“The police are here,” he informed her. “The officer is driving to the front now.”
Margaret gave her sister a wrinkled nose. “Did you invite the police?” she asked curiously.
“No. Do you want me to handle it?” Gretchen asked as she got the canning jars ready for the apple jelly she had made.
“No, darling, I’m the face of this operation. I will deal with it. I suppose it’s about Peggy anyway.” She sighed and left the wondrous smells of the kitchen to attend to the guest they were about to have.
The doorbell rang throughout the house, a chiming mantra of health and vitality, before Margaret had time to walk to the foyer. One of the house staff invited the officer in, giving Margaret a chance to see him before he saw her. He was dressed in creased jeans, black hiking boots, a pressed blue button-up and a bolo tie. He had kind brown eyes and gave the servant a charming smile.
“Hello, officer,” Margaret called, approaching him in her always ethereal manner. “What can I help you with?”
“Detective Don VanCamp, and you are?” The officer asked, holding out a firm hand to her.
She shook his strong, calloused palm. “Margaret Dragonswan. Are you new to the department?”
Don nodded. “Yes, ma’am. I just moved here from Arizona. We had a domestic disturbance call at the station. A man claimed you kidnapped his wife right in front of him about half an hour ago.”
Margaret laughed. “You must mean Peggy. We did not kidnap her, she cut herself and I offered to have our house doctor have a look. She’s pregnant and I didn’t want to take any chances with her. So, she and I left the kitchen. Apparently her husband created quite a row when we left and we had to escort him off the property. Peggy is still here. Would you like to see her?”
“Yes, ma’am, I think that would be for the best right now.” Don’s straight-laced demeanor didn’t change with Margaret’s laughter or explanation.
“Follow me,” she invited, momentarily pulling on his shirt-sleeve as she turned to the stairs that led to the second-floor guest suite.
He walked silently behind her, the only accompaniment to their walk the brisk echo of their footfalls. She knocked on the door to the guest rooms and waited, giving the detective an airy smile. “I imagine the doctor is still with her. She may need a moment to compose herself if something was amiss.”
Don acknowledged her with a nod and knocked again. “Forgive me if I don’t take your word for it.”
Margaret shrugged her small shoulders. “I am suspect, of course.”
The door opened and Peggy appeared, tying the strings of a robe around her belly. “Sorry. I was just redressing. Come in,” she said, stepping back for them.
Margaret followed Don in, noticing that Maggie was gone already. There was very little evidence of her visit, in fact.
“Are you Peggy Rugner?” Don inquired, pulling out a notebook and pen.
“Yes?” Peggy looked confused, but Margaret gave her hand a little squeeze.
“This is detective VanCamp. Your husband reported you kidnapped by me,” Margaret explained.
“Do you have an ID to confirm your identity?” Don continued undeterred by Peggy’s confusion or Margaret’s introduction.
“Um, yes, in my purse over there.” Peggy started to move for it but Margaret stopped her.
“Sit down, love. Let me get it for you.” She turned on the detective and gave him a hard look. “You too, Mr. VanCamp. Sit.”
Without waiting for his compliance or reply, she walked across the room to get her guest’s purse.
“Are you here of your own volition, ma’am?”
“Well, I don’t know what that means detective.”
“Are you here willingly? Did this woman take you without your consent?”
“Of course I’m here willingly. My husband over-reacted. They were just looking out for me.”
“So you were not, in fact, kidnapped. Did your husband know you went willingly?”
Margaret handed Peggy her purse and sat next to her as she answered. “He was there. I walked away from him—I wasn’t dragged.”
“Are there any witnesses to this that would confirm your story here?”
“Well, sure. We were with a whole tour group. I bet they are still here. The tour wasn’t supposed to end until three and then we were supposed to get a late lunch in the courtyard.”
The detective turned to Margaret. “Is the tour group still here?”
Margaret nodded. “Yes, as she said, they will be in the courtyard at three. Would you like to wait?”
Don stood. “Yes, ma’am, I think need to. Thank you for your time, Mrs. Rugner. If I have any more questions is there a phone I can reach you at or will you be here?”
Margaret squeezed Peggy’s shoulders. “Peggy is under our doctor’s care at the moment. I believe that she will be staying with us for the foreseeable future. I will give you the direct number to the phone in this room and also my cell should you need us.”
“Oh! You don’t have to do that!” Peggy exclaimed surprised.
Margaret shushed her. “Now, now, Peggy. Your health and safety are our number one concern right now. I don’t think I could live with myself if something happened to you because I turned you out. Please stay here with us. We will keep you and the baby safe for as long as you let us.”
Peggy’s eyes brimmed with tears and she crumpled into Margaret’s embrace. “Thank you, so much!”
Margaret stroked her back and held her until the tears subsided. Detective VanCamp stood stoically looking out the window, steadfastly ignoring the female mess in front of him. When it finally ended, Margaret pecked Peggy on the temple and stood with the detective. “Rest my dear. I will be back after Mr. VanCamp is satisfied with his investigation. If you need anything, just pick up the phone and dial zero. It will connect you to the house manager and she will help you with anything you require.”
Peggy nodded, wiping her freckled, red face with her shirtsleeve. “Thank you.”
Margaret pshawed her and led the detective out of the room again. Once the door was closed and Margaret felt reasonably certain that they would not be overheard, she addressed Don again. “Are you satisfied that she has not been kidnapped or otherwise detained against her will?”
“Yes, ma’am. I will still need to interview the witnesses, but mainly I see myself filing charges against Mr. Rugner for filing a false police report.”
“Will he go to jail for that?” she asked hopefully.
Detective VanCamp shook his head. “Not likely. Community service and probation.”
Margaret sighed. “I see. Let me show you to the courtyard.”
Detective VanCamp grabbed her elbow. “Wait. What’s bothering you?”
Margaret gave him her airy smile again. “Detective, surely you were cognizant of the bruising around her neck? Who do you think is responsible for that meaty, ham-handed imprint on her? Is it a wonder that we invited her to stay here? She needs a safe place to be away from that terrible man.”
“If you can document the abuse and convince her to press charges, we might be able to put him behind bars,” Don said, absently pulling her arm through the crook of his.
Margaret smirked at his innocent gesture and guided him to the courtyard.
Upon seeing a veritable feast being prepared for the tourists and the staff preparing it, Detective Don VanCamp dropped Margaret’s arm, slightly embarrassed by his professional faux pas. He rubbed his chin. “My mother always insisted I act like a gentleman. Sometimes, her training overrides my professionalism. I apologize.”
Margaret slipped her arm through his again. “I prefer a gentleman to a professional,” she insisted, pushing him toward the tables awaiting the visitors.
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