The second Isabel spotted Kate she jumped up, anxiously waited until she was in bed, and threw herself into her sister’s arms.

“You’re okay, right? You gave us quite a scare, but you’re okay, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I’m fine.”

Kiera grabbed the controls and adjusted the bed so that Kate could sit up.

“You’re not seeing three of me, are you?” Isabel asked. She was fluffing the pillow behind Kate’s head and causing her sister a good deal of pain.

“If she were seeing three of you, she’d be screaming now. One Isabel is enough.” Kiera laughed.

“Not funny,” Isabel said, but she, too, was smiling.

Kiera picked up Kate’s chart from the metal slot at the foot of the hospital bed and began to read the doctor’s notes.

“Should you be looking at that?” Isabel asked.

Kiera shrugged. “If they don’t want you to read it, they shouldn’t leave it. They’re keeping you overnight for observation.”

“I know,” Kate said. “I want to go home.”

“You should stay . . . as a precaution,” she added. “Aunt Nora was still at her meeting, but we’ve left a message for her. No doubt she’ll want to bring a cot in here so she can keep watch all night.”

“Did she crack her head?” Isabel wondered, peering over Kiera’s shoulder at the chart.

“I don’t think so. Her skull is like granite.”

Isabel took hold of Kate’s hand. “You scared me . . . I mean us. You scared us. I don’t know what we would do without you. It was lonely while you were in Boston. When Kiera was home, her nose was always in a medical book.”

“She’s going to be fine, Isabel. Stop stressing.”

Isabel walked to the window and sat on the ledge. “Okay, I won’t stress. So tell me . . . who was the man with the ambulance guys? He was really cute.”

“Men don’t like being called cute,” a male voice responded.

None of them had noticed that Nate was standing in the doorway.

He was taken aback when all three sisters turned toward him. Damn, there wasn’t a homely one among them. Isabel’s face turned bright pink almost instantly.

“Please come in,” Kate said. She introduced him to her sisters and waited for him to tell her why he was there.

“I forgot to give you my card,” he said. “If you need anything or remember anything, no matter how insignificant you might think it is, I want you to call me.”

“Yes, I will.”

He hesitated but couldn’t think of anything else to ask or say that would keep him in the room. “How’s your head?”


He nodded. “Okay then.”

He was turning to leave when Isabel called, “May I ask you something, Detective?” She took a step toward him and smiled.

Kate and Kiera shared a look. Isabel was turning on the charm, her never-fail charm. She brushed her hair back and took another step.

“Sure,” he said. “What do you want to know?”

“Are the police going to put that painter, Cinnamon, in protective custody?”

He leaned against the door frame. “Why would you ask?”

She tilted her head toward the television. “She’s on the news, and she’s demanding police protection, which is really ironic when you think about it. She’s always trashed the police until now. One of the reporters on the news quoted some of the horrible things she’s said in the past. I think she said that you were all on the take or something like that. I don’t know why she hasn’t been sued.” She took a deep breath and then said, “Cinnamon says that it was a bomb and it was meant to kill her. She says people are trying to silence her because of her political views . . . and oh, her art, too.”

“She thinks people are trying to kill her because of her paintings? Is she that bad?” Kiera asked. She laughed and shook her head.

Isabel frowned. “It’s not funny. There were a couple of paintings on the wall behind her, and she kept pointing to them while she was being interviewed. I think maybe she was doing a little advertising.”

“Has anyone determined what caused the explosion?” Kiera asked.

Nate turned to her. “We’re not sure what kind yet, but it was definitely a bomb. We have a team working on it.”

He looked at Kate again. “If you remember anything . . .” he said as he headed for the door.

Kate nodded.

Isabel waited until she was certain he was out of earshot and then said, “Isn’t he adorable?”

“Yes, he’s definitely adorable,” Kiera agreed. “But he’s too old for you. He’s got to be in his thirties. And . . .”

Isabel folded her arms across her waist. “And what?”

“And he’s interested in Kate.”

Kate hadn’t been paying much attention to the conversation until she heard her name. “As a witness,” she corrected. “He’s interested in me as a witness. That’s all.”

“He is not too old for me,” Isabel said. “I wonder if he’s single or married. I didn’t see a ring on his finger.”

“Let it go,” Kiera said, her exasperation obvious. “He’s not interested in you.”

Isabel ignored her sister. “You should have asked him, Kate.”

“I was unconscious, for heaven’s sake.” She gingerly lay back against the pillow. Her head was throbbing, but the conversation, as ludicrous as it was, did distract her. “When should I have asked him? In the ambulance?”

“No, of course not. I was just saying . . .”


“You let another opportunity pass by.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” She would have laughed if her head hadn’t hurt so much.

“I’m most certainly not kidding. I swear I don’t remember the last serious relationship you were in. In fact, I don’t think you’ve ever been in a—”

“Kate darling!” Carl Bertolli called from the doorway.

He waited until all eyes were on him and then rushed into the room with a flurry. Carl did so love to make a grand entrance, no matter what the occasion.

Isabel was thrilled to see him again. She’d only met him once, when he’d stopped by the house to pick up Kate for some sort of important benefit, but he’d made a lasting impression. Carl was so flamboyant, so bigger than life. She told Kate she was sure he must own at least one cape to wear to all his winter social events.

He clasped Kate’s hand in both of his and leaned down to kiss her forehead.

“My poor, poor darling. This is a nightmare, a complete nightmare. It’s amazing no one was seriously injured or killed in the explosion, and I tell you, if I were not wearing this white suit, I would get down on my knees to thank God.”

Kiera coughed to cover her laughter. Kate tugged her hand away and said, “You remember my sisters, Kiera and Isabel.”

“Yes, of course I do.” He flashed a smile and said, “I do hope you don’t blame me for what happened. I never should have allowed that crazy artist to show her work. I was warned, but I didn’t believe anyone would take the woman seriously.” He turned back to Kate and added, “And so I guess the blame should rest on my shoulders.”

He wanted to be consoled. Kate was having none of it. “Carl, the police will sort it all out. You couldn’t have known someone would go to such extremes.”

“It’s good of you to say so. Do you know the gallery was untouched? Not a stone was jarred loose. Isn’t that astonishing? Of course I have a hole the size of a swimming pool in the lawn that I’m going to have to do something about, but when I think how much worse it could have been . . .” He paused, gave an elaborate shrug, and patted her hand again. “I shall let you rest now that I know you forgive me. If you need anything, anything at all . . .”

“I’ll be sure to call you.”

He gave her another dazzling smile, bowed to Isabel and Kiera, and left the room.

Kiera and Isabel stared at the empty doorway. The energy in the room seemed to have been sucked out with his departure.

“Carl’s an interesting fellow,” Kiera remarked. “A bit dramatic, but interesting.”

“Aunt Nora was taken with him,” Isabel said. “She told me he reminded her of a young George Hamilton. When I asked her who George Hamilton was, she got real mad at me and said she wasn’t that old. I have no idea what she meant. Hey, Kate, what about Carl?”

“What about him?”

“Pay attention. We were discussing your love life—”

“No, we weren’t. You were.”

Isabel ignored the interruption. “And since you don’t seem inclined to do anything about it on your own, I feel I should help.”

Kiera burst into laughter. “And you think Kate and Carl would be a good match?”

Kate grimaced as she tried to keep from laughing, too. “Not only is Carl not my type, he’s engaged. His fiancée is much more suited to his idiosyncrasies than I could ever be.”

Isabel blushed. “Okay, maybe not. But, Kate, you need someone more laid-back to balance your uptightness.”

“There’s no such word,” Kiera said.

“Please, have mercy on me,” Kate pleaded. “Take Isabel home.”

“Okay, we’re out of here. Call me in the morning and let me know when I can pick you up.”

Isabel wasn’t the least offended that Kate wanted to get rid of her. She headed for the door then stopped. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again. Promise me, Kate.”

Kate responded to the fear in her voice. “I promise.”

Isabel nodded. “Okay.” She sighed as she added, “Now that you’re home for good, things will be back to normal.”

Chapter Five

Kiera drove Kate home from the hospital the next afternoon. They pulled into the driveway just as a messenger from a CPA firm was about to knock on their front door. While Kiera signed for the delivery, the messenger dropped a fat package into Kate’s arms.

“Guess what we’re going to be doing tonight,” Kate said as she opened the door and headed to the kitchen. She took a knife to the envelope and emptied the contents on the table.

Isabel followed her sisters into the kitchen. “What’s all that?” she asked. She disappeared behind the refrigerator door as she searched for something to munch on.

Kiera answered her. “Bills. I had Tucker Simmons, the CPA, send over all of the accounts Mom handled.”

Isabel shut the refrigerator and walked over to the table with a celery stick in her hand. “So why are they giving us the bills now?”

“When Mom became so gravely ill, she set it up that Mr. Simmons would take over the bills for one year after she was gone. I told her I could handle it, but she insisted it would be too difficult for me to manage from Boston. And you know how persuasive Mom could be.”

“Is there enough money left to pay all of these bills?” Isabel asked, waving her celery stick at the pile of envelopes.

“I guess we’re about to find out,” Kiera said. “Mom was so secretive about her budget. Whenever I asked her how the money situation was, she always said the same thing, ‘We’re doing just fine.’ ”

“That’s what she always said to me, too,” Kate added. “It was so aggravating.”

Isabel took exception to her sisters daring to criticize their mother. “She was being thoughtful. She didn’t want any of us to worry. Kiera, she wanted you to focus on medicine, and Kate, she wanted you to finish your master’s. Neither one of you needed any money because you both had scholarships and grants. Nora and I were dependent on Mom though, and she wanted to make it easy for us. That’s why she did what she did. I’m sure of it.”

“I wonder how much is left in the trust,” Kiera said, ignoring Isabel’s impassioned defense of their mother’s financial decisions. “And do we know how much is still to come from Mom’s pension?”

Kate shook her head. “I don’t even know how much her monthly checks were. She refused to discuss it. Somewhere in these statements we’ll get the answers.”

“I’m not worried,” Isabel said. “Even if we had to use up the money, Kate will figure out something.”

“Why me?”

“Because Kiera has to do her last year of medical school, and she’ll never get to come home then, and I’m going off to college in a week, so that leaves you. Besides, you and Kiera got all the brains in the family. You know what? I used to think I was stupid because I wasn’t in advanced classes or got perfect scores on tests, but Mom told me that I was normal. Yes, normal,” she insisted, pointing the celery at Kate. “You two are the weird ones. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you’re both kind of . . . nerds.”

Kate laughed. “Mom never called us weird or nerds.”

Isabel frowned. “She didn’t call you normal, either. Kate, what are you doing?”

“What does it look like? I’m opening the bills. I want to get started.”

“Don’t do that now. All of this can wait until after dinner,” Kiera said. “You look worn out. Go rest for a little while. These bills aren’t going anywhere.”

Kate didn’t argue. She still had a lingering headache, and she wanted to take a shower and change out of the pair of slacks and silk blouse Kiera had brought to the hospital for her, so she headed to her room.

After her shower, she slipped into a pair of shorts and an old T-shirt, and fell asleep curled up on the bed.

She awoke to the sound of her sisters and aunt maneuvering around the kitchen, the aroma of baked chicken and apple dumplings wafting up the stairs.

The kitchen was directly beneath her bedroom, and she could hear their chatter.

“Kiera, you and Isabel are going to have to do cleanup tonight. I’m running late,” her aunt said.

“What is it tonight, Aunt Nora?” Isabel asked.

“My support group, Miss Nosy.”

Ever since the sisters could remember, Aunt Nora had been a regular at a support group. For years she attended one in St. Louis, and as soon as she moved to Silver Springs, she joined one at the local church. None of the girls knew what Nora was supporting all those years, but they knew better than to ask. They’d heard her right-to-privacy speech too many times to keep count. Copyright 2016 - 2023