Porter tried another tack. "Dad, when did Minna and Maud last talk?"
Clay set his coffee mug down. "I guess - the last time I saw them together was the day the children left. Minna wanted to keep you here, you know. She said it was inhumane to take you both away from where you'd grown up, where your father was, where your mother would expect to find you. Maud said that people were beginning to talk -she was right- and that she would bring the babies back the minute Alice re-appeared. After Minna carried on a bit, Maud said she'd think about it, but then the next morning y'all were....gone."
He stared at the table, rubbing the grain slowly with his thumb. "I'd never seen Minna cry like that. She would come over and put her baby down on a blanket in the garden and wander around, weeping big silent tears and touching the apple trees. Then she'd go down and stare out over the river, hugging herself and shivering. Her eyes were red for weeks. Minna thought the world of Alice, and having you taken away was awful for her."
I thought for a minute. "So Maud just took Dover and I and left Daddy here?"
He nodded. "Phillip was like a sleepwalker. He wasn't very capable of taking care of you, Kitty. He didn't really know what to do with a baby - Alice had taken care of Dover - and when you would fuss he'd try to figure out what was wrong and then get irritable when you wouldn't stop crying. It wasn't the best situation.
Maud told Phillip she'd take you both back to Rowland and find a nanny for you. Dover could start school there if he was there long enough, and that way Phillip could concentrate on trying to find Alice."
"Instead" I broke in "we never went back. Daddy died still mourning Mama, and Grand-Dad and Maud just....took us in."
Clay looked relieved. "Yes."
Porter was holding my hand so tightly I was wincing a bit. "But Dad, you didn't believe Alice just disappeared, did you? So tell us - who did you think murdered Alice?"
Clay looked miserable. "I thought....I thought...."
A sound from the hallway brought his head up. There stood Maud, a look of distaste on her face.
"I thought" said Clay, all in a rush, "that Maud had killed her."