Luckily, something I said must have switched Caroline’s alliances; her reply was now quick and cleverly formed. It also had a lot of weariness, as though being smart took all the energy out of Caroline’s systems.
“When I was still dating Josh- which wasn’t actually long before his death- I ran into some monetary issues and Josh offered to say that he had married me, so part of his money would go to me. Mr. and Mrs. Craig welcomed me as though I was their daughter-in-law, I moved in, and everybody said I could stay as long as I had financial insecurity. When Josh’s father died suddenly, I’m sure he appreciated that I was there to comfort him, and not just because of the money, mind. When we broke up, and Josh died soon afterwards…” Here she sighed, “Irene gave me a place at the house permanently… She’s all alone in the World, you know. Not that I needed her help anymore. It was probably the other way round.”
When Caroline ran out of words, my mind was behind; still taking in the fact the Joshua had married her. No, wait… He had lied to government about marrying her… My head swam, and finally caught hold of the last strands of her speech. Then it did a double take.
“Did you say Joshua came into some money when his father died?”
“Then…he had lots of money when he died…”
“Oh…you figured that out-”
“Which went straight to you, as wife of the deceased!”
Caroline. She, by law, had received an awful lot of money when Joshua died. And they had broken up beforehand too, but nothing had been made to the arrangement, as there had been no time.
“I know what you’re implying.” Caroline said simply, her voice like rock, unreadable. “It’s just better for the reports if I stay as ‘daughter-in-law’ and ‘widow’.”
“Well, then,” I tried to break the wall that had formed between the both of us, “I’ll steal a line from Louis Carroll and say ‘Curiouser and curiouser’.”
Caroline laughed, if a little bitterly, which reminded me of our first meeting. Miss Peterson had been the scatty, ‘cards-to-her-chest’, unhelpful, and unresentful ex-girlfriend. Now, though, this was a new Caroline: the smart, money laundering, wife, and possibly a little more than harsh…
“Anyway you said you were in trouble? What kind of trouble?”
As I was about to answer I heard the click of a key in the door, and knew my mother would be monitoring my phone conversations… She had a point though; who knew what detective work I was doing through that neat mobile device?
I hastily muttered, “Got to go, Carrie. I will see you around, but I’ll text you first,” and closed the flip-up with its usual snap. A minute later I heard the creak of tired floorboards and equally tired slippers padding up the staircase.
“Aggie?” My mum called through the door, “how’s the homework going?”
“Yeah, I think I’m making progress…”
At least that statement wasn’t untrue. I looked over at the dreaded and unfinished History work, due in for Friday, but most likely now, three or four weeks, since the closure, and maybe one week for counselling (or ‘rehab’) treatment for the more seriously traumatised. That gave me five-ish weeks to complete a couple of essays, three pages of Biology Exam Questions and an evaluation of Modern Technology… Or maybe not; depending on what the school rules would say about homework set by dead teachers. Or by then I could say that worry, or grief, had made me forget about it. Anyway, the schoolwork was not important. I picked up the hastily discarded phone and flicked up its pink-metallic cover.
“Meet me @ ur house, 12:00 2night.We need 2 inspect house 4 clues,” was the text I sent to Caroline. Her response was short and frank: “?”.
I sent back, “Never mind, tell u l8r.” Before lying back and relaxing on my soft duvet. The stress hurt my head so I contented myself with closing my eyes...