The Mystery of Seagrass Island (Chapter 11)

Margie and Lloyd stood near the coffee machine debating their next move. Margie dumped the rest of the bitter coffee into the sink and said, “Well, I’m going to go pay a visit to Bettina’s niece, Dawn. Now that we know that she was poisoned like Seth, that makes Dawn much less of a suspect but still a lead that needs to be followed.”

“Okay, dear. I’m going to wait here for Richard’s lawyer to show up, I guess, and finish my report. It will be interesting to see what questions his lawyer will not let him answer,” Lloyd said.

“You are so right. Sometimes the best information that you get is finding out what they don’t want to tell you,” Margie said.

Lloyd gave Margie a quick peck before she strode off down the hallway deep in thought. Margie got into her car and headed towards the mainland where Dawn lived. She and Lloyd had only lived on the island for a short time but it already felt like home. Seeing it disappear in the rear view window behind her made her feel wistful. Margie wound through the busy narrow streets of downtown Charleston until her GPS led her to Dawn’s little brick house on Grove Street. She parked her car on the street and walked up to the front door. The door opened just as Margie began to knock. A thirty-something year old woman with short auburn hair stood in the doorway.

“I saw you through the window,” she said, motioning towards the picture window that she had obviously been sitting in front of. An open Bible lay on the coffee table.

Margie didn’t say anything at first, she just leaned in and hugged Dawn. As the embrace ended she said, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Dawn let out a small sob and wiped a tear from her eye. “Thank you and please come on in,” she said.

Margie took a seat on the couch across from the rocking chair that Dawn had been seated in earlier.

“Can I get you some coffee or water?”  Dawn asked.

“No, no, I’m fine. I know this is a terrible time but I need to ask you a few questions, if that’s okay,” Margie said gently.

“Of course,” said Dawn. “I remember when I met you on the island with my aunt she said you used to be a detective.”

“Yes, that’s right. I’m retired but my husband, Lloyd, and I have been asked to help out lately. It’s just temporary,” Margie said.

“Oh, okay,” Dawn said. “What did you want to ask me?”

“Well, first I need to ask you about the quarrel between you and your aunt,” Margie said.

“It was so stupid,” Dawn began. “So pointless. My son wrote her a thank you card for a birthday gift that she sent him. He wrote the same thing on her card that he wrote on several other people’s cards or pretty close to it. He was in a hurry and he just didn’t think about how it might sound to older people. He wrote ‘Ha. Ha.’ at the end of his message, which was actually a very nice message. He didn’t mean anything at all by it but Aunt Bettina took it all wrong and got so mad. She blocked me on Facebook, gossiped about it to my other aunt and her family and her son and basically made them all hate me. If I hadn’t kept trying to get into contact with her, I would have never known why they had all stopped speaking to me. She wasn’t even going to tell me what was wrong. She wouldn’t let me apologize and my son was upset and tried to tell her that he didn’t mean anything by it. My son was so mad at her for taking it out on me, because in all honesty, I didn’t do anything to her, but that didn’t matter. It was just insanity. And now she’s dead!  I can’t even fix it.”  Dawn began sobbing again.

Margie handed her a tissue and pulled the poem out of her purse. She unfolded it and when Dawn stopped crying, Margie said, “First of all, you can’t make other people hate you. Bettina might have been responsible for a lot of things, but those other relatives of yours must be their own special kind of stupid to hold an ill will against you for your son’s thank you card. Pardon me for being so blunt. You might actually be better off without that kind of family hanging around anyway.” Margie stopped and took a breath as she held the paper out. “I do need to know this. Did you write this poem, Dawn?”

Dawn’s eyes grew wide in surprise. She held the poem while she was reading it. “Yes,” she said quietly. “I did. A long time ago. How did you get it?”

“We found it in Bettina’s hand after her death,” Margie said.

Dawn gasped. “Why would she have been holding this?  I wrote this poem when I was just a teenager.”

“Who were you writing about in the poem?” Margie asked.

“My parents,” Dawn said. “Growing up in an abusive environment, I thank God every day that I made it out alive. How did Aunt Bettina get that poem? I didn’t give it to her and I haven’t seen it in years. This doesn’t make sense.” Dawn sat shaking her head.

“I don’t know,” Margie said also perplexed.

“I can see why it would look like it was written to Aunt Bettina because of how she was acting towards me. Does someone think that I hurt Aunt Bettina?” Dawn asked in a distressed tone.

“No, of course not,” reassured Margie. “The poem did cause suspicion. But not anymore,” Margie said quickly as she saw the distress on Dawn’s face growing. “Your aunt was poisoned, dear, with the same poison that killed someone else. It was from a jellyfish and only a few people have access to this poison, and you aren’t one of them.”

Dawn breathed a sigh of relief. “But why would someone kill Aunt Bettina?” she asked.

“Do you know of anyone besides you and your family that she has upset lately?” Margie asked.

“Not lately,” Dawn said.

Margie raised an eyebrow.

“Well,” Dawn began slowly. “I hate to say anything ill of the dead, but she was always different and difficult to get along with…just not a warm and fuzzy kind of person if you know what I mean. I was trying to get her to give a blood sample so that we could get our family tested for a genetic heart condition and she wasn’t very cooperative. She kept saying that she couldn’t afford it. I kept explaining to her that it wouldn’t cost her anything. She wouldn’t believe me. She was so hard-headed. She was an odd duck too. She went to church every Sunday but on Fridays, she went to the Big M Casino in Myrtle Beach. It was kind of strange but she was just as religious about the casino as she was the church. I tried to talk to her about it a couple of times and she got very upset with me.”

Margie walked over to the rocking chair and put her hand on Dawn’s shoulder. “Please don’t worry too much dear. It isn’t good for your heart. You have a lot of people left here to take care of. We just won’t know why some things happen while we are still in this world. God knows though, and remember that verse in Romans which tells us that all things work together for the good of those that serve Him.”

“Thank you, Margie,” sniffed Dawn as she walked her to the door.

Margie got into her car and started back towards Seagrass Island. She called Lloyd on the way. “How’s it going, hon?”

“Well, Richard’s lawyer finally showed up and it was pretty much like we suspected. He wouldn’t let him say much. He did seem particularly interested in Richard keeping his mouth shut about his relationship with Bettina and his finances,” Lloyd reported.

“Hmm…” Margie said. “I spoke to Dawn and she is pretty upset about how her relationship with Bettina ended. She can’t stop going on about that thank you card incident. I think it is just hard to let go because she doesn’t understand it. I can relate to that as a detective. She said that they never worked things out and that Bettina had an irritating personality that could have rubbed someone else the wrong way. Bettina also had a thing with the casino in Myrtle Beach.”

“What? Really?”  Lloyd said with surprise. “I would have never guessed that. Wasn’t she always sitting on the front row at church?”

“Yep,” Margie said. “Obviously those two things can be synonymous. Go figure.”

“Perhaps we should dig a little bit into Bettina and Richard’s financial situation. It’s always good to follow the money trail,” Lloyd said.

“Great minds think alike,” Margie said with a smile that Lloyd could hear over the phone.

“Oh, and before I forget, I did get the opportunity to question two more of Richard’s employees, but they weren’t very helpful either. The most interesting thing about them is that Richard’s lawyer is representing them as well,” Lloyd said.

“Makes you wonder who is paying the lawyer,” said Margie.

“Exactly,” said Lloyd. “Are you coming to the police station?”

“Yes, I’m on my way,” said Margie.

“Okay. See you soon. Love you,” Lloyd said as he hung up.

When Margie arrived at the station, there was barely a place to park. Several large, dark town cars were parked out front that she did not recognize.

Sargent Martinson began speaking as soon as Margie walked in the front door. “I am so, so sorry. You have to know that this was not our call.”  He clammed up when he saw the two men in dark suits standing outside his office door glaring at him. “Could you please come into my office, Mrs. McDonnell?” he said rather businesslike, as he stared at his shoes.

When Margie walked into the office, she saw her husband already there, pacing the floor. “Okay, we’re here,” said Lloyd impatiently. “What is this all about?”

The men in the dark suits walked inside the office behind them and one of them reached over slowly for the handle and shut the door.

To be continued…