Dangerous Secrets (Mystery — Day 23)

Tara and Katie made Land and Home Real Estate their first stop on Thursday morning.  Tara asked to see the three places one more time.  Though they were all similar to what she had envisioned, she chose the one on Bentley Street.  It was just a fifteen minute drive from her house, and Bentley Street received a good bit of attention from the neighborhood.  Bentley Street was home of a bookstore, gift shop, ice cream parlor, bank, pizza shop, a toy store and a vintage clothing store, all of which seemed to do a pretty good business.  She was excited about adding her little cafe/bakery to the neighborhood.

Tara thoroughly enjoyed shopping with Katie for the two little girls.  Tara insisted on purchasing two teddy bears, one for each of them.  “I loved my teddy bear when I was growing up.  I carried it everywhere and had tea parties with it and played dress up with it.  My teddy bear was my best friend, and every child should have one,” she told Katie.

“Thank you, Tara.  I’m sure the girls will love them.”

They decided to visit each of the shops along Bentley Street and Tara introduced herself to all of the owners and informed them that she would be joining them soon.  They all seemed genuinely happy to have her moving in.

She and Katie had lunch at the pizza shop.  “Life brings such big changes so quickly.  Who would have thought that I would be the mother of twins before this year is over?”

“Or that I would be a widow, so young and so soon?”

“Oh, Tara, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay.  You’re right.  We just never know what will change or when.”

“That’s why it’s so important to make the most of each day.  Life and time are so precious.  We need to value the time and life that we have.”

“Yes.  That is why I am excited about opening my cafe/bakery.  I need something to do with my time.  And, I look forward to meeting people.”

‘I’m certain your cafe/bakery will be successful.  You’re a wonderful cook and you’re smart too.”

“I can’t wait to get in to the cafe and begin preparing it for opening.  I’ll be able to take possession on Monday and will have things that I need delivered and installed as soon as possible.  I will place an ad in the paper and begin taking applications and scheduling interviews for a few employees.  It’s both scary and exciting at the same time.”

The door to the pizza shop opened and in walked Natalie Jacobson.  She looked awful.  She had lost a lot of weight and her usually well-tailored dress hung on her like something two sizes too big.  Her face appeared gaunt and her eyes were dull.

Tara rose from her chair and approached, “Natalie, are you okay?”

Natalie looked at Tara as though she didn’t recognize her.  After a few minutes, it seemed her eyes came into focus and she said, “Oh, Tara.  I didn’t expect to see you here.  It’s just so warm outside.  I thought I’d come in for something cold to drink.”

Natalie tried to brush past Tara and when she did, she stumbled.  Tara grabbed her arm and helped her to a chair at the table she had been occupying with Katie.  Natalie looked pale and Tara noticed her hands were shaking a little.  She hurried to the counter and returned with a glass of lemonade for Natalie.

Natalie drank, but her hands didn’t stop shaking.

“Natalie, have you been ill?”  Tara asked.

“I just haven’t been the same since . . .” she trailed off and seemed to stare off into space.

“Since when?”

Natalie rose to her feet abruptly, knocking the glass of remaining lemonade over.  “Oh, oh, I’m so sorry, but I have to go,” and with that, she was out the door and gone.

Katie finished wiping up the spilled lemonade with some napkins and looked at Tara, “What do you suppose that was all about?”

“I don’t know.”

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