Public Service…new writing, unedited…

I woke early and showered, then I walked into the kitchen. For my beautiful wife, the woman who made me a better man without even trying, I cooked bacon, fried eggs, grits, and made coffee. My gesture seemed minute in comparison to the love she gave me, the support in the times of trouble, and the sly humor that kept me on my toes.

Lilly completed me. For years, I was fraught with distrust, never daring to hope I would find someone like her but unable to completely wash my hands of the dastardly emotion known as love. Now, I had secured the greatest treasure a man could find: A good wife.

I carried the plate of food and coffee to a small nightstand next to my sleeping partner. She stirred and sniffed the air, and then rolled back over and faced away from the food. I leaned over and kissed her neck and my affection caused her let out a throaty ‘mmm.’

“Good morning,” she murmured. “You’re up early.”

“Yeah, I wanted to cook you breakfast before we head out this morning.”

She opened her eyes and smiled at me, then rolled over. Lilly looked at the plate and steaming cup of coffee. One of her hands sneaked out of the patchwork bed spread and picked up a piece of bacon.
“You’ve already showered,” she said, staring at me and shaking her head.

“Yeah, I jumped in the shower before I cooked for you.”

She slid from underneath the cover and sat on the side of the bed. My heart raced as my eyes took in her beauty, and she smiled. Lilly leaned close to me and whispered, “Thank you for cooking for me. You’re quite handy in the kitchen, not to mention….”

“Well, thank you. You’re quite the dynamo yourself.”

Lilly giggled and finished eating and walked toward the bathroom. At the door she turned and gave me a smile and motioned for me to join her.

Looks like I’m running late this morning, I thought. Look at her, no flesh and blood male could say no to her. My eyes feasted upon the beauty that was my wife, and I smiled.

An hour and a half later, Lilly and I finally left for work. We had no less than a dozen missed calls between us. As I drove, Lilly returned calls. Manson and Rankin had called six times, Sasha Robideux had called three times, a reporter with the local television network had called twice, and Tammy called.

Manson and Rankin wanted to know how things were going for their favorite married couple. Rankin wanted details. The reporter wanted a comment on the current case, and Tammy wanted us to stop by when we had a chance.

“Where are we going, Konan?”

“We’re headed flower shopping.”

“Baby, I don’t need flowers, you’re all I need.”

Lilly grinned at me and winked, and I felt my blood flush my cheeks red. She knew how to get to me, and complimenting me was a surefire way to cause me to blush, but I freely admit I was thrilled to hear I pleased her. I wanted nothing more than to make Lilly happy for the rest of her life.

“I know sweetheart, but I’m referring to the Wolfsbane. We have a murderer to catch.”

“I haven’t forgotten, although you seemed to forget to tell me what happened at the deputy chief’s office.”

In truth, I had forgotten. Other things had captured my attention, and I um, had had my hands full at the time. I grimaced and said, “Yeah, I did forget. I’m sorry. The deputy chief is a friend of Tia Mathers, and he’s got an axe to grind.”

“What does that mean?”

“Um, he wants to crush me and you. Apparently, he’s got a serious man-crush on our former chief.”

“Did he threaten you?”

“Yeah, but not just me. Deputy Chief Scott Walters threatened me and you for “ruining Tia Mathers life.” I think he meant it too.”

“So, what do we do?”

“A guy like the deputy chief has enemies. We need to find out who has dirt on him, and bury him under his own garbage. Plus, we need to find out who’s doing the killing with the Bella Donna.”

“I thought the killer used wolfsbane.”

“He or she does, wolfsbane is also known as Bella Donna.”

“Okay, smartie. How many florists are there in town?”

“Six in town, two on the outskirts.”

“Let’s find us a killer.”

Our first stop was Wilde Flowers. An older woman with a single mole at the corner of her mouth, black eyes, and wearing a tie-dyed tee and a pair cutoff jean shorts looked up at us as we entered her shop. Her salt-and-pepper hair hung loose about her shoulders, and she smiled at us.

“Hello officers. What brings you by?”

“Hi,” I said. “I’m Detective Konan. I’m looking for the owner.”

“That’s me,” the woman said, as she extended her hand. “I’m Olivia Wilde.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you Olivia. Is it okay I call you Olivia?”

“Yes, it’s fine. What can I do for you?”

“Do you sell, or grow, wolfsbane?”

Olivia frowned and shook her head no. “Why in the world would I grow that? It’s poison, detective. I sell floral arrangements.”

Lilly walked through the shop while I spoke with Olivia. Pictures adorned the walls, Olivia was in every one of them. Most of the pictures were of funerals, but some covered weddings, anniversaries, and the like. Olivia noticed Lilly staring at the pictures, and she lifted her chin in Lilly’s direction.

“She’s found my shrine. Most of my business comes from funeral homes. I guess that’s the benefit of owning the oldest floral business in Fredericksburg.”

“Any idea who’d grow wolfsbane, or who might sell it?”

“No sir. May I ask why you’re looking for it?”

“A couple of people died from wolfsbane, and we’re trying to track down where they might have crossed paths with it.”

“That’s no way to die, the poor dears. The plant itself is highly toxic, why anyone would want to have it is beyond me. I mean it’s a pretty plant, but it’s deadly.”

“Thank you for the information, Olivia. I appreciate your help.”

“No need for thanks, detective. I hope you catch the person doing the killing.”

Lilly waited for me outside, and I walked out of the building and joined her. We got in the car, and I drove to the next stop.

“What did you see in the pictures?”

“They consisted of Ms. Wilde at various funerals, but a few had her at weddings or anniversaries. Do you think she did it?”

“I don’t know, Lilly. She seemed genuine, but you can’t never tell about folks.”

Our next stop was Flowers-R-Us. It sat the corner of 8th Street and Fitzgerald. A single story building, it had large windows that bore various writing and art on them. I pulled the glass door open, and Lilly walked in. A pair of twenty-something young women stood behind the counter. Both blonde and pretty, they looked at us and gave us mega-watt smiles.

“Hi! Welcome to our shop!”

Apparently being in sync wasn’t an issue for either of them. Lilly smiled and said, “Thanks, you have a wonderful shop.”

One of the women pointed at herself and said, “I’m Ashley and this is my sister Amber. We’re twins. How can we help?”

I ambled about the shop and looked at various plants while Lilly questioned the twins. In the corner of the room a table with dirt scattered on top of it, along with scissors, and a roll of ribbon sat next to the scissors.

“Do you guys carry wolfsbane?”

“No, what is that?”

“It’s a poison plant,” Lilly said. “I believe it’s also called Bella Donna.”

“No, we don’t carry poison. We’ve not been open long. A few days ago made one year, we’ve been open. Why do you need poison?”

“Oh, I don’t. My partner and I are investigating a crime.”

“Oh. Oooh. I see. No, we don’t deal with that stuff. You might want to check out Wilde Flowers.”

“Thank you for your help Ashley.”

I walked up and gave the twins a smile, and something on the back shelf caught my attention. A picture of the twins along with another woman had their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders outside of a ski lodge.

“Nice photo. Is that you guys?”

“Yes, that’s us. We went to Aspen after graduating with our cousin, Sasha Robideux. She’s a reporter.”

“Aspen’s a beautiful place. I always enjoyed it when I went there.”

“Yeah, we had a blast.”

“Well, thanks for talking to us,” I said. “Have a great day.”

Lilly and I walked out together, and she gave me a long look when we got into the car. “I questioned them, and I never even noticed the photograph. I knew that reporter was trouble, Konan.”

“Hold on, Lilly. It doesn’t mean anything yet,” I said, as I scribbled a message into my notepad. “Sasha was bound to have family in the area.”

“Yeah, but Konan she was at both murder scenes, and she was always the last one to leave.”

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