She’d doubted the man would stay considering how cold he was. “I want to hear it!” The words came out more like a demand than a polite request. Still, Herman didn’t act offended.
“It’s more of an urban legend, a rumor that stuck around a long time, from the end of the nineteenth century. Construction had started on your house. A sea captain commissioned the house for his beloved wife. He wanted to broadcast his financial success in the form of an elaborate home. People at that time didn’t live in McMansions they couldn’t afford but managed to finance. Nope, they paid cash for homes, primarily to build one. Loans existed but weren’t popular. Peculiar belief that you shouldn’t live in a house you couldn’t afford.”
Donna nodded her head while she fisted her hands inside her jacket pockets. What she really wanted to do was shake Herman and yell Get on with it! A brief history of the home loan wasn’t necessary.
“The construction foreman had a brother, a dashing fellow who always had plenty of money, looks, and charm. The prevailing gossip was he was a jewel thief. Squired all those loaded old broads around, and their diamonds vanished. None of them would point a finger at him although most people thought he helped himself as payment for his services.” Herman stopped, punctuating the story with a wink.
“I got it.” She volunteered that she understood the jewel thief brother doubled as a gigolo to prevent Herman from explaining what services the jewel thief offered. Ick.
“At the time, a major crime occurred in the nearby city..” Herman stopped his story as Taber approached the two of them.
The detective held out the coffee cup to Donna. “It’s probably cold now. You could nuke it when you get home.”
Herman looked at the detective, then back at her, then around her, pointing. “Look, there he goes!”
The three of them watched Daniel follow the blonde with more wiggle in her walk than gelatin poured into a pair of pantyhose.
“No!” The word exploded out of her mouth as she darted across the lawn. Her hand landed on Daniel’s arm before he reached the porch stairs. “Stop! I need you.”
The frustrated blonde-haired woman put both hands on her hips and glared at both of them. Oh, the annoyed stare? Really, she thought that would work on her. Think again, sister. She stepped in front of her brother, cutting off his view of the siren, channeling her disdain into a freezing look directed toward the female. “My brother needs his jacket back, too. I imagine a turn in the washer will eliminate the stink of cheap perfume.”
“Donna!” Her brother’s use of her name reminded her once again she stepped over the line of polite behavior. The door of the house slammed as the angry woman’s response.
Here she thought she could run a B and B. “Daniel,” she snapped back. “What were you doing marching into Delilah’s house?”
He blinked a couple of times. ‘Delilah, who’s Delilah?” He angled his head in the direction of the house the blonde had slipped into. The front door opened suddenly, and Daniel’s jacket flew out. “You must mean Deidre. She had a creaky door she wanted me to look at once I explained I’m in construction.”
Her brother must have missed her eye roll as she reached for his jacket. “Daniel, I love you, but how many houses have you entered to fix lonely women’s leaky faucets, stuck windows, and cabinet doors that resulted in something extra.”
Daniel took the offered jacket and shrugged it back on. His habitual aw-shucks grin appeared, melting some of her ire. “I’ll admit I’ve had a few run-ins with lonely women. A few might even rate up there as succubus status, but I’m married now.”
“Exactly.” She held her hands in front of her making a clapping motion. He got it. Finally. “That’s why you don’t check out the various household problems.”
“All right. You don’t have to go all big sister on me. I understand, but what if she really did have a squeaky door?” He shook his head as if she were somehow the person at fault.
Everyone in their family readily accepted that Daniel received the looks and charm. That must have been all he got because his intelligence was MIA sometimes, or he was thinking with a different head. “If the door bothered her that much there are plenty of people she could have called to fix it. She could have used a YouTube video for instructions. She could have gone to the hardware store and asked for help. All perfectly acceptable ways of dealing with it. So much better than allowing a total stranger into her home.”
Her brother looked chastened, which didn’t make her feel any better, but somehow her point may have sunk in. All the same, why not hammer it home. “Maria wouldn’t like you going into a strange woman’s home.”
A huge laugh exploded not from her brother, but Taber, who looked silly carrying her oversized handbag. “You’d be lucky not to be bunking on the couch for the foreseeable future,” the detective told him.
Daniel acknowledged the detective with a nod. “You’re right.”
Really. He basically repeated what she said, although he used different words, and suddenly it’s right coming from a man’s mouth. Maybe he needed someone different to point him in the right direction. Her brother did have a tendency to tune her out after years of helpful directives. She should know better than to offer advice since unsolicited help is not always welcome. It was a habit; one she’d honed over the years.
The two men conversed as if they were old friends. Donna’s lips twisted as she considered what they had to discuss. Murder. Mayhem. Her. Their laughter indicated it might be the latter. Yay. All of her neighbors had disappeared, including the informative Herman.
Donna inquired, “Where’s the old man? He was in the middle of a story.”
Taber stopped guffawing long enough to answer. “He went home complaining about it being cold.”
The wind chose that moment to expel an icy gust, rattling the few leaves stubbornly clinging to their branches, despite being dead. Leaves staying on a tree signaled the tree was dead, rather like a ghost, sticking around and being unaware it was a ghost. Maybe the two weren’t the same. Her botany information might not be totally on the level either. The tidbit came from a man she went out with once on a coffee date. The tree bit had served as the highlight of their conversation. She shook her head realizing her thoughts had followed a mental rabbit.
Great. Now she’d never know about the legend. Wait. She knew his name. Shouldn’t be that hard to look up his address. At his age, he wouldn’t be the type to have an unlisted phone number. The street name she knew. All she had to do is bake some of her trademark macadamia and chocolate chip cookies and show up with a plateful. The idea had merit. Her lips went up, imagining the elderly man confiding all the needed facts to catch the killer. Of course, she’d be the real hero and would merit a small blurb in the paper mentioning her inn.
“Why are you smiling?” Her brother’s question alerted her that both men’s attention had switched to her.
Smiling, really? She must have done it right that time.
Taber stared at her, his hand resting on her purse strap draped over his shoulder. No reason for levity, especially in a murder investigation. It gave her the appearance of being some insensitive, macabre figure. “Ah yes, well honestly, it’s you holding my purse. You look so…” Before she could finish, he pulled the bag off his shoulder, holding it away from him as if he’d discovered an open vial of smallpox inside.
“Don’t drop it.” She darted toward her purse, snatching it by the shoulder strap. “That wasn’t a cheap bag, even on clearance.” Hands wrapped firmly around the strap, she hoisted it to her shoulder. “I was only joking.”
The detective nodded and then winked. Was that a wink? Difficult to tell with those bushy eyebrows. Could be the morning sun was too much or something flew into his eye. Didn’t mean a thing. “Am I good to go?”
“Sure. I have your number, and you’ve got mine. Give me a call.” He lifted his eyebrows a tiny bit before adding, “If you think of anything else.”
“Will do.” She nodded, before stepping close enough to her brother to elbow him. “Let’s go, Dano. We can reconvene at The Good Egg while I explain your incredible effect on women, again.”
Her brother wrapped an affectionate arm around her shoulder. “I remember the lecture. Women expect ordinary guys to be friendly, polite, and helpful. They expect handsome men to be arrogant jerks. When a woman encounters a handsome, charming man, like myself, they go a little bit crazy.”
“Ah, spoken like a condescending jackass. There’s hope for you yet. It would help if you managed to insert the word wife in every other sentence. My beautiful wife enjoys the sound of a squeaky door. My resourceful wife can fix a leaky faucet. I can’t wait to get home to my loving wife because every moment spent away from her is agony.”
Daniel chuckled slightly as she knew he would. He tightened his grip and then relaxed his hold. “You’re right. I’ve been single so long I haven’t got the marriage behavior down yet.”
“Hmm, I noticed, as has Maria, I’m sure.” His truck sat close to her small car on the crowded street. Parking would be the first issue for her. A discreet parking lot in the back would be a necessity. What was she saying? “Oh, just assume every woman is hitting on you because 99% of the time they are.”
“Will do. Do you believe every guy is hitting on you?” He made a wry face at her.
Her brother thought he had made a funny. “Good one. Of course, not. I’m not you. Rumbling over the hill into fifty-one, no man looks twice at me unless he has a heart attack.”
Nope, men didn’t go for tall, intelligent women who spoke their minds, especially if they had some mileage on the odometer. They preferred the petite fluffy females who flattered their fragile egos. It certainly explained why her covert attempts at online dating never resulted in anything; something never mentioned to anyone in the family. They all already feared she’d die alone and be eaten by her cats. She’d have to have cats first for that to happen.
“Donna, I know I’m the little brother, and you think I’m clueless. Sometimes, you’re the clueless one.”
A snort and a vigorous shake removed his arm. “Are you out of your mind?”
He laughed, “Maybe to disagree with you might be classified as insanity. I’m a man, and you aren’t. I noticed plenty of men over the years giving you the once over. The only problem was you never stared back.”
The thought made her bark with laughter. Her laugh resembled a seal’s somewhat instead of the usual ha ha most people had. Her amusement always sounded like har, har, har, rough and discordant to the ears. It made her self-conscious and unable to laugh at most things she even found funny. It also firmed up her reputation as a serious, no-nonsense nurse.