A Recipe for Murder – Candi’s Ending

-- Finished by Candace Powdrill

"I picked up the story where Kats left off, so if you haven't read part one yet, do so now! Thanks for reading. -- Kandi.

Seth stared at Mort in horror. 'You are protecting Jess, aren't you? Selka wasn't shot.'

Mort put his mug of tea down on the table, his expression still grim. 'Oh Selka was shot, it's just...'

'What?' Seth demanded.

'Further examination of the body showed that Selka wasn't dead until she hit the rocks...it's not clear whether she may have survived if she and Jess hadn't fallen.'

They heard a soft gasp behind them and turned to see Jessica standing in the doorway, still in her nightdress.

Mort wished he hadn't said anything. He looked at her with sympathy. 'It doesn't change anything, Mrs. F. It wasn't your fault. Chances are she would have died from the bullet wound.'

'But I took that chance away from her.' Jessica said softly, as if to herself.

Mort finished his tea and took the cup to wash up. 'I'll have to get back to the station. When we have more information I'll let you know, Mrs. F.'

Jessica nodded sadly.

Seth waited until Mort had left then went to Jessica and put his arms around her, trying to offer what comfort he could. 'It wasn't your fault.' he told her, as if repeating it would make her accept what he said.

'Whose fault was it then?' she asked softly.

'The person who fired that gun.'

Jessica stepped back out of his arms, and Seth took her hands in his. Looking into her eyes he saw that right now, more than anything she needed him to be a good and loyal friend she could depend on, as he had always been. He smiled in silent understanding.

Jessica moved away and put her hands over her eyes for a moment. Looking back at Seth she said; 'Then I have to find out who shot Selka. I owe her that at least.'

'All right Jess. As long as you have a good rest first. If I can do anything for you...'

'Thanks Seth.'

Seth was quiet for a moment. 'I didn't lie, Jess, about the bullet killing Selka. I was just repeating what Mort told me. But I do believe that it did kill her.'

He explained the rest of the conversation with Mort, about the auditor being found in the freezer, and the photos that Selka had taken, then made Jess promise to go back to bed for an hour. She reluctantly agreed, and Seth let himself out, telling her to call if she needed anything.

Mort looked up in surprise when Jessica walked into the station. 'Mrs. F, what can I do for you?'

'I wondered if you had found anything more about Selka's death.'

Mort shook his head, 'Sorry Mrs. F, not yet. You shouldn't be worrying about it. Wouldn't you be better off at home?'

'What good would that do me?' she protested.

'You've been through a traumatic experience, Jess. You need time to recover.'

Jessica leaned on Mort's desk. 'Mort, I appreciate your concern, but I'm better off keeping busy. And at least if I can find out why Selka was shot I'd feel as if I had done something to help her.'

Mort nodded, understanding. 'Well I don't know what information might help at the moment...' he picked up a paper from his desk. 'We had a witness say she saw the shooting -gave a description of the man; medium height and build, dark hair...This description could fit half the men in Cabot Cove.' He put the paper down and regarded Jessica closely. 'You could take a look at this.' he said, handing her a folder. 'We found it in the car belonging to Mr. Jarvis, the auditor. Might shed a little light on what was going on at the school.'

Jessica took the folder and opened it. Inside were some hand-written notes which the auditor, Mr. Jarvis, had been making about the school. She shifted through the papers.

'Can I make a copy of these?' She asked Mort, who was busy doing some paperwork on his desk.

'Sure, Mrs. F.' he said absently.

Jess got home and put the kettle on for a cup of tea, then sat down at the table to look over the papers from Mr. Jarvis's folder. From what he had written, Jess could see that he had discovered that school funds were missing and planned to investigate this. There was a general report on the school, then some more specific points of concern.

Jessica scanned over the page, and picked out a paragraph which caught her attention. Jarvis had discovered that the school had been spending far too much money, in his opinion, on food. The report included brief details of a conversation that he had had with the supervisor, Miss. Anderson, regarding the use of school funds. Jessica realized that this must have been the 'argument' that Selka had tried to tell her about. Choking down the feeling of guilt she felt she turned to the last page and read on. The handwriting told her that the last paragraph had been written in a hurry. It briefly outlined Mr. Jarvis's suspicions that the missing funds could be related to the amount of money spent on food. He believed that the person taking the funds was using them to buy food for personal use. He mentioned his plans to return to the school to investigate further, and left space to finish the report. The rest of the page was blank.

Jessica folded the papers and put them to one side, while she tried to picture the events in her mind. If Mr. Jarvis had gone back to the school and discovered the food, perhaps he had found out who was responsible for taking the funds. There could have been a confrontation, Mr. Jarvis was killed and hidden in the freezer.

She drained her tea cup and set it aside. Thinking things over she decided to go to the school and see if anyone could give her any more information. She was about to head out of the door when Seth arrived.

'What are you doin', young lady?' he said. 'I thought I told you to take it easy.'

'Really, Seth, my staying at home won't do anyone any good.'

'Mort tells me you were down at the station this morning after I left.'

'Yes, I went to see if I could find anything that might tell me why Selka was shot.'

Seth looked into her eyes with concern.

'I have to do something to help.' Jess explained in a soft voice.

'Very well, Jess. Just...remember I'm here for you.'

She took his hand in hers for a moment. 'Thank you.'

Seth stared after her, a look of concern in his eyes. She seemed so different now, almost back to normal. Last night, and this morning, she had showed the vulnerability, the feelings, that she usually kept buried deep inside...he had felt so close to her then. Seth allowed himself to wonder whether Jess had taken in what he had told her this morning...

On her way to the school, Jessica was going over everything in her mind. The events of last night were now a distant memory, yet the feeling of guilt and grief still haunted her and she wanted to do something about it.

Jessica thought back to this morning, waking up in Seth's arms. She felt uncomfortable at the memory. In her emotional state she had let him see far more of her feelings than she ever showed...she stopped walking for a moment and closed her eyes as she remembered how he had held her close and kissed her, and what he had told her. She took a deep breath and carried on walking, trying to push the thoughts from her mind. She had too much to think about without trying to explore the feelings that she had for Seth. She knew he was thinking of her, trying to be there for her when she needed him, but didn't he see that it complicated things so much? Jessica realized that she did have feelings for Seth, but she needed him to be the dear friend she knew she could depend on. And she knew that he would be.

Jessica got into the school and made her way up to the principle's office. She knocked on the door twice and waited for a reply. After a couple of minutes a stern voice said 'Come in.'

She let herself in and sat down to face Principle Hamer. He had started at the school about a year ago now, and was already showing signs of stress from running the school.

'Sorry Mrs. Fletcher, I expected one of the pupils. I must tell you how sorry I was to hear about what happened last night at the park. How are you feeling?'

`'I'm all right. Mr. Hamer, that's actually why I'm here. I was hoping there may be something you could tell me which may help me explain why Selka was shot.'

Principle Hamer looked somewhat taken-aback. 'Well, I'm not sure what I could tell you Mrs. Fletcher. I assume you are aware that Selka had been -shall we say 'borrowing'- some of the school funds. I don't blame her, poor girl, she was obviously desperate for money. Of course, if she had explained to me...'

'I don't believe that Selka was taking the money. She called me last night saying she had proof that someone else was taking the funds.' Jessica said.

'The same that she told you about the food that she had found in the freezer, and her suspicions when she saw the auditors car still parked outside? I'm sorry Mrs. Fletcher, I know she was your friend, but the cafeteria manager came to me himself and said that he had caught Selka taking money from the cafeteria fund box. When I talked to her she had two hundred dollars on her. Not the amount of money someone carries around.'

Jessica leaned back and regarded Principle Hamer. 'I presume you are aware of the report that Mr. Jarvis was working on when he was killed?'

'Yes, he was unhappy about the amount of money that was being spent on food. I had the supervisor up here complaining about him. She said he had demanded that she must cut back on the amount spent on food, and she was worrying about how she could manage the meals on lower funds.' He looked back at the papers littering his desk. 'I'm sorry Mrs. Fletcher, but I really have to finish signing these report cards.'

She stood up. 'Of course. Thank you for your time.'

Jessica closed the door quietly behind her. What could she do now? She started walking slowly down the corridor, then made a decision. Picking up her pace she headed for the cafeteria.

The supervisor, Miss. Anderson, was there and looked busy, trying to get things ready for the school meals. She looked up in surprise to see Jessica. 'Hello Mrs. Fletcher. Sorry to hear about what happened -at the park. Are you all right?'

Yes thanks. In fact I was hoping to talk to you about what happened with Selka.'

'Don't know what there is to tell. She had been taking some funds from the cafeteria, the manager caught her. Shame, nice girl. Hardworking.' She began to walk around the room, checking that everyone was working well. Jessica followed.

'Selka told me that she had found a lot of food in the freezer, that wasn't on the menu.'

'Yeah, food for the board meeting.' Miss. Anderson said.

'Mr. Jarvis thought there was too much money being spent on food.' Jessica remarked.

Miss Anderson stopped walking and turned to look at her. 'Uh, that man! I know, I shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but I must say, he was one of the most unpleasant men I have ever encountered. I wasn't sorry to hear about what happened to him.'

'He believed that the money for the food came from the funds that were taken.' Jessica told her.

Miss Anderson stared at her. 'You think that I took the money? Come on, come with me. I'll prove it.'

'That really isn't necessary.' Jessica said, but Miss. Anderson had already seized her hand and led her into the back of the cafeteria. She pulled some papers out of a cupboard and shoved them at Jessica.

'Look, right there on the accounts. There, you can see the money for the extra food, all on the school's account.'

Jessica handed the paper back to her. 'Really, I wasn't suggesting that you took the money, I just wondered if you had any idea who might have had something to hide, something enough to cause them to kill Mr. Jarvis.'

'I know a lot of people who would have liked to have done that.' Miss. Anderson said under her breath. Looking at Jessica she said 'I'm sorry, Mrs. Fletcher, I can't think of anything that might help you.'

Jess nodded. 'Well, thanks for your time.' She turned to leave, then looked back at Miss Anderson. 'Forgive me, but isn't the board meeting scheduled for next month?'

Miss Anderson was quiet for a moment. 'Yes, it is. My fault, I'm afraid. I looked at the wrong page of my calendar, ordered the food a month early.'

Jess smiled. 'Thanks. Goodbye.'

On her way out she noticed the cafeteria manager, Mr. Ross, and stopped to speak to him.

‘Hello Mrs. Fletcher.' He said. 'I heard about what happened. How are you?'

Jess was beginning to feel fed up of people asking her that. 'I'm fine. I was wondering if you could tell me...there was a lot of extra food ordered for the cafeteria, something the auditor was not happy with. Do you know anything about it?'

'Yes, of course. It was for the school board meeting. I reckon Jarvis was just looking for something to stir up trouble.'

'I see.' She was silent for a minute. 'Principle Hamer tells me you caught Selka taking the funds?'

'Sadly, yes.' Mr. Ross said. 'I found her sneaking back into school one night and taking the money from the fund box. Poor girl, she must have been in some bad money trouble.'

Jessica thanked him and wandered out of the cafeteria. She was about to go home, not knowing anything more than she had started out with, when she suddenly remembered seeing something on the accounts that Miss. Anderson had insisted on showing her. She went back to the cafeteria, but Miss. Anderson had left to do some work elsewhere.

Jess looked around. Everyone else were working hard, and no one seemed to be paying any attention to her. She slipped into the room at the back and went to the cupboard where the record of the cafeteria accounts were kept. Jessica looked though the papers quickly. She was right. There were payments to a different supplier, on several occasions over the past five months. All of these couldn't be for the school board meetings, there was far too much for it to be for that. And of course, Selka had said that the first lot of food had disappeared. There had been no board meeting for the past four weeks. Jessica carefully put the papers back into the cupboard and slipped out of the door. She walked briskly down the corridor, and set off on her way home.

She got home to find Seth waiting for her in her kitchen. He stood up to greet her and took her hands. 'Jess, we've got some information on Selka's shooting.'

'Go on.' she whispered.

'The bullet had lodged itself in the back of her head and her spine. There is no way she could have survived. She may not have died instantly, but she would have died. A terribly painful death as well.'

Jessica sat down, breathing deeply. 'So, she would have died anyway, even if we hadn't fallen?'

Seth nodded.

Jessica looked into his eyes. 'Seth, you are telling me the truth, aren't you? You're not...trying to make it easier for me?'

'Jessica. I'm telling you the truth. I couldn't lie to you.'

She looked at him and knew he was telling the truth. She closed her eyes, feeling tears of relief well up in them. Seth was watching her in concern. 'Jess, are you all right? Do you understand?'

'Yes, yes of course.' She opened her eyes, unable to help the tears from running down her face. Seth moved round the table and put his arms around her.

'I still should have listened to her...if I'd listened when she first called me...'

'Jessica, stop it.'

She looked up, surprised at the firmness in his voice.

'None of this was your fault. None of it. You have to stop blaming yourself.' Seth told her.

He tightened his hold on her, looking into her eyes. He loved her too much to let her go on blaming herself like this, and was determined that they would sit there all day until she accepted what he said.

Jessica looked back at him. After a few minutes spent in silence she eventually realized that he was right. What had happened had happened. It wasn't her fault. She slowly nodded, finally accepting that she couldn't have done anything different.

Seth saw her begin to accept what he told her. He held her hands in his. 'Better now?'

'I'm all right.' She blinked back the tears. Seth let go of her hands and stepped back.

'I'm still going to try and find out what happened.' Jessica said.

'All right, Jess. Is there anything I can do?'

'No, I'm fine.' She got up. 'Would you like some coffee?'

Seth put a hand on her shoulder. 'I'll get it.'

'No, I'm fine.'

She put the coffee on then sat down at the table. Yesterdays local newspaper was still on the table, unread, and she scanned over it. She was about to set it aside when a small advert caught her eye; 'Catering for all occasions. Call Marge Anderson on 174-2658.

'Seth, look at this.' Jess said, pointing to the advert.

He leaned over and peered at it. 'Catering. Plannin' a party, Jess?'

'No,' she looked thoughtful. 'But you could be.'

'What?'

She stood up and fetched the phone. 'Pretend you might be interested in booking catering, say, for about fifty people -just ask for cost and say you'll get back to them.'

Seth took the phone with a puzzled expression. 'Jess, do you mind telling me what this is all about?'

She was punching in the number on the phone. 'Just call, I'll explain in a minute.'

Minutes later Seth hung up. 'The catering firm closed down this week apparently.'

'Ah!'

'Ah? Jess? What is this all about?'

'Look.' She pointed at the name on the advert. 'Miss Anderson, supervisor at the school, also runs a private catering business. For the past five months she has been buying extra food through the school, claiming that it was for the board meeting, yet the board only meets once every two months now. What does that tell you?'

'That she was using school funds to buy food for her own catering business.' Seth said.

'Yes, and when the auditor told her that she had to cut back on the amount of money spent on food, she realized that she couldn't go on with the scheme, and closed down the catering firm.'

That afternoon, after school had finished, Jessica waited outside the cafeteria. Seth had insisted on coming with her, and they waited until everyone had left until going inside. Miss Anderson was sitting at a table having a cup of coffee. She looked surprised to see Jessica. 'Back again, Mrs. Fletcher? What can I help you with now?'

'Actually, I was hoping to talk to you about your catering service.'

Miss Anderson put her cup down in a hurry, spilling some of the coffee into the saucer. 'What about it?'

'It just seems something of a coincidence, that you ordered such a lot of extra food through the school, and that when the auditor told you to cut back on the amount of money spent on food, you closed the catering service down.'

Miss Anderson shrugged. 'Coincidences happen. I was using the food for the board meeting, like I told you.'

'No, the food wasn't for the board meeting. I looked at the accounts, and there was far too much for it to have been used for the board meeting.'

Miss Anderson slowly drank from her cup, then looked up at Jessica. 'All right, Mrs. Fletcher. I was using the food for my business, with the manager's permission. It's all on the school account -I never took the funds.'

Jessica studied her in silence for a moment before saying; 'The auditor mentioned in the report he was writing concerning the money and the food, that he planned to return to the school to investigate further. I believe that he found the food in the freezer and realized what was going on. I checked the school rota, Miss. Anderson. You were the only one working in the cafeteria that night.'

'Are you suggesting that I...?' Miss. Anderson was starting to grow anxious. 'Rubbish, Mrs. Fletcher. I stayed until I had finished my paperwork, then I went home. I never saw the auditor, but I did see Selka on my way out. If you want my opinion, the auditor caught her taking the funds, and she killed him to protect herself.'

'You know that isn't true.' Jessica said. 'Selka had taken photos of the food in the freezer, and she had started to take photos of the body as well, when you came in and caught her.'

'No. None of that is true.' Miss. Anderson insisted.

'Isn't it? I spoke to Mort, he had the photos that Selka had taken. The time stamps on them showed that they were taken on the same night that Selka called me to tell me that the auditors car was still parked outside. When I didn't listen to her she went inside to investigate, and found the body and more food in the freezer. She was taking photos as proof when you returned to collect the food from the freezer, the food that you knew you had to remove before someone found it and realized what was going on.'

Miss. Anderson stared at her. 'If that was true, why didn't Selka report it straight away?'

'Because you bribed her not to talk. And she was so desperate for money that she at first agreed. That's why she had such a large amount of money on her when the principle talked to her.'

Miss. Anderson's expression darkened. 'You can't prove any of this.'

'Really?' A voice said from behind them, and they turned to see Mort standing in the doorway. He stepped inside, followed by a younger officer. 'I'd say there is enough evidence against you to warrant arrest for murder. Miss. Anderson, if you would please accompany me to the station for questioning...'

Miss. Anderson, seeing that she had no choice, got up and seemed resigned to going with Mort. She threw Jessica a last, vengeful look as she left.

As they walked home, Seth noticed that Jessica was still somewhat subdued. 'Well done, Jess.' he said. 'You found out what happened and who the murderer is.'

Jessica shook her head. 'No, Seth. I only solved half the mystery. I still don't know who took the school funds, and who killed Selka and why.'

'Well, Miss. Anderson of course. She must have realized that Selka decided she couldn't lie about what happened and was going to tell you the truth. She followed her to the park and...' He stopped and looked at Jessica. 'No?'

'No. Mort said he had a witness of the shooting, who gave a description of the man who shot Selka.'

They reached her house and Seth looked at his watch. 'I have to go Jess. I've got some work to finish for the morning. I'll call you later on.' He looked at her for a moment, then leaned closer to gently kiss her cheek. 'Take care, Jess.'

She watched him walk away, then turned and went inside. There was half a pot of cold, forgotten coffee left, and she had tipped it down the sink and started the washing up when the phone rang. It was Mort.

'Evening Mrs. F. Thought you'd like to know that you were right about Miss. Anderson. She's just given us her confession. She reckons it was self defense, says that Mr. Jarvis was going to ruin her, that she hadn't done anything wrong. She insists that she had permission from the manager to order the extra food. Don't know what I make of that, I'm sure. She does have an alibi for the time that Selka was shot though.'

'Thanks Mort.' Jessica sighed.

'Okay, Mrs. F. Gotta go. Bye.'

Jessica put the phone down and finished the washing up. She thought over the events as she dried the coffee cups. The food had been paid for on the school account, with permission of the manager. Why would he allow her to use school funds for her own business? Jessica finished the drying up and put the cups away, her mind racing. Struck with sudden inspiration she headed out of the door.

The school was in darkness when Jessica arrived. The woman who came in to clean, Mrs. Morrison, was just leaving, and stopped to say hello.

'Is anyone still around?' Jess asked.

'I think Mr. Ross is finishing off in the cafeteria.' Mrs. Morrison said.

'Thanks.' Jess said, opening the door.

'Okay Mrs. Fletcher. Bye.' Mrs. Morrison hurried away.

Jessica made her way through the darkened corridors to the cafeteria. Mr. Ross was still there, counting out money from the fund box. He jumped in surprise. 'Mrs. Fletcher! Please, don't sneak up on people like that.'

Jessica walked calmly toward him. The fund box was clearly open on the table and she glanced at it.

Mr. Ross looked mildly uncomfortable. 'Just, cashing up after the day.' he said in a light tone. 'So, what can I do for you?'

She looked curiously at him. 'You're aware that Miss. Anderson was arrested for the murder of Mr. Jarvis, the auditor?'

He looked uncomfortable. 'Yes, I heard that.'

Jessica nodded. 'Did you know about the extra food that she ordered, to use for her own catering business?'

Mr. Ross said nothing so she went on. 'Miss. Anderson claims that she had your permission to order the food. Is that true?'

'Yes, I mean, no. I thought it was for the board meeting.'

'Did you? Anyone who works at the school, especially in the cafeteria would know that there is no board meeting until next month. And you must have known about all the other food orders that Miss. Anderson made on the school account. Don't tell me you thought they were all for the board meeting.'

Mr. Ross frowned. 'Fine, all right. So I turned a blind eye to what she was doing. So what? We all do what we can to make a little extra cash.'

'Like stealing from the cafeteria funds?' Jessica said.

Mr. Ross stared at her in horror. 'What?!'

'Selka didn't take that money, Mr. Ross. You did. And when it was discovered that funds were missing you placed the blame on her.'

'You're wrong Mrs. Fletcher. Selka was found with the money on her.'

'She was found with money on her, but it was money that Miss. Anderson had given her as a bribe not to tell people that she had killed Mr. Jarvis. Selka at first agreed, but then she realized that she couldn't lie, and she phoned me to tell me the truth. She said only that she had proof about the money, and the food, and asked me to meet her in the park. She didn't mention the murder. I later realized that she couldn't talk freely as someone was listening to the phone call. That someone was you, Mr. Ross. You realized that Selka was going to tell me what was really going on, so you followed her to the park and shot her, to stop your little arrangement being uncovered.'

'And what little arrangement was that?' Mr. Ross asked, sarcasm in his voice.

'The arrangement between you and Miss. Anderson. I think she knew that you were the one taking the funds. And she promised not to tell if you let her order the food on the school account for her catering business.'

Mr. Ross began to pace up and down angrily. 'Oh, you're clever, Mrs. Fletcher. Very clever. It's just a shame that you didn't think more carefully before coming here alone...'

He was interrupted as Seth appeared at the door. 'Jess, what's goin' on?' Seth asked.

'Right, both of you, over by the wall.' Mr. Ross said.

Jessica looked back at him to see a gun in his hand, aimed at her and Seth. Seth moved slowly to stand next to Jessica. 'I saw Mrs. Morrison on the way home.' he whispered. 'She said that you were up here alone and had gone to talk to Mr. Ross...'

'Quiet!' Mr. Ross demanded. 'Well, I can't see that either of you would accept bribes not to talk, so I'm afraid I see no alternative...' he aimed the gun at Jessica, and slowly raised it.

'Drop the gun and step away.'

Jessica glanced at the door to see Mort standing there with two officers. One of them moved forward to take the gun, but a loud shot echoed around the room.

Jessica found herself shoved to the floor, and realized that Seth had pushed her out of the way. She looked up to see Mort and the younger men overpower Mr. Ross, then turned to look at Seth. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw that he was clutching his side, a bloodstain on his shirt where he had taken the bullet.

Jessica sat in the hospital waiting room, an ache in her heart that felt like physical pain. All she could think about was what she would do if she lost Seth. She didn't think she could bear it.

'Jess.'

She looked up to see Mort standing next to her. He handed a cup of coffee to her. 'Here, have a drink. Please, you must have something.'

She took a sip of the coffee, finding it hard to swallow the warm liquid due to the lump that had formed in her throat.

Mort sat down next to her. 'He'll be all right, Jess.'

She turned to look at him. 'I don't know what's happening. No one is telling me anything.'

Mort put a comforting hand on her shoulder and said nothing.

Minutes later a nurse came into the room. 'Mrs. Fletcher?'

Jessica stood up, her heart thudding. The young nurse smiled at her. 'Seth is fine, and he wants to see you.'

Jessica closed her eyes. 'Thank you.' She looked back at Mort, who nodded to her. 'I'll get going now, Mrs. F. Take care.'

Seth was sitting up in bed when she entered the room. He looked perfectly okay. 'Hello Jess. Are you all right?'

'Me? I'm fine. What about you?'

'Good as new. The bullet only grazed me, no real damage.'

'Oh Seth. I was so worried.' She went closer and took his hands, sitting down on the edge of the bed. 'Seth, thank you. For pushing me out of the way.'

He looked into her eyes. 'I could never let anything happen to you, Jess.'

'You could have been killed.' she whispered.

'If I was, at least I would have known that you were safe.' He reached out and ran a finger lightly down her face. 'I love you, Jess. I always will.'

She stared back at him with tears in her eyes, then smiled. Seth leaned forward and slid his arms around her, pulling her close. Jessica closed her eyes as their lips met in a deep kiss, and relaxed into his arms. She felt happier than she had in a long, long time.