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"It was the only way to get Herman to react," Mama said.

"What did you tell Susy to say?" Ernest asked.

"I asked her to tell Herman that Betty Jo had told her that she saw him come into the motel room sometime after midnight but that Herman had told her she'd been dreaming. Susy assured Herman that she hadn't told anybody what Betty Jo had told her but said that she was thinking about mentioning it to Abe the next morning."

"Then you sat in the chair and waited for Herman to try to kill you?" Rodney asked Mama.

"I couldn't put poor Susy into that position, now could I?"

"Your mama had to be the hero!" Daddy chided.

Mama smiled at my father. "No, James, you were the hero. You pulled me out of the line of Herman's fire, remember."

Daddy nodded, but he wasn't flattered.

"Why did Herman kill Ruby and try to make it look like she'd killed herself?" Rodney asked.

"Inez Moore and Leman made it clear that Herman was being laughed at because of Ruby's extramarital affair. No doubt Herman found out that Ruby had a large sum of money and confronted her. She probably told him she was going to leave him. The thought of her leaving him for Leman with all that money was too much for him.

"Why he decided to kill her in the motel room, I don't know," Mama admitted. "What I think happened is that he secured the room at the Otis Motel for him and Betty Jo before he went home from work.

"Once at home, he started a fight with Ruby, no doubt hitting her and telling her to get out. Ruby pulled together a few things and left. The only place she had to go was the Avondale Inn, since Leman had already told her that he was ready to end their relationship.

"Herman followed her and, at a safe distance, saw which room she went into. Then he came back to Otis and made plans to spend the night with Betty Jo."

"Why was Leman Moody following you and Simone?" Yasmine asked.

"Leman wasn't following us. It's true he thought that he was suspected of killing Ruby for her money. But he just happened to be passing by when Simone and I came out from Betty Jo's place after Sparkle was taken from our car. Simone called Abe from Atlanta and told him that she thought Leman was the one who had shot at us. Abe pulled Leman in and told him that if anything else happened to us, he'd be the first person questioned. Leman stayed away from Otis and Avondale until after Herman was caught."

"And Ineza"what happened to her and her old man?" Will asked.

"They're going to trial soon for stealing from the plant," Mama told him.

"The rapist, Honey Man, had nothing to do with Ruby's murder?" Stacey asked.

"Nothing at all," Mama said. "But I'm glad he was caught."

"The chase is over," I said, ready for a festive spirit to take hold. "Let's get into the best thirty-fifth wedding anniversary party this town has ever seen!"

My father didn't need any further encouragement: he reached out and pulled Mama into his arms, her jade dress swirling around her ankles. Together they took a few dance steps across the floor. He kissed her lightly on the lips. "Candi and I are going to really do it up tonight," he said proudly.

Mama's body was relaxed; she swayed to imagined music. Now that she had solved the latest mystery in Otis, she was ready to concentrate on their celebration. "Yes, James honey," she agreed happily, "we're really going to do it up tonight!"

We applauded.

And Mama smiled.

If you enjoyed Nora DeLoach's.

Mama Pursues.

Murderous Shadows.

you won't want to miss any

of the tantalizing mysteries

in this series!

Look for the newest

adventure featuring Candi.

and Simone Covington,

Mama Cracks a Mask.

of Innocence.

at your favorite bookseller's in spring 2001.


NORA DELOACH is an Orlando, Florida, native presently living in Decatur, Georgia. She is married and the mother of three. Her novels include four previous Mama mysteries. She is at work on her sixth, Mama Cracks a Mask of Innocence.

Also by Nora DeLoach.