Taking the Fall
lady—at least I hoped she was the forensics lady, since I couldn’t tell for sure whether her blue pants and shirt were a uniform—at work outside the door. She was working meticulously on the doormat with a brush and some powdery stuff.
    I really should say hello. It felt weird to just stand there watching her, and it would be just as weird to ignore her and go about my business. But she looked kind of grouchy. Or maybe she was just concentrating. Walking up to the door and throwing it open while she brushed her powder on it seemed like a bad idea, so I stood in the window near the door and cleared my throat loudly. If she heard me, she showed no signs of it. So I rapped gently on the glass.
    Her eyes flicked up at me, registering no surprise. So, she had heard me. She carefully rose, brush in hand, and motioned for me to open the door from the inside.
    “Be careful,” she called through the glass. “Just reach over, and don’t step into the threshold.”
    I nodded and did as instructed. I couldn’t shake her hand without violating the “crime scene,” and besides, her hands were gloved for a reason and she still held her powdery brush. So I gave her a little wave.
    “I’m Brenna Battle, the owner of the building.”
    “I’m Alice. They called me out here from County to gather evidence, since they’re busy with another investigation, but they didn’t even bother to tape off the crime scene.”
    “Officer Crazy-Pants was supposed to do that, I’m sure.” Of course he didn’t give a rip. Not nearly as big of a rip as the one in his pants, anyway.
    She stared at me as though I’d sprouted pink clouds of cotton candy out my ears. Oh, no. I’d said that out loud! Not the whole thing, but the first part anyway.
    “Uh, what did I say?” I emitted a stupid, nervous giggle. “Officer Doyle, I meant.” Yeah. Because Doyle sounds so much like Crazy-Pants . I plastered a smile on and hoped she was as under-caffeinated as I was. “I think there’s some disagreement among the local law enforcement as to whether this is a crime scene. I appreciate you coming, Alice. My sister and I were threatened. I’m sure you know there was a murder here in Bonney Bay the night before last, and we’re concerned the same person may be involved.”
    Alice looked just a bit less than concerned about my safety and Blythe’s. She nodded curtly and waved her arm at the panorama of ballerinas painted across the front windows. “I suppose that’s all part of the crime scene too. They didn’t even mention the windows. I’m an investigator, not a mind reader.”
    I frowned at her. “What?”
    “The vandalism. On the windows.”
    “Oh, that’s not vandalism. This used to be a ballet school.” Come on, the ballerinas weren’t that bad. They were kinda cute. Painting them on the windows of a judo dojo would be more of a bad joke than a crime.
    Alice aimed a gloved finger at one of the windows. “‘Not wanted. Get out.’ The previous owner left that for you? Nice.”
    What! I almost forgot and opened the front door, but Alice saw me and yelled, “No!”
    I bolted to the back door, out, and around to the front of the building. Ugly, fluorescent green spray paint dripped over the tutus and smiling faces, declaring, “Murderer lives here!”
    As far as I knew, no one knew about Blythe’s hairbrush, or how Ellison was killed. There hadn’t been the slightest mention in the news of anything other than, “the sudden death of Bonney Bay reporter, Ellison Baxter, under unknown circumstances.” Some had even speculated on a possible overdose or suicide.
    I stood there, stunned for a moment. Then I said, “Excuse me, I have to go get my sister.”
    Soon Blythe was standing next to me, taking in the scandalized ballerinas, the attempt to scandalize us .
    Blythe turned to Alice. “Please, can you do that part first?” She pointed at the nasty message on the window. Then she whispered to me, “Brenna, we’ve got to wash that

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