Chapter 2: Night of the Cupid

“You should have got the chocolate.” Sheriff McCourt stood outside the barn, her breath clouding the air.

“I should have got the chocolate,” I repeated dully. I studied the ice sculpture, melting on my passenger seat. Deputies moved purposefully in and out of the nearby barn.

“What’s that extra little piece there?” The sheriff motioned toward the broken bit inside a cupholder.

“Ah... The sculpture slid forward on the seat when I hit the brakes too hard. I wasn’t looking and grabbed for it, and it... snapped off.”

“Oh.” She adjusted her broad-brimmed hat, her blond curls spilling from beneath it. The sheriff was petite, with a Shirley-Temple air. A lot of criminals underestimated her because of it. “So you gelded him?”

My face warmed. “It, not him.”

“You gelded it.”

“It was an accident,” I said, flustered.

“That can’t be to scale,” she muttered.

“It might have melted a little on the way over,” I admitted. “More than the rest of the sculpture, I mean.”

“You mean it was bigger?” She gazed speculatively at me. “How are things with Arsen?”

I shifted my weight. “Great. He’s amazing.” Though he had been a little jumpy lately. “His security firm is doing really well.” I think his sudden success might have surprised even him.

But my love life was neither here nor there. A murder had been committed. And it was lucky I’d been the one to discover the body. After all, I had experience in such matters. The sheriff and I had worked together on several cases. I was kind of her secret weapon, a sort of citizen-insider.

She sighed, her breath pluming. “Your sculpture doesn’t really matter much now. I think you’re out of luck for that refund.”

“Actually, the swan sculpture I ordered was right there on the table. You wouldn’t mind if I...?”

Her cornflower eyes took on a chilly glint. “It’s a crime scene.”

I sighed. “Right. It’s just that the ice sculpture wasn’t cheap.”

“You should have got the chocolate.”

“I should have the got the chocolate.” We stared at the sculpture some more. A trickle of water ran down its brawny chest. “But I wanted to support a local business.” The nearest business supplying chocolate sculptures was two hours away in Sacramento.

“And I appreciate your civic spirit. Well. Let’s get it out of your car.” She reached for the sculpture’s head.

“Is it evidence?”

“Not if it melts.”

The statue was even slipperier now. I’ve no idea how we got it out of my Crosstrek without dropping it. We set it beside a sledgehammer leaning negligently against the barn.

I rubbed the back of my neck. “Her death couldn’t have been an accident, could it?”

“No. But the ice was already melting in her chest. If you hadn’t come across her so soon, we wouldn’t have had any evidence to preserve.”

“So it was murder.” Like I said. Lucky me.