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.“Tutu wouldn’t fit in her purse,” Gretchen said.“That’s absurd.”“That’s what the staff said.”Matt glanced at her wrist.“Broken, I see.”“I tripped and fell.” Gretchen’s eyes searched for Nina.She wasn’t in any mood to deal with the police, and the quicker she found her ride home, the better.She hoped the painkiller administered by the nurse would kick in soon.“Your aunt left,” he said, his lips twitching in amusement.“I told her I’d wait for you.”“What?” Gretchen couldn’t believe her ears.Nina abandoned her? And left her trapped with the cop who wanted to put her mother behind bars? What was Nina thinking?“I can see by the look on your face that you aren’t happy with the arrangement.” He walked around the car and opened the passenger door.“My mother is helping Nina call the Phoenix Dollers club members together for an emergency meeting.I didn’t give your aunt a choice.”“Is this a trick?” Gretchen’s eyes narrowed.“If I get in the car, will you take me to Nina or.”“Or what?” Matt laughed.“Kidnap you for interrogation and lock you in the bowels of the police station? No.Better than that.I get to hang out with a roomful of people who know Caroline Birch, and I get to listen to them discuss ways to find her.”He still held the door open.“You can’t do that,” Gretchen said, sliding into the seat, careful not to jar her arm.“Yes I can,” he said.“I’m an honorary member.”“How did your mother get the club together on such short notice and on a Saturday night?”“Easy.She tempted them with the promise of food.”As they pulled out of the hospital parking lot into traffic, Gretchen wondered about Nina’s mental state.She had always been on the sidelines of rational thought.But leaving Gretchen with a cop, never mind his remote connection to the doll group.The detective must have intimidated her with his badge or threatened her in some way.Matt rolled up to a stop sign and looked both ways.“Aunt Nina’s trunk produced interesting new material in the Williams case.She turned over the items you found on Camelback Mountain—a shawl and doll picture—but she wasn’t happy about it.”“You searched her car?” Gretchen said.“Standard procedure when someone tries to smuggle contraband into a hospital,” he said.“Some might call it withholding evidence.”“So, arrest me.”“Can’t,” Matt said lightly.“I’m using you as a decoy.”“As in hunting for ducks.” Gretchen stifled a smile.He did have a certain charm.If you liked arrogant witticism and superficial friends.Matt nodded.“Just like that.I’m hoping your mother will spot you floating in the water and fly in for a reunion.”Gretchen didn’t like being compared to a sitting duck.“She’s too smart to think there’s any water in Arizona.She’ll know it’s a mirage.”Bonnie Albright attempted to call the meeting to order with flair.She banged a kitchen mallet on the stovetop.People milled around holding plates heaped with assorted appetizers.Cheeses, crusty bread, fruits, and tiny sandwiches.All ignored Bonnie.Bang.Bang.Bang.Tutu coolly surveyed the scene from her throne on the sofa, and Nimrod entertained the club members, who passed him from lap to lap, by being cute and cuddly.Gretchen counted three purse dogs waiting patiently in their uniquely customized bags.All, Gretchen guessed, graduates of Nina’s fine purse school.Nina really knew how to sell a product.Bang.Bang.Bang.“Give it up, Bonnie,” Nina said, “before you pound a hole in my stove.Pop the cork on that champagne.” She pointed to a bottle and a line of flute glasses.“And come and join us.”Bonnie shook her head, and her red lacquered flip moved in sync.“The last time you popped the cork, social hour went on for hours, and by the time we started with actual business, no one could focus on the task at hand.”“This,” Nina replied, “isn’t a normal, boring meeting filled with hours of tedious planning.The agenda for this evening is Caroline, and she’s a worthy reason to stay sober.But I still need a drink.Matt, would you open the bottle, please?”Nina clapped her hands together.“All purse dogs outside.Rita, please let them out.”Pandemonium reigned while miniature dogs swarmed through the room like greyhounds off to the race.Nina gestured at the champagne bottle, and Matt moved around her and worked the cork until it exploded like a gunshot.He filled glasses and handed them out.Gretchen, refusing a glass because of the painkiller she’d taken earlier, raised an eyebrow when he held up a glass, met her eyes, and took a sip.“Aren’t you on duty?” she asked.“Yup,” he said.“I’m undercover, remember? I’m blending in.Don’t tell anybody, but this is only water.”Gretchen surveyed the group.She counted twelve heads, most of them familiar from past visits.Larry and Julia stood in the far corner in a small group of specialty collectors.Gretchen remembered each of them by their areas of interest.Rita Phyller collected Barbie dolls.Susie Hocker, the youngest member of the club, had an extensive collection of Madame Alexander dolls.Karen Fitz bought as many contemporaries as she could afford on a kindergarten teacher’s wages—Lee Middletons and Zawieruszynskis were her favorites, if Gretchen remembered right.Nina pulled her aside.“How’s your wrist?”“Broken,” Gretchen said.“You’re not mad at me, are you?”“What? For dumping the detective on me? Or for giving him the shawl and doll picture?”“I tried to resist, but he threatened to call for backup and arrest me.I’m sorry.I really am.” Nina sipped from her glass.“He’s very charming in a rugged sort of way.He was only doing his job.”“If I remember right, you called him ‘the enemy’ earlier today.”“I was distraught.I overreacted a little.”“He’s a parasite.I can’t get away from him.Every time I turn around, he’s right behind me.How did he know I was at the hospital? Did you call him?”“No.When that nasty nurse escorted Tutu and me out of the building, he was parked at the curb like he knew we were inside.”Gretchen thought it over.“He’s been following us.”“I never noticed.I’m sure I would have noticed.”Gretchen glanced across the room and met the detective’s eyes.He saluted her with his glass [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]