Who: Susan Bones, Blodwen Cadwallader
Where: Heaven Scent
When: 22 May 2002, evening
Susan had been distracted lately, but she couldn’t ignore the way Blodwen was slamming down the coins as they counted up the day’s takings. “Is everything all right, Blodwen?” Susan asked cautiously, aware that her shopgirl was sometimes prone to peculiar moods.
Blodwen inhaled deeply through her nose, and then turned to Susan with a fixed smile that was more like a grimace. “Everything’s fine, Susan. But if the money’s out, that might be because I’ve spent all day giving refunds.”
“Refunds?” Susan’s brow furrowed. “Why?”
“Because,” Blodwen said through gritted teeth, “your products are making people sick. I’ve had customers complain of headaches, rashes, dizziness…”
Susan felt like the ground was shifting underneath her. “What?”
“Oh please!” Blodwen slammed a Galleon down on the counter and turned to face her. “As if you haven’t poisoned people before.”
“Do you even remember what you did to Gethin Summerby?”
“My ex-flatmate? He mistook one of my potions for a hummus dip —”
“He ended up in St Mungo’s!” Blodwen snapped, and Susan took a step back from the force of her fury.
“I’m very sorry for what happened to him, but he shouldn’t have —”
“Oh, there you go again. Saint Susan the Blameless. Nothing is ever your fault, is it?” Blodwen’s fists were clenched and two flushed red spots had appeared on her cheeks. “Did you know Gethin is my fiancé?”
“No, I —” Susan stopped. “Wait, I think I did. Have we… had this conversation before?”
Blodwen said nothing, and the two girls stared at each other in silence. Something was unfurling in Susan’s mind, a vague wisp of a memory of a day she’d thought was lost to her forever. As realisation dawned, an expression of panic flitted over Blodwen’s face.
“Susan,” Blodwen said urgently, reaching out and gripping her wrist tightly, “it’s not what you think. I didn’t mean —”
“It was you.” Susan looked down at her wrist, and remembered waking up with scratches down her arms, and bruises in the pattern of fingerprints. Blodwen’s fingernails dug into her arm and Susan inhaled sharply. “You attacked me, the night of the Badger Festival, after I took those pain potions and had to go home.”
“It wasn’t like that. I just — you —”
“Let go of my arm.”
“Susan. Don’t overreact, please.”
Susan wondered how you could overreact to finding out that your trusted shopgirl had, in fact, attacked you one night and then kept quiet about it for over a year. “Let go of my arm, Blodwen,” she said quietly, although her heart was beating a panicky staccato against her ribs.
Something flashed in Blodwen’s eyes — contempt, perhaps, or recklessness — and she released Susan’s wrist. For a moment she didn’t move, and then her hand dipped down. Susan didn’t wait to find out if Blodwen was reaching for her wand. The moment her hand was free, she’d gone for her own wand, and she reacted without thinking in pure self-defence born of weeks of anxiety over needing to protect Daisy.
As Blodwen crumpled to the ground, Susan realised she had two very pressing problems.
The first was finding a full-time shop assistant at short notice.
The second was what Henry was going to say when he found out she’d lied to him — and the rest of the DMLE — when they’d questioned her over the night of Orpington’s murder and she’d told them she went straight home without incident.
Well, at least she knew for definite now that she’d had nothing to do with Orpington’s murder.