Chapter Forty-seven

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Karlson and his mother were early for our 2 p.m. gathering, but they could be forgiven because Karlson's mother, Lina, brought cannoli. Cannoli she'd finished that very morning. For his part, Odin produced a bottle of wine and handed it to me.

"It's white," he said. Then he smirked.

I looked at him. His robin's egg blue silk shirt was perfect with his navy blue dress pants. I smiled and said, "Damn. This time I'll have to go for the cranberry relish." There were no cranberries on the menu. I made it up to mess with him.

He turned quickly to my mother, who smiled benignly and shook her head.

"Sucker," I said under my breath. I took the wine into the dining room as my mother and the Swede handled introductions, hung coats, stowed purses, and generally made the guests feel comfortable.

As expected, my mother took Karlson's arm while the Swede escorted Lina. They waltzed into the dining room two by two leaving me, as always, odd woman out. But dinner did get better from there.

Nobody mentioned the murder, the investigation, or the Swede's midnight snooping with the dog. To be fair, I hadn't admitted that last bit to Odin. I couldn't bear the humiliation.

At first, the Swede and Odin talked sports while my mother and Lina exchanged girl compliments about the decorating and the food. I seemed to be watching them like a witness to an accident. Something was going to happen. I didn't know how. I didn't know when. But like Mickey, I could smell it in the air. My senses were reaching out like fingers to feel the first spark.

Then my mother went to work on Lina and found that she had gone back to college to study English. Which, by the way, she'd been speaking with a perfect Midwestern accent all along. Maybe Karlson was right about the many faces of mama.

"Paulette's an English major, too," my mother said. That had been the goal of the whole conversation. To get me involved.

"Really?" Lina said. "I thought she'd studied film. She has such a fluid knowledge of the cinema."

Karlson's mother turned to me and flashed me the family's million-watt smile. Today, her muumuu was powder blue with tiny sprigs of yellow flowers. You'd never guess that a sleek little shark lived inside all that flesh. Fluid knowledge of the cinema, my ass.

"Actually, it was the film festivals," I said.

"Film festivals?" my mother said.

I smiled as big and as brightly as Odin's mama herself. "The English Club used to host Five Handkerchief Film Festivals, Lina. I went to every one."

"And your favorite?" Lina asked.

"Toss up," I said. "I'd have to go for a tie between An Affair to Remember and a British import, Truly, Madly, Deeply."

Lina grinned. "Alan Rickman," she said.

"Bingo," I said.

My mother stared at the two of us as if she'd just discovered that we each had two tongues. I never talked movies at Chez Swede. Mom and the Swede preferred docile books to raucous teenaged crowds. I didn't even know if my mother owned a DVD player, let alone a blu-ray.

"It's out on video," Lina said, "but I'm waiting for the director's cut."

"Excellent," I said. "Any idea what the extras are?"

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