4. Case Closed, Unless...

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Barry muttered something and hang up the telephone receiver.

Viola spoke directly to the policeman. "Don't you see? Someone poisoned a second tin of headache powder and deliberately switched the tins. Sheila always used Godfrey's Headache Powder for her headaches. Everyone knew that."

"But it's not possible," Barry said slowly. "Sheila bought the powder herself and she came straight from the drugstore. There were six of us in this room. Three of us were sitting at the same table with her. No one could have switched the tin without us seeing them."

"That's not when the switch happened," Viola said.

"You mean when it was in her pocket?" Clifton shook his head. "But it was her right pocket, Viola. And you were the only person who was close enough to reach her right pocket."

Viola closed her eyes to remember. "I'd just finished my coffee. Barry and Clifton were taking about politics and I saw the Bel Aire outside. I announced Sheila was back from the chemists. Everyone heard me."

"Yes, she came up the stairs and we all saw her come in," Barry said.

"Tom didn't see her come in," Viola said, "because he left as soon as I announced that Sheila she was back."

"No," Herman said. "Tom got the can opener, but that was after your cousin was already sittin' down."

Viola shook her head. "You remember it that way because that's how Tom said it, but none of us were really paying attention. Tom had been moving around taking inventory. He must have left the room twice. The first time, no one noticed because as soon as Sheila entered, everyone was focused on her."

Darlene spoke softly. "My dear, you've been through a terrible shock, no doubt the worst of your young life, but I can assure you that my son was here the whole time, he and Herman and I were all talking together."

"That's just it. You and Herman were talking about boats," Viola explained, "and just before you poured our coffee, you told Herman the Seagull was 20 feet long."

Darlene frowned. "Yes, I did. But what of it?"

"But the Seagull is 22 feet long! If Tom had been in the room, he would have corrected you. But he didn't say anything because he was still on the stairs where he'd just met Sheila."

Darlene shook her head. "But why would he do such a thing?" She looked at her son.

Everyone looked at him.

"Because I loved her," Tom said quietly. He took a deep breath. "I loved her more than I've ever loved anything in my whole life. Since we started dating last summer she has been everything to me. When she called it off, I thought it was just a phase. I thought she'd come round. I waited all winter for her. But when Clifton sailed in last night on his fancy yacht and said that his friend Sheila was coming with her cousin and her fiancé, I—I..."

Tom took a tin of Godfrey's Headache Powder out his pocket and set it on the counter.

Everyone was silent.

"We have cyanide for the rats," Tom went on, "I got the powder ready last night, but I wanted to give her one last chance." He shook his head. "I stopped her on the stairs and asked her to reconsider. The tin was in her right pocket and it only took a second. She said 'Sorry, Tom. It's over.' That's all. That's all she said. The love of my life just said 'sorry,' she barely stopped, and then she just walked up the stairs as though I was nothing. No, she's wasn't sorry. She wasn't sorry one little bit. And neither am I."

***

From the window, Viola watched the stone-faced policeman leave with Tom. Barry put his arm around her shoulders. "Are you going to stay in the city?"

"No." Viola said. "These last four months have been wonderful, and I loved every minute of it. But I'm old enough now to know what I want. As soon as things are settled I'm going to pack my things and catch the bus back north. It may not be the most glamorous life, but it's my life and I want it back."

"Back to the farm, huh?"

"And my freedom," Viola said with a smile.

Barry opened Sheila's handbag and dropped the sparkling bracelet inside. "Sheila would want you to take this, Viola. Your independence and some glamour; there's no reason you can't have both."

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