Because it had been a while since she had heard from Lorraine, Stephanie Wilder closed Chifferobe at lunch time (there was so little traffic anyway) and made a date to meet Lorraine for lunch.  They agreed to meet at Foothills restaurant across the tracks from Chifferobe because Stephanie is addicted to their cheeseburgers and fries, and they could both walk around the corner to get there.

Lorraine was all in black, as usual. First, it is slimming, and second, it’s easy to put together an outfit if everything you own is the same color. This time, however, there appeared to be a black cloud hovering over Lorraine’s head over her cloud of black hair.

“What’s wrong?” Stephanie asked, and finished eating both burger and fries before Lorraine finished her tale of woe.

Long story short: Lorraine had man troubles. After spending the fall and early winter working out and getting fit, Lorraine had met the man of her dreams. Slim Pickens was everything Lorraine dreamed of, he was rich and single. Slim’s wife of many years had left him to become a rafting guide in West Virginia. She had never been attractive, but she transformed herself into a short Paul Bunyon to get taken seriously on the river. Slim was heart-broken. She had been everything he had dreamed about during his young life: frugal and undemanding. When she left him, Slim began wasting away until he and Lorraine met at a Brunk Auction.

Both of them were bidding on the same item, an antique French breakfront. They glanced at each other as the amount of the bids climbed higher and higher. Both of them too proud to back down, and both hoping there would be divine intervention: Lorraine because she really could not afford the piece, and Slim because he hated to spend money. Thankfully, a bidder on the phone raised the stakes so high that both Lorraine a Slim could gracefully back off without losing face.

In relief, both of them arose from their seats and went to the back area where the coffee and refreshments were available. Their shared interest in antique French furniture led to a lively conversation and plans to get together for dinner. Soon they were meeting every night and love was in the air. Slim enjoyed dining out, and so did Lorraine, but the dinners were draining Lorraine’s meager savings, as Slim believed in going “Dutch.”  Lorraine took over the dinner plans but soon found herself resenting the expense of the food and wine she served.  Nonetheless, Lorraine enjoyed riding around in Slim’s red Mercedes Benz and imagined herself moving into the big house Slim lived in alone in Biltmore Forest. The money spent would lead to a comfortable future for both of them.

This relationship continued for months, and both Lorraine and Slim seemed to be enjoying the friendly intimacy of their dating. They got together every day and could walk around the Biltmore Estate, downtown Asheville, or Black Mt. in quiet companionship. In the evenings, Lorraine made dinner and they held hands on her living room sofa. Both of them loved to frolic in the bedroom into the night, but Slim insisted on sleeping in his own bed. Lorraine wondered why he couldn’t commit.

Lorraine began to long for a ring, and she would drop obvious hints as the two lovers gazed into jewelry store windows. Slim was adept at changing the subject when these unpleasant topics arose, but when Lorraine asked him for a Commitment, he stopped calling or coming over.

Lorraine was bereft at first, and she cried herself to sleep for weeks. Then she turned mean and angry. She wanted a way to murder Slim without getting herself locked up. She turned to Stephanie for help.

“I’m a Quaker!” Stephanie protested.

“But you read all those murder mysteries!” Lorraine countered.

There was that. Stephanie loved murder mysteries even though she abhored killing and any kind of violence. “Well,” Stephanie ventured. “Poisoning might be good.”

“No poison!” Lorraine exclaimed. “That’s too quick. I want him to suffer.”