THE MORNING the deceased came into my life I woke up with a start, the way I had when I was a kid. Lifting my head from the pillow, I squinted at pale June daylight leaking through the gap in the bedroom drapes. No doubt about it; I felt different.
Nearly as happy as my former self: Ginger Struve Barnes, mother of two, DIY enthusiast, and wife of Robert Ripley Barnes, the esteemed, green-eyed, and wickedly funny head of Bryn Derwyn Academy.
During the three years since my husband’s fatal accident on an icy stretch of I-95, the words “eager,” “ambitious,” and “happy” seldom described my mood. Yet lately I have felt physically lighter—never mind that the bathroom scale disagreed. I’ve also caught myself saying “Yes” more often than “No,” especially to invitations.
I’ve rejoined the world! I told Rip telepathically. How about that?
Go for it, babe, he replied, just as I knew he would.
To break the silence, at times I said these things out loud. Never in public though, so what was the harm?
I also talked to my dog. Soon after the accident, I discovered the muddy derelict digging for table scraps in the neighbor’s compost pile. He wasn’t wearing a collar, so I dutifully posted signs and even advertised for his owner. No one called; I had myself a new pet.
Fideaux responded as any physically and emotionally starved animal would, but surprise, surprise. I did, too. I slept better touching the rangy mutt’s curly gray fur. On my worst nights he licked away my tears. If I sighed, he sighed. Whenever I began to feel sorry for myself, he rested his chin on my foot and worried about me.
“Up and at ’em,” I woke him with a nudge on that lovely morning. “We have things to do, people to see.”
He lumbered off the bed and stretched before trotting toward the kitchen door.
I poured kibble and freshened Fideaux’s water before hustling back to get dressed. Since I’d be alone putting down peel-and-stick tiles at my newlywed daughter’s house, I chose my oldest green t-shirt, the one that said “Alaska or Bust.” And jeans, always jeans. I splashed my face, fluffed my short reddish hair.
“Ride in the car,” I informed the dog the instant we finished breakfast.
The newlyweds had purchased a promising fixer-upper in a cozy, treed settlement nine miles by turnpike from where I live. Rush-hour traffic clogged the exit, but when I broke free of the entrance to an industrial park, it was only another three minutes to my destination, a yellow, three-story Victorian close to Chelsea’s teaching job and Bobby’s train commute.
The house sat shoulder to shoulder with its neighbors but possessed a lengthy backyard. Due to some missing fence Fideaux needed to be leashed and supervised back there, a time-consuming chore I preferred to get out of the way before starting the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, the morning’s gray-white sky had lowered during my commute, and the air felt thick with drizzle.
While Fideaux dithered and sniffed, sniffed and dithered, I planned how to go about laying the floor tiles. Tidy up first, then make sure the old Formica was clean and sound. Snap a line to get a square start—for sure the old walls would be off; they always were. . .
I jumped. Fideaux growled. Then we both gravitated toward the sound.
Someone had thrown a loaded garbage bag from the third floor of the somber gray Victorian to the left. It landed beyond a shallow cement patio and split, spewing clothes and bricks in a messy heap.
Bricks? I hoped no child had taken such a chance.
I raised up on tiptoes for a better look over the shrubbery-lined fence.
“Hey!” I shouted up to the wide-open window.
No response. Just a gaping black rectangle, no screen, nothing and nobody visible beyond the opening.
Maybe the woman of the house had been cleaning out a closet, tossing her kids’ outgrown clothes, or purging her own unwanted dreck. Faced with carrying a loaded bag downstairs for disposal, I might have tried the three-story drop, too. Once anyway. If nobody was around.
And nobody was supposed to be around. The house in question was the last on the block, Chelsea and Bobby were both at work, and I was here merely by chance.
Somebody should probably look into that.
You can read more about Ginger in For Better Or Worse, the eighth book in the “Ginger Barnes Main Line” mystery series.
Men have once again become an issue for amateur sleuth Ginger Barnes–men who mistreat their wives, men suspected of murder, and men who ask her out.
While working on a DIY project at her newlywed daughter’s house, a bag of bricks is thrown from the neighboring third-story window. Next, pops that sound like muffled gunshots have Gin racing for her phone. Eric, who lives in the house with his grandmother, claims she’s obsessed with mystery novels. Yet after the septuagenarian falls down a flight of stairs, she’s so frantic to keep Eric away that Gin must intervene. Was the fall actually attempted murder?
In her husband’s eyes, Cissie Voight can’t do anything right. Gin occasionally helps the frazzled young mother, and when she needs a dresser carried upstairs, Gin brings Eric along. Bad move! The electricity between the two new acquaintances sparks a chilling premonition. This time Gin’s good intentions will produce grave consequences–for everyone involved.
Recommended for fans of Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich.
# # # # # # # # # # #
Meet the author
Donna Huston Murray’s eight cozy mysteries feature a woman much like herself, a DIY headmaster’s wife with a troubling interest in crime. Final Arrangements, set at Philadelphia’s world famous flower show, achieved #1 on the Kindle-store list for both Mysteries and Female Sleuths. The first in Murray’s new mystery/crime series, What Doesn’t Kill You, garnered Honorable Mention in the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
At home, she assumes she can fix anything until proven wrong, calls trash-picking recycling, and, although she should probably know better, adores Irish setters.
Donna and husband, Hench, live in the greater Philadelphia, PA, area. Visit Donna at donnahustonmurray.com.
All comments are welcomed.