Junior said. “She got exactly what she deserved.”
    Jade felt her body go rigid. Only her heart pumped in large, painful thrusts. She had a vivid image of Marlena sitting on a picnic cloth, laughing at a silly remark made by a man. She realized how seldom she’d seen Marlena laugh. The idea that Marlena was committing adultery, while terrifying, struck her as suddenly true. But with whom? No one in Drexel would chance Lucas’s wrath.
    “How do you know?” Elwood asked, impatience in his voice.
    “You should have seen that picnic she had laid out. No woman’s gonna make chicken salad for a kid.”
    “That’s slim evidence to be gossiping about Lucas Bramlett’s wife,” Elwood said. Jade heard papers rustle. “Let me remind you, Junior, that when you malign Marlena, you also cast a stain on Lucas.”
    There was a stretch of silence, and Jade could almost hear Junior thinking. It was a slow and laborious process. “Lucas should know what his wife’s up to. He’d probably pay whoever told him.”
    A chair creaked. “Let me suggest that you shut your mouth,” Elwood said in a tone Jade had never heard him use. “To suggest such a thing when a woman has been as severely injured as Marlena is begging for trouble. Lucas would not appreciate your insinuations, and if you want to enjoy the social aspects of Drexel, you’d better shut up.”
    Jade just had time to step back and duck behind some curtains when the door flew open. The draperies were heavy and thick, and Jade couldn’t see Junior, but she could smell him. He stomped down the hall and left by the back door. She waited until Elwood closed his office door again, and then she knocked.
    “I’ve finished with Mrs. Campbell,” she said.
    “Thank you, Jade. Come in a minute.”
    She stepped into the office, appointed with dark cherry furniture and another Oriental carpet with turquoise in the pattern. It was her favorite among all the carpets.
    “I know you’re exhausted, and I appreciate it.” Elwood rose. He pointed to a carafe of coffee. “Would you like a cup?”
    “No, thanks. I’m gone now.”
    “Have you heard how Marlena is doing?”
    “No, sir. I’m staying with her tonight. The hospital won’t give out information.”
    Elwood nodded. “I’m sure that’s what Lucas wants. Half the town is gossiping about what happened and the other half is making it up.”
    Jade felt a sense of suffocation. She nodded, forced a smile, and left the funeral home. The sun was just beginning to touch the tops of the trees when she got in her car and drove home.
    Jade loved her old house. Her

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