There was a moment of strained silence between us. It was strange how nine months had made a difference in how we regarded one another. I glanced at the clock to check the time and then an idea occurred to me. “Hey, after we’re through here, what do you say we take in a movie tonight?” Tom and I often went to shows at the cinema in the mall with Tina and occasionally by ourselves.
Tom paused, as he poured some kibble into one of the cat bowls and secured the cage. “Sorry, Ames. I’m going out with Sam tonight.”
Sam? As far as I knew, Tom didn’t have many male friends. His best pal, Dennis, had gone upstate to school at the same time I left Mount Filmore.
“Sam is short for Samantha. She’s my girlfriend,” Tom explained, his back still to me as he opened the next cage.
“Oh.” When did that happen? “I guess I should go to check Leprechaun now.” I still had seven minutes.
“No, wait.” Tom turned back to me. “Even though I have a date tonight, the animal hospital closes at 4 today. I’d like to treat you to an ice cream, and we can catch up.”
I thought of those days after school when Tom, Tina, and I headed to the ice cream shop on the corner across from our high school. It was still an old-fashioned parlor. I wondered if Maggie, the owner, still worked there.
“That would be nice,” I said as I turned toward the exam room.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re here, Detective Jackson,” a voice said from behind my left shoulder. I spun around to see Irma Carlton, the library’s director. She was dressed in her usual stylish manner in a navy suit with a red handkerchief peeking out of her left breast pocket. For a woman in the same age bracket as the deceased, early fifties, she was nothing to sneeze at even if you had allergies.
“Hello, Ms. Carlton,” I replied. “I’m sorry I’m late. I was admiring your pretty garden on the west end of the library.”
“Thank you, Detective. I’ve tried to keep the flower in Flower Hill Library, so to speak. I make sure the library’s gardener plants flowers that bloom each season. Of course, summer is the loveliest. I’m especially proud of the roses.”
“And you should be. But, as you know, I’m here for less pleasant matters. Have you gathered together the persons I requested to see?”