Under the billowing white tents, Margaret sat listening to the interviews Detective Van Camp conducted with the guests. She found it intriguing how the same event could be related in so many ways with so many variations. Fifteen different people could remember the same event with little details changing from person to person. One man even confused the gender of the pregnant woman saying she was a beer-bellied man. Margaret tried not to laugh at that interview, but she couldn’t stop the amusement smile on her pinkish lips.
“Miss Dragonswan.” The voice of a child drew her attention away from the interviews.
She turned to the little girl dressed in her princess Halloween costume. “Yes, young lady?”
“My brother says you’re a witch with magical powers,” the girl stated, matter-of-factly sitting in the adjoining chair as she pointed to a pre-teen boy enjoying the bounty of the tables.
Margaret smiled and leaned close. “Can you keep a secret?” she asked with a mischievous smile.
The girl leaned in to meet her with wide brown eyes. “Yes,” she whispered.
“I am a witch with magical powers,” Margaret whispered back, holding out her hand to the girl.
The girl watched as Margaret’s empty hand suddenly filled with the prettiest apple the girl had ever seen. “This is a magical apple. If you eat it, you will never get sick ever again.”
“Really?” the girl whispered in awe.
“Yes. Do you know that old rhyme: an apple a day keeps the doctor away?”
“But not the dentist!”
Margaret laughed. “True. This apple is the reason that little rhyme exists. This apple will keep the doctors away because you won’t ever get sick if you eat it.”
“I’ve been sick a lot. My mom said it’s because I have a weak immune system. I think it’s because I ate dirt when I was a baby. I don’t eat dirt anymore, but I still get sick.”
“Would you like this apple?” Margaret asked, offering the girl her gift.
The slowly took the apple from Margaret’s hand. “Can I eat it?”
“Eat it right now before the magic disappears in it,” Margaret encouraged her, feeling free and happy, just like the little girl.
The girl immediately took a huge bite, happily chewing away at the flesh of the beautiful fruit.
“Anna!” her mother called.
Anna jumped up, hugged Margaret and ran off to her mother.
Margaret smiled after the girl, waving at her mother before resuming her listening to the detective and his interviews. He was a smart looking man with his pressed clothes and bolo tie. She’d only ever seen bolos in the movies, he was the first man she’d ever seen wearing one. She was surprised to discover she liked them, especially on him. He made it work and it fit his straight-laced personality well. She could imagine painting him as he stood there with notepad in hand and a slightly pained expression in his eyes. He obviously didn’t want to be here, but he was the type of man who thoroughly completed his job.
Margaret wondered if she could get him to stand in the orchard for a few hours on a day off. He would make a wonderful model and she thought him in the sunlight with a hat and his bolo tie would be beautiful. Imagining him in a contraposto pose brought up the image of him as the Duke: tall, broad, hips adroit, shoulders at ease. He would make a magnificent model.
She was still imaging him in a cowboy hat and boots when he walked back to her after the interview. She was staring as she made mental notes about his gait, so when her eyes made their way back to him face, he was blazing red in the cheeks.
“Miss Dragon-swan, I believe I am finished here,” he said, stuttering on her name.
She gracefully rose. “Are you satisfied with the interviews?” she asked. “Any surprises I should know about?”
“None at all. I might require your witness statement if the DA decides to pursue Mr. Rugner for filing a false police report,” he regained his composure when the subject of conversation was his job.
“I will be happy to oblige, of course. Is there anything else you need from us?” she asked as they made their way back to the main house.
“No, ma’am. I am set. Thank you for your time and hospitality.”
“If your business with us is concluded, may I ask you something more personal?” She only paused long enough for him to not be able to answer. “Would you like to come back when you are off the clock? I want to paint you in my orchard. You would make a lovely model for a period piece. I think an old western motif would suit you so well.”
Don Van Camp’s cheeks heated again. “No, thank you. I don’t think—” he stumbled on his words and cleared his throat. “I can see myself to my car. Thank you Miss Dragonswan. You’ll hear from me if there is anything else.”
He made tracks for the car in the driveway, barely taking the time to glance back at her, standing there with her tulle skirt wafting back and forth in the cool autumn breeze.