Murder at the Book Group

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Authors: Maggie King
apparently we did, because Kat asked, “How many husbands have you had, Hazel? And why didn’t your mother like the thirteen-year guy?”
    Seeing Kat as she leaned forward, looking her usual animated self, I reconsidered my reluctance to discuss my sorry marital history. If I could divert this discussion from Evan and the events of last night, I’d best grab the opportunity. I briefly summarized my marriages, starting with Bobby Dee, my second husband. We lived together for three years until I got fed up with his philandering and moved out. As neither of us were in a hurry to remarry I didn’t bother to divorce him for twelve years. At age thirty-eight, I decided to get my life in order, which meant that hubby number two had to go—legally, that is.
    A couple of years later, I married Dan Ricci. That happy union lasted for one year and twelve days. I lost no time in divorcing him.
    â€œWhat happened there?” Kat asked.
    â€œCabin fever.” Not surprisingly, my terse response didn’t work. This time I caved in to Kat and Lucy’s expectant looks. “We went to Yosemite and stayed in a cabin. Let’s just say it was too close for comfort. However, to his credit, Dan was faithful at least.”
    â€œOkay: Evan, Bobby, Dan. Anyone else?” Kat’s ticking off the names of my exes on her fingers left me feeling unsettled. Did Elizabeth Taylor ever feel like this?
    â€œThe Republican with the earring.” Lucy was enjoying herself.
    â€œYes. Richard.” I laughed as I remembered him. “Despite the earring, he turned out to be way too conservative for me.”
    â€œThe earring fooled you, huh?” Kat chuckled. “Tell me about him.”
    â€œThere’s not much to say about Richard. He was your average trendy Republican.” I laughed and shrugged at the same time. “We filed for divorce, but he died before it became final.”
    â€œDied? How?”
    I described Richard’s death during a skiing weekend at California’s Mammoth Lakes when he’d managed to wrap himself around a tree, leaving me a widow. He and some sweet young thing had been celebrating our impending divorce. I ad-libbed the sweet part, but as she’d had the temerity to show up at the funeral as the bereaved, um, mistress, I could attest to her youth.
    Kat looked closely at me. “I can’t tell if you’re sad or not, Hazel. You’re so—I don’t know, matter-of-fact about it.”
    â€œYeah, well, it was just another one of those married-today, divorced-tomorrow deals. Widowed, not divorced. Not that I hated him, but still . . .” I trailed off, eloquence eluding me. In truth I had a soft spot in my heart for Richard, mainly because his untimely death had left me financially secure. He’d kept his net worth a secret during a marriage so brief that he died before we could file a joint tax return.
    After a pause, Kat pursued a different line of questioning. “So, Hazel, what made you decide to move to Richmond?”
    â€œAll those marriages took a toll on me. I found myself at loose ends and needed a change. Lucy had lost her husband recently as well, so she invited me to stay with her for a while.” If I went with the long version of the story, and usually I didn’t, I’d go on to say that after Richard died I reviewed my options. I no longer needed to endure my high-stress job as a systems analyst for an L.A. publishing company, but I had only three months to go until I was fully vested in my company’s 401k plan. The “only” three months turned out to be very long, but they finally came to an end. With great satisfaction I gave my resignation to my Generation X boss—or was it Generation Y or Z? I never got a grip on those alphabetic designations for generations. But he was young.
    I instantly regretted my decision to skip the long version, as Kat’s next question was, “Did

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