The Lost Weekend
Mary-Alice Arceneaux has started a new career at age 70 as the newest member of the Sinful Ladies’ Detective Agency. She is happily learning the principles of detection from Ida Belle, Gertie, and Fortune–and of course, picking up tips from her beloved mystery novels. But Mary-Alice finds herself on the wrong side of the interrogation table when her cousin Celia accuses her of a shocking crime.
Unfortunately, Celia’s story looks plausible–at least to a sheriff under intense pressure to make a quick arrest. Now Mary-Alice and the Sinful Ladies have to find out what Celia’s hiding, and find it fast…or Mary-Alice will pay with her freedom.
“Don’t you try to fool me, Celia Arceneaux,” Mary-Alice scolded. “I know what you’re up to.”
“I’m speaking the truth,” Celia whispered.
“It’ll only get worse, darlin’. This time you landed in the hospital, next time it might be the morgue. You don’t have to protect him, Celia.”
It was impossible to discern any expression in Celia’s swollen features.
Celia started to move her lips, and then gave up.
“Celia,” Mary-Alice persisted, “You can’t just go around inventing stories about how this one kidnapped you or that one beat you. The sheriffs don’t take kindly to folks telling them falsehoods. Why, Deputy Sheriff Carter LeBlanc just went over to Fortune’s house today and tried to search it.”
Celia’s eyes widened by a millimeter.
“Well of course he did, Celia. Now, that girl knows her rights and she told him he was going to need a warrant. But he will get one, Celia, and he’ll be back, and you and I both know he’s not going to find anything. Not only that…”
Mary-Alice never liked to tell a lie, especially when she was in the middle of reprimanding someone else for doing the same thing. But she reasoned that a little deceit in the service of the greater good was no crime.
“I don’t believe you’ve been inside that house since young Fortune moved in, Celia. She’s made all kinds of changes inside, moved things around and such. What do you suppose is going to happen when your description of Fortune’s house is different from what Deputy Sheriff LeBlanc finds?”
“Don’t call it her house,” Celia whispered. “That Yankee strumpet will never own a house in Sinful as long as I’m alive.”
“Call it Marge’s house then, if you like,” Mary-Alice replied. “My point is that if Carter catches you out in a lie, you’ll be in trouble. Do you know you can go to jail for making a false statement to a law enforcement officer? Well, you can. And then whoever did this to you will walk free.”
Celia was quiet for a long time. Finally she gathered the strength to speak.
“Perhaps I misremembered,” she murmured.
“Don’t be afraid to tell the truth,” Mary-Alice encouraged her. “Who did this to you, Celia?”
“It’s coming back to me now.”
“Good for you, darlin’. You tell me exactly what happened.”
“The place I was held captive…it was the Old Cooper Place.”
“The…now Celia, you’re getting it all mixed up. The old Cooper Place is where I live!”
“I’m not mixed up at all, Mary-Alice.” Celia’s distended face was expressionless, but her tone was ice-cold. “And as you were prideful enough to show the place off after you fixed it up. I believe I could describe the interior quite accurately. Do you remember demonstrating how you’d organized your bedroom closet?”
“Celia!” Mary-Alice exclaimed. “You wouldn’t!”
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This story is a licensed work in Jana DeLeon’s Miss Fortune world.