Callum grimaced as he said, “I thought you might be at loose ends today since you don’t have to cook for Eloise’s wedding. Want to come with me to interview the four people on her list?”
Chintz jumped at the chance. She didn’t want to sit around the house, doing nothing, when she should have been making mounds of food for Eloise’s reception. “I’ll get my purse.”
Callum had already called the organizer of the singles’ club so she expected them. When they arrived, she greeted them with a wavery smile. She was a petite woman, couldn’t be more than an inch over five feet. Her white hair was permed into tight curls. “I printed out all of the names of the people who attended the last four meetings, along with their pictures. We were all so happy for Eloise and Craig. They were a success story for our club. And now this . . .”
Callum took the stack of papers she handed him. “Thank you. This makes my job easier. Was there anyone in the club who didn’t like Eloise? Who might have resented her?”
“Only Anita, she was sure that Craig was interested in her until Eloise attended a meeting. Craig took one look at Eloise and that was that. He made a beeline for her table and never looked at anyone else after they started seeing each other.” She smiled. “Nice to think that love at first sight can still happen at our age.”
She sounded so wistful, it tugged at Chintz’s heart. “I hope you find your happy ever after.”
The woman’s face creased into cheerful crinkles. “Oh, dear, you’re so sweet, but I’m not looking. Once you’ve had the best, no one else tempts you. I just come to make wonderful friends. That’s why I do all of the grunt work for the club. Then everyone else just has to show up.”
Callum pulled the other four names from his pocket. “Did anyone have a problem with these other two women from your club?”
The woman sighed. “Only Anita. She didn’t like any competition. Margo and Jane are both lively and attractive. Anita’s been widowed a year now. She was used to her husband doting on her. She’s desperate for male attention.”
“Desperate enough to kill?” Callum asked.
The woman looked taken aback by that. “It couldn’t have been Anita. She’s visiting her daughter in New York. She didn’t want to be here for Eloise and Craig’s wedding.”
Chintz glanced at Callum. Another suspect who was out of town at the time of the murder. It made her think about the old movie Strangers on a Train. She’d never seen it, only heard about the two men meeting on a train and agreeing to kill someone for each other.
Callum’s expression turned thoughtful and she wondered if he was thinking about that, too. He pointed to the two other names on the list. “Do you know either of these?”
The woman shook her head. She turned serious. “I hope these pictures help you. I hope you find whoever killed Eloise.”
“We’re doing everything we can.” Callum stood and Chintz joined him. “Thanks again for all of your help.”
When they left the singles’ club, Callum drove straight to the third name on Eloise’s list. “I thought we’d try Susan Baxter next. She owns a florist shop. And then we’ll visit the one man listed, Allan Fleming.”
“Whatever works for you,” Chintz said. “I’m just along for the ride.”
At Blooms and Bouquets, they had to wait until Susan was finished with a customer. Then she turned to her assistant and said, “I’ll be busy for a while. Only call me if you’re swamped.”
The assistant nodded and Susan led them to an office at the back of the building. She glanced at Callum’s I.D. before motioning them to sit across from her desk. “How can I help you?”
“I’m investigating a homicide. The woman murdered had a list of five names in her pocket. Your name was one of them. I’d like you to look at these pictures and let me know if you recognize anyone.”
Susan sat back, her eyes wide, stunned. “My name was included with four others? What does that mean?”
He laid the pictures on her desk. “We think the names are potential victims to choose from.”
Susan winced. “But I wasn’t chosen?”
“No, the name with the checkmark is the person marked for murder.”
Her hands shaking, Susan picked up the pictures and flipped through them. When she finished, she pushed a picture of Anita Tipton toward him. “She’s the only person I recognize.”
“How do you know her?” Chintz was wondering the same thing. So far, some of the names chosen seemed to be almost an afterthought—people with no obvious enemies or animosities.
Susan grunted. “We’ve known each other since high school. Anita’s made it a lifetime goal to try to outdo me in everything. When I married rich, she married richer. When I started my own successful business, she worked her way up to vice-president at the bank. I don’t keep track of her, but she keeps close tabs on me.”
Chintz stared. “I bet she’s a lot of fun at high school reunions.”
Susan threw back her head and laughed. “She’s a freaking social butterfly, trying to meet more old friends than I do. Some of us joke about it.” She shook her head and frowned, glancing at the list. “I won’t be laughing now.”
Callum hurried to say, “We don’t have any proof of anything. We’re just trying to build a case.”
Susan pushed the pictures back to him. “Regardless, if Anita calls and invites me to anything for a while, I’ll decline.”
“Better safe than sorry.” Callum motioned to Chintz and they stood. “Thank you for your time. If you think of anything else that might help, call me.”
When they left the flower shop, Callum drove to a high-class restaurant and parked. “Allan Fleming owns a few restaurants in town. He’s agreed to meet us.”
The hostess led them through the bustling dining room. Lunch was in full swing, and every table was taken. Chintz’s mouth watered as she glanced at plates with main dish salads, soups, or half sandwiches. A nearby customer was dipping walleye fingers in tartar sauce. Callum reached for her hand and dragged her behind him.
The hostess gave a quick knock on a closed door, then opened it to let Callum and Chintz enter. “Mr. Fleming, the detective you were expecting.”
A big man, tall and heavyset, scowled up at them. “How can I help you? I don’t have much time. Lunch hour keeps everyone hopping.”
Callum quickly explained about Eloise’s murder and the list of names in her pocket. “Your name was on the list, so I’d like to ask you if you recognize anyone in this set of pictures.”
Fleming flipped through them until he stopped and stared. “I’ve had my share of run-ins with this bitch.” He pushed Anita’s picture to Callum. “Please tell me she’s the killer. I’d love to see her locked up somewhere.”
Callum took the pictures from him. “Anita was in New York at the time of the murder, but she knew Eloise. When she returns, I’d like to question her. That’s why her picture was included with the others.”
“Too bad.” Fleming stabbed his finger in their direction. “I met her at a party given by a mutual friend. She decided that I was available and should fall at her feet. I decided she was a royal pain and blocked her calls. She’s hated me ever since, never misses an opportunity to say something nasty about me.”
“And how long has this gone on?” Callum asked.
Fleming puckered his lips. “Too damn long. Maybe two years? That woman started hunting the minute her husband’s body was lowered into the ground.”
Fleming would have berated Anita a lot longer, but a manager knocked on the door. Fleming grimaced and stood. “I’m needed. Hope you can pin something on that predator.”
They followed Fleming out of his office and started for the exit. He hurried back to them. “Here. On me. You deserve something for your troubles.” He pressed two free passes for dinner into Callum’s hand, then disappeared.
Once outside, Callum grinned at her. “How about that? You’ll have to dress up and we’ll come for supper some night.”
She wasn’t about to argue with that. On the drive home, her thoughts returned to Eloise and Anita. “Another person who left town just before the murder and knew four people on the list.”
Callum nodded. “It’s too neat and packaged, don’t you think?”
She agreed. “But I’m not sure where that leaves us.”
“Neither am I, but it’s a start. And we didn’t have one before.”