The detective turned to see who had spoken and smiled slightly. “Hello, Ms. Lamberti, nice to see you again. However, as much as I hate to point this out, from the sound of it neither you nor Mr. Fairchild seems to have been keeping that close an eye on him.”
“Well in all fairness,” she replied, patting Casey’s thigh to make him move over enough so she could sit down on the swing beside him, “we weren’t really called in until after the carbon monoxide incident.” She shot a look at Casey which asked him to back her up on that for now. He nodded in agreement.
At that point the fire inspector excused himself to go inside the house and continue his investigation.
The detective pulled up one of the porch chairs and sat, asking, “Why do you think this is family related?”
Between the three of them, Casey, Marcia and Fairchild laid out their reasoning and the facts behind it.
“So,” the detective said when they had finished, “you were going to pull the classic mystery writer’s gambit and have all the suspects in one place, hoping one of them would what, confess that he was trying to kill Mr. Rothem?”
“I guess it sounds pretty stupid,” Casey replied, looking a bit sheepish.
“It does. That only works in detective stories.”
“We might get a chance to test if it works or not right now,” Casey said as he saw a car pull up and double park, the driver apparently oblivious to the fact that they were next to a police vehicle, or uncaring. Moments later another car came into view, pulling into the driveway next door to Casey’s house.
Darla reached the porch first, with Alma and Parker just seconds behind her. “Are you alright? I was watching the TV and saw the news and, and I was scared to death even though they said you were okay,” Darla exclaimed.
“The same here,” Parker said. “Alma insisted we come right over.” He smiled as his wife almost pushed Marcia out of the way so that she could hug Casey tightly.
When Casey managed to extricate himself from the unexpected embrace he said, “I’m fine, honest, other than a badly wrenched ankle and a house that’s going to need some major repair work.”
At that moment he saw Bing pull into a recently vacated parking place. He hurried over; telling Casey that Sammy had called to let him know about the fire.
“Called? Don’t tell me, Sammy had an early morning meeting,” Casey replied.
“Actually, a late night one; one of the joys of being a lawyer with well-to-do clients, they expect him to drop everything when they need his help. One of them called him in a panic because his kid had been picked up on a DUI. I guess Sammy spent the night getting him bonded out of jail.”
Fairchild shot Marcia a look which only she saw. She gave a tiny nod in return just as Casey’s cell rang.
Everyone knew immediately that it was Kathy from the shake of Casey’s head as he said, “I’m fine, honest… No you don’t have to come over… Yes I think I’m postponing the barbecue until a later date.” He glared briefly at Alma who just smiled back, not looking at all guilty. After he’d hung up, sighing in relief, he politely asked his family if they’d mind leaving now. “Despite all this,” he explained with a small smile, “I do have a business to run and I’m more than late as it is, and… damn, what the hell am I going to wear? I bet everything I own smells like smoke.”
“To say the least of the fact that you can’t get up the stairs to get to your clothes,” Parker said.
Marcia and the police detective looked at him, frowning. “I don’t remember there being any mention in the news reports of where in the house the fire was,” Marcia said quietly.
“Of course there was, wasn’t there sweetheart.” Parker turned to Alma, waiting for her to back him up.
“I really don’t know. I never saw the news. You dragged me out of bed to tell me we had to get over here, that there’d been a fire.”
There was a long, pregnant pause as everyone realized what had just happened.
“It was on the news,” Parker stated, trying to force conviction into the tone of his words.
“No it wasn’t,” Darla said very softly but firmly. “All any of them said, even on the radio, was that there had been a fire at the home of prominent jewelry shop owner Casey Rothem. I know. I was dressing as I watched the TV and switching between channels, trying to find out if Casey had been hurt.”
The police detective moved to face Parker. “Mr. Gordon, I think we should continue this at the station house.”
“Am I under arrest?” Parker asked, blanching.
“For the moment, no, I’d just like to ask you some questions pertaining to the fire and other incidents.”
Parker’s mouth tightened as he said, “Alma, call my lawyer. I want him at the station before I get there.” Then, with the detective beside him, he walked across Casey’s front yard to the police car.