Sunday, December 24, 2:45pm
Celeste had spent only a few moments with Sheriff Bryan that morning. Apparently, it hadn’t taken the sheriff long to decide that she wasn’t worth questioning again. She had purposely been as vague and obtuse as possible, making him work for every dubious answer she gave. The sheriff’s interrogation had been deeply probing and thorough. Fortunately, she was prepared for his questions and had answers for them all. Also fortuitously, he hadn’t asked the one burning question that would have hung her up completely. That would have been an entirely different conversation, because she had no easy answer, only a damming one.
No, Sheriff Bryan hadn’t asked her about the fire at the Death Santa House.
Now, the matter of the conflagration seemed moot. Two more women dead, because of the Sheriff. Celeste found the symmetry of it comforting, but the fact they had died in the Death Santa House alarming.
I should have used something else to set the fire. Something really explosive. But she’d worked with what she had on hand, a bottle of cheap vodka and a rag left behind by the workmen who had built her pyramid. A crime of impulse and opportunity, it hadn’t had the desired effect, taking down the corrupt dwelling. She had failed. Now, two more women had fallen victim to the evil of this place. She should never have tried to change their fates.
Tiring of the excitement, she headed home for a shower, wanting to wash off the lingering smells of fire and death. Unlocking her door seemed like a great effort, but she managed it without dropping her keys. The alarm beeped as she opened the door, shutting it behind her with a thump. She wanted nothing more than a long shower and a stiff drink.
Celeste stumbled up the stairs to her room, dropping her wig and clothing as she walked. By the time she was in the bathroom, she wore only her briefs and bra. These, she dropped in the corner. The hamper was still in the laundry room. She turned on the water before examining herself in the mirror. My, she’d aged in the last few days. Lies and deceit wore at the soul, chomping with unerring accuracy at the very core.
She stepped into the shower, enjoying the luxury it afforded. Hot water was cleansing, nearly as cleansing as fire. She smiled, thinking of the fire, as the hot water cascaded over her ample body. She held face in the steady, thrumming stream of the massaging water. Bright lights flashed before her eyes and she felt herself falling into a vision. They hit her like this sometimes, thunderous, powerful, almost erotic. Celeste clung to the shower controls, forcing herself to stand.
Kohl and mascara mingled with the shower water, masking her tears. She’d failed—failed to burn the house, failed to contain the problem, but mostly she had failed to wipe Nancy from her memory. Even her death hadn’t given Celeste the catharsis she’d hoped for. Could nothing give her closure? Was there no escape?
The beautiful face, so cold in death. She could still see it staring up at her, frozen with rigor. Nancy’s face, which had done nothing to conceal her anger, disgust and amusement when Celeste professed her feelings. Nancy laughed, mocking her love. She destroyed innocent and guilty alike. It was Karma, the wheel coming full circle, which had caused her death. Although the bitch was dead, Celeste knew her ghost would find a way to haunt her forever.