Emma Jo takes the paper back out of my hand, flips it around so it’s no longer upside down and pushes it back into my hand, all while holding her wine glass to her mouth and never spilling a drop.

“Ahhhhh, that’s much better.”

She drains her glass and leans forward next to me on the couch to refill hers and top off my own, which she then hands to me as she pulls her knees up to her chest next to me.

“Okay, remind me again whoosh on the lish,” she slurs. “I mean, whoosh on the lish. The lish. THE LIIIIIIIIIIIIIISH. That paper thing in your hand.”

Emma Jo points at the paper when I give her a look of confusion, having been distracted by her making a duck face and trying to look down at her lips when she spoke.

“Right, the list,” I mutter, taking a drink and trying to get the names to stop being so blurry as Emma Jo leans toward me and looks down at the paper.

“Justine Picker-Noser-Son,” she reads, including my awesome nickname for Justine Pickerson that I added in parentheses behind her name.

I snort and then clear my throat and attempt to be serious.

“You said your mom told you she heard Justine got into a huge fight about flowers with Jed a few days ago, the day he left for his business trip,” I speak, patting myself on the back for being able to decipher my notes by her name that said, “Flower power face punch”.

Emma Jo nods excitedly and repeats what she already told me.

“Correct! Justine wanted to plant new rose bushes in front of Pickerson’s bar, and Jed denied the request form she turned in at his office.”

“And your mother heard it at the tail end of the Bald Knob gossip line, so who knows who started that rumor or who we should question first, but it’s a start,” I say, putting a question mark next to Justine’s name.

“Why did you draw a stick figure with no arms or legs, upside down? Ooooooh, is that supposed to be Jed again? I liked it when you gave him X’s for eyes. Do it again, do it again!” Emma Jo shouts, clapping her hands together and forgetting all about the glass of wine she’s still holding.

It sloshes all over her arms and she does something that immediately brings a tear to my eye – she brings one arm up to her mouth and licks the wine off of her skin, then proceeds to lean forward and put her face an inch away from the paper.

“Wait, never mind, I see it better now. It’s a question mark. I should maybe stop drinking,” Emma Jo mutters when she sits back up.

“If I’m drinking, there’s less of a chance that I’ll start crying because everyone in this town thinks I’m a murderer.”

“PIE DEAD!” Emma Jo suddenly shouts.

“Yes, I know I baked a poison pie, and I know that technically I might be a murderer, but they don’t know that,” I reply, easily deciphering her drunk yelling.

“ME PIE DEAD TOO!” she shouts again, pointing at herself with her wine glass.

“Right, you made the pie too, but they’re all blaming me and aren’t giving you a second thought,” I remind her, sounding like an owner talking to his dog every time it barks and they act like they understand what the dog is saying.

What? Jed is dead? Who’s a good girl, Emma Jo, who’s a good girl?!

Emma Jo gives me a sad look and I feel bad about making her feel bad about the town’s opinion of me. After her mother left, she was hell-bent on marching down to the town square and announcing to everyone that Jed abused her to bring the focus off of me. Which would only put the bull’s-eye right square in the center of her poisoned-pie-baking chest, and I’m not about to let that happen. I’d much rather deal with the consequences of my actions than let Emma Jo take any more shit from anyone after having to live through her marriage to Jed. After making her promise not to do something crazy like that for me when she’d spent half her life hiding this information from the town, we sat down and put our heads together.

Two drunk heads are better than one, or something like that.

“I know! Let’s play a drinking game. I’ve always wanted to do that. Every time one of us says muskrat, we take a drink!” Emma Jo explains, pouring more wine into both of our glasses.

“You do know how drinking games work, right? You’re supposed to pick a word someone will use a lot, which then gives you more chances to drink,” I explain to her.

“Starla Godfrey, number two suspect because Jed filed a noise complaint about Bo Jangles and his barking. MUSKRAT!” Emma Jo yells, chugging half of her glass.

“And your mom told us she actually heard that argument outside of his office last week and Starla told him he’d regret the day he was born. MUSKRAT!” I scream, quickly understanding the genius of Emma Jo’s drinking game rules.

“Bo Jangles, because Jed kicked him when Bo Jangles wouldn’t stop going to the bathroom in our yard. MUSKRAT!” Emma Jo adds.

When I don’t join her in another chug of wine, she eyes my glass.

“What?” I say with a shrug. “It doesn’t feel right to put Bo Jangles on the suspect list. He’s a tiny little rat dog incapable of killing anyone.”

“He pissed on your leg,” Emma Jo reminds me.

“Death penalty for the Defecating Dog! MUSKRAT, MUSKRAT, MUSKRAT!” I shout, clinking my glass with hers.

My phone pings with an incoming text, and I groan when I grab it from the coffee table and look down at the screen.

“Who is it? What does it say? Is it my mom with more wine? Tell her I changed my mind and I’ll take her up on that Xanax prescription. I’m feeling frisky tonight,” Emma Jo says, letting out a sigh when I turn the screen around for her to read.

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