“Good?” I was surprised by her reaction. “You don’t want them to lock her up and throw away the key for killing your brother?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I kinda feel sorry for her. I’ve known Merodie a lot of years, going way back before she even met my brother. The sweetest woman you’d ever want to know. Kind. Generous to a fault. When I was going through my divorce—I was married for about a week to a loser named Mike Lowman—you know what she did? She brought me chicken soup. Do you believe that? Poor girl never seems to catch a break, especially with men. She’s just the nicest person, too.”

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“Nicest person? The cops think she killed your brother.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like he didn’t deserve it.”

That stopped me.

Vonnie Lou took two more steps and pivoted on the asphalt toward me. “He was cheating on her,” she said. “Didn’t you know that?”

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“No.”

“Merodie didn’t tell you?”

I shook my head.

“Huh. I figured she would.”

“Did you tell the police?”

“Tell the police what?”

“That Eli was cheating on Merodie.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“For one thing, they didn’t ask. For another, I don’t want to get Merodie into trouble.”

“Will you talk to me?”

“You work for Merodie’s attorney, right? You’re trying to help her, right?”

“Right.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Was he cheating on her?” I asked. “Do you know that for a fact?”

“He was using my home.” Vonnie Lou shook her head as if she still couldn’t believe it. “Something you have to know about my brother Eli. When he was drinking, every woman looked good to him, he wanted every one he saw, and for a few months before he died, it seemed like he was drinking nearly all the time. It didn’t matter if the woman was pretty, ugly, married, single, young, old—Eli, he’d see her, he’d have to hit on her. It was like a compulsion. He didn’t have much trouble picking up the women he went after, either. He was so good-looking. Charming. He’d say these incredibly goofy things and women would laugh. They loved him. Especially young women, if you know what I mean.”

“You said he used your house?”

“I came home early from a job. Eli had a key to my place, so I wasn’t surprised when I found his car there. I come inside and there he was, doing it with this, this slut, on my bed. My bed. I was pretty upset.”

“I can imagine.”

“So I threw the two of them out. My bed. God. This was, I don’t know, a month or so ago.”

“Do you think Merodie found out?”

“If not about her, then about someone else, yeah.”

“Tell me about the woman.”

“I don’t know, some bimbo. Good-looking, I suppose. College age.”

“What was her name?”

“We weren’t formally introduced. Besides, what did I care what the bimbo’s name was? I just wanted her out of my house.”

“Did she give you an argument?”

“Eli gave me one, that’s for sure. Kept saying, ‘Ten more minutes, ten more minutes.’ I guess he hadn’t actually done it yet. Like I cared. The woman, she just gathered up her clothes and left. Never said a word, which was fine with me cuz I kinda had my hands full screaming at Eli.” Vonnie Lou shook her head, smiling slightly. “Eli could be such a piece of work. I gotta be honest, though. If he hadn’t been my brother, I probably would have been hot for him, too.”

“Tell me about Merodie.”

“We go back some,” Vonnie Lou said. “We met, I don’t know, years ago. We met at a joint called Dimmer’s off Highway 169. We used to play softball, and Dimmer’s was the sponsor. We’d start playing at six, finish around seven, be at Dimmer’s by seven fifteen and close the place down. God, I still don’t believe I survived those days.”

“You don’t play anymore?”

“No, I quit a couple of years ago when I tore up my knee. Merodie still plays, though.”

“Do you see much of her?”

“On and off. It kinda goes in streaks. I’d see her a couple of times a week and then not for a few months. We started drifting apart after I quit softball. We lost most of what we had in common. Softball and drinking. I don’t do much of either anymore.”

“How did Merodie meet your brother?”

“I introduced them, I don’t know, maybe a year ago. It was at Dimmer’s. Eli and I walked in and there was Merodie and there you go. They started living together about a month later. Listen, McKenzie, I have to get back to my job.”

“I appreciate your talking to me.”

“If you have any more questions, just call or drop by the house. I’m in the book.”

I thanked her and opened her car door. She slid inside and looked up at me.

“My brother. You wouldn’t believe what a good-looking guy he was. Right up until Merodie bashed his brains in.”

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