“What brought that on?”
“I was just talking to Ruth—”
“Oh, dear,” said Myrna and gave Clara another hug. “How many times have I told you to never speak to Ruth on your own? It’s far too dangerous. You don’t want to go wandering around in that head all alone.”
Clara laughed. “You’ll never believe it, but she helped me.”
“She showed me my future, if I’m not careful.”
Myrna smiled, understanding. “I’ve been thinking about what happened. The murder of your friend.”
“She wasn’t a friend.”
Myrna nodded. “What do you think about a ritual? Something to heal.”
“The garden?” It seemed a little late to heal Lillian, and privately Clara doubted she’d have wanted to bring her back to life anyway.
“Your garden. And whatever else might need healing.” Myrna looked at Clara with a melodramatic gaze.
“Me? You think finding a woman I hated dead in my garden might have screwed me up?”
“I hope it has,” said Myrna. “We could do a smudging ritual to get rid of whatever bad energy and thoughts are still hanging around your garden.”
It sounded silly, Clara knew, said so boldly like that. As though wafting smoke over a place where murder had happened could have any effect. But they’d done smudging rituals before and it was very calming, very comforting. And Clara needed both right now.
“Great,” she said. “I’ll call Dominique—”
“—and I’ll get the stuff.”
By the time Clara got off the phone Myrna was back down from her apartment above the bookshop. She carried a gnarled old stick, some ribbons and what looked like a huge cigar. Or something.
“I think I have smudge envy,” said Clara, pointing to the cigar.
“Here,” said Myrna, handing Clara the tree limb. “Take this.”
“What is it? A stick?”
“Not just a stick. It’s a prayer stick.”
“So I probably shouldn’t beat the crap out of the critic for the Ottawa Star with it,” Clara said, following Myrna out of the bookshop.
“Perhaps not. And don’t beat yourself with it either.”
“What makes it a prayer stick?”
“It’s a prayer stick because I say it is,” Myrna said.
Dominique was coming down du Moulin and they waved to each other.
“Wait a second.” Clara veered off to speak to Ruth, still sitting on the bench. “We’re going into the back garden. Want to join us?”
Ruth looked at Clara holding the stick, then at Myrna with the cigar made of dried sage and sweetgrass.
“You’re not going to do one of those profane witch ritual things are you?”
“We certainly are,” said Myrna from behind Clara.
“Count me in.” Ruth struggled to her feet.
The police were gone. The garden was empty. No one to even stand watch over the place where a life was lost. Where a life was taken. The yellow “crime scene” tape fluttered and circled part of the lawn grass and one of the perennial beds.
“I’ve always thought this garden was a crime,” said Ruth.
“You have to admit, it’s gotten better since Myrna started helping,” said Clara.
Ruth turned to Myrna. “So that’s who you are. I’ve been wondering. You’re the gardener.”
“I’d plant you,” said Myrna, “if you weren’t a toxic waste site.”
Ruth laughed. “Touché.”
“Is this where the body was found?” Dominique asked, pointing to the circle.
“No, the tape is part of Clara’s garden design,” snapped Ruth.
“Bitch,” said Myrna.
“Witch,” said Ruth.
They were beginning to like each other, Clara could see.
“Do you think we should cross it?” asked Myrna. She hadn’t expected the yellow tape.
“No,” said Ruth, batting the tape down with her cane and stepping over it. She turned back to the others. “Come on in, the water’s fine.”
“Except it’s very hot,” said Clara to Dominique.
“And there’s a shark in it,” said Dominique.
The three women joined Ruth. If anyone could contaminate a site it was Ruth, and the damage was probably already done. Besides, they were there to decontaminate it.
“So what do we do?” Dominique asked as Clara planted the prayer stick into the flower bed beside where Lillian’s body was found.