I tilted my head to the side and felt my brows raise. “What time did you get back to your room?” I asked Sissy.
She gave me a side-glance. “I guess it was around two-thirty in the morning. So, what do you mean killed while I was in the room? You mean, like me watching someone kill her?”
“No. I meant, what if you were passed out on the bed while someone else was murdering her?”
She scoffed. “I think I would have known that. Don’t you? And I’m not deaf yet, so I would have heard her screaming. Wouldn’t I have heard the gunshot?”
“How do you know she was killed by a gun if you didn’t examine the body?”
“I didn’t. I’m just saying. That’s all. How else could she have been killed?”
“It could have been a knife. Not everyone is killed with a gun . . . unless they used a silencer. And maybe the killer stuffed her mouth with something to keep her quiet. Did you notice anything in her mouth?”
“No, I told you,” she stamped her stiletto on the floor like a teenager. “How many ways can I say I didn’t examine her body?”
“Just making sure. The detectives are going to ask you these questions and more.” Sissy lowered her head as though being reprimanded by a parent and flung her arm in the air in compliance. “Make sure you think before you answer the detectives’ questions because the simplest of responses can be misconstrued.”
“I think I got this,” Sissy said with sarcasm. “I’ve watch enough police shows on television to know how quickly they can make a mountain outta a mole hill.”
“Okay, but what if you were dead to the world—no pun intended, like you said you were? It could have happened.” I could see Sissy looking at my hair and I consciously combed it with my fingers. “And if that’s the case, you could be the prime suspect.”
Sissy scrunched up her face and shook her head. “You know, this is way too many questions for someone who has a hangover. Can we stop now?”
“Just checking your alibi. You wanted our help.” I raised a dismissive shoulder.
“All right, already.” Sissy stopped talking and stared at me with a confused expression. “Which one are you?” she asked. “Shelby or Katie?”
I released a disgusted sigh and answered. “Katie. Remember I called my sisters by name?”
She shrugged. “Yeah, I guess, but I’m in shock. Remember?”
“Yeah, I remember,” Riley said, “Get back on topic.” Riley had a difficult time with people who couldn’t focus. “Here’s what I’m having trouble with: I guess I just don’t understand how you had the presence of mind to check to see if your jewelry was still there after seeing a dead body. I mean, I would have thought, given the circumstances, checking for your jewelry would have been the last thing on your mind and you would have made a beeline out of there.”
Sissy’s hand flew to her hip; her brows rose again and the words flew out of her mouth with a vengeance. “If your jewelry was as valuable as mine, sweetheart, you’d have been checking too. And secondly, what could the woman have done to me. She was already dead.” She turned her head toward me, apparently looking for support. She didn’t get any. Sissy was one of those people who wanted everyone to know her net worth. Somehow, she was under the impression that money gave her respect.
“If you’re jewelry is worth so much,” Riley snapped, “you must have had it insured.” The girl was never short on sarcasm.
“I have it insured,” Sissy retaliated. “But I had a lot of heirlooms from my grandmother in that pouch. Those aren’t replaceable.”
“Then why in God’s name would you pack your jewelry in your luggage instead of in your handbag?” Riley countered.
“I don’t know. I guess I just wasn’t thinking straight.”
I intervened. “And you’re absolutely certain you did not open your suitcase last night?”
“Did you check the dresser drawers just to be sure?”
Sissy groaned. “There was no reason to check them. I didn’t unpack, and I sure as heck didn’t open the suitcase.”
“Did Bella come into your room?”
“No. I met her outside. She picked me up.”
“So if this is true, you’re saying whoever killed the person in your room, must have stolen your jewelry—”
Sissy cut me to the quick. “What do you mean, if it’s true? I know what I did or didn’t do,” she screeched in a high pitched falsetto.
“Calm down, Sissy. It just seems odd that you were looking for your jewelry, that’s all. It also seems odd that you’re not the least bit affected by the dead body and more concerned about your belongings. I think you’d better have a good explanation when the cops ask. Isn’t it possible you might have forgotten that you had in fact opened your suitcase before you met Bella?”
“No, ma’am. It is not possible.”
Riley was listening intently while she was getting dressed. “How can you be sure your jewelry wasn’t taken at the airport?” she said. “What if the TSA who examined your bag, forgot to put it back inside your luggage when they closed it up?”
“Because I know!” She blasted grabbing her head dramatically.
“Calm down, Sissy.”
She waved her arms in surrender. “Look, I’m sorry. I’ve only had two hours of sleep and the aspirin hasn’t kicked in yet.” She seemed to calm down somewhat before continuing. “I suppose I can’t be sure, but my suitcase was open this morning and my clothes were all messed up like someone had been rummaging through the bag to find something. Now, my clothes are all wrinkled.” Her hand slapped against the bed.
“Tell me about the body. What is the gender?”
“I told you it was a woman.” She paused, “you know, like a pretzel.” She stood and bent at the waist, crossing her arms and ankles to demonstrate the shape. “Remember those wind up dolls that flop over when the key runs out?” I nodded. “Sorta like that.”
“You said she was stuffed in the closet, but I’m confused as to why her legs didn’t stick out.”
“She was stuffed into the little trap door—like maybe they were hiding treasures in there.” She raised her voice, “Or my jewelry.”
“What kind of trap door?” I asked walking over to our closet to check. I squatted down and peered inside. “I don’t have one.”
“I guess that means I’m special then.”
Riley rolled her eyes. “I thought you didn’t look that closely?” she said with her usual sarcastic flair.
“She was folded in half, I’m telling you. I saw the top of her head and her twisted ankles.” She frowned. “Oh, and there was a lot of blood.”
“So how do you know she was folded like a pretzel then if you only looked at the top of her head?” I waited for her to respond. She seemed as though she was in a fog. “Sissy,” I snapped my fingers, “how did you know?”
“I guess I stooped down to see inside the hole of the closet. That’s all.”
“Wasn’t it dark in that closet? How were you able to see her?”
“There must’ve been a crack in the wall or the floor seams somewhere, cause some light was filtering through there.”
“Ooh, Sissy. Your story has more holes than Swiss cheese. You better think about what you’re going to say to the police before you answer any questions,” I warned.
She sloughed it off with a nonchalant shrug. “So tell me? Is this place still haunted?” she asked.
“What? You have a dead body in your room and you’re asking if this place is haunted?” Sissy nodded with a smile. I automatically clicked my tongue against the roof of my mouth. “Why? You think a ghost swooped in and slayed the dragon?” I laughed. Her expression told me she wasn’t finding my comment humorous. “Yeah, they say it is, but I guess . . . if you believe in that mumbo jumbo crap, it could have happened.”
“I thought so.”
“Why do you ask?” Riley jumped in, a sudden change in her demeanor caused her to stand straighter. As the resident expert, this was her forte. Ghosts, and lots of them.
“Well, because just before I dozed off, I thought I saw something like a bluish-white circle, kinda hovering over me. Do you think they were trying to warn me?” Sissy asked.
“You mean like a spirit orb?”
“What’s a spirit orb?” Sissy asked.
“It’s a floating ball of spirit energy,” Riley said wide-eyed, and keyed something into her cell phone, holding it up to show Sissy what an orb looked like.
“Yes, that’s it!” She exclaimed with surprise. Riley nodded with certainty. “I thought they were white? You know, like Casper, the friendly ghost? Do you think he was the one over me?”
I forced composure as I listened to this conversation, and couldn’t believe how unaffected Sissy was acting. That told me she either killed the woman or she just didn’t care about it.
“It’s the same thing,” Riley continued. “Forming a circle uses less energy than if the spirit were to be in full form.”
“Well, I’ll be. Hmm,” Sissy scratched her head. “I suppose it could have been the booze that was making me see things. I really wanted to go to the Chillingham B&B. Now that’s the best ghost place here in Cape May, but there weren’t any more rooms available. She gestured with her hand. “Who’s that prostitute they say was burned in the fire at the Chillingham in the 1800s, and still searches through all the rooms looking for her lover?”
“Phoebe,” Riley’s excited voice blurted out. “Yes, that’s Phoebe you’re referring to. She’s looking for her lover, and her husband Abner, is looking for her.” Riley laughed.
“Yeah, well, I’d be laughing too if I had a roomful of men.”
“After they rebuilt the place, guests often say there’s a distinctive aroma of perfume that waifs up their noses when no one is around, yet they hear her laughter, and swear they can hear the rustling of her petticoat as she sails through the air.”
Our conversation came to a screeching halt from the forceful pounding on the door.