One Year Later

“Can everyone hear me?” Mack Vogel’s voice boomed out across the crowd. Our esteemed school superintendent tapped the microphone, and everyone flinched at the loud popping noise.

“We’re here today,” Mack said, “to open what Agnes Mephisto began so many months ago.”

I tried to listen but couldn’t quite manage to do so. The absurdly warm weather was too nice to spend listening to run-on sentences. Besides, somewhere in this mass of people was the man I’d recently started to call my boyfriend. Evan was joining Jenna and Oliver and me for a Saturday afternoon of cautious togetherness, and I was trying not to be nervous.

Joanna Vogel, a burbling infant in her arms, stood near me, alternately smiling at the baby and smiling at her husband. Debra O’Conner was almost unrecognizable as a natural brunette. She looked relaxed and content. The two of us had gravitated toward a monthly lunch date, and it was strange not to feel incompetent around her. Maybe someday I’d tell her so.

Julie Reed, the PTA’s vice president, held on to a small twin-sized stroller as her husband held the hands of two seven-year-olds. Two parents, four children—Mom and Dad would have to work on a zone defense instead of man-to-man. They looked tired already, and it wasn’t even noon.

Erica, representing the PTA, stood at Mack’s shoulder. Randy was sitting on a handy bench, wiping his forehead with a handkerchief. Teachers and staff stood in clusters, and small children tugged on parents’ hands.

“If Agnes were here today,” Mack was intoning, “she’d be proud of what we’ve done in her memory.”

I smiled, thinking back to the day after Don Hatcher was arrested. I’d called a special meeting of the PTA committee and proposed an idea. Erica, Randy, and an extremely pregnant Julie readily agreed. The PTA as a whole leaped on the plan. Erica and I passed the idea up to Mack, Mack passed it to the school board, and the school board talked to the attorneys who guarded the Tarver Foundation. Bick Lewis welcomed the idea, and twelve months later, here we were, standing in the sun.

Mack hefted a pair of hedge clippers and held them at the ready. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Agnes Mephisto Memorial Ice Arena is officially open!”

He snipped the wide ribbon, and the red edges curled high, floating in the light breeze. A stampede of youngsters surged past, and Mack staggered back, bumped by bag after bag of skating equipment.

“I’d like to see him on skates,” said a voice in my head.


“What did you say, Mom?” Oliver asked. Two inches taller than he’d been a year ago, my son had left behind all his stuffed animals, a few of his poor study habits, and found a new best friend. Robert and his family had left Rynwood one snowy weekend, leaving behind an empty house and a garage full of bicycles.

I put one arm around him and another around Jenna. “Nothing, sweetheart.”

“It’s not bad,” Agnes said. “I gather Bick’s office chose the color scheme? You should have done it yourself.”

“Probably,” I agreed.

“Mom?” Jenna asked.

“Thank you, Beth. For everything.”

And Agnes was gone.

Jenna tugged on my sleeve. “Mom? Did you hear me? Mom? Hello, Earth to Mom. Can I get some goalie pads?”

My daughter, on the other hand, had not abandoned Bailey as a best friend. But two other girls were competing for Second Best Friend, and the expansion was welcome.

“Your dad bought new pads in August.” I frowned. “Did you lose them?”

“Not soccer goalie pads.” She rolled her eyes.“Hockey goalie pads.”

Hockey? It was okay if I wanted to play hockey, but my precious daughter? “Let me talk to your father about that.”

“Okay.” She grinned up at me. “Cool.”

Her smile made my heart almost burst with love. I pulled my children tight, wanting nothing more than to hold them forever and ever.

“Aw, Mom,” Oliver said. “Not in public!”

One by one, they shrugged off my embrace and headed into the arena. “We’ll be inside,” Jenna tossed over her shoulder.

“Daahling.” Marina appeared, an orange scarf wrapped loosely around her neck. As a scarf it would have been unremarkable except for the bright pink circles that dotted it. Neither the orange nor the pink went well with either her red hair or her pale peach coat. She noted my look. “Don’t you recognize the scheme, mah dear? It’s the colors of the girls’ bathroom in your new building.”

“I didn’t have anything to do with the colors.” And after a tally of thirty-seven, I’d stopped keeping track of the times I’d said so.

“Silly you,” Marina said.

We stood side by side, watching a small river of people head into the arena. A warm glow enveloped me. Thanks largely to my role in the Tarver PTA, I’d helped get this much-needed facility built. I, Beth Kennedy, had done something substantial and worthwhile. My name was on a brass plaque that thousands of people would pass by every year. None of them would read it, but Jenna and Oliver had, and they were the only ones who counted.

Now I was in my second year as PTA secretary, and I had lots of project ideas—a father-daughter dance; then maybe the start-up of a mentor program; after that, a video about the Tarver Foundation.

“Hey, Beth.” Marina had snapped out of Southern belle mode.


“Now that Don Hatcher’s trial is over, and he’s in prison and all, what do you say—”


“You’re going to reject my latest brainstorm out of hand?” She put her hands on her hips. “What happened to the intrepid Beth Kennedy who trudged on with her murder investigation through defeat after defeat? What happened to the brave Beth Kennedy who risked life and limb to save her children and best friend?”

“She decided to retire her superhero costume and live a quiet civilian life.”

“Oh, pooh. Aren’t you the teensiest bit bored these days?”

“No.” But I’d hesitated, and a twitch on her face told me she’d heard the pause. Because she was right. After the excitement of tracking down a murderer, after appearing as a witness in a murder trial, after hearing the guilty verdict, and feeling the satisfaction that no one would suffer from Don Hatcher’s temper ever again, I had to admit that life did seem a trifle flat.

“Ah-hah!” Marina grinned. “Bored silly! I knew it!”

Not that I wished anyone dead, of course—not ever, not in a hundred million years. But if something happened, well . . . a little murder might be interesting.

Вы читаете Murder at the PTA (2010)
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