I straightened indignantly. "That's unfair. I was asked some questions and I answered them." I turned to the grocery sack and began pulling items out. "Now I think you should leave. I don't think it's right a witness is talking to..." A suspect, I thought but didn't say.

"You weren't a witness to anything. All you heard was me and Mike Peavey arguing. We argued all the time." He watched as I unloaded the sack, his craggy face impassive.

"About your wife?" The words slipped out before I could stop them. I jammed the box of cat food into the cupboard to hide my embarrassment.

He narrowed his eyes and glared at me. They were a dark brown color, almost black, and contrasted sharply with his white and gray hair. "What about Sheila?"

I shrugged and used grocery-putting-away as an excuse to avoid his gaze. "Everyone knows she left you for Dr. Peavey."

"Everyone knows?"

I looked at him over my shoulder as I slid a plastic bottle of tomato juice into the cupboard. "Or so I've heard."

"Don't believe everything you heard." He looked at Houdini, who wended his way around my feet in an intricate feline dance. "Big cat."

"Mr. Barlow, I don't think you should be here. I doubt if the police--"


I toed Houdi out of the way and pulled the bags of cheese and a box of frozen spinach out of the bottom of the grocery sack. "I don't think it would be appropriate for me to call you by your first name."

"All my employees do."

He watched me with an unwavering stare as I arranged the items on the counter. "I still don't think it's right that you're here talking to me. The police might think--"

"I've been cleared. What are you doing?"

I pulled mushrooms out of the sack. "I'm getting ready to cook." I looked at the clock. The meager lunch I ate seven hours earlier was a distant memory. I had supper to make and my breakfast quiches to get done. Then his words soaked in. "What do you mean, you've been cleared?"

"Mike ingested whatever killed him hours before he died. He told several people he didn't feel well and apparently the police tested his blood and found...whatever in it. I couldn't have killed him."

"So? Why does it mean you're cleared? Perhaps you..." Barlow was shaking his head. "What?" I set the box of frozen spinach in the sink to thaw.

"I got into town late Tuesday night and spent most of Wednesday morning at the Barlow's store in Roseville." When I started to speak he overrode me. "I have witnesses. It wasn't me who killed Mike Peavey."

"What did kill him? I saw blood."

"Blood?" He straightened and regarded me with those alert dark eyes. "Where?"

Oops. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that little detail. Damn. The police didn't specifically say what I should and shouldn't discuss, but I think it was implied. "On the floor," I said vaguely. "Perhaps he keeled over and hit his head on the bench or something."

"What did he look like?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"What were his symptoms? If he had dilated pupils and a rigid face, it might be jasmine or narcissus. It's the right time of year. Well, it's too early for the poison part of jasmine. That's the berries. It'll be a while before it's poisonous, all we've got is the plant right now. We've got pots of narcissus everywhere. The bulb there is deadly. The poison can act almost instantaneously depending on the amount ingested or it might take a few hours, depending on if it was ground up... Or it might be bloodroot. It can take hours to kill. Symptoms of bloodroot poisoning are vomiting and...No, wait. You didn't say he vomited." Sam frowned. "You'd notice if it was bloodroot. It's pretty violent. How about--?" He shook his head. "Most plant poisons cause vomiting or diarrhea. It must have been a chemical."

I swallowed hard. His knowledge was impressive. "How do you know so much about it?" I managed to ask.

"Work with me here. What were his symptoms? Cyanosis? Dermatitis? Were his limbs fixed and rigid? Was he curled in a fetal ball? What about-- " He must have noticed the shocked look on my face. "What?"

"How do you know so much about it?"

He looked at my book bag, the contents spilled onto my faux oak kitchen table. The 'Guide to Pesticide and Herbicide Applications' was on top of the stack, its bright orange cover visible from several feet away. "I took the state certification test, too. In fact, I've taken it every year for the last three decades. I'm licensed to dispense poisonous chemicals. I get re-certified every year." He raised his eyes and looked directly into mine. "I know all about poison."

Damn. Had Donna been right?

Was I working for a murderer?