I decided to break into the park right now before it got dark out. I knew it would be better to go after dark, but I didn’t have the nerve. Besides, the security at the park was nonexistent, so I didn’t worry too much about being caught. I went upstairs to change into black jeans and a black t-shirt. I grabbed the thinnest pair of gloves I had for later. I’d be hot, but I would suffer for my art. Uh, I mean, the job. When I was appropriately attired, I grabbed my wallet, my picklocks, my gloves, my cell phone and left. In the car, I stuffed the wallet into the glove compartment and tucked the cell and picklocks into the pocket of my shirt. The gloves I placed on the seat besides me.
On the way to the park, I thought about the case some more. Little pieces were starting to come together, but I wasn’t getting the big picture. I was pretty certain that I wasn’t the main target, but was I only thinking that because it’s what I wanted to believe? It would take a load off my mind to know that no one was gunning for me, although the perpetrator might not stop trying if s/he was determined to use me as a scapegoat or a red herring. Still, I would breathe a little easier if it turned out that no one was really trying to kill me and that most of the noise and thunder was just for show.
The traffic was light, and I made it to the park in record time. I slipped on the gloves and locked the car door, leaving my purse inside. I hesitated before entering the green room, but I finally punched in the code. Jackpot! I was in the green room. As for Eddie’s office, well, I’d just have to use the picklocks and see what I came up with. I wiggled to the best of my abilities, trying to replicate what my friend had shown me. After five minutes of wiggling, I was going to give up when the door gave with a click. Yes! I raised my fist in victory before slipping inside Eddie’s office. I turned on the light and started rifling through the mounds of paper on the desk. Nothing of interest. Next, the drawers. Way in the back of the front drawer was the fake journal. I wondered who had moved it to the desk and why that person hadn’t secreted it somewhere outside the park. I set it down and continued looking. There was nothing else of interest in the drawers.
Next, I opened his file cabinet and started flipping through his files. Most of it was boring park business, and I was starting to lose my enthusiasm for the detecting business. I had a bunch of questions I wanted answered—such as Phillip’s wealth; Antoinette’s information that the park was in the red; both Antoinette and Phillip saying that Eddie had been a gambler and was heavily in debt; the various crim sex assaults floating around the park. I was desperate to find answers to these questions as well as others, but Eddie’s office wasn’t cooperating. In frustration, I pounded the file cabinet with my fist. An manila envelope fell from the top of the filing cabinet—on the inside—looking oh-so-innocuous. Yes, I thought to myself. Finally. I knew that I should just take it and get the hell out of there, but I had to see what was in it. What if it had nothing to do with the murders, and I left the place with nada? I sat down at Eddie’s desk and made myself comfortable.
I eagerly opened the packet and pulled out a sheaf of papers. They were printed emails. I pulled out the top one and began reading. My eyes opened as I read it. It was from Phillip to Antoinette, and it was written months ago. It read:
Your beauty haunts me. Wherever I am, I think of you. Every time I smell jasmine, I think of you. When I hear No Doubt, I think of you. I see the color pink, and I think of you. You are the moon to my sun. I miss you terribly. Yours, Phillip.
Antoinette was having an affair with her lover’s brother? Who was married? Talk about low. Or was he? He had a son, but that didn’t mean he was married. He wore a wedding ring, though, so presumably he was married. I shook that thought as it didn’t matter and returned to the affair. I wondered how long that had been going on. I shuddered to think of the delectable Phillip slumming it with Antoinette, but he had the personality of a wet towel, so I guess it was a good match. I could certainly understand why she would rather have sex with him than with Eddie, assuming it was true that she had been fucking Eddie. That was an unverified rumor, but she never bothered to contradict it. Hm. While it was interesting that Antoinette was having an affair with Phillip, I wasn’t sure it was relevant. A stray thought hit me. How did Eddie find these emails? Antoinette couldn’t have been stupid enough to have a joint account with Eddie, could she? Oh wait, what was I saying? Antoinette was stupid enough to do anything. More likely, though, Eddie got suspicious and checked her emails. It wasn’t uncommon for lovers to know each other’s passwords. I knew Rafe’s though I’ve never used it. I picked up the next email and began to read.
dearest dearest dearest Phillip! i am sooooooooooo happy to have u in my life! u r soooooooo sexy n hot n sooooo good in bed. better than eddie ne day. i would do ne thing 4 u! all u have 2 do is ask!
I winced at the comparison of Eddie and Phillip. It couldn’t have made Eddie feel very good to read his lover’s thoughts about his sexual prowess. He must have found out about the affair right before he died. I couldn’t imagine he wouldn’t have blown a fuse about it otherwise—even firing Antoinette. Eddie was not a man to take such a blow to his vanity lightly. I read the next one.
I am so grateful to have met you. My life was ashes before you came along. I am thrilled to know that someone as beautiful as you actually cares about me. You are a precious girl to offer to help, but no, it’s something I have to take care of myself. Even though it would be so easy for you because he trusts you implicitly. No, I cannot ask it of you. It is too much. It is enough that you love and believe in me. You are the light of my life. Passionately yours, Phillip.
I made a face as I read his missive. He was no writer, that was for sure. His sugary statements were enough to induce a diabetic coma, but I was sure it was the kind of crap that Antoinette would eat up. I wondered what his problem was and what Antoinette had offered to do for him. I picked up the third piece of paper hoping it would clarify the situation.
lovely lovely Phillip! u have such a way with words. when i think of u, i shiver. i count the days until i can see u again. u know i will do it 4 u because i luv u! u r the man of my dreams. all my luv—a.
I could barely read her emails, so juvenile were they. It was a wonder that Phillip could even pretend to care about a vapid bimbo such as her. Talk about pimping yourself. I hurried to the next email.
My precious Antoinette,
You are the jewel in my ring, the flame that starts my fire. I would give you the moon but it is not nearly beautiful enough for you. You know I would do anything for my precious girl, don’t you? It is so unfortunate that the stock market is in such dire straits. What a bad sense of timing. Just think. If I had gotten out even a month before all this turmoil, I would be sitting in clover. Instead, I am nearly destitute. But I shouldn’t be pouring my troubles out to my darling girl. You are such a good listener, my love, as well as beautiful and so clever. I love you dearly. Phillip.
So Phillip was short of money, eh? Then how come he has a vintage Jag, Armani suits, and a Rolex watch? And where would he get the money to lend to Antoinette to buy that gaudy ring? I had a pretty good idea of what he and Antoinette had cooked up, but I was going to read one more email to make sure. I rifled through them until I found one that talked explicitly of the plan.
Ma belle Antoinette,
Voulez-vous couches avec moi, ce soir? I’ve always wanted to say that, and how fitting as you have a French name? You are brilliant beyond belief. I cannot believe that you talked my paranoid brother into letting you take care of the books. You must have sweet-talked him something special in order to pry the books from his grubby little hands. Did I ever tell you that he talked our parents out of giving me my rightful share of the inheritance to open that damn park? Just because I had a little problem with coke at the time. Bastard. He owes me, and it’s beautiful that you’re helping me get what I deserve. You are the best thing to happen to me. Love, love, love you.
I nearly gagged, but at least I had the goods. I read the next one of Antoinette’s just to round things out.
Phillip, oh my dearest, lovely Phillip. u wouldn’t believe how ez it was 2 get eddie 2 let me do the books. i just hinted how much more time he would have 4 other things and he handed it over like a lamb. really, he’s a stupid stupid man, but so much the better 4 u and me. just think. after a few months of this, u and i can b 2gether 4ever. ooooh, i can’t wait. 4ever your girl, a.
I set down the email in disgust. So Phillip and Antoinette had cooked the books in order to skim money off the top. That would explain why they killed Eddie, but what about Lydia? Had she found out something about it? I vaguely remembered that snippet of conversation I had heard in Eddie’s office before I crashed into something, and I realized that it was Antoinette’s voice. The second realization hit me that I hadn’t heard another voice. She had been talking on the phone and most likely to Phillip. Lydia had known that Antoinette was cooking the book, so one of them killed her. Then, one of them—most likely Phillip—killed Eddie. Which meant one of them probably stabbed me in order to make it look as if I were the target. The shooting in my driveway was most likely Shannon. I gathered up the emails in the envelope and grabbed the fake book as well. There was more stuff in the envelope, but I would look at it when I reached the safety of my parents’ house. Right now, I just wanted to get the hell out of here.