going out in the world and beginning life all over again was just inconceivable. I decided to stay, and resigned myself to the fact that the letter would be opened and I’d be arrested. But then, the other day, when I started figuring things out, I actually felt some hope.”

Figuring things out, I thought. Just like Jane had. “Once Jane verified from the hospice records that Liz had been on the team that had worked with all three patients who had overdosed,” I said, “it must have been pretty apparent to her how they got their drugs. And, since Liz still held a job and drove a ratty old black VW, Jane probably realized she must have salted away most of the mercy-killing money. So she decided to try blackmail on a larger scale.”

“I wonder why the police didn’t catch on to Liz in their investigations of the overdoses?” Snelling said.

“Probably no one knew about Liz’s pharmacy job. The Tidepools, like most health-care facilities, must have fairly stringent rules against moonlighting.”

Snelling nodded, looking tired now. “You think Jane set up the meeting with Liz on the old pier?”

“Yes. And when Liz fled after killing Jane, John Cala recognized her. But she also saw him.”

“So she set up her own meeting and killed him too.” Snelling lay back against his pillows. “At The Tidepools, in that shed, she kept ranting at me about how people wouldn’t leave her alone. There she was, having killed all those people, and she was carrying on as if she were a victim.”

“She was-the victim of herself.” I was silent a moment. Snelling was tired and I should let him rest, but there was one other thing I had to know. “Abe, what exactly happened at The Tidepools? When did you get there?”

“A little before ten. After I left San Francisco, I drove down here and went to Susan’s house. I had to ask her if she remembered Liz Schaff as being part of Barbara’s medical team. I thought she had been, but I couldn’t remember for sure. Needless to say, Susan was shocked to see me, but she did remember. She wanted me to call the police immediately, but I decided I had to verify from the personnel records you mentioned about the other women who overdosed. I drove up to the hospice, but there was someone in the office and, even if there hadn’t been, the burglar alarm was turned on. Dumb on my part.”

“And then?”

“I was on my way back to my car when Liz appeared, walking in from the road.”

It fit with the time element, I thought. Liz had left San Francisco considerably after Snelling had, since she’d taken the time to ransack his house. “Go on.”

“At first I tried to duck behind my car, but she spotted me. She acted friendly and said she knew why I was there, that she hadn’t done the killings but knew who had. She claimed she had proof and asked me to come with her. I did. Dumb again.”

“And she took you to the tool shed?”

“Yes. We were halfway there before I realized she’d trapped me. Then it was too late. She had the knife at my ribs. She forced me in there and started ranting at me. She carried on for I don’t know how long and none of it made sense. Then she used that knife, suddenly, and that’s all I remember until I came in to the recovery room here after surgery.”

“You were lucky she got you into a dark place like the tool shed,” I said. “She probably didn’t realize at first that she hadn’t killed you. And, by the time she did, I had crossed the lawn and she was afraid to do anything more than hide in the shadows. The darkness probably saved your life.”

“No,” he said. “You did.”

I felt a flash of pleasure, followed by embarrassment. “I only wish it were that deliberate or well thought-out. But, whatever, I’m glad you’re on the way to recovery. And I’d better get out of here before you have a relapse.”

He grinned wanly, and we agreed to get together once he got back to San Francisco. I went out and started down the hospital corridor, which was as starkly white as Snelling’s living room. Halfway to the elevators, I spotted Susan Tellenberg. She was dressed in a crisp linen suit and heels, and her cheeks glowed as rosily as the basket of apples she carried. She didn’t see me as she moved purposefully toward Snelling’s room, and I didn’t bother to call out to her.”

In the lobby, I found a pay phone and called Don on the Hot Hit Line. We agreed to meet Friday night at the Sand Dollar; he had arranged to have the whole weekend off. Then I went out to my car and drove from the parking lot, toward the road that led through the hills to the freeway.

I flicked on the radio to KPSM and smiled as I heard Don frantically extolling the virtues of the local Black Angus Steak House. Then he did a traffic report, followed by a shampoo commercial. Finally, he promised three terrific hits, back to back, no interruptions.

He dedicated the first song to me. It was called, “Somewhere Between Lovers and Friends.”

Marcia Muller

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