Life After Perfect(5)

By: Nancy Naigle



Conversational chatter filled the air as people hugged and shook hands.

Peggy’s red hair stood out across the way. Katherine had always thought her own dark-blonde hair had a reddish hint until she saw a picture of herself next to Peggy. Now that was red hair. Tucker shook hands and patted shoulders, Peggy just moving in his wake.

Katherine picked her way through the crowd toward the beautiful woman. Peggy had model beauty, the kind that made you take a second glance when she walked by. Actually, she didn’t walk as much as gently glide—a quality Katherine had often admired about her.

“Lovely, wasn’t it?” Katherine said as she stepped next to Peggy.

Peggy nodded, but seemed to be still working through the tears.

“Broke my heart a little, too, and I never really knew Donald well. But Bertie is such a sweetheart,” Katherine said. “Can I catch a ride home with y’all?”

“Where’s Ron?”

Katherine hated explaining his absence, but she was getting good at it. Everyone knew he was a workaholic, so why people bothered to even ask anymore still puzzled her. “He had a meeting he had to get to.”

“Well, at least he didn’t turn the funeral into a business opportunity.” Peggy pulled her lips into a tight line. “Like some people.” She glared at her husband over Katherine’s shoulder. “I drove separately. You can ride with me.”

“Thanks.” Katherine stopped short as someone gave her an overambitious hug from behind. She wriggled from the hold and turned—Tucker Allen was all up in her space.

Katherine caught the read on Peggy’s face. Tucker Allen was such a jerk. That stray cat had to be prowling other neighborhoods.

“How’ve you been, Katherine?” Tucker said, coming alongside her and pulling her close again with an arm sliding too familiarly down her back.

“I’m good, Tucker. Thanks for asking.” She took a step, buying herself some distance from him.

He gave Peggy a nod. “I’m going back to the office. I’ll see you tonight.” He plastered that perfect white smile on his face and seemed to pause so no one would miss it. It was that same creepy grin he used in the commercials for his car dealership. “Ladies.” Then he turned and left. Unlike the used car salesman stereotype, though, Tucker Allen was an honest businessman. It was only his personal traits that were questionable.

Katherine and Shaleigh shared a look. It was probably killing Shaleigh not to make a remark, but out of respect to Peggy, they just smiled and said goodbye. The women stood off to the side as the rest of the people made their way back to their cars.

Peggy elbowed Shaleigh. “Katherine saw where Donald was funneling money to someone. Probably a mistress,” she said.

Shaleigh rolled her eyes. “What’s it matter? If he did, I can guarantee it’s over now.”

“That’s true,” Katherine said. “But it surprised me. I mean there were checks every single month. And I’m not talking a couple hundred bucks. They really added up. Whoever that Kim Elliona is, she had a good gig going with Donald.” Katherine looked around. “I wonder if she’s here.”

“She wouldn’t show up here,” Peggy said. “Wouldn’t dare!”

“Things aren’t always as they seem,” Shaleigh stated matter-of-factly.

“You’re just jaded from your job,” Peggy said.

“Probably,” Shaleigh said. “But you’re mistaken this time.”

“What do you know?” Katherine asked.

“Well, he’s dead and gone, so I’ll break the attorney-client privilege. Just between us, though. Donald came to me a while back. Not my area of expertise, but since we’re neighbors he was looking for advice about some money he wanted to give to the Chatahoochie Riverkeeper fund. That woman, Kim Elliona, is the chairman of the board of that foundation. She was not sleeping with the guy. I know that for a fact. If Donald was guilty of an affair it was with that river.”

“Oh, well, thank goodness,” Katherine said, “because I was feeling pretty bad about a forty-one-year marriage that was based on lies. Although there were checks directly to the Chatahoochie Riverkeeper fund too. Those were normal contribution amounts. The amount of money Donald was funneling to that Kim Elliona was a whole lot more than just hobby money. I itemized it all out for Bertie, but I didn’t put her on the spot with any questions about it. I just didn’t know what to say.”

Shaleigh said, “I’m pretty sure Donald was behind that whole thing with them stocking the river. Remember all the local controversy on that. Don’t know if you noticed, but he was usually one of the winners grinning with a trophy at those big corporate-sponsored tournaments hosted on the river. He probably knew all the right spots to fish.”

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