The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 11 – Mary Frances Cuccello, Rhinehold, Cranston at AirCon bomb scene

Cranston nodded at the crowd control officers who waved him through. Rhinehold, beside Cranston in the unmarked car, whistled at all the activity. “Wonder what happened.”

Cranston shook his head as he exited the car. “Bomb went off, remember?”

Rhinehold exited the shotgun side. “Yeah, but this looks serious.”

Cranston glanced at Rhinehold over the top of their dark blue Chevy sedan and continued shaking his head.

He walked up behind a petite woman covered head to foot in a white Tyvek forensics suit. “Mary Frances.”

The petite woman turned, removed her right glove, her mask, offered him her hand and smiled. “William.”

“What’s a good looking woman like you doing at a crime scene like this?”

Mary Frances kept her eyes on Cranston and nodded towards Rhinehold. “Who’s today’s Tonto?”

Rhinehold held out his hand. “John Rhinehold. Nice to meet you Mary Frances.”

She locked eyes with him. “Dr. Cuccello.”

“Beg pardon.”

“I’m Dr. Cuccello.”

“Sorry, I thought Bill called you Mary Frances.”

Cucello put her glove and mask back on. “Him I know.”

Cranston watched forensics personnel come and go from AirCon’s garage. “When will you be able to talk?”

“Maybe five, ten minutes. They know what to do. I’m just here for the unexpected.”

“Buy you a coffee?”

“Large double-double. And from the coffee shop around the corner, not from Starschmucks.”

“Meet you there.”

Cranston and Rhinehold sat on a concrete bench outside the coffee shop, a large double-double between them and a bag containing a single maple-cream donut.

Rhinehold sipped a designer water. “Does she know that stuff will kill her?”

“She probably knows more about what happens to it inside her than you do now or ever will.”

Rhinehold sipped his water. “What’s her story?”

Cranston spoke as if reading a report. “Maria Francesco Cuccello, aka Mary Frances, born 1972, lives in an apartment building her great-grandfather first lived in then bought after working three jobs for fifteen years. Graduated double BSc Chemistry and Psychology Tufts, 1990, dual PhDs John Hopkins Pathology and Physiology 1994, FBI Forensics Academy 1998, been a guest lecturer there, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, Beijing Institute – ”

“Pretty knowledgeable, huh?”

Cranston nodded as Cuccello approached sans Tyvek. Now in a pair of comfortable white slacks, red blouse slightly opened at the neck, and a darker red blazer over it. Her short blonde hair and deep, Sicilian complexion set off her color choices well.

Rhinehold whispered, “That can’t be her natural haircolor.”

Cranston laughed into his coffee. “You’ll never know.”

Rhinehold stood and held out her coffee as Cucello approached. Their size difference forced him to look down at her and his eyes caught a delicate, gold glinting anchor chain around her neck. “Hello, Dr. Cuccello.”

“If only your eyes had hands, huh, Tonto?”

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