Meet Maddie, the little girl in Whiskey’s Gone, the third book in the Fina Fitzgibbons Brooklyn mystery series.
Maddie is missing her mother, but sporting a brave face. In the words of one reviewer, “She’s a mensch.” In this scene, Fina has to tell the eight-year old the worst possible news, that the FBI found her mother’s cell phone near a body that was so badly burned it was unrecognizable.
Lorraine was standing on the stoop as we drove up. I can see her now, holding the front door ajar, one hand on her throat, the porch light slanting over her as the last of the summer’s bugs swarmed around the bulb.
Denny kissed his mom, and we all sat in the parlor. When Robert and Maddie entered, I felt the blood rush to my face.
“What’s wrong with you?” Maddie asked me.
Before I could answer, she swiveled around and looked at Lorraine.
“Something’s up. You found my mom.”
I swallowed. “Not exactly.”
“It’s bad news, isn’t it?”
I had her sit on the sofa close to Lorraine and recited what I’d heard from the FBI. I said it as cleanly as I could, that they’d found her mom’s cell phone lying next to a body that had been badly burned, the face unrecognizable.
Maddie stared at her hands firmly folded in her lap. I watched her shoulders hunch and her eyes squeeze shut. She looked up at Robert.
“That’s not my mom, I know it isn’t. Someone stole her phone. I made a bet with Robert she’d come home in one piece and she’d never leave again, and I never, ever lose my bets, do I, Robert?”
He said nothing.
“Do I?” she asked again, this time more softly.
He shook his head.
No one said anything for a minute until I began talking about needing her mom’s dental records. Lorraine sat up, startled, I suppose, that I’d mention the method of body identification to a child. Robert glared at me.
“Who is your mom’s dentist?”
“Dr. Nichols, but Mom has perfect teeth, and don’t ask me to find his office. Oh, wait, it’s close to my favorite ice cream store. Robert knows where it is, don’t you, Robert?”
Robert’s face, normally florid, was the color of lumpy flour, but he nodded.
“What’s your problem—afraid of losing another bet?” Maddie asked him.
“He’s on Court Street,” Robert said. I could tell by the look on his face that he feared the worst. So did I.
Photos: Brooklyn Heights Promenade in summer. Credit: GK tramrunner229, Wikipedia Commons. Cover, Whiskey’s Gone, Avalon Graphics.