When Holly woke up the sun was streaming into her bedroom and across her face. She felt unaccountably comfortable and happy. She rolled out of bed, got dressed quickly and headed for the kitchen. She was surprised to see Peter already there. He smiled as he saw her come in.
“I went ahead and made some coffee. Here.”
“So,” he said, leaning against the counter, “Have you given any thought to what you’re going to say to Linda Atwood?”
“I think I should start with explaining my concerns,” said Holly. “I was thinking about it and I believe that’s the only chance we’ve got. She has to believe that there’s a good reason we’re asking our questions or else she’s never going to talk to us.”
Peter nodded. “You have to tell her something but I think we shouldn’t tell her everything.”
“Telling her we think her ex-husband might have been murdered is just going to make her angry. She won’t tell us anything. If instead we make it sound like we suggest things don’t add up, it’ll put her on the defensive. People don’t want to believe the worst. She’ll talk because she’ll want to argue the point.”
Holly shrugged. “If you think that’s best.”
“Alright then. Why don’t we pour the coffee into thermoses and head out?”
“Sounds like a good idea.”
The drive up to Tucson was quiet. Holly was beginning to feel nervous about what they would say to Linda and Peter seemed content to look out the window. They reached the VA a little before ten. Holly parked outside it and together they got out of the car.
She squared her shoulders and took a deep breath.
“Ready?” Peter asked.
She nodded. “Ready.”
They entered the long flat building and walked up to the reception desk. Holly sensed rather then saw Peter slow his step a little so that she would reach the desk first. She was oddly appreciative of him letting her take lead, though she couldn’t say why.
“How can I help you?” ask the women behind the desk.
“We’re here to see Linda Atwood. Is she working today?”
“No. Linda’s up in Maine for the holidays. Lucky. Actually going to get to see some snow for Christmas. Are you friends Linda’s?”
“Sort of. We wanted to talk to her about her ex-husband.”
“Husband? You must have the wrong person.”
“Are you sure? She doesn’t have any children?”
The woman laughed. “Children? Linda’s just a kid herself. Barely out of college.”
“Oh, I see. Thank you. We must have the wrong person.”
“You must. The idea of Linda settling down with anyone to have kids is absurd. The girl can barely stick with a guy for a week let alone make it down the aisle.”
Holly and Peter beat a hasty retreat and got back in the car.
“The mechanic’s then I guess,” said Holly.
The repair shop had a large open garage next to the main office which was built with large windows and a glass door. Sitting inside, typing away at a desk, Holly saw a woman. She appeared to be somewhere in her late thirties. From where they stood, Holly could see she had dark hair that was pulled back in a tight bun and was to be dressed in a somber suit. It wasn’t quite what she had imagined from a woman who had been married to Lionel Atwood.
They entered the office and the woman looked up, smiling to greet them.
“Hello. Welcome to Karl Mechanics and Auto Repair. How can I help you today?”
Holly resisted the urge to run her hand across her hair and instead returned the smile. “I’m so sorry to bother you. We’re actually here to talk to you personally. Are you Linda Atwood?”
“Yes I am. What is this about?”
“I’m Holly Woods and this is Peter Glades. It’s a little difficult to begin-”
“Peter Glades? The Peter Glades? As in the actor? Of course you are! I would recognize you anywhere!” Linda clapped her hands in excitement. It was strange to watch her transformation from the reserved professional to an enthused fan who somehow looked years younger as she laid eyes on Peter. “I’m such a fan of yours.”
Peter blinked. “Really?”
“Yes. I’ve watched every single thing you’ve ever been in.”
“Oh. Dear. I’m afraid they’ve been rather bad lately.”
“But you bring so much talent to them. You raise them to a higher level of art just by being in them.”
“Thank you,” said Peter. Holly hid a grin as she noticed him go a little pink. “I admit,” he said, “I haven’t met a fan in a while. Now that I’m not even suspected of murder I don’t even get the occasional creepy letter from the more ‘special’ ones.”
“I never doubted you for a second,” said Linda, beaming at him, “If you don’t believe me, t I have mountains of message board posts I can show you to prove it. I never stopped supporting you.”
“Oh I believe it.”
“It’s such an honor to finally meet you. Would you mind terribly if I took a picture with you?”
“No. Not at all.”
“Thank you so much. You know you’ve been my absolute favorite actor since I saw your very first film in theaters.” Linda handed a slightly bemused Holly her cellphone and posed for a quick snap with Peter. “Now,” said Linda, taking back her phone and pocketing it. “You said you wanted to talk? Why don’t we go into the office right over here? It’s more private.”