Chapter 6 The Librarian Who Doesn't Sleuth

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As the policeman marched the ruffians back to the party Riggs saw a newcomer standing at the Foresters' kitchen door. She was in her late thirties, reasonably attractive, and annoyingly competent. She was surveying the scene too thoroughly for a disinterested civilian.

Riggs walked over to her. "Victoria, what in the world are you doing here?"

"I haven't decided yet."

He raised an eyebrow and lowered his voice so no one else would hear him. "Despite your objections, I'm beginning to think you might actually like murders."

She was about to reply when they were both distracted by an approaching commotion. Hattie Lake had left the party and was running down the driveway towards them. She intercepted Jerry, Bernard, and their police escorts. "Jerry!" she shouted, "Jerry, it isn't her, is it? It's not Loretta?"

Jerry held up his hands and tried to stop her. "Hattie, wait."

Hattie moved to avoid his touch and as she did, she slipped on gravel and fell.

"Are you okay?" Jerry leaned down to help her. "Did you hurt yourself?"

Hattie brushed a lock of hair from her face and tried to get to her feet. There was mud on her coat.

"They are police cars," she said as she looked around. "I couldn't see very well from the house, but the Inspector said there was a woman. A woman was attacked. Jerry, who is she? Please, tell me it's not—."

Jerry held her gently. "We don't have all the facts yet."

"Tell me the truth, Jerry!" Hattie said. "He said a woman. Is Loretta hurt?"

Jerry paused for a moment and finally nodded. "I'm sorry Hattie, there's nothing we can do for her. She's dead. Loretta is dead."

For a moment, Hattie did move. She stared at Jerry, then she began to slowly shake her head from side to side. Her gaze moved to Riggs and then to the ground and the sheet-covered form. Her mouth fell open and she pushed Jerry's hands aside. "No, Jerry. That's not..." She came forward and looked at the sheet.

Riggs spoke calmly, "Miss Lake, I believe you are Loretta Newcastle's cousin. Would you be willing to identify her?"

Hattie's face was pale. She nodded and Riggs gently lifted the sheet. For a moment, Hattie just stared, then she put her hand over her mouth and began to tremble silently. "That's Loretta," she whispered. Tears began running down her cheeks and her breathing quickened.

Riggs covered the body. "Thank you, Miss Lake. I'm sorry."

Victoria stepped down from the doorway. "Miss Lake, would you come into the house for a few minutes? You can catch your breath and have some tea."

Riggs leaned over and whispered, "Why don't you tell me what you're doing here first?"

"I'm offering this young woman a cup of tea." As she led Hattie into the house, Victoria glanced back at Riggs and winked at him.

Riggs quickly looked away and rubbed his mustache. None of the other officers had seen.

As soon as they were inside, Victoria handed the younger woman a handkerchief. "Here you go, Miss Lake. You've had a horrible shock. The best thing for you to do right now, is to sit down for a couple of minutes." In the kitchen, Victoria helped Hattie take off her muddy coat. She brought her through to the living room, where Winifred was ready with a cup of tea. "Here you go, my dear," she said. "I heard the commotion. Now, go ahead and sit down and try your best to relax."

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