At Wolf Ranch

By: Jennifer Ryan

“Easier said than done. She was smart.”

“Not smart enough to pull this off. She contacted you without ever considering your association with me. She was naive.” He toed Lela’s still body with his Italian leather shoe.

“Our business arrangement has been mutually beneficial, but if you think I’ll be your patsy, you’re wrong. So, think, damnit, where would she hide the evidence?”

“I don’t fucking know.” Her uncle slammed the empty glass down on the desk. “But Ella might.”

“Do you think Lela told her what she uncovered?” Detective Robbins asked.

“No. Ella asked me and the staff several times if Lela came home or called. I’m almost certain Lela worked this out on her own and left her recalcitrant sister out of it.”

“Almost certain isn’t good enough. Why the hell didn’t you cover your tracks better?”

“I did.”

“If you did, we wouldn’t be here right now.”

Ella needed to call the police and have them arrest these two for killing her sweet, gentle sister. But the police were standing right there, helping destroy her life.

The room was silent for a moment, and Ella was certain they’d hear her ragged breathing. She jumped when her uncle spoke again.

“Detective, let me tell you a story.” Uncle Phillip’s voice went eerily calm. “Our studious, prim Lela earned her master’s degree and worked as an executive at the company to satisfy the terms of the will and earn her place at Wolf Enterprises. Sadly, her Princess Party Girl twin sister barely made an effort, working in the mailroom and every other odd job at the company. While it satisfies the general terms of the will for them to inherit and take over the company on their upcoming twenty-fifth birthday, Lela’s carried the weight and shouldered all the responsibility for the business.

“Lela finally had enough and confronted her sister right here in this room. Ella, party girl that she is, had been out all night and was high, not at all in her right mind. The fight escalated. Ella knows I keep a gun in my desk drawer. She grabbed it and shot Lela. She panicked, but somehow had the wherewithal to try to cover it up, making it look like a robbery gone wrong. With Lela gone, she will inherit the company and other Wolf assets.

“It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? Such a pity. Lela had such a promising future. I couldn’t be more heartbroken.

“Set the scene, Detective, and then find Ella. Take her to a hotel. Not a dump, but not extravagant either. She’s hiding out. Make the place look like she’s been on a bender, drinking, doing drugs. The pain and grief send Ella over the edge. She ODs. No one will question it. Use your contacts in the police department and morgue to prove what happened . . . make the evidence show Ella murdered Lela.”

“This is more than I signed on for,” Detective Robbins said.

“Don’t think you’re so indispensable. There are plenty of others on my payroll in this town, higher up the food chain than you, that would do my bidding without blinking.”

“I’ll get it done. I’ll need to use some of those contacts to pull this shit off.”

“You know who to use to make this clean. I want all the evidence, reports, and public perception to corroborate the scenario I’ve outlined.”

Uncle Phillip knelt by Lela and used his handkerchief to remove her diamond stud earrings. The ones their mother always wore. He unclasped Lela’s bloody necklace with the pendant of a heart made out of roses that matched Ella’s. Ella reached up and wrapped her trembling fingers around the one against her chest and sighed. Lela’s ring came next. Ella had given her the emerald encircled with diamonds for their twenty-first birthday. The night they shared a quiet dinner in an exclusive uptown restaurant and planned their future and fulfilling their parents’ wishes and dreams for them.

She took a step forward to snatch back the ring and everything else her uncle took from them. She wanted to claw his eyes out and see him in a grave. Not her sister. Not Lela.

Uncle Phillip handed the bundled items to the detective, except the bloody locket.

“What are you going to do with that?” The detective indicated the gold necklace her uncle tucked away in his pocket.

“Don’t worry about it. Do your job. The one I pay you extremely well to do.”

Her uncle went to the bar, grabbed a towel, and wiped down the gun. He wrapped it in the towel and handed it to the detective. “The household staff knows I keep this gun in the top drawer of my desk. Unlocked. Easy enough for Ella to take it and use it on her sister. Plant it, along with the drugs and alcohol, at the hotel room. Make sure the report shows Ella’s prints are on the gun and it is a ballistic match to the bullet in her. Tomorrow morning the staff will arrive for work and discover the body. You’ve got until then to find Ella and kill her.”

Ella had wasted enough time. She needed to get away. Fast.

Her gaze fell on her dead sister. Her soul pleaded with Lela to wake up and make this all just a bad dream. But Lela remained motionless on the floor.

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