After Wade and Clark carried Madison downstairs Wednesday evening, Anna Belle went back into Miranda's room. The poor girl was just standing there, as if she was totally lost. Anna Belle suggested they go to her private sitting room to talk.
Once they were settled on Anna's Belle's Victorian sofa, Anna Belle took both of Miranda's hands in hers. "Sweet heart, what can you tell me about this evening? You are not in trouble. I don't think you did anything to cause his death."
Miranda took a small breath and started, "I brought him up to my room. At first we sat and talked. Then, you know, I started talking dirty to him. I went through my regular routine with the leather, the mask, and the whip." She stopped and looked at Anna Belle, "but you know I never use the whip."
"Of course," Anna Belle said softly.
Miranda continued,"Then we played around and I tied him to the bed just liked he liked. You know I never tie anyone up so they cannot move. I had just tied his right ankle when I heard him groan. At first I thought it was him enjoying being tied up. But when I looked up, I saw his cheast heave like he was taking a deep breath, then his head slumped and his body went limp."
"And he wasn't breathing?"
"No, and I checked his pulse."
"Then you ran to Sara's room"
"My only concern is that this is the second time this has happened." Miranda started to say something, Anna Belle held up her hand, for Miranda to wait until she had finished. "When John died, it was horrible, but I understood. He was overweight and out of shape - 2 things that can kill a man, especially when they are excited and aroused. That happens." She hesitated. "But twice, gives me pause. Perhaps we should make some changes. I know you are very popular, but I want you to change the services you offer the members. I don't think we can take a chance of this happening a 3rd time."
"No, I didn't want it to happen at all."
"We have been very lucky that good friends have been close and were willing to jump in and help. Hopefully, this horrible issue with Mr. Marlboro will go as quickly into the night as Rev. Barker's did."
Anna Belle was quiet and gave Miranda a minute to take in what she had said. She continued, "We will go forward as if these 2 most unpleasant events did not happen. We will not speak of these things again, to anyone."
Miranda smiled a bit, "I know I owe you so much. I wouldn't be here if you had not been so gracious to bring me in. Lord knows where I would be otherwise. Now, I just wonder if I can continue, if I can overcome my fear that it is me. That it was my fault . . ."
Anna Belle stopped her. "Miranda, this is behind us. You will be OK. You are strong and smart. As for tonight, as I said, none of this happened." She patted Miranda's knee, "If you need time to get away and heal, take it. I will always be here. I will do my best to assist you any way I can."
Miranda quietly gave Anna Belle a hug. Through tears she said, "Thank you so much - for everything." Anna Belle let her go. "You are not the first young lady to find herself in such a situation. Believe it or not, I know the feelings you are going through. The sun will come up tomorrow morning in the east. Life will go on.
Miranda smiled weakly, got up, and left the room. Anna Belle remained on the sofa, thinking. Thank God for Wade, Clark, and Hank. But Anna Belle had always counted on her instincts. That was her means of survival. And, something in the back of her mind made her feel a little uneasy.
Thursday morning when the Sheriff and Mike got back to the station, they noticed an older Mercedes in the parking lot. They walked into the station to find Mary Lou in an animated conversation with a tall white haired gentleman. Mary Lou spoke first, "Sheriff, this is Pearce Phinnigan. Mr Phinnigan, this is Sheriff Quitman." She paused, then saw Mike behind him, "And, this Mike." Pearce shook hands with both men.
The Sheriff took his coat off, hung it and his hat on the coat rack, then turned to the visitor. "Well, Mr. Phinnigan, what can we do for you?"
"Please call me 'Pearce'."
The Sheriff did not expect the Irish brogue. Now he was very curious. "OK, Pearce, come in and have a seat." The Sheriff motioned toward his office.
Pearce told the Sheriff who he was, his family, and that he had purchased Cre Uisce Aer.
When he finished, the Sheriff leaned forward, "So you are Gwendolen Fitzgerald's son." He shook his head. "Your mother was one of the most beautiful ladies I can remember. She had a line of men in her wake, each hoping to get her attention." He paused, then added. "She married an Irishman and moved to Ireland. Come to think of it, I don't remember ever hearing anything about her after that."
Pearce explained that his parents had stayed in Ireland and never returned to the states. Pearce had been educated over here and traveled between the 2 countries. After his mother died, he came back. "My mother spoke of Cre Uisce Aer, as if it was neamh." He added, "Heaven."
"It was a beautiful place, probably the nicest estate 'round here. Just a sin, what happened to it. Your uncle," he shook his head, "well, let's just say he wasn't right in the head. Just my thought."
"Oh, I agree and so did my mother. I think that is one reason she would not return. Anyway, when I learned it was for sale, I knew I had to buy it."
"And, now you are fixin' it up?"
"Yes, trying to."
"That must being costing you a pretty penny."
"I think of it as a Prince's ransom." He paused, "Unlike Uncail Faolan, Mum invested her money well. I think of restoring the place as a gift to her."
"Well that is good news. We have a Fitzgerald back in Gallagher. So, is this a social call or is there a problem?"
"Well, I'm not sure it is fadhb, or not." The Sheriff looked quizzical, so Pearce paused, "a problem. I am looking for a duine uasal - Hugh McKissick."
The Sheriff was taken aback, "Mr. Fitzgerald? Is he a friend of yours."
"Yes, a good friend."
The Sheriff hesitated, "Mr. McKissick's a popular guy these days."
Pearce did not say anything.
"He was here, but left town, shall we say, in the dark of the night."
"So you know him?"
"Never met him. But he is a suspect or a 'person of interest', as they say these days?"
"So firinneach?" Pearce said surprised, "He's a great guy. I met him several years ago. We've traveled together. I have never known him to do anything illegal. Are you sure he just left, without saying anything to anyone?"
"From what we can tell, the only people he had contact with in Gallagher was the rental company. We have investigated everything we could learn from his rental application." He paused,"We could not find one thing, a dead end."
"May I ask what you think he did?"
"We're not sure, but we have evidence that he was involved in a corrupt operation."
Pearce sat back and was quiet for a while. The Sheriff didn't say anything, he knew to give people a chance to think. Pearce just shook his head,"That is so odd."
"Do you know why he was here?"
"All I know was that he was working on a project. He said he didn't know how long he would be in Gallagher."
"Is he friendly, outgoing?"
"Radharc na suil, he is what you would call a 'people person'."
"What is his profession?"
"He is a linguistics designer analyst."
"And, what the heck is that? What does he do."
"Normally, he works with advertising and public relation companies to develop the best words for them to use in creating a campaign for their clients."
"So he writes commercials?"
"No, he works with the writers to produce a list of words that positively reflect the image that best represents the customer, what should be used in commercials, or others that they should not use."
"Would those 'words' be names?"
"They could be anything. He spoke little about his work due the confidentially of his clients."
"Well, we have an APB out for him. If we find him, we'll call."
"Is he in a lot of triobloid? Trouble?"
"We are not sure but we need to speak with him."
Pearce stood up, "If I hear from him I will let you know. But, I really think you have the wrong fear, the wrong man."
They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Pearce left the station.