“I’ve got one that’ll top Alice’s.” Kitty’s competitiveness is in full force tonight. Alice and Jane giggle. Alice pours from the newly opened bottle of wine and splashes a little on the table. They giggle even harder. Kitty shushes them and her accompanying hand gesture nearly knocks her glass over. “It has a secret passageway, magicians and even a hidden treasure.”

Kitty’s presence, which serves her so well in the courtroom, has her friends instantly quieting. Although it might’ve been the uncharacteristic romantic tone she’s already taken. Once she’s sure she has their attention she begins.

“When I first started out I had horrible hours. I was working late one night, reviewing some documents an’ wishing that I was anywhere else when I got a call. A woman on the line asked for help writing her will. So I did, thinking it’d be a nice distraction. An’ boy, was it ever. My favorite part was the clue that would tell her heir where to find her stash of gold. Only they would understand what she meant. Something about a favorite book or something.”

Jane interrupts with a snort and nearly ends up spurting wine across the table.

“Really, Kitty. A stash of gold? We said we were going to tell each other mystery stories from our personal es- experiences, not fish-nal pirate tales.” Jane runs what she just said through her head and nods when she realizes it’s comprehensible.

“Well I like it, fictional or not. And pirates are hot.” Alice shouts, a little louder than necessary, from kitchen as she grabs three bottles of water out of the fridge and a Tupperware of snack foods.

“It’s not fictional and there aren’t any pirates.” Alice boos at Kitty’s declaration but quiets down as soon as Kitty takes the last swig of her wine. “Now where the hell was I? Right, so I helped her with the will, told her to have it signed by two witnesses that weren’t in it an’ keep it somewhere safe. She was very sweet. As thanks, she sent me tickets to the office for a magic show at the theater she owns.”

“You went.” Jane is completely sure of her statement. Nothing keeps Kitty from free anything. After the incident of ’09 Jane refuses to go to any more sales with her. Her toe will be forever crooked. Kitty nods and continues.

“The theater was gorgeous. There were some amazing statues in the lobby, marble floors an’ columns, an’ ceiling painted like the night sky. It made me think of something straight out of a movie.” Kitty gives an appreciative sigh and her eyes are a little dreamy looking. Both Jane and Alice share a similar desire to see the theater themselves and wonder if it’s still open. “The woman I helped, Ms. Wilson met me at the door an’ showed me to my seat. Right there in the front, almost too close had a crick in my neck from looking up. It was worth it though. The illusionist was amazing. At the end of the act he invited Ms. Wilson on-stage for a disappearing act, something that occurred at the end of every season.”

“There was supposed to be a cloud of smoke, she vanishes an’ this is the part that went all cock-eyed: she was meant to reappear in another cloud of smoke at the far end of the stage. When the second cloud of smoke cleared the stage was empty except for the illusionist. He looked confused, made some awkward joke an’ bowed off stage.”

Kitty pauses to crunch on a couple of the snacks. Alice and Jane both grab a couple as well. With all of them so occupied with eating, the table is silent for the first time that night. Mostly quiet anyway, there’s still the crunching of food.

“I wanted to make sure she was okay so I waited in the lobby. I tried to get someone to talk to me but I couldn’t get anyone to stop long enough. Everyone was scurrying around like mice with their heads cut off.”

“Don’t you mean chickens with their heads cut off?” Jane points out but Kitty waves her off.

“Eventually the cops came an’ they cleared out the lobby. They made me leave too.” Kitty looks like she’s still annoyed that she was forced out. Kitty shoves a cucumber into her mouth and chomps it angrily.

“Did you tell the police ‘bout the weird-o will? Oh! Oh! And the gold?” Alice words spill out, one quickly after the other. Her eyes have a gleam to them and Jane is glad that they’ve started to move away from the wine. Any more and they might have needed to carry Alice out of the door.

“Damn, woman. Let me finish! Between the two of ya we’ll be old an’ gray before I get it all out.” Kitty snaps a little more irritably than she meant to but she’s never taken interruption too well. “About two weeks later I got a call from the police asking me to come down to the station an’ answer a few questions. I gotta say the police were not in a very cheery building, really depressing actually. All stained and decrepit. They’d saw that she’d called me an’ wanted to know what it was about. I told them about the will-“ Kitty glares at an open-mouthed Alice making sure she doesn’t utter a word. Kitty resumes when Alice snaps her mouth closed and runs her fingers across her lips in a zipping gesture. “-and the gold. They weren’t quite as generous with their information when I asked my own questions.”

“On my way out I found a chatty receptionist- administrative assistant? Whatever the hell you call ‘em an’ she told me all about it. They’d found Ms. Wilson’s body at the end of the small passageway under the stage. Autopsy said she had a heart attack so at first glance it looked like natural causes. A couple of days later that the police found one of the stagehands hanging from the rigging, dead as a doornail with a suicide note saying that he’d done it.” Jane and Alice gasp at her announcement and lean towards Kitty’s side of the table. “Turns out he was Ms. Wilson’s nephew an’ had inherited everything. He also had a serious gambling problem that led him into a bad crowd. The note said that he wanted the gold to pay off his debts so he killed her to get the inheritance quicker. But that his guilt started to eat away at him.”

“That was one chatty administrative assistant,” Jane says with one eyebrow delicately arched.

“You know Kitty can charm anyone into spilling the beans. That is, when she puts her mind to it.” Alice tries to wink at Kitty but it ends up more of a slow blink. When Kitty continues there’s laughter in her voice despite the gravitas of the story.

“I- uh- met the assistant for –uhm- coffee a couple of days later an’ she told me the rest. They found a small puncture in between two of Ms. Wilson’s toes. After some more digging, they found that the men the nephew owed were connected with the mob. They found out about the will from the nephew. He thought it’d keep them at bay if they knew he had money coming but it backfired on him. They killed Ms. Wilson an’ tried to buy time by making it look like natural causes. They coerced the nephew into finding the gold. Once they had it, they staged his suicide and vanished. The illusionist disappeared- Oh, hey that was kinda funny.” Kitty snorts at her inadvertent joke. It seems that all three women are starting to find everything amusing. “Anyways the illusionist disappeared an’ they think he was a part of it.”

“They didn’t find him? How could they be sure that he was? Maybe the mob got to him too.” Jane points out after taking a big swig from the bottle of water Alice had placed next to what was now an empty wine glass.

“His false identity was another clue that he wasn’t quite right.” Kitty shrugs. “But they’ll never know for sure ‘til they find him.”

“Poor Ms. Wilson.” Alice says then as an after-thought, “And her nephew, of course.” Kitty and Jane speak similar declarations of sadness. Alice and Kitty turn to Jane expectantly.

“I’m going to have to give this some thought,” Jane announces. “You two are pretty good at this.”

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