I lined up an interview with one of Cindy’s friends. Betty Seabold had smoothed the way for me by telling the girl I was working for her. We were going to have lunch at Dewey’s, and I arrived a little early.
“Hey, Claire,” Dewey greeted me. “I’m sure seeing a lot of you lately.”
“That’s right, and I’m meeting somebody again today,” I said, putting a hand on my hip. “I’ve been thinking, Dewey. With all the customers I’ve brought you lately, you ought to start giving me a break on my bill.”
“Yeah, right. That’ll happen when pigs fly. Say,” Dewey’s voice lowered, “how’d it go with Don the other day?”
“Okay. We had a business luncheon, that’s all.” I tried to sound like I was talking about the weather or something else insignificant.
Dewey’s eyes bored into me, drilled into my feelings about Don. I wasn’t fooling him. “Yeah, business, sure. Let me know when you’re ready to order.” He turned and went to another table.
I watched the people as they came through the door. Finally, I spotted a slim, black”haired woman in her twenties. She was looking around as if searching for someone. I waved her over to the table.
“Carol Taylor?” I asked. She nodded, and we shook hands. “Please, sit down.” I motioned to the other side of the table.
We went through the formalities of ordering lunch; then Carol spoke. “This is kind of creepy. I never thought I’d be talking to a private detective about anything.”
“I understand. I promise I’ll be on my best behavior. I won’t take your fingerprints or anything like that.”
She smiled. “Okay. I must say I was surprised to hear from Mrs. Seabold. I thought they’d given up on trying to find whoever killed Cindy.”
“The police have, but the Seabolds haven’t. They’ve hired me to see if I can find any new information.”
“I’ll be glad to help in any way possible. Cindy and I grew up together. We were best friends.” Carol’s voice softened. “I really like Mrs. Seabold, too. I know she’s been through a rough time.”
I took out my notepad. “You say you and Cindy grew up together. How far back did you go?”
“We met in kindergarten. Always seemed to be in the same classes together. We had something else in common after awhile.”
I looked up from my notepad. “Oh? What?”
“My dad died when I was in the second grade. Cindy lost hers a few years later. That’s when we really got close. She needed help dealing with everything.”
“I’m sure you were a big help to her then. How did she handle the loss?”
“She did okay. Of course, she was upset and cried a lot for awhile, but her mom and she really got close. They were like two against the world in those days.”
The waitress brought our food, and I started pouring dressing on my salad. “I understand Betty and Cindy hit a rough patch when Betty went back to work.”
Carol nodded. “Yeah, they did, but Cindy got through it. She was resentful for awhile because her mom wasn’t around to do stuff for her any more. But she finally realized Mrs. Seabold had to work.”
“When we went to high school. Bobby was a few years older than we were. All the girls were after him.”
“Why was that?”
Grinning, Carol leaned a little closer. “Bobby was a great combination. He had looks, a personality and brains. Cindy was determined to reel him in, and she did.”
“Sounds like my kind of girl. How’d she do it?”
Carol shifted in her seat. “Let me tell you, Cindy was no dummy. Instead of depending strictly on her looks, she decided she’d do well in school. She joined all the academic clubs and got to know Bobby that way. He grew to respect her and then to love her.”
I paused, thinking about Betty’s sneer when she talked about Spears. “Why didn’t Mrs. Seabold like Bobby?”
“I never figured out exactly what happened there. She liked him at first. Could be she got mad because he finally gave up on Cindy. I couldn’t blame him though. We all gave up on her after awhile.”
Carol shook her head. “Cindy got crazy her junior year. She stopped studying, starting hanging around with the wrong crowd. Then she dropped out of school.”
I nodded. “Mrs. Seabold told me about that. Did her new stepfather have anything to do with the changes Cindy went through?”
“Not that I know of. Cindy was really happy for her mom when she got married. Everything was going fine, then all of a sudden—Carol raised her hands— Poof!”
I sat with my chin cupped in my hand a moment, thinking, then spoke. “You mean she didn’t confide in you at all about what was going on? I thought you two were best friends.”
“I did, too, until all that happened. Believe me, it’s a mystery to me why she started acting up.” She smiled. “I guess that’s why we need you to solve this whole thing.”
“Maybe. Let’s get back to Bobby. You said he gave up on Cindy.”
“Yeah, he was in college trying to hang on to an academic scholarship when she came unglued. He couldn’t handle studying and her drifting in and out of his life. He finally called it quits. I heard the breakup wasn’t pretty.”
“What do you mean?”
“From what I heard Cindy made a big scene— screaming and all. She threatened to mess up Bobby’s life. I don’t think she was serious, though.”
My forearm rested on the recorder on my belt. I was glad it was on. I was going to have some interesting questions to ask Bobby Spears. “I understand Cindy was on the streets for awhile.”
“Yeah.” Carol waved a hand. “That was bad. She was into drugs and finally couldn’t hold a job. She was on the streets for a few months, got scared, then cleaned up.”
“Did she say what scared her?”
She thought a moment. “No, she was a different Cindy when I saw her again. She said something happened she didn’t want to talk about, and she needed to get offthe streets. She moved in with me and another friend, got a job and started seeing her mom again. Everything seemed to be going so well for her, then this . . . .” Carol’s eyes teared up. She reached in her purse for a tissue.
I patted her other arm, and we sat quiet for a moment. “Anything else you want to tell me?”
Carol wiped her nose. “I can’t think of anything right now.”
“Here’s my card,” I said, “If anything at all pops into your mind, please give me a call. Even the smallest details are sometimes very important.”
She rose to leave. “I sure will. I hope I’ve helped.”
“You have.” I motioned for the check.
Later, in the car, my fingers drummed on the steering wheel as I waited for the light to change. I felt more alive than I had in a long time. I’d had a great lunch interview with more leads popping up. What could be better? Two more questions demanded answers. Why had Cindy gotten scared on the street? And did Bobby Spears take Cindy’s threats seriously? It was definitely time to home in on the boyfriend.
To be continued