The two girls arrived at brunch immediately after church. Like every Sunday before. Brunch was held at the Avenall’s estate. All of the neighbors and relatives were usually in attendance. That meant Charles Hubbard, Clara’s husband would be present.
Emeline and Iris held their plates at the end of the buffet line. As they moved around the table, Iris and her cousin kept their eyes locked on Charles. “When do you think we should ask him?” Iris shrugged. “It’s just an idea, but I think we should let someone with more backbone ask him.” Emeline said nervously. Iris turned to her cousin, apparently annoyed by her reply. “Wouldn’t want to seem prying.” Emeline smiled uneasily. “Emmy, this was your idea. You have to go through with it.”
“I can’t! What if he’s the one who killed her!” Emeline tried to keep her panic from showing through. “We haven’t found Clara! How do we know she’s even dead!” Iris replied. “I thought you believed me!” Emeline cried. “I don’t know what I believe! All I know is that if we go to the authorities now they would have us both committed.”
“Iris, I’m scared. Maybe Mr. Hubbard is a murderer! Even worse. What if it was someone we trust? Let’s wait and see if anyone asks him where Clara is.”
“We can’t rely on someone else! From what I hear Clara never was well liked around here.”
“Maybe not. It’s still no reason to ignore the fact that she’s missing. Whether she’s dead or not someone doesn’t want us to find her.”
“Then there is only one way to get to the truth.” Iris hinted. “What might that be?” Emeline asked. “We eavesdrop.” She winked. “Isn’t that. . .well. . .rude?” Emeline was dumbfounded. “You want to know what happened don’t you? There he is talking to Mrs. Adams. If she can’t get it out of him, no one can.”
“But I haven’t eaten yet.” Emeline murmured. “You’ll get over it!” Iris dragged her cousin across the floor. Mrs. Adams chatted diligently with Charles. Iris and Emeline stood an ear shot away, pretending to engage in a conversation of their own. They waited patiently for Mrs. Adams to make the first move. The girls stood there for five minutes listening to them talk. Nothing was said about Clara so far. “They’ve been talking forever! When is she going to ask him?” Emeline was growing impatient. “Calm down, Emmy! We’ll find out somehow. If not from Charles then we’ll just go back to the house.” Iris answered. “In that case I hope he says something soon. There is no way I’m going back there!”
“How do you suggest we find Clara then? Have any bright ideas?”
“So, Charles, where is that lovely wife of yours? I didn’t see her at church this morning.” Mrs. Adams pried. Iris and Emeline stopped bickering for a moment. “Gee, she doesn’t know Clara very well does she.” Iris replied under her breath. Charles paused before answering. “Clara was. . .not feeling well this morning. She decided to stay home and rest.” There was a bit of apprehension in his voice. “When one is sick they should get plenty of bed rest.” Mrs. Adams advised. “Do you think she would mind if I sent over some homemade chicken soup?” She added to her reply. “Chicken soup, what a great idea.” Emeline whispered. “This isn’t the time to be thinking of your stomach, Emmy.”
“I wasn’t thinking of my stomach. We should go over to Mr. Hubbard’s right now to see if Clara really is in bed like he says she is.” Emeline stated. “Come on, Iris, let’s go before he leaves!” Emeline forced Iris to depart from brunch early. She rushed her out of the house.