Flying Home, Part V

Not even the music of the local jazz band was able to take Emily’s mind away from the note. She wanted to talk with Leigh about it as soon as they got home at the end of the night. Certainly it couldn’t be her own sister to whom the note was referring! She should hope not! The thought stirred up so much inductance in Emily that she immediately reasserted her belief in Leigh’s innocence. It had to be someone else. 

She eyed the room with wariness and suspicion. Natasha was singing at a microphone that dully passed Emily’s mind as suddenly antique, just like the typewriters in the office, but she was much more interested in discerning who among her friends and neighbors might be complicit in deceiving her. As she watched the singer toss her brassy blonde hair over her shoulder between songs, Emily remembered that Julian and Natasha had attended high school together, dating off and on. But that had been over ten years ago. 

The bandleader, Harry, seemed an unlikely candidate. His wife, Mary Jean, sat placidly at the head table, watching the show with a mild interest of one who had seen and heard the same thing too many times to work up too much enthusiasm. Or was she preoccupied with something else? 

James and Leroy were enjoying the music, participating in lively conversation, pleased with the company. Once Leroy caught Emily’s eye, he rather uncharacteristically smiled. 

“Lighten up, kid. Enjoy your night off.”

Emily returned his smile but found it impossible to stop her mental inventory of everyone in the room. 

It suddenly dawned on her that everyone had known each other for years, having lived in the town all of their lives. Emily and Leigh were the only outsiders. She had moved to Aurora when she married Julian five years earlier, and Leigh had followed a year later when she grew tired of city life and discovered that the newspaper needed a photographer. Emily had been immensely grateful for her sister’s company in a new place since the rest of their family lived on the east coast. 

Wesley, one of the top commanding officers in the Air Force at Aurora, sat in the back, a grim expression on his face. It didn’t strike Emily as anything out of the ordinary because he’d always been a sourpuss. She’d wondered how Julian stood working under him, but as long as it could be done, she didn’t question it. Had that been a mistake? 

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