A few days after the macabre discovery…
Sue looked at the police report one last time. “Death by heart attack.”. No suspicion of murder, no investigation planned. Nothing, nada. Andrews was dead, he was old, and an old man dying, the police doesn’t care. Why investigate? The poor old man was going to go down anyway soon?
No investigation, no interrogation, Riverside Gardens would not be the scene of a police show. Sue could blow, no corpses would be dug up by nosy young policemen. Natural death, that’s the verdict.
Had they at least checked to see if Andrews had a cardiac history? If he was likely to have a heart attack? No. They had no idea that Andrews was in Olympic shape. They had no idea that he had the heart of a 40-year-old. Yes, they had no idea that there was no way Andrews could have had a heart attack. It was impossible.
Her heart was struggling between relief and anguish. What if the police changed their minds. If Martha insisted on an investigation.
Ah, and then the pool thing upset her. The pool should have been closed. Franck assured her that he had closed it. Well, with him, we were never sure.
But if Franck had closed the door properly, it meant that someone else had opened it. But who had opened it?
He shouldn’t have died in the pool. Not in the pool. The insurance companies were going to come after them. Worse Martha could sue them. If Riverside Gardens was sued, she would definitely lose her job. And it wouldn’t take much more than that for the whole thing to come out.
She had done everything she could to protect her secret. She couldn’t risk everything for a pool door mistake. Martha! Yes, Martha was once again the key to her problems. Handling her had always been child’s play.
Bruce verified that he was alone in the shop. He locked the door. He knelt down under the workbench and opened the hatch. He pushed the oil cans out and crept in.
A splinter of wood sank into his side. He emitted a grunt of pain. It was no longer his age to take such risks. If one of the three gardeners returned, how would he justify his presence? What if the trap door were discovered? But he had no choice, he had to.
His heavy carcass barely passed through the gap. The hardest thing was to get out of the trapdoor to reach the workshop. His head heavily hit Franck’s workbench. Several tools crashed on the floor, with a thud. His breath stopped, his ears were on the lookout for the slightest noise. As long as no one heard. After getting up with difficulty, he tried to put the tools back in their places.
His gaze wandered across the room. Franck’s clothes were laid nonchalantly on a chair. The bottle from the new small gardener had been forgotten on the table. However, there was no trace of his rake expert sidekick. Nobody, the gardeners’ workshop was deserted.
No time for prevarication. First step, he had to get the bag back to finally get rid of it. He went to his hiding place and climbed on one of the mowers. His gaze slipped on the dusty floor of the mezzanine, he pushed the sign “FOR SALE”. His eyes searched through the dust. No trace of the bag. Disappeared.
Only a clearer trace on the floor confirmed to Bruce: he had not dreamed, the bag had been there. But it had disappeared. Bruce shook his head in panic.
His panicked arms pushed all the signs, he couldn’t believe it. If someone had found the bag, he might… No, he couldn’t think about it. As long as the person who had the bag did not decide to taste its contents. They might end up like Andrews.
Bruce’s mind was caught up in the little gardener, lying unconscious on the ground. He had to find the bag before another drama struck Riverside Gardens.
Almost noon, he had to hurry. He still had one more thing to do.
He walked to the sink. On the wall, all the keys were there, each hook held several sets of keys. He reached into his pocket and took out the keys. He gently hung it on the middle hook. “Piscine” could be read on the label of the key ring.
Where the hell was Bruce? He took off like a thief this morning. She called him on his phone several times, no answer. It made her mad.
A doubt crept into her mind, what if he had relapsed? What if his Bruce had gone somewhere else. He had promised her, he had made amends. But Bruce was a man like any other. Weak.
Jealousy crept through her veins. Like a poison, she began to feel the bitterness consuming her. She had to know for sure. On the night of the drama, Bruce was already not in bed. He had pretended to have fallen asleep in the van. But was he alone in the van?
He was her Bruce and he would stay that way. If she could forgive him once, she could forgive him a second time. Besides, no contestant could be worse than Paula. Oh, but wait, what if Paula hadn’t kept her promise? Would she dare to attack Bruce again despite their friendship?
Rita dismissed this option out of hand. Paula had made it clear, and she was much more interested in the new 87 to attack Bruce. She was going crazy, Bruce was probably just tinkering.
Finally, she received a text message from Bruce, he was busy in his van this morning. He was arriving in a few minutes to join the funeral. She sighed relieved. Yes, well, when in doubt, a little investigation wouldn’t hurt.
In the meantime, she stood in front of her mirror to finalize her makeup. Her reflection reflected the image of a fat old lady smiling. Her girdle struggled to hide her bulges. At least the black slightly refined her silhouette. Finally, could we talk about refining at its stage of overweight?
She grabbed her belly and shook it. She had lost two kilos this week, two unfortunate kilos even though she had been starving herself for seven days. Seven days that she dreamed of the funeral buffet, seven days that she imagined herself biting into the sweets that Martha would prepare.
It was too late anyway, the pounds had set in. She was no longer old enough to chase a wasp waist. Besides, Bruce loved her like that, didn’t he?
It was the fourth funeral she went to this year. And again, she had missed Berth’s last month. Finally missed, she had not been invited! She shrugged her shoulders as she remembered the affront. Anyway, it was a poor ceremony, and the buffet was awful, she had been told. In short, she hadn’t missed a thing.
Today, on the other hand, she had to be there. They walked silently behind the coffin. The procession was slow. All the residents had been invited. The funeral march was nice to see. The serious faces followed one another. One could read in the eyes the fear of being next. In fact, Susan wondered who would be next. It didn’t matter anyway. Since Rick’s death, anyone could die.
Susan thought they probably looked like a line of ants. Except that the ants were probably less hypocritical. A procession of the unsaid, that’s what they were. Half of them were only there to enjoy the buffet afterwards. The other half was probably hiding a corpse in the closet, panicking that Andrews might have left a trace of their ugly secret.
Ah Andrews, he had been his friend and confidant too. He was going to miss him. A little. But can the loss be shared? She missed Rick so much that she wasn’t sure she had enough room for Andrews to miss him too.
By the way, had she been special in Andrews’ life? After all, Andrews was everyone’s confidant. When a questionable secret, a delicate matter disrupted the peaceful life of the residents of Riverside Gardens, it was Andrews they would go to see.
Sometimes they would forget that Andrews was making a real business out of it. He charged for his services, and quite a bit more. But his discretion and efficiency made them forget about the steep bill. Andrews solved all your problems, or almost all of them.
But maybe Andrews had gone too far? Maybe one of the secrets was too heavy? There was a murderer in the crowd, and Susan would find out. She had always dreamed of being an investigator, she would find out who had killed Andrews and why.
Susan had gone earlier to find Martha to comfort her. She had learned from Martha, “Heart Attack”. Andrews had died naturally of a heart attack, like so many others of his generation. Nothing alarming to the police, pool or living room floor, it didn’t matter.
But Susan knew, and she wasn’t the only one, that Andrews was in very good shape. If there had been a heart attack, it had been caused by something, and Susan was going to find out.
She scanned Martha’s tear-covered face. Would Andrews’ wife hide the face of a murderer under the mask of the grieving widow? Or is it that new neighbor from 87, with his dark eyes? Or would it be Bruce, who hadn’t even bothered to put on a shirt and painfully hid his yellow Wallabies polo shirt under a black vest too small for him? Yes Bruce, whom she had seen entering last in the pool with Andrews…
Or maybe it could be John, the man in the hat. He had always seemed so mysterious to her.
As she stared at him, he intercepted her gaze. The glow of intensity in his eyes troubled her. She felt a wave of shivering that she hadn’t felt in over fifty years the day she met Rick.
Paula grabbed a salmon toast with her fingertips. The dill cream overflowed on her middle finger. She tasted the small oven, then licked her finger and looked into the eyes of her dark neighbor.
At last she was able to approach him. It must be said that she had put the means to do so. This satin dress perfectly highlighted her forms. Her wasp waist was marked, the neckline let appear her doddering breasts and the satin was resting on her buttocks like a caress. It was so close to the body, that she could not put any underwear on. And it was not to displease her…
She had been trying to get his attention for weeks. He had already moved in two months ago. She had immediately noticed his broad shoulders, his powerful hands, his ember look when he came to the pool one morning. He was barely 60 years old, a handsome young man. Ever since his pupils had settled on his solid body, his trapper’s body, she had been dreaming of biting into him.
Unfortunately, the dark one was elusive. He was barely visible in the residence. She had had to bribe Alison, the receptionist, to get his name. James Court. Hmm, it sounded like a spy name. Maybe it was?
She’d been tracking him. He would leave at dawn in his black car and not return until after sunset. She had investigated him, nobody knew him. He was as mysterious as he looked.
So today, when she saw him in the motorcade, she was more than surprised. Paula had no idea that James was close to Andrews. No one had ever seen them together. Paula’s deviant mind caught a glimpse of the two beautiful males in her bed, she had a shiver of pleasure.
It’s true that Andrews knew a lot of people, with his little tricks. It made him even sexier… He had been a lover of choice. He had the stamina for his age, and he had been able to get her up on the curtains. And his fingers, oh yes, his strong fingers knew how to deal with Paula.
No, but wait, now that she was thinking about it… Andrews, a heart attack? Impossible, he was the most athletic of all her lovers. Yes, even one of the fittest grandpas here. He couldn’t have died of a heart attack, absolutely impossible. Andrews had been murdered, she was now certain of it. And in memory of the wonderful nights she had spent, she was going to try to find out.
Um, maybe her little secret agent could help her? He was contemplating her, looking at her mysteriously while she was licking the last drops of cream on her knuckles. Paula’s gaze left no doubt about her intentions. On the other hand, James’ black irises remained unfathomable.
This new prey was not going to be easy. And that made him even more desirable. She threw her long hair back and began to simper, to naively question him. From the first few questions, he threw the ball back and questioned her. Paula loved to talk, she was happy to tell about her life of yesteryear. Never, not for a second, her eyes never let him go. They stayed a moment to talk. James’ phone vibrated in his pocket, he glanced at it, apologized and left in a hurry.
Paula shook her head. The party was no longer of interest. Her instincts told her that Andrews’ death was probably not unrelated to the mysterious side of the young man of House 87. She had to find Rita, she was by far the best partner to solve this crime.
Franck painfully lifted the door of the workshop to roll it up. He didn’t have much time before the two apprentice gardeners arrived. Quickly, he searched his locker. Ah, the bag was there. Those pills were magic. He had taken two this morning and the energy had not left him. Yet, there, fatigue had just fallen on him.
He contemplated the transparent bag and the twenty or so pink pills. Like a gift from heaven, he had found them on the mezzanine. There, like candies, for him. Maybe they had always been there? Maybe they were Bill’s? Or no, maybe it was the feral cat? He was rambling, cats don’t do drugs. His mind imagined a cat and its little paws making hundreds of pink pills. He started laughing. His laughter did not stop.
The sound of Ute behind him took him out of his euphoria. He grabbed three of the pills and swallowed them with his energy drink. He slammed the door of his locker. The energy already seemed to invade him again. He walked out of the workshop and said hello to Bruce walking past. Bruce nodded his head and rushed to his van on the vacant lot. Hum odd, usually Bruce liked to chat with Franck.
Hot, he was hot all of a sudden. He had to spray his face. He grabbed the hose and sprayed himself with a big jet of water. He was soaking wet. His laughter became more and more intense.
When he turned around, Benjamin and Melanie, the two gardeners were staring at him in puzzlement. But his crazy laughter would not stop. They shrugged their shoulders and headed inside the studio. It had been some time since Franck’s quirks was not surprising them anylonger.
He grabbed the compressed air hose, the air lifted his wet and greasy hair. Ah, each time it was like refreshing his brain. He loved that little fresh wind. Pshit Pshit Pshit, and his mind became clearer.
His cheerfulness vanished when he remembered that today was Andrews’ funeral. Andrews was his friend. He had always covered for him. Of course, he too was doing Andrews services. But Andrews knew how to thank him properly. Who was going to provide him with his little pick-me-ups when the bag would be finished?
Ah, and he was upset about the swimming pool. He had closed the door. Yes, yes, he was sure of it. He had locked the door. It was locked. He had pushed the button. He never forgot. And then there was the key, the key was gone. When Sue had given him a dressing-down for the pool door, he had gone to check it out. The second key to the pool was gone. Neither Melanie nor Benjamin had seen it. It was gone. He didn’t tell Sue. He had to find that key.
He walked over to the sink and stared blankly at the keys lining up. When at last his gaze fell on the pair of keys, “Swimming Pool”. But? But, how was that possible? They had looked, they had looked everywhere. They were there, they were taunting him.
Franck was shaken by a wave of tics, he squinted his eyes. He was sure it was a wildcat trick, this damned wildcat was playing a bad joke on him. He was going to drive him crazy again.
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