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The last of the credits trailed across the narrow screen in faded black and white, which to my mind was preferable to the pathetically garish early attempts at color of the other film. I hoped it would be a very long time before I had to sit through another Margali Bowman double feature. But of course I couldn't say so when the great lady herself--now plain Marjorie Lang of Fort Worth, Texas--was my hostess.
The lights came up and we all began to stand and stretch. All, that is, except Margali, and I could barely restrain a chuckle when I saw that Margali herself had dozed off. Although that shouldn't have been too much of a surprise, given the quantity of liquid refreshment Margali had imbibed during the course of a very long day.
Fara--my friend Fara Johnson, who had been responsible for the waste of my weekend with this debacle of a party--leaned over her, which was a feat in itself. The Blue Owl, a sixties-style counterculture movie theater, crams about 200 seats into a basement room not much larger than my living room, and getting in and out of the seats is not easy. Fara looked vaguely disgusted as she touched Margali's shoulder. "Mother!" she said. "Mother, wake up!" She stood back, bewildered. "Sam?"she said uncertainly, looking toward her stepfather rather than her frowning husband.
Sam Lang said briskly, "Marjorie! Wake--" He grabbed her jeweled hand and then abruptly let go.
I should have guessed then, when he suddenly looked completely blank, when he turned helplessly to me and said, "Deb--"
I should have guessed, but I didn't, not until I touched her hand myself, a limp, cold, flaccid hand not yet beginning tostiffen but definitely no longer capable of voluntary motion.
It would be convenient, even restful, to be able to call this a natural death. But I'd brushed past the back of her seat as I went to touch her, and when I stepped into the light, there was blood on the sleeve of my blouse.
Who would be most likely to follow instructions exactly? I looked around. "Harry," I said to my husband, "get everybody out into the lobby and keep them there." To my new son-in-law I added, "Olead, call 911. Tell them you're calling for Detective Deb Ralston, Give them the location and say we need a medical examiner and--" I hesitated. But friends or not, it had to be said. "And a homicide unit."
Turning to look again at Margali--or Marjorie, as nobody but Sam had called her in at least fifty years--I hoped I was through being morning sick.