One Lump or Two - Chapter Twenty

Good to her word, Zara was ready to go the next morning at the allotted time with seconds to spare.

“I ordered an egg and bacon pie from the café. If we leave now it should be just out of the oven, ready for us to pick up,” Penelope said, taking a deep breath.

“You okay, P?”

“The situation’s just catching up to me. We have today and tomorrow and that’s it.”

“And each other. Don’t forget we have each other.”

“Thanks, Z. You’re the best sister I could ever ask for,” she said, pinning on her hat.

“Well compared to the sister you’ve got, I’m not so sure that’s much of a compliment,” Zara quipped.

Penelope chuckled. “I’ll go get my keys.”

“I’ll go take a nap.”

“There will be no time for your jibes. I already have my keys out, see?” she said, jingling them.

“Looks like we’re already off to a fabulous start. Keep the faith, P. Keep the faith.”

The friends rolled down the windows in Penelope’s modest car, taking in the invigorating fresh air.

“Aunt Dee sure picked a beautiful spot, didn’t she?” Zara said.

“She really did. This town is something special.”

“The kind you could live out a lifetime.”

“Which may be a short one, in my case.”

“No negativity. Not today, P.”

“I’ll do my best. Besides, who could be negative in such a setting?”

* * * 

About a quarter of an hour later, the investigators opened the door to the antique shop and unpacked their things along with the breakfast pie. 

“I’ll start the tea,” Zara said. “I’m thinking we should go with something bold this morning—what would you say to some Russian Caravan?”

Penelope nodded and opened her notebook. “Where to start. Let’s see, it says here you’re to request an interview with Elsie Davies. Be careful with that one, she’s slippery.”

“I can handle the Elsie Davieses of this world while putting on my lipstick with my eyes closed,” Zara called from the kitchen.

“For now, let’s take advantage of the quiet and try to recreate that day before the opening. Did anything suspicious happen? Fuses were exceptionally short as I recall.” 

“Understandably so. We’d been working ’round the clock and still had so much to get done.” Zara said, entering the tearoom with plates, silverware and napkins.

“And no one worked harder than Dan,” Penelope said, her voice faltering as she clumsily dished out the breakfast pie.

Zara stretched out a hand to steady Penelope’s. “He was a good man. And his death had nothing to do with you. You know that, don’t you?”

“If you say so,” Penelope said unconvincingly. “Okay … I’m ready to take notes.”

They walked through the occurrences of that fateful day, recounting as best as they could all that happened, at turns laughing and weeping as they shared anecdotes of Dan’s industriousness and good humor—especially when it came to his antics with Hank.

“Those two were quite an entertaining pair,” Zara said.

Penelope nodded and sighed.

“He’ll be back,” Zara said.

“Who? You mean Dan? Do you think he’s going to haunt us?”

“No, ninny. Hank!” 

“Who said anything about Hank?”

“You did. Your body language did. Your heart did. Don’t forget, I know you inside and out, P.”

“Well then perhaps you know something I don’t. In any event, let’s get back to it.”

They made a verbal tour of the tearoom and antiques shop, trying to recollect if they’d seen anyone unusual canvasing or lurking. They ended up no further along than when they’d started.

“The main thing I remember about that day was all the squabbles,” Penelope said. “I recall Dan and Hank shouting at one another in the tearoom. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but their mannerisms indicated anger, and the situation became so tense that Hank shoved Dan, and Dan stormed out.”

“That doesn’t sound like the two of them,” Zara remarked.

“And there’s more! After that, Dan got into a brief confrontation with Vincent … That’s when you and Paolo drove up, and I noticed you were arguing. Later in the day, Vincent had Stella in tears.” 

“Zowie!”

“There’s still more. Dan and Hubert were at each other’s throats, and a moment later, Hubert approached Paolo only to stomp off in frustration after a fruitless attempt to converse with him while Paolo lounged in the Duesenberg. Everyone was working himself to the bone and Paolo sat in the car, smoking as the rest of us toiled. I couldn’t hear what Hubert said to him but I bet he gave Paolo a piece of his mind for loafing. A little later, Paolo snapped at Hank for talking to you. And even Stella and Dan had words!” 

“Sounds like we were lucky to have only seen one fatality!” Zara said. “You think we should ask everyone about these incidents to see if we can find a thread? We have nothing else.” 

“It looks that way. We already know what weapon was used, as well as the suspected motive, but maybe one of our opening day crew knows more than he or she realizes … something that can point us to the killer’s identity.”

“You’ll never take me alive,” a low voice rasped loudly.

Penelope and Zara screamed.

Stella snickered. “Relax, it’s just me,” she said, coming out from the behind the tearoom doorway where she’d hidden. 

“Stella! You almost gave me a heart attack!” Zara said.

Penelope stood wheezing, trying to catch her breath, on the verge of keeling over.

“We’ve got to get you out of corsets once and for all, P,” Zara said. “Slow, deep breaths.”

“I saw you two deep in conversation through the window so I opened the door slowly enough not to jiggle the bells.”

“Why aren’t you in sch—” Penelope began as Zara scribbled a note.

“Lunchtime,” Stella said, reclining on one of the tearoom’s settees.

“They let you leave the school grounds at lunch?” Penelope asked.

“What do you think?” Zara said sarcastically, handing Stella the note she’d written. “Here. Make use of your time. We want to see all of these people again, this evening, if possible. It will be brief, you can assure them.”

“Affirmative,” Stella said, taking the paper and racing out the door.

“Good thinking,” Penelope said, still trying to normalize her breathing.

“Now, what is it exactly we want to ask tonight’s interrogees?”

“Well, I suppose what everyone was arguing about, mostly.”

“I can tell you what Paolo and I were fighting about. He accused me of flirting with Hank.”

“You were flirting with Hank!”

“Well … I’m not anymore … I’m not flirting with anyone.”

Penelope raised an eyebrow.

“Walter Harrison doesn’t count. That’s not flirting … not for me, at any rate,” Zara said.

“Fair enough. Speaking of Hank, I suppose we should ask him why he and Dan were arguing … and why it came down to shoving. Vincent and Dan exchanged words briefly, so we'll want to uncover what that was about. I find it especially interesting that Hubert, who is always so calm and collected, got into a tiff with Dan and then accosted Paolo. We can ask both Hubert and Paolo what went on there.”

“Hank, Vincent, Hubert and Paolo. Do you really think any of them will have anything to say that they haven’t told us already?”

“Maybe not. But perhaps you and I will get more out of what they tell us, given that we now know why and how Dan was killed.”

“Or at least think we know.”

“Well, if the theft theory is good enough for Walter Harrison, it’s good enough for me,” Penelope said.

Zara clasped her hands to her heart. “Thank you,” she whispered, then leaned across the table and gave Penelope a kiss on the cheek.

“Pfft, I’ve had better,” Penelope jeered.

“You don’t say! From whom?”

“Paolo, if you must know. Just yesterday.”

“Is that so!” Zara said, feigning jealousy before her tone turned melancholy. “I wonder how he’s getting on in San Francisco. I do worry about him, you know.”

“My guess is he’s having a marvelous time. Probably in Little Italy right now confabbing with his countrymen, sneaking glasses of wine, and consuming any number of dishes made with noodles, garlic, and olive oil.”

“I hope you’re right,” Zara said, smiling faintly.

They whiled away the afternoon jumping from one topic to the next—from the case to Paulo to the meaning of life and even Penelope’s sister, Pauline. At length, they were interrupted by a visitor.

“Good afternoon, ladies,” Florence Morgan said, her hands poised atop her parasol as she stood in the tearoom’s entrance. “The door was open. I do hope you’re not being careless when it comes to security.”

“Mrs. Morgan, what a pleasure. I’m afraid we don’t have much to report,” Penelope said. “We’ll be conducting one last round of interviews this evening … or at least we hope they’ll be the last.” 

“I am not here to discuss the case, Miss Price. I am here to discuss a tea party for the Horticulturists Society. It’s scheduled four weeks from Friday and I am expecting forty guests. That is your maximum, I believe?”

“Yes, but shouldn’t we wait until after my trial to—”

“I have every confidence you will be acquitted, Miss Price. And you should too!”

“I’ll go freshen the tea,” Zara said, excusing herself. “P, your notebook,” she whispered as she walked to the kitchen.

“Yes, I should take notes. What exactly did you have in mind, Mrs. Morgan?”

“Something substantial enough to satisfy the men and dainty enough to please the ladies. I look to your creativity to sort out the particulars. Good day, Miss Price.” Two taps of her parasol later, Florence departed the shop.

“The water should be done in a minute or two,” Zara said, walking back in with a tray of tea accessories. “Don’t tell me you sent her away.”

Penelope shook her head. “Why on earth would Mrs. Morgan plan a party before I’ve even had my trial.”

“Perhaps that’s her way of saying she has faith in you?”

“She’s said it in many ways already.”

“When will you get it through that thick noggin’ of yours that people are on your side and rooting for you to succeed?”

“But why should they? I’m nothing special.”

“Are you saying I’d choose someone ordinary as my best friend?”

Penelope smiled appreciatively. “Perhaps you should be my lawyer.”

“Perhaps I should! … What say you lock the door while I finish with the tea.”

As Penelope walked to the front door to lock it, she espied Hank across the street. Her heart caught in her throat and she stood immobile. She tried to avert her eyes so as not to stare at him, but couldn’t. Before she could make herself look away, she’d caught his eye. She nodded and locked the door, but then noticed he was walking toward the shop. At least she thought he was. What if he’s just crossing the street? What do I do? Zara, help! she thought, smiling at him as he approached.

He raised a hand in salutation and she dared open the door for him. “Good afternoon, Mr. Edwards. How nice to see you.”

“You as well.”

“… Do … How … They say it’s unseasonably warm here this time of year,” Penelope offered feebly.

“Hank, thank you for coming in so quickly,” Zara said, extending her hand in a friendly shake.

“Happy to oblige,” he said, shaking her hand amiably. “I don’t know what help I can be …”

“We just have a few quick questions to ask you. Tea?” Zara offered.

“Yes, I’d love some.”

“P? Would you like to play mother?” Zara asked as the three walked into the tearoom to sit.

“I’m not nearly old enough to be his mother!” Penelope whispered to Zara.

“I meant would you like to be in charge of pouring the tea!”

“Oh! Hahahaha,” Penelope responded, laughing loudly and nervously.

“Are you sure you’re up to this?” Hank asked, noting her peculiar behavior.

“Oh yes, I’m right as rain. You know, speaking of rain—”

Zara cut her off before she could get any further into her meteorological ramblings. “Please, take a sink, Hank,” Zara said, motioning to an armchair as she dropped comfortably onto the settee.

Penelope sat in the chair across from Hank and wordlessly gazed at him.

“P?” Zara urged.

“Huh?” she said, still staring at Hank.

“The tea?”

“Oh yes, of course,” she said, coming to her senses. 

Recalling Zara’s graceful and fluid movements, Penelope tried to emulate her, making birdlike motions and rolling her hands and arms unintentionally comically. Zara and Hank both fought to stifle their laughter.

“Hank, to get right to the point,” Zara said, looking away from Penelope lest a snigger escape. “What can you tell us about the spat you had with Dan the day before the grand opening … When Dan shoved you?” 

“I shoved him, actually,” Hank said, accepting the sloshing teacup from Penelope’s shaking hands. His fingers brushed against hers, making hers shake all the more.

“Oh?” Zara said.

“Dan and I rarely quarreled, and when we did, it was always about the same thing—the speakeasy.”

“You didn’t approve of his new venture?” Zara asked.

“I didn’t approve of him doing anything that went against his conscious, and the speakeasy did just that. I shoved him to try to get him to wise up. I was angry with him for risking so much for so little.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Edwards?” Penelope said, her nervousness turning to intrigue.

“He was doing it just for the money.”

“Don't most people work for the money?” Zara said.

Hank ran a hand through his hair. “This was beyond that, far beyond. He was getting on fine with odd jobs … and he had a bright future here with you, Miss Price. He told me as much.”

“Then what are you saying?” Penelope asked.

“I’m saying that he kowtowed to Elsie Davies’ ludicrous greed for status.”

“Whose status?” Penelope said. “Elsie’s or Lily’s?”

“Both! When Dan first started doing well, it took him no time to become a respected member of the community, and of course, his business success made Lily a society success by default. Lily never cared about that sort of thing, but Elsie sure did. He’d promised me he was going to quit the bootlegging, once he’d started working here with you. But I found out he was still at it. That’s when we argued and I shoved him … I shoved him for being stupid.”

“But he told me he was so happy here. Why would he continue to bootleg?” Penelope said.

“He told me he couldn’t get out. That ‘they’ wouldn’t let him. That if he tried to stop bootlegging, ‘they’ would report his activities to the police and ruin his life,” Hank said.

“So he was being blackmailed,” Zara said.

Hank nodded.

“Who is this they to whom he referred?” Penelope asked.

“I wish I knew. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure it out, but never made any headway. Dan and I agreed we would finish our conversation after the grand opening. And I vowed to help him extricate himself from the speakeasy and blackmail mess—only, he was gone before we ever got a chance to have that talk.”

Hank took a deep breath and then sipped his tea, his eyes on the table.

“Mr. Edwards, you were a good friend to him. You must know that,” Penelope said, placing a hand on Hank’s, her flusteredness having given way to compassion.

He looked at her hand and smiled. “Thank you, Miss Price. I hope so. He was the best friend I ever had, actually. He knew all about me, but never minded. He accepted me just the way I am.” 

He took another breath and they sat in silence for moments. The only sound was that of teacups meeting saucers as they drank their tea and contemplated.

“Will there be anything else, ladies?” Hank said when he’d finished his tea.

“No, thank you, Hank. You’ve been most helpful,” Zara said.

“Actually … just one more thing, if you don’t mind, Mr. Edwards,” Penelope said.

Zara looked at her inquiringly.

“Your name, Hank, is short for Henry, correct?”

“Yes?”

“So then your name, Henry Edwards, is the same as Henry Edwards who was one of the founders of the Bohemian Club … and you both being members … May I ask … are you related to him? Was he your father perhaps?”

“No, we are not related,” Hank said, standing abruptly. “Good day, ladies; and thank you for the tea.”

He pulled his fedora over his brow and walked briskly out of the tearoom and shop, leaving Penelope and Zara in wonder.

“Did I say something wrong?” Penelope asked, a lump in her throat.

“I don’t know … I doubt it.”

“I did, didn’t I,” Penelope said, hanging limply over the arm of her chair.

“So Dan was blackmailed. Do you think that had anything to do with the theft or his murder?” Zara asked.

“I don’t see how it could, but who knows. I sure don’t,” Penelope said sullenly.

“Don’t pout, P. It doesn’t become you. I wonder who the blackmailer could be. What if it’s someone we know?”

“You’ve read too many dime novels. I’m betting it’s someone from Monterey. That’s where his saloon was located. Pacific Grove has been a dry town since its inception. They’ve never allowed the sale of spirits.”

“Interesting … where are you going?” Zara asked as Penelope got up and smoothed her skirt.

“To make a stronger pot of tea. I think we’re in for a doozy of an afternoon, and frankly, I could use a stiff drink!”

Zara followed her into the kitchen. “What do you think Hank was talking about when he said Dan knew all about him but accepted him anyway?”

“I have no idea. Perhaps he just meant how friends know each other’s foibles and about the skeletons in one another’s closets, but they remain loyal chums nonetheless.”

“What sort of skeletons do you think Hank Edwards has in his closet?”

“Not Henry Edwards of the Bohemian Club apparently.”

“Is he still alive?”

“Heavens no. He died back in ’91, in New York, I believe.”

“Well I have no idea how Hank may be connected to this Bohemian Henry Edwards fellow, but your asking about him struck some sort of nerve with Hank.”

“Agreed.” 

“Look what this cat dragged in,” Stella called out, pushing Vincent through the shop ahead of her. “And no funny business, Caruso.”

“Someone may be taking her job a little too seriously,” Zara said, walking back into the tearoom. “I’ll handle him from here. Come on in, Vincent.”

“If that is your real name!” Stella said as she followed them to the same sitting area where the ladies had chatted with Hank.

“Any idea why you’re here?” Zara asked, gesturing for Vincent to sit.

“Because my girlfriend told me to be?”

“Wise answer,” Zara said.

Stella sat on the arm of the settee, her arms folded and grin smug.

“Vincent, what can you tell us about your relationship with Dan?” Penelope asked, taking her previous seat and opening her notebook. “I saw you too at odds the day before the grand opening.” 

Vincent sat for a moment, straightening his posture and rubbing his hands on his thighs. At length, he spoke. “I think you know that my family is … once in awhile, we find ourselves strapped for cash now and again. I do what I can to help Mom, taking small jobs here and there … to work around my job at the precinct …”

“And school,” Penelope added.

“Yes, around school too.”

“Well …” he cleared his throat. “You see, Dan … after the saloon closed … well he … ummm”

“They know about The Blind Pig, Caruso,” Stella said.

“Oh … what a relief,” he said, his posture relaxing as he wiped his brow. “Well then, you should know that I asked Dan for a job … at The Pig.”

“You mean the speakeasy,” Penelope said.

“Yes ma’am.”

“Is that what you two were fighting about?” Zara asked.

Vincent nodded. “I’d begged Dan for a job a few weeks prior. All we had in the house at the time was some souring milk and a little lard. It was before you brought me on here to help out. I was desperate to make some money to buy food … but Dan wouldn’t give me a job.”

“That doesn’t sound like bighearted Dan,” Zara said.

“Sure it does,” Stella said. “Think about it.”

“Dan didn’t want Vincent to do something illegal and risk his future. Isn’t that right, Vincent?” Penelope said.

He nodded again. “He offered me money. He offered me food, but—” he broke off, disquieted.

“But your Italian ego got in the way, and you refused his help,” Zara said.

“Yes. That same night, when I got home after work at the police station, I found out someone had anonymously dropped a crate full of food on our doorstep. Mom said it was from God. I knew straight off it was from Dan.”

“So what made you argue with him the day before the opening?” Penelope said.

“I asked him again about a job. The extra money from working here really made a difference, and I knew you wouldn’t need me anymore after the grand opening. So I went to Dan again.”

“And again he said no,” Zara said.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Zara shuddered. “Promise me you’ll never call me that again.”

“Yes, ma’-uh-m’lady.”

All chuckled.

“Vincent, just one last question before you go. A serious one,” Penelope said, putting down her pencil and looking at him intently.

Vincent shifted in his seat.

“We have reason to believe Dan was being blackmailed. Do you have any idea who may have been behind such a scheme?”

“Empirically? Or intuitionally?” he said.

“Either,” Zara said. “Both,” Penelope said in tandem.

Vincent thought for a moment. “Empirically, I have no idea …”

“And intuitionally?” Zara pressed.

“… Mr. Allen.”

“Hubert?” Zara asked in surprise.

“Vincent, that’s a very serious charge to levy at Stella’s godfather!” Penelope admonished. “Apologize to her at once!”

“It’s okay,” Stella said, unfazed. “Just disregard his ravings. He’s always had it in for Hubert.” 

“There’s something about him I don’t trust. Have you heard the way he talks?” Vincent said.

“Vincent, you should be ashamed of yourself!” Penelope cried.

“I’m used to it,” Stella said. “Vincent takes exception to people all the time. You should’ve heard the things he said about Zara at first.”

“Oh?” Zara said, crossing her arms over her knee and wagging her foot in amused interest.

“I was wrong about you, Miss Zara. I’m not ashamed to say it. When I first met you I thought you were a bad influence on my Stella … that you’d lead her down a path that would take her away from me … Then … well, now I think you’re pretty swell. And I’m really sorry.”

Zara blew him a kiss, hoping to embarrass him.

It worked.

“Anyone else on your watch list?” Penelope asked.

“Elsie Davies, of course,” he said.

“Why Elsie Davies?” Penelope asked.

He looked at her askance. “Is that a real question?”

“P’s been practicing her dry humor,” Zara joked.

Vincent and Penelope both furrowed their brows in puzzlement. 

“Did I miss something?” Vincent asked.

“Nothing worth explaining,” Zara said.

“He didn’t care much for Hank when Hank first came to town,” Stella said.

“Hank Edwards?” Penelope asked, gripping the arm of her chair.

“That’s not exactly true. I just felt like he had some sort of secret,” Vincent said.

“Do you still feel that way?” Zara asked.

“Don’t get me wrong, Hank’s a real standup guy,” Vincent said.

“Vincent … that’s not what I asked.”

He took a moment. “Yes, yes I do think he carries a secret … But gee whiz, who doesn’t?”

Penelope and Zara shared a look.

“Thank you, Vincent, you’ve been a tremendous help,” Penelope said.

Vincent nodded and put his cap on.

“Move along, Caruso—Beat it!” Stella said, pushing him out of the room. “I’ll be back in a blink,” she called as she exited the antiques store.

“What do you think?” Penelope said once she and Zara were alone.

“Honestly, I’m not sure what to think,” Zara said.

“You don’t believe what he said about Hubert Allen … do you?”

“Of course not … do you?”

“Noooooooo … though I do think Vincent is most likely a good judge of character. He sure had you dead to rights,” Penelope said, smirking.

“Another of your attempts at humor, P?”

Penelope smirked again and made a show of licking her pencil as she prepared to take notes.

“Last one,” Stella said, escorting Hubert into the tearoom.

“Hubert, delighted as always,” Zara said. “What a handsome suit. You must wear it more often.”

Penelope frowned and rolled her tongue around her mouth in distaste. When she looked at the pencil she’s licked, she found it was a fountain pen.

“Ladehs,” he said, smiling and standing tall, pulling on his shirt cuffs. “How may I beh of asseestance?”

Penelope opened her inky mouth to speak, but Zara cut her off.

“Hubert, we’re trying to gain a better understanding of Dan’s activities during his last day.  We know he was agitated. He and Hank had a rather heated exchange, in fact. And we know he had words with you. Can you share with us what you discussed? It might be of invaluable help,” Zara said.

Hubert straightened his tie then said, “May I seet?”

“Of course. Where are our manners?” Zara said, gesturing toward the armchair.

“Thez are matteers beest deescussed weethout my goddaughteer preezeent.”

“I already know about The Blind Pig, Hubert,” Stella said, taking her spot on the arm of the settee.

His mouth fell open.

“Weel … een that case … Danieel Coopeer was a veery good man, an honorable man. Eet eez eemportant you understand thees,” Vincent began.

“Oh yes, we’re quite aware,” Penelope said.

He cocked his head and stared at her, noting her blackened tongue.

“An honorable man … like you, Hubert,” Zara said, smiling demurely and lightly touching his knee.

He stiffened and grinned, moving his hand to cover Zara’s just as she casually pulled hers away.

“Thees eez a deefeecult subject,” he said.

“Difficult for us all,” Penelope said, trying to insert herself into the conversation. 

“What I mehn eez … I am not comfortable behsmeerchinn such a man’s characteer … eespeecialleh wheen heh eez no longeer her to dehfeend heemseelf …”

“We appreciate that, Hubert,” Zara encouraged. “Go on. You’re among friends here.”

“You seh … thee day before Danieel’s passing … heh and I quarreeled.” 

“What about?” Penelope asked.

Zara gave her a look indicating Penelope should leave the talking to her.

“I heezeetate …” Hubert said.

“Go on, Hubert. It may help uncover the truth as to what happened to Dan,” Zara said.

“You seh … Dan had come to meh to borrow moneh … again.”

“Again?! Had he done so before?” Penelope asked.

“More times than I care to say. Eet was neeveer for heem though, you seh. Eet was for heez wife and heez daughters. Fine frocks and museec leessons do not come chepp … and Dan had deets … I told heem I could no longeer kep bailing heem out … that heh would have to coortail heez eenjudeecious, wasteful speending.”

“Do you think that’s why someone was blackmailing him … perhaps Elsie Davies … or even the mob?” Penelope interjected.

Zara and Hubert looked at her in astonishment.

After a moment he spoke. “I was not aware Danieel was behing blackmailed … but yees, what you say about thee mob sounds correect. Bootleeggeers are a seddy and dangeerous bunch. They may veery weell have threeteened Danieel een some way. I told heem to close thee spekkehzeh … on many occasions … but heh was too stubborn and proud.”

“That doesn’t sound like Dan,” Penelope said.

“Madam, I assure you, I knew Danieel Coopeer far longeer than you—for many, many yerrs. And wheen a man can’t provide for heez family and beccomes deespeerate, heh weel rehsort to deds more teerrible than you can eemageene.”

“You tried to help him, Hubert. If he didn’t choose to accept your help, that’s no fault of yours,” Zara said. “I just have one last question. If you can spare another moment.”

“Eet would beh my pleezure.”

“After you and Dan squabbled, you approached Paolo who was smoking in the Duesenberg, if I understand correctly. Can you tell me what prompted your exchange?”

“Gladly! Eet was two-fold. Feerst off, I had noteeced heem watching meh and Dan as weh spoke. Paolo was lerring. I walked straight oveer to heem and suggeesteed heh not leeseen een on thee conveersation of otheers.” 

“And second?” Zara nudged.

“I chideed heem for lazin een the car while thee reest of you weer eenside weerking like wheerling deerveeshees … 

“He is a bit of a dewdropper, I’ll admit,” Zara said. 

“Veery lazeh eendedd,” Hubert said, nodding. “I theen rehalized heh deedn’t spekk Ennglish and had no ideh what I was saying, so I walked away.”

“Did you feel just a little bit better for reading him the riot act?” Zara asked, smiling.

“Yees … a leettle beet.”

Hubert and Zara chuckled.

“Thank you so much for coming to chat with us, Hubert. We can always count on you,” Zara said.

“Good luck to you, Mees Price. You rehmain een my prayers.” 

“Thank you, Mr. Allen. Your encouragement means a great deal to me,” Penelope said.

“I’ll walk you out, Hubert,” Zara said, rising to escort him.

“He was the last on my list. We’re done then, right?” Stella asked Penelope.

“Looks that way. Zara and I want to talk to Paolo again …”

“But that doesn’t really count,” Stella said, grinning.

“Precisely.”

“I’m bushed,” Zara said upon reentering the room. “Let’s call it a night.”

“So soon? We’re just getting started!” Stella protested.

“Playing interrogator is taxing. I could use a drink,” Zara said.

Penelope looked up at her in concern.

“But I won’t,” Zara assured her. “Regardless, I really do want to get going, if it’s all the same to you, P.”

“Of course. You’ve earned a break. That was an impressive display, Z. How you got so much from everyone so effortlessly,” Penelope said.

“It was far from effortless, trust me.”

“You were like a prima ballerina,” Stella said, attempting a pirouette and nearly knocking the tea things off the table. “Dancers always look like they’re floating on air, but really, they’re hard-as-nails athletes.”

“Well put, Stella!” Penelope said.

“Well this ballerina’s taking her tutu and hitting the road,” Zara said, walking back to the antiques shop to collect her hat and gloves.

“Come on, Stella,” Penelope said, getting up. “Our star needs her rest.”

“But we only have one more day,” Stella whined.

“We know, Stella, we know all too well,” Zara said.

“See you at lunch tomorrow?” Stella asked.

“Does it matter if I say no?” Penelope asked, lifting her carpetbag to find her keys beneath it.

“Not a chance,” Stella said, jogging backward out of the door and smiling.

“See you at lunch,” Penelope said, pinning on her hat.

* * * 

Zara dropped into the passenger seat of Penelope’s Model T and closed her eyes.

“Let’s get you home,” Penelope said.

“Actually, can we joyride a little? I’d love to take a drive along the coastline … feel the wind … smell the ocean.”

“But my flivver’s not a breezer like yours,” Penelope said with a subdued grin.

“Why Penelope Price! Was that jazz jargon I heard come out of your choir girl mouth?”

“And so’s your old man,” she said smiling proudly.

“You have no idea what that means, do you?” 

Penelope’s smile faded instantaneously. 

“For a minute, P, you were right there. Now, now you’re back to … being … well … you!”

“I was trying to say that my Model T isn’t a convertible,” Penelope said with a discouraged huff.

“Yes, P. I know. Remember, while you were back in Pedro perfecting your shorthand, I was off sneaking into juice joints and perfecting my flapperspeak. You’d be surprised how much gibberish was cooked up by me and my roaring jazz-lovin’ rabble of cronies, just to keep the older generation in the dark as to what we were saying.” She yawned. “As for your automobile, the windows down will be just fine.”

“You hungry?” Penelope asked as she leaned past Zara to crank down her window.

“Ravenous.”

“Me too. What say we tour the coast until we find a place to eat.”

“What I say is ‘that sounds wonderful.’ I’m just going to close my eyes …”

* * * 

“We’re here,” Penelope said softly, turning off the engine and engaging the parking break.

Zara yawned and stretched. “Mmmmmm how long was I out?”

“About ten minutes.”

“What? That’s impossible. I feel like I slept for ages.”

“Oh you were out like a used flashbulb, I can tell you.”

“What is this place?” Zara asked as they stepped out of the car.

“No idea. I don’t see a sign, but I do see a pie in the window.”

“That’s all the sign I need!” Zara said, quickening her pace.

They opened the door to find the eatery deserted. The only evidence of business activity ever having taken place was the number of tables loaded with dirty dishes.

“Anywhere ya like,” a voice called from the kitchen. 

Penelope sat down and scooted into a booth. Zara immediately pulled her out of the seat and began swatting at her backside.

Horrified, Penelope tried to wriggle away. “If you’re trying to make it look like we’re lesbians again, I don’t appreciate the humor.”

“I’m afraid you’re not my type, P,” Zara deadpanned, “and what I’m trying to do is brush the dust off your dress. You’re covered in white powder.”

“What on earth?” Penelope said, craning to examine the back of her skirt. 

Zara took an unused napkin from the table next to theirs and began wiping down the seat of their booth.

“Why, it’s all over. What do you suppose it could be?” Penelope said, using her hanky to whisk her side of the booth.

“Cocaine most likely,” Zara kidded, taking her seat.

“Cocaine! If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re determined to land me back in the pokey,” Penelope whispered, shaking her handkerchief to clean it and choking on the cloud of dust that sprung from it. 

A moment later, a round woman dressed all in white walked up to the table, flour covering the bulk of her exposed skin and hair. “Now what can I get for you ladies?”

“Menus, for starters, if you please,” Zara said.

“Seeing as we’re about to close, there’s not much left. You can take your pick of beef, chicken, cherry or lemon,” the woman said, inadvertently applying even more flour to her face as she attempted to put a stray strand of hair behind her ear using the back of her hand.

“Beef or lemon what?” Penelope asked.

“Pie, of course! What else ya think we’d sell at a pie stand?” the woman said, shaking her head and causing a gentle fall of flour to rain over them.

“We’ll take them all!” Zara announced.

“Now that’s more like it!” the woman replied, smiling and taking from her apron pocket a flour-covered rag that she then used to wipe down their table, covering the clean surface with a fresh film of flour. 

Drained from the day’s heady interviews, the friends sat in relaxed silence as the pie lady busied herself, clanging cookwear and singing to herself and kicking up clouds of dust.

“So who wants which?” she asked, bringing them glasses of water covered in floury fingermarks.

“Umm, I guess I’ll take the one in your right hand,” Penelope said.

Zara shook her head at her friend’s lack of comprehension. “She’s referring to the pies, P.”

“Oh … in that case, we’ll take the savory ones now to split between us, and the sweet pies to go, if that’s all right with you,” Penelope said.

“Peachy by me … There’s a little pie funny for ya—free of charge,” the woman said, snorting and shrugging her shoulders repeatedly as she amused herself. “I’ll just heat those up for you and be back in a jiffy … Coffee?”

Both nodded.

She walked back to the kitchen, a trail of flour in her wake.

“I hope I can keep my eyes open until the coffee arrives,” Zara said. 

“Z, really, I am so proud of you. You were unstoppable today. Never have I witnessed such powers of persuasion.”

“Diplomacy is a key skill for the courtesan. Nice to find it has other applications.”

“I’ll say. You had them all exactly where you wanted them.”

“That’s all fine and well, but what did we learn?”

“That Dan was being blackmailed, for one thing.”

“Do you really think he ran into trouble with gangsters?”

“It seems to make the most sense.” 

“Even more so than Elsie Davies?”

“Unfortunately … But what would a gangster be doing in my shop late at night?” Suddenly Penelope gasped.

“What is it, P? What’s wrong?”

“Zara … you don’t think …”

“I take exception to that. I often think.”

Penelope disregarded the comment, a look of dismay crossing her face. “You don’t think Dan stole the pin do you?” 

“Of course not! Why would he …. Ohhhhhhhh you think perhaps he stole it in hopes of selling it to pay back the blackmailers?”

“It’s just a thought … a terrible one, I know …”

“And the mobsters followed him and caught him in the act? Killing him and stealing the brooch for themselves?”

“It sounds more plausible than anything we’ve come up with so far … more so than Elsie Davies clobbering him.”

“It certainly does,” Zara said, gulping down some of the cool water.

“Z, I get the feeling … I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I think there’s a chance I’m not guilty!”

Zara choked on the water. “Pardon me? Being guilty or not is something one knows from the get-go, P. Is your innocence just dawning on you now?”

“No, of course not. What I’m trying to say is I believe our hypothesis may be enough to exonerate me and turn suspicion elsewhere. After all, the police have no actual proof that I killed Dan, and both you and Vincent said Chief Harrison doesn’t believe I did it. Do you know what this means, Z?”

“I’m afraid to ask.”

“It means I may live!” she squealed. “Miss?!” she shouted to the pie purveyor, “a glass of milk for me and my friend here, please! This calls for a celebration!”

“If you want to go completely wild, we could make it chocolate milk,” Zara added with a wink.

Whether it was due to the superiority of the fare or the likelihood of solving the case, the friends agreed they had never tasted better pie, and they attacked their feast with abandon. By the time they were finished, they found themselves inexplicably covered in flour, and once they’d exited the pie shop, they wiggled and shimmied to dislodge the particles from their hair and clothing. In so doing, Penelope inadvertently loosened her coiffeur and her locks cascaded elegantly around her shoulders.

Zara gasped to see Penelope with her hair down. “Penelope Price, you’re nothing short of exquisite.”

“We’ll see about that!” Penelope said, smiling gleefully and shaking her hair into disarray.

The friends giggled and skipped arm in arm to the car. Despite the lumberjack portions of pie they’d ingested, Penelope felt lighter than she had in weeks.

* * * 

On the way home, they kept the windows down, and the wind blew through their manes as they sang favorite songs from their youth, each singing in a different key.

“Maybe some day they’ll put radios in automobiles,” Penelope shouted wistfully.

“Maybe, but for now, it’s you and me, sister!”

Once they’d arrived at the house, Zara knocked softly on Paolo’s door. “Paolo, come out, come out. We brought pie. Your favorite flavor.”

“Which is his favorite?”

“Pie.”

The pair dissolved into fresh giggles.

“He’s not here,” Zara said, opening his door.

“Just a moment,” Penelope said, walking to the front window. “Your car’s not here either. He must still be in San Francisco.”

“Of course. I wasn’t thinking. You know how those Italians are when they get together,” Zara said, approaching the stairs.

“True … but we don’t actually know if he’s in Little Italy or where he is exactly … other than San Francisco,” Penelope said, working her way up the stairway. 

“You’re right. Well wherever he is, I hope he’s having a rollicking good time. He deserves it. Lord knows I haven’t shown him much of one in quite a while.”

“Z, you mustn’t be so hard on yourself when it comes to Paolo. You’ve been nothing but wonderful to him.”

“Thanks, P. Makes me feel like less of a heel.” Zara yawned as they reached the landing. “I’m all in. Mind if I say goodnight?” 

“I’d prefer if you sang goodnight. ‘Good night, my love, the shadows gently fall; The stars above are watching over all. The dying embers glow; The winds are whisp'ring soft and low,’” Penelope sang, dancing a soft shoe toward her bedroom. 

“‘Goodnight, goodnight, Goodnight,’” Zara sang, finishing the song.


One Lump or Two - Chapter Twenty

Click here for Egg Bacon by Recipe
Good to her word, Zara was ready to go the next morning at the allotted time with seconds to spare.
“I ordered an egg and bacon pie from the café. If we leave now it should be just out of the oven, ready for us to pick up,” Penelope said, taking a deep breath.
“You okay, P?”
“The situation’s just catching up to me. We have today and tomorrow and that’s it.”
“And each other. Don’t forget we have each other.”
“Thanks, Z. You’re the best sister I could ever ask for,” she said, pinning on her hat.
“Well compared to the sister you’ve got, I’m not so sure that’s much of a compliment,” Zara quipped.
Penelope chuckled. “I’ll go get my keys.”
“I’ll go take a nap.”
“There will be no time for your jibes. I already have my keys out, see?” she said, jingling them.
“Looks like we’re already off to a fabulous start. Keep the faith, P. Keep the faith.”
The friends rolled down the windows in Penelope’s modest car, taking in the invigorating fresh air.
“Aunt Dee sure picked a beautiful spot, didn’t she?” Zara said.
“She really did. This town is something special.”
“The kind you could live out a lifetime.”
“Which may be a short one, in my case.”
“No negativity. Not today, P.”
“I’ll do my best. Besides, who could be negative in such a setting?”
* * * *
About a quarter of an hour later, the investigators opened the door to the antique shop and unpacked their things along with the breakfast pie.
“I’ll start the tea,” Zara said. “I’m thinking we should go with something bold this morning—what would you say to some Russian Caravan?”
Penelope nodded and opened her notebook. “Where to start. Let’s see, it says here you’re to request an interview with Elsie Davies. Be careful with that one, she’s slippery.”
“I can handle the Elsie Davieses of this world while putting on my lipstick with my eyes closed,” Zara called from the kitchen.
“For now, let’s take advantage of the quiet and try to recreate that day before the opening. Did anything suspicious happen? Fuses were exceptionally short as I recall.”
“Understandably so. We’d been working ’round the clock and still had so much to get done.” Zara said, entering the tearoom with plates, silverware and napkins.
“And no one worked harder than Dan,” Penelope said, her voice faltering as she clumsily dished out the breakfast pie.
Zara stretched out a hand to steady Penelope’s. “He was a good man. And his death had nothing to do with you. You know that, don’t you?”
“If you say so,” Penelope said unconvincingly. “Okay … I’m ready to take notes.”
They walked through the occurrences of that fateful day, recounting as best as they could all that happened, at turns laughing and weeping as they shared anecdotes of Dan’s industriousness and good humor—especially when it came to his antics with Hank.
“Those two were quite an entertaining pair,” Zara said.
Penelope nodded and sighed.
“He’ll be back,” Zara said.
“Who? You mean Dan? Do you think he’s going to haunt us?”
“No, ninny. Hank!”
“Who said anything about Hank?”
“You did. Your body language did. Your heart did. Don’t forget, I know you inside and out, P.”
“Well then perhaps you know something I don’t. In any event, let’s get back to it.”
They made a verbal tour of the tearoom and antiques shop, trying to recollect if they’d seen anyone unusual canvasing or lurking. They ended up no further along than when they’d started.
“The main thing I remember about that day was all the squabbles,” Penelope said. “I recall Dan and Hank shouting at one another in the tearoom. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but their mannerisms indicated anger, and the situation became so tense that Hank shoved Dan, and Dan stormed out.”
“That doesn’t sound like the two of them,” Zara remarked.
“And there’s more! After that, Dan got into a brief confrontation with Vincent … That’s when you and Paolo drove up, and I noticed you were arguing. Later in the day, Vincent had Stella in tears.”
“Zowie!”
“There’s still more. Dan and Hubert were at each other’s throats, and a moment later, Hubert approached Paolo only to stomp off in frustration after a fruitless attempt to converse with him while Paolo lounged in the Duesenberg. Everyone was working himself to the bone and Paolo sat in the car, smoking as the rest of us toiled. I couldn’t hear what Hubert said to him but I bet he gave Paolo a piece of his mind for loafing. A little later, Paolo snapped at Hank for talking to you. And even Stella and Dan had words!”
“Sounds like we were lucky to have only seen one fatality!” Zara said. “You think we should ask everyone about these incidents to see if we can find a thread? We have nothing else.”
“It looks that way. We already know what weapon was used, as well as the suspected motive, but maybe one of our opening day crew knows more than he or she realizes … something that can point us to the killer’s identity.”
“You’ll never take me alive,” a low voice rasped loudly.
Penelope and Zara screamed.
Stella snickered. “Relax, it’s just me,” she said, coming out from the behind the tearoom doorway where she’d hidden.
“Stella! You almost gave me a heart attack!” Zara said.
Penelope stood wheezing, trying to catch her breath, on the verge of keeling over.
“We’ve got to get you out of corsets once and for all, P,” Zara said. “Slow, deep breaths.”
“I saw you two deep in conversation through the window so I opened the door slowly enough not to jiggle the bells.”
“Why aren’t you in sch—” Penelope began as Zara scribbled a note.
“Lunchtime,” Stella said, reclining on one of the tearoom’s settees.
“They let you leave the school grounds at lunch?” Penelope asked.
“What do you think?” Zara said sarcastically, handing Stella the note she’d written. “Here. Make use of your time. We want to see all of these people again, this evening, if possible. It will be brief, you can assure them.”
“Affirmative,” Stella said, taking the paper and racing out the door.
“Good thinking,” Penelope said, still trying to normalize her breathing.
“Now, what is it exactly we want to ask tonight’s interrogees?”
“Well, I suppose what everyone was arguing about, mostly.”
“I can tell you what Paolo and I were fighting about. He accused me of flirting with Hank.”
“You were flirting with Hank!”
“Well … I’m not anymore … I’m not flirting with anyone.”
Penelope raised an eyebrow.
“Walter Harrison doesn’t count. That’s not flirting … not for me, at any rate,” Zara said.
“Fair enough. Speaking of Hank, I suppose we should ask him why he and Dan were arguing … and why it came down to shoving. Vincent and Dan exchanged words briefly, so we'll want to uncover what that was about. I find it especially interesting that Hubert, who is always so calm and collected, got into a tiff with Dan and then accosted Paolo. We can ask both Hubert and Paolo what went on there.”
“Hank, Vincent, Hubert and Paolo. Do you really think any of them will have anything to say that they haven’t told us already?”
“Maybe not. But perhaps you and I will get more out of what they tell us, given that we now know why and how Dan was killed.”
“Or at least think we know.”
“Well, if the theft theory is good enough for Walter Harrison, it’s good enough for me,” Penelope said.
Zara clasped her hands to her heart. “Thank you,” she whispered, then leaned across the table and gave Penelope a kiss on the cheek.
“Pfft, I’ve had better,” Penelope jeered.
“You don’t say! From whom?”
“Paolo, if you must know. Just yesterday.”
“Is that so!” Zara said, feigning jealousy before her tone turned melancholy. “I wonder how he’s getting on in San Francisco. I do worry about him, you know.”
“My guess is he’s having a marvelous time. Probably in Little Italy right now confabbing with his countrymen, sneaking glasses of wine, and consuming any number of dishes made with noodles, garlic, and olive oil.”
“I hope you’re right,” Zara said, smiling faintly.
They whiled away the afternoon jumping from one topic to the next—from the case to Paulo to the meaning of life and even Penelope’s sister, Pauline. At length, they were interrupted by a visitor.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” Florence Morgan said, her hands poised atop her parasol as she stood in the tearoom’s entrance. “The door was open. I do hope you’re not being careless when it comes to security.”
“Mrs. Morgan, what a pleasure. I’m afraid we don’t have much to report,” Penelope said. “We’ll be conducting one last round of interviews this evening … or at least we hope they’ll be the last.”
“I am not here to discuss the case, Miss Price. I am here to discuss a tea party for the Horticulturists Society. It’s scheduled four weeks from Friday and I am expecting forty guests. That is your maximum, I believe?”
“Yes, but shouldn’t we wait until after my trial to—”
“I have every confidence you will be acquitted, Miss Price. And you should too!”
“I’ll go freshen the tea,” Zara said, excusing herself. “P, your notebook,” she whispered as she walked to the kitchen.
“Yes, I should take notes. What exactly did you have in mind, Mrs. Morgan?”
“Something substantial enough to satisfy the men and dainty enough to please the ladies. I look to your creativity to sort out the particulars. Good day, Miss Price.” Two taps of her parasol later, Florence departed the shop.
“The water should be done in a minute or two,” Zara said, walking back in with a tray of tea accessories. “Don’t tell me you sent her away.”
Penelope shook her head. “Why on earth would Mrs. Morgan plan a party before I’ve even had my trial.”
“Perhaps that’s her way of saying she has faith in you?”
“She’s said it in many ways already.”
“When will you get it through that thick noggin’ of yours that people are on your side and rooting for you to succeed?”
“But why should they? I’m nothing special.”
“Are you saying I’d choose someone ordinary as my best friend?”
Penelope smiled appreciatively. “Perhaps you should be my lawyer.”
“Perhaps I should! … What say you lock the door while I finish with the tea.”
As Penelope walked to the front door to lock it, she espied Hank across the street. Her heart caught in her throat and she stood immobile. She tried to avert her eyes so as not to stare at him, but couldn’t. Before she could make herself look away, she’d caught his eye. She nodded and locked the door, but then noticed he was walking toward the shop. At least she thought he was. What if he’s just crossing the street? What do I do? Zara, help! she thought, smiling at him as he approached.
He raised a hand in salutation and she dared open the door for him. “Good afternoon, Mr. Edwards. How nice to see you.”
“You as well.”
“… Do … How … They say it’s unseasonably warm here this time of year,” Penelope offered feebly.
“Hank, thank you for coming in so quickly,” Zara said, extending her hand in a friendly shake.
“Happy to oblige,” he said, shaking her hand amiably. “I don’t know what help I can be …”
“We just have a few quick questions to ask you. Tea?” Zara offered.
“Yes, I’d love some.”
“P? Would you like to play mother?” Zara asked as the three walked into the tearoom to sit.
“I’m not nearly old enough to be his mother!” Penelope whispered to Zara.
“I meant would you like to be in charge of pouring the tea!”
“Oh! Hahahaha,” Penelope responded, laughing loudly and nervously.
“Are you sure you’re up to this?” Hank asked, noting her peculiar behavior.
“Oh yes, I’m right as rain. You know, speaking of rain—”
Zara cut her off before she could get any further into her meteorological ramblings. “Please, take a sink, Hank,” Zara said, motioning to an armchair as she dropped comfortably onto the settee.
Penelope sat in the chair across from Hank and wordlessly gazed at him.
“P?” Zara urged.
“Huh?” she said, still staring at Hank.
“The tea?”
“Oh yes, of course,” she said, coming to her senses.
Recalling Zara’s graceful and fluid movements, Penelope tried to emulate her, making birdlike motions and rolling her hands and arms unintentionally comically. Zara and Hank both fought to stifle their laughter.
“Hank, to get right to the point,” Zara said, looking away from Penelope lest a snigger escape. “What can you tell us about the spat you had with Dan the day before the grand opening … When Dan shoved you?”
I shoved him, actually,” Hank said, accepting the sloshing teacup from Penelope’s shaking hands. His fingers brushed against hers, making hers shake all the more.
“Oh?” Zara said.
“Dan and I rarely quarreled, and when we did, it was always about the same thing—the speakeasy.”
“You didn’t approve of his new venture?” Zara asked.
“I didn’t approve of him doing anything that went against his conscious, and the speakeasy did just that. I shoved him to try to get him to wise up. I was angry with him for risking so much for so little.”
“What do you mean, Mr. Edwards?” Penelope said, her nervousness turning to intrigue.
“He was doing it just for the money.”
“Don't most people work for the money?” Zara said.
Hank ran a hand through his hair. “This was beyond that, far beyond. He was getting on fine with odd jobs … and he had a bright future here with you, Miss Price. He told me as much.”
“Then what are you saying?” Penelope asked.
“I’m saying that he kowtowed to Elsie Davies’ ludicrous greed for status.”
“Whose status?” Penelope said. “Elsie’s or Lily’s?”
“Both! When Dan first started doing well, it took him no time to become a respected member of the community, and of course, his business success made Lily a society success by default. Lily never cared about that sort of thing, but Elsie sure did. He’d promised me he was going to quit the bootlegging, once he’d started working here with you. But I found out he was still at it. That’s when we argued and I shoved him … I shoved him for being stupid.”
“But he told me he was so happy here. Why would he continue to bootleg?” Penelope said.
“He told me he couldn’t get out. That ‘they’ wouldn’t let him. That if he tried to stop bootlegging, ‘they’ would report his activities to the police and ruin his life,” Hank said.
“So he was being blackmailed,” Zara said.
Hank nodded.
“Who is this they to whom he referred?” Penelope asked.
“I wish I knew. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure it out, but never made any headway. Dan and I agreed we would finish our conversation after the grand opening. And I vowed to help him extricate himself from the speakeasy and blackmail mess—only, he was gone before we ever got a chance to have that talk.”
Hank took a deep breath and then sipped his tea, his eyes on the table.
“Mr. Edwards, you were a good friend to him. You must know that,” Penelope said, placing a hand on Hank’s, her flusteredness having given way to compassion.
He looked at her hand and smiled. “Thank you, Miss Price. I hope so. He was the best friend I ever had, actually. He knew all about me, but never minded. He accepted me just the way I am.”
He took another breath and they sat in silence for moments. The only sound was that of teacups meeting saucers as they drank their tea and contemplated.
“Will there be anything else, ladies?” Hank said when he’d finished his tea.
“No, thank you, Hank. You’ve been most helpful,” Zara said.
“Actually … just one more thing, if you don’t mind, Mr. Edwards,” Penelope said.
Zara looked at her inquiringly.
“Your name, Hank, is short for Henry, correct?”
“Yes?”
“So then your name, Henry Edwards, is the same as Henry Edwards who was one of the founders of the Bohemian Club … and you both being members … May I ask … are you related to him? Was he your father perhaps?”
“No, we are not related,” Hank said, standing abruptly. “Good day, ladies; and thank you for the tea.”
He pulled his fedora over his brow and walked briskly out of the tearoom and shop, leaving Penelope and Zara in wonder.
“Did I say something wrong?” Penelope asked, a lump in her throat.
“I don’t know … I doubt it.”
“I did, didn’t I,” Penelope said, hanging limply over the arm of her chair.
“So Dan was blackmailed. Do you think that had anything to do with the theft or his murder?” Zara asked.
“I don’t see how it could, but who knows. I sure don’t,” Penelope said sullenly.
“Don’t pout, P. It doesn’t become you. I wonder who the blackmailer could be. What if it’s someone we know?”
“You’ve read too many dime novels. I’m betting it’s someone from Monterey. That’s where his saloon was located. Pacific Grove has been a dry town since its inception. They’ve never allowed the sale of spirits.”
“Interesting … where are you going?” Zara asked as Penelope got up and smoothed her skirt.
“To make a stronger pot of tea. I think we’re in for a doozy of an afternoon, and frankly, I could use a stiff drink!”
Zara followed her into the kitchen. “What do you think Hank was talking about when he said Dan knew all about him but accepted him anyway?”
“I have no idea. Perhaps he just meant how friends know each other’s foibles and about the skeletons in one another’s closets, but they remain loyal chums nonetheless.”
“What sort of skeletons do you think Hank Edwards has in his closet?”
“Not Henry Edwards of the Bohemian Club apparently.”
“Is he still alive?”
“Heavens no. He died back in ’91, in New York, I believe.”
“Well I have no idea how Hank may be connected to this Bohemian Henry Edwards fellow, but your asking about him struck some sort of nerve with Hank.”
“Agreed.”
“Look what this cat dragged in,” Stella called out, pushing Vincent through the shop ahead of her. “And no funny business, Caruso.”
“Someone may be taking her job a little too seriously,” Zara said, walking back into the tearoom. “I’ll handle him from here. Come on in, Vincent.”
“If that is your real name!” Stella said as she followed them to the same sitting area where the ladies had chatted with Hank.
“Any idea why you’re here?” Zara asked, gesturing for Vincent to sit.
“Because my girlfriend told me to be?”
“Wise answer,” Zara said.
Stella sat on the arm of the settee, her arms folded and grin smug.
“Vincent, what can you tell us about your relationship with Dan?” Penelope asked, taking her previous seat and opening her notebook. “I saw you too at odds the day before the grand opening.”
Vincent sat for a moment, straightening his posture and rubbing his hands on his thighs. At length, he spoke. “I think you know that my family is … once in awhile, we find ourselves strapped for cash now and again. I do what I can to help Mom, taking small jobs here and there … to work around my job at the precinct …”
“And school,” Penelope added.
“Yes, around school too.”
“Well …” he cleared his throat. “You see, Dan … after the saloon closed … well he … ummm”
“They know about The Blind Pig, Caruso,” Stella said.
“Oh … what a relief,” he said, his posture relaxing as he wiped his brow. “Well then, you should know that I asked Dan for a job … at The Pig.”
“You mean the speakeasy,” Penelope said.
“Yes ma’am.”
“Is that what you two were fighting about?” Zara asked.
Vincent nodded. “I’d begged Dan for a job a few weeks prior. All we had in the house at the time was some souring milk and a little lard. It was before you brought me on here to help out. I was desperate to make some money to buy food … but Dan wouldn’t give me a job.”
“That doesn’t sound like bighearted Dan,” Zara said.
“Sure it does,” Stella said. “Think about it.”
“Dan didn’t want Vincent to do something illegal and risk his future. Isn’t that right, Vincent?” Penelope said.
He nodded again. “He offered me money. He offered me food, but—” he broke off, disquieted.
“But your Italian ego got in the way, and you refused his help,” Zara said.
“Yes. That same night, when I got home after work at the police station, I found out someone had anonymously dropped a crate full of food on our doorstep. Mom said it was from God. I knew straight off it was from Dan.”
“So what made you argue with him the day before the opening?” Penelope said.
“I asked him again about a job. The extra money from working here really made a difference, and I knew you wouldn’t need me anymore after the grand opening. So I went to Dan again.”
“And again he said no,” Zara said.
“Yes, ma’am.”
Zara shuddered. “Promise me you’ll never call me that again.”
“Yes, ma’-uh-m’lady.”
All chuckled.
“Vincent, just one last question before you go. A serious one,” Penelope said, putting down her pencil and looking at him intently.
Vincent shifted in his seat.
“We have reason to believe Dan was being blackmailed. Do you have any idea who may have been behind such a scheme?”
“Empirically? Or intuitionally?” he said.
“Either,” Zara said. “Both,” Penelope said in tandem.
Vincent thought for a moment. “Empirically, I have no idea …”
“And intuitionally?” Zara pressed.
“… Mr. Allen.”
“Hubert?” Zara asked in surprise.
“Vincent, that’s a very serious charge to levy at Stella’s godfather!” Penelope admonished. “Apologize to her at once!”
“It’s okay,” Stella said, unfazed. “Just disregard his ravings. He’s always had it in for Hubert.”
“There’s something about him I don’t trust. Have you heard the way he talks?” Vincent said.
“Vincent, you should be ashamed of yourself!” Penelope cried.
“I’m used to it,” Stella said. “Vincent takes exception to people all the time. You should’ve heard the things he said about Zara at first.”
“Oh?” Zara said, crossing her arms over her knee and wagging her foot in amused interest.
“I was wrong about you, Miss Zara. I’m not ashamed to say it. When I first met you I thought you were a bad influence on my Stella … that you’d lead her down a path that would take her away from me … Then … well, now I think you’re pretty swell. And I’m really sorry.”
Zara blew him a kiss, hoping to embarrass him.
It worked.
“Anyone else on your watch list?” Penelope asked.
“Elsie Davies, of course,” he said.
“Why Elsie Davies?” Penelope asked.
He looked at her askance. “Is that a real question?”
“P’s been practicing her dry humor,” Zara joked.
Vincent and Penelope both furrowed their brows in puzzlement.
“Did I miss something?” Vincent asked.
“Nothing worth explaining,” Zara said.
“He didn’t care much for Hank when Hank first came to town,” Stella said.
“Hank Edwards?” Penelope asked, gripping the arm of her chair.
“That’s not exactly true. I just felt like he had some sort of secret,” Vincent said.
“Do you still feel that way?” Zara asked.
“Don’t get me wrong, Hank’s a real standup guy,” Vincent said.
“Vincent … that’s not what I asked.”
He took a moment. “Yes, yes I do think he carries a secret … But gee whiz, who doesn’t?”
Penelope and Zara shared a look.
“Thank you, Vincent, you’ve been a tremendous help,” Penelope said.
Vincent nodded and put his cap on.
“Move along, Caruso—Beat it!” Stella said, pushing him out of the room. “I’ll be back in a blink,” she called as she exited the antiques store.
“What do you think?” Penelope said once she and Zara were alone.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what to think,” Zara said.
“You don’t believe what he said about Hubert Allen … do you?”
“Of course not … do you?”
“Noooooooo … though I do think Vincent is most likely a good judge of character. He sure had you dead to rights,” Penelope said, smirking.
“Another of your attempts at humor, P?”
Penelope smirked again and made a show of licking her pencil as she prepared to take notes.
“Last one,” Stella said, escorting Hubert into the tearoom.
“Hubert, delighted as always,” Zara said. “What a handsome suit. You must wear it more often.”
Penelope frowned and rolled her tongue around her mouth in distaste. When she looked at the pencil she’s licked, she found it was a fountain pen.
“Ladehs,” he said, smiling and standing tall, pulling on his shirt cuffs. “How may I beh of asseestance?”
Penelope opened her inky mouth to speak, but Zara cut her off.
“Hubert, we’re trying to gain a better understanding of Dan’s activities during his last day.  We know he was agitated. He and Hank had a rather heated exchange, in fact. And we know he had words with you. Can you share with us what you discussed? It might be of invaluable help,” Zara said.
Hubert straightened his tie then said, “May I seet?”
“Of course. Where are our manners?” Zara said, gesturing toward the armchair.
“Thez are matteers beest deescussed weethout my goddaughteer preezeent.”
“I already know about The Blind Pig, Hubert,” Stella said, taking her spot on the arm of the settee.
His mouth fell open.
“Weel … een that case … Danieel Coopeer was a veery good man, an honorable man. Eet eez eemportant you understand thees,” Vincent began.
“Oh yes, we’re quite aware,” Penelope said.
He cocked his head and stared at her, noting her blackened tongue.
“An honorable man … like you, Hubert,” Zara said, smiling demurely and lightly touching his knee.
He stiffened and grinned, moving his hand to cover Zara’s just as she casually pulled hers away.
“Thees eez a deefeecult subject,” he said.
“Difficult for us all,” Penelope said, trying to insert herself into the conversation.
“What I mehn eez … I am not comfortable behsmeerchinn such a man’s characteer … eespeecialleh wheen heh eez no longeer her to dehfeend heemseelf …”
“We appreciate that, Hubert,” Zara encouraged. “Go on. You’re among friends here.”
“You seh … thee day before Danieel’s passing … heh and I quarreeled.”
“What about?” Penelope asked.
Zara gave her a look indicating Penelope should leave the talking to her.
“I heezeetate …” Hubert said.
“Go on, Hubert. It may help uncover the truth as to what happened to Dan,” Zara said.
“You seh … Dan had come to meh to borrow moneh … again.”
“Again?! Had he done so before?” Penelope asked.
“More times than I care to say. Eet was neeveer for heem though, you seh. Eet was for heez wife and heez daughters. Fine frocks and museec leessons do not come chepp … and Dan had deets … I told heem I could no longeer kep bailing heem out … that heh would have to coortail heez eenjudeecious, wasteful speending.”
“Do you think that’s why someone was blackmailing him … perhaps Elsie Davies … or even the mob?” Penelope interjected.
Zara and Hubert looked at her in astonishment.
After a moment he spoke. “I was not aware Danieel was behing blackmailed … but yees, what you say about thee mob sounds correect. Bootleeggeers are a seddy and dangeerous bunch. They may veery weell have threeteened Danieel een some way. I told heem to close thee spekkehzeh … on many occasions … but heh was too stubborn and proud.”
“That doesn’t sound like Dan,” Penelope said.
“Madam, I assure you, I knew Danieel Coopeer far longeer than you—for many, many yerrs. And wheen a man can’t provide for heez family and beccomes deespeerate, heh weel rehsort to deds more teerrible than you can eemageene.”
“You tried to help him, Hubert. If he didn’t choose to accept your help, that’s no fault of yours,” Zara said. “I just have one last question. If you can spare another moment.”
“Eet would beh my pleezure.”
“After you and Dan squabbled, you approached Paolo who was smoking in the Duesenberg, if I understand correctly. Can you tell me what prompted your exchange?”
“Gladly! Eet was two-fold. Feerst off, I had noteeced heem watching meh and Dan as weh spoke. Paolo was lerring. I walked straight oveer to heem and suggeesteed heh not leeseen een on thee conveersation of otheers.”
“And second?” Zara nudged.
“I chideed heem for lazin een the car while thee reest of you weer eenside weerking like wheerling deerveeshees …
“He is a bit of a dewdropper, I’ll admit,” Zara said.
“Veery lazeh eendedd,” Hubert said, nodding. “I theen rehalized heh deedn’t spekk Ennglish and had no ideh what I was saying, so I walked away.”
“Did you feel just a little bit better for reading him the riot act?” Zara asked, smiling.
“Yees … a leettle beet.”
Hubert and Zara chuckled.
“Thank you so much for coming to chat with us, Hubert. We can always count on you,” Zara said.
“Good luck to you, Mees Price. You rehmain een my prayers.”
“Thank you, Mr. Allen. Your encouragement means a great deal to me,” Penelope said.
“I’ll walk you out, Hubert,” Zara said, rising to escort him.
“He was the last on my list. We’re done then, right?” Stella asked Penelope.
“Looks that way. Zara and I want to talk to Paolo again …”
“But that doesn’t really count,” Stella said, grinning.
“Precisely.”
“I’m bushed,” Zara said upon reentering the room. “Let’s call it a night.”
“So soon? We’re just getting started!” Stella protested.
“Playing interrogator is taxing. I could use a drink,” Zara said.
Penelope looked up at her in concern.
“But I won’t,” Zara assured her. “Regardless, I really do want to get going, if it’s all the same to you, P.”
“Of course. You’ve earned a break. That was an impressive display, Z. How you got so much from everyone so effortlessly,” Penelope said.
“It was far from effortless, trust me.”
“You were like a prima ballerina,” Stella said, attempting a pirouette and nearly knocking the tea things off the table. “Dancers always look like they’re floating on air, but really, they’re hard-as-nails athletes.”
“Well put, Stella!” Penelope said.
“Well this ballerina’s taking her tutu and hitting the road,” Zara said, walking back to the antiques shop to collect her hat and gloves.
“Come on, Stella,” Penelope said, getting up. “Our star needs her rest.”
“But we only have one more day,” Stella whined.
“We know, Stella, we know all too well,” Zara said.
“See you at lunch tomorrow?” Stella asked.
“Does it matter if I say no?” Penelope asked, lifting her carpetbag to find her keys beneath it.
“Not a chance,” Stella said, jogging backward out of the door and smiling.
“See you at lunch,” Penelope said, pinning on her hat.
* * * *
Zara dropped into the passenger seat of Penelope’s Model T and closed her eyes.
“Let’s get you home,” Penelope said.
“Actually, can we joyride a little? I’d love to take a drive along the coastline … feel the wind … smell the ocean.”
“But my flivver’s not a breezer like yours,” Penelope said with a subdued grin.
“Why Penelope Price! Was that jazz jargon I heard come out of your choir girl mouth?”
“And so’s your old man,” she said smiling proudly.
“You have no idea what that means, do you?”
Penelope’s smile faded instantaneously.
“For a minute, P, you were right there. Now, now you’re back to … being … well … you!”
“I was trying to say that my Model T isn’t a convertible,” Penelope said with a discouraged huff.
“Yes, P. I know. Remember, while you were back in Pedro perfecting your shorthand, I was off sneaking into juice joints and perfecting my flapperspeak. You’d be surprised how much gibberish was cooked up by me and my roaring jazz-lovin’ rabble of cronies, just to keep the older generation in the dark as to what we were saying.” She yawned. “As for your automobile, the windows down will be just fine.”
“You hungry?” Penelope asked as she leaned past Zara to crank down her window.
“Ravenous.”
“Me too. What say we tour the coast until we find a place to eat.”
“What I say is ‘that sounds wonderful.’ I’m just going to close my eyes …”
* * * *
“We’re here,” Penelope said softly, turning off the engine and engaging the parking break.
Zara yawned and stretched. “Mmmmmm how long was I out?”
“About ten minutes.”
“What? That’s impossible. I feel like I slept for ages.”
“Oh you were out like a used flashbulb, I can tell you.”
“What is this place?” Zara asked as they stepped out of the car.
“No idea. I don’t see a sign, but I do see a pie in the window.”
“That’s all the sign I need!” Zara said, quickening her pace.
They opened the door to find the eatery deserted. The only evidence of business activity ever having taken place was the number of tables loaded with dirty dishes.
“Anywhere ya like,” a voice called from the kitchen.
Penelope sat down and scooted into a booth. Zara immediately pulled her out of the seat and began swatting at her backside.
Horrified, Penelope tried to wriggle away. “If you’re trying to make it look like we’re lesbians again, I don’t appreciate the humor.”
“I’m afraid you’re not my type, P,” Zara deadpanned, “and what I’m trying to do is brush the dust off your dress. You’re covered in white powder.”
“What on earth?” Penelope said, craning to examine the back of her skirt.
Zara took an unused napkin from the table next to theirs and began wiping down the seat of their booth.
“Why, it’s all over. What do you suppose it could be?” Penelope said, using her hanky to whisk her side of the booth.
“Cocaine most likely,” Zara kidded, taking her seat.
“Cocaine! If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re determined to land me back in the pokey,” Penelope whispered, shaking her handkerchief to clean it and choking on the cloud of dust that sprung from it.
A moment later, a round woman dressed all in white walked up to the table, flour covering the bulk of her exposed skin and hair. “Now what can I get for you ladies?”
“Menus, for starters, if you please,” Zara said.
“Seeing as we’re about to close, there’s not much left. You can take your pick of beef, chicken, cherry or lemon,” the woman said, inadvertently applying even more flour to her face as she attempted to put a stray strand of hair behind her ear using the back of her hand.
“Beef or lemon what?” Penelope asked.
“Pie, of course! What else ya think we’d sell at a pie stand?” the woman said, shaking her head and causing a gentle fall of flour to rain over them.
“We’ll take them all!” Zara announced.
“Now that’s more like it!” the woman replied, smiling and taking from her apron pocket a flour-covered rag that she then used to wipe down their table, covering the clean surface with a fresh film of flour.
Drained from the day’s heady interviews, the friends sat in relaxed silence as the pie lady busied herself, clanging cookwear and singing to herself and kicking up clouds of dust.
“So who wants which?” she asked, bringing them glasses of water covered in floury fingermarks.
“Umm, I guess I’ll take the one in your right hand,” Penelope said.
Zara shook her head at her friend’s lack of comprehension. “She’s referring to the pies, P.”
“Oh … in that case, we’ll take the savory ones now to split between us, and the sweet pies to go, if that’s all right with you,” Penelope said.
“Peachy by me … There’s a little pie funny for ya—free of charge,” the woman said, snorting and shrugging her shoulders repeatedly as she amused herself. “I’ll just heat those up for you and be back in a jiffy … Coffee?”
Both nodded.
She walked back to the kitchen, a trail of flour in her wake.
“I hope I can keep my eyes open until the coffee arrives,” Zara said.
“Z, really, I am so proud of you. You were unstoppable today. Never have I witnessed such powers of persuasion.”
“Diplomacy is a key skill for the courtesan. Nice to find it has other applications.”
“I’ll say. You had them all exactly where you wanted them.”
“That’s all fine and well, but what did we learn?”
“That Dan was being blackmailed, for one thing.”
“Do you really think he ran into trouble with gangsters?”
“It seems to make the most sense.”
“Even more so than Elsie Davies?”
“Unfortunately … But what would a gangster be doing in my shop late at night?” Suddenly Penelope gasped.
“What is it, P? What’s wrong?”
“Zara … you don’t think …”
“I take exception to that. I often think.”
Penelope disregarded the comment, a look of dismay crossing her face. “You don’t think Dan stole the pin do you?”
“Of course not! Why would he …. Ohhhhhhhh you think perhaps he stole it in hopes of selling it to pay back the blackmailers?”
“It’s just a thought … a terrible one, I know …”
“And the mobsters followed him and caught him in the act? Killing him and stealing the brooch for themselves?”
“It sounds more plausible than anything we’ve come up with so far … more so than Elsie Davies clobbering him.”
“It certainly does,” Zara said, gulping down some of the cool water.
“Z, I get the feeling … I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I think there’s a chance I’m not guilty!”
Zara choked on the water. “Pardon me? Being guilty or not is something one knows from the get-go, P. Is your innocence just dawning on you now?”
“No, of course not. What I’m trying to say is I believe our hypothesis may be enough to exonerate me and turn suspicion elsewhere. After all, the police have no actual proof that I killed Dan, and both you and Vincent said Chief Harrison doesn’t believe I did it. Do you know what this means, Z?”
“I’m afraid to ask.”
“It means I may live!” she squealed. “Miss?!” she shouted to the pie purveyor, “a glass of milk for me and my friend here, please! This calls for a celebration!”
“If you want to go completely wild, we could make it chocolate milk,” Zara added with a wink.
Whether it was due to the superiority of the fare or the likelihood of solving the case, the friends agreed they had never tasted better pie, and they attacked their feast with abandon. By the time they were finished, they found themselves inexplicably covered in flour, and once they’d exited the pie shop, they wiggled and shimmied to dislodge the particles from their hair and clothing. In so doing, Penelope inadvertently loosened her coiffeur and her locks cascaded elegantly around her shoulders.
Zara gasped to see Penelope with her hair down. “Penelope Price, you’re nothing short of exquisite.”
“We’ll see about that!” Penelope said, smiling gleefully and shaking her hair into disarray.
The friends giggled and skipped arm in arm to the car. Despite the lumberjack portions of pie they’d ingested, Penelope felt lighter than she had in weeks.
* * * *
On the way home, they kept the windows down, and the wind blew through their manes as they sang favorite songs from their youth, each singing in a different key.
“Maybe some day they’ll put radios in automobiles,” Penelope shouted wistfully.
“Maybe, but for now, it’s you and me, sister!”
Once they’d arrived at the house, Zara knocked softly on Paolo’s door. “Paolo, come out, come out. We brought pie. Your favorite flavor.”
“Which is his favorite?”
“Pie.”
The pair dissolved into fresh giggles.
“He’s not here,” Zara said, opening his door.
“Just a moment,” Penelope said, walking to the front window. “Your car’s not here either. He must still be in San Francisco.”
“Of course. I wasn’t thinking. You know how those Italians are when they get together,” Zara said, approaching the stairs.
“True … but we don’t actually know if he’s in Little Italy or where he is exactly … other than San Francisco,” Penelope said, working her way up the stairway.
“You’re right. Well wherever he is, I hope he’s having a rollicking good time. He deserves it. Lord knows I haven’t shown him much of one in quite a while.”
“Z, you mustn’t be so hard on yourself when it comes to Paolo. You’ve been nothing but wonderful to him.”
“Thanks, P. Makes me feel like less of a heel.” Zara yawned as they reached the landing. “I’m all in. Mind if I say goodnight?”
“I’d prefer if you sang goodnight. ‘Good night, my love, the shadows gently fall; The stars above are watching over all. The dying embers glow; The winds are whisp'ring soft and low,’” Penelope sang, dancing a soft shoe toward her bedroom.

“‘Goodnight, goodnight, Goodnight,’” Zara sang, finishing the song.