“It’s good to be home!” It’s the Friday after the attack, and I’m back home. The doctors wanted to keep me a few more days, but I insisted. By some miracle, nothing is broken but my pride. My face is a cornucopia of bruises and welts; I can’t see out of my left eye because it’s so swollen; my stomach has a fist-sized bruise; I ache all over. Other than that, I’m fit as a fiddle.
“You sit down,” my mom says, bustling to the kitchen. She hasn’t left my side since the attack, and neither has Paris or Lyle. When we are all comfortably ensconced in the living room with tea and brownies, the three of them look at me expectantly. The inspector had visited me in the hospital today and filled me in on the details she gleaned from Carol. Seems Carol is proud of her crimes and couldn’t wait to spill the beans.
“I figured it out too late, of course,” I begin, biting into a dense brownie. I close my eyes to savor the nutty goodness. My teeth hurt, but it’s a price I’ll willingly pay for something this good. “When she had a gun pr—” I stop myself in time. I haven’t given too many details about the actually attack because there is no reason for them to have nightmares, too. “When we were locked in her office together.” I give them a brief rundown of what I had deduced.
“What about Ashley?” My mother asks soberly. “Why kill her?”
“There’s a few reasons,” I say slowly, feeling a twinge of guilt. How easy it had been to forget about Ashley and her death, especially after Carol tried to turn the attention to Rosie’s death. “One, Ashley found out about Carol’s affair with her father.”
“What?” The three of them chorus, clearly surprised.
“Carol had a brief fling with Mr. Stevenson. Ashley found out. Mr. Stevenson was having affairs with many women, and Rosie found out about the one he got pregnant. Two different women.” My thoughts are scattered, but I try to order them.
“How did they meet?” Lyle ask curiously.
“At a bar,” I shrug. “That in and of itself isn’t a big deal. Embarrassing, but certainly not illegal. However, Carol had her little fling with Mr. Stevenson while Mrs. Stevenson was dying. That’s what pissed Ashley off. She liked Carol. She trusted Carol. Carol betrayed her.”
“That’s why Carol killed that girl?” Mom asks incredulously. “Because of a little adultery?”
“No, not nearly,” I sigh. “Carol has a diploma from Boston College on her wall. Rosie did a little research and found out Carol never graduated from Boston College. She never graduated from any of the programs. She faked the papers.”
“That’s awfully risky,” Paris objects. “Anyone could have unearthed the deception.”
“It’s quite low-risk,” I say. “Who looks closely at diplomas, especially when they’re high up on the wall? Anyway, Ashley was getting suspicious about Carol. For what reason, I don’t know, but Ashley did a little internet research and found out the same thing Rosie knew—that Carol isn’t an actual therapist. Ashley, remember, is still mad about the adultery and in no need of money.”
“I can’t believe you went into Carol’s office with her,” Paris interrupts, his brow wrinkling. “What were you thinking?”