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Authors: J. T. Lewis

Tags: #Mystery

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BOOK: Murder! Too Close To Home
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A lot of blame was being heaped on the “
incompetent”
Sheriff, with many calling for his resignation or firing.

Allen Vanguard, who was also quoted for the article, stated that he had the utmost confidence in Sheriff McHenry, and that covering up the murders was believed to be the best option at the time. Multiple other politicians had also chimed in their opinions, most having the uncanny ability to say a lot without saying anything.

Reading quickly through the article and finding nothing new, I moved on to the rest of the paper. Scanning hastily and not expecting to find much worth reading, I unexpectedly screeched to a halt as I eyed a familiar name in the wedding announcements.

Raven Hartman-Wills was to wed Calvin Forester of the Randal Hill Forester’s. I thought back to the attractive goddess that I had thought sure was the ultimate love of my life during my college years.

Known as simply Raven Hartman when we had dated, she was undoubtedly the most beautiful woman I had ever known, at least in the terms of what society describes as beautiful.

Aptly named with raven-black hair, alabaster skin with nary a blemish, and piercing blue eyes, she would (and probably still does) turn heads everywhere she went.

I had always thought that she enjoyed the attention a little too much. It was always a bone of contention in our relationship. She saw nothing wrong with it, but I didn’t like it a bit.

For all of the tension that issue caused during our time together, it was my apparent lack of ambition that finally did us in. Raven’s definition of ambition involved having the foresight to bring in the big bucks after I graduated.

She had secretly started dating a guy who had graduated the year before, and was now an accountant. I was then summarily told that he would be getting his CPA in a few months. That’s when the dough would
really
start rolling in.

I was devastated for a time, but eventually realized that she had done me a favor. I had finally come to understand that I could have never trusted her, and would have ended up a nervous wimp…constantly looking over
her
shoulder to see who she was currently stringing along.

Ted Wills, the lucky accountant who later married Raven in a large, elaborate wedding ceremony covered by all the society pages, was not so lucky. He ended up the wimp of the story two years later when she divorced him in favor of another man. The new man was of course richer and even more powerful.

It was said that Ted had sat in the middle of the sidewalk, crying his eyes out the day she made him move out of “her” home.

A few more marriages followed over the years, with Raven moving up in societal status with each move. Her current impending marriage to Calvin Forester would indeed be her crowning achievement, as there was nobody higher up the totem pole for her to snag, unless of course she wanted to look elsewhere in the world.

My lips ratcheted up a notch as I read. I was feeling pretty good about how I had ended up, having finally found Betty and never looking back since.

I realized that she was probably about ready to get up and decided to surprise her with a cup of coffee in bed.

I quietly entered the room with two steaming cups only to find her sitting up against her pillows, reading plant catalogues. A slinky blue, satiny thing enveloped her luscious body and perfectly accentuated her wonderfully small breasts.

She looked up and smiled at the sight of me, me
or
the hot coffee I was carrying. I wasn’t sure which.

Either way, her glowing smile always made my heart skip a beat, and this time was no exception.

I sat on the edge of the bed, placing the cups on the night stand as I leaned in and gently kissed the luscious lips of my wife, a low moan of pleasure escaping from deep within her throat. Pulling back a few inches, I whispered while looking adoringly into her eyes.

“Do you still want the coffee?”

My answer was a smile, followed by the coffee cup appearing magically in her hand, her having reached under my arm while we kissed.

“You betcha” she voiced as she took a sip from the steaming brew, her eyes twinkling over the rim of the cup.

“But keep those lips warm, they may come in handy later.”

We laughed as I took the hint and removed myself to the chair by the side of the bed, grabbing my own cup to enjoy while we talked.

“What are you reading honey” I asked as she picked up one of the catalogues again.

“I don’t know if you realize it,” I said then, “But it’s only February, and not one of those plants you are looking at will grow right now.”

She effectively ignored me for a few seconds until she found the page she was looking for. Taking another sip, she looked at the page before her for a few seconds before glancing at me with a serious face.

“You
know
I’ve been looking for a specific lily for the back corner of the yard, and they have to be planted early if they are expected to bloom this year.”

Betty’s skill and fascination with landscaping had been a surprise to me when I found it out early in our relationship. The association between police work and landscape design did not make a logical connection in my mind.

She had explained that designing the landscape helped fill the creative side of her personality; something that police work mostly did not. Also, the physical work of planting and weeding was therapy for her, helping keep her sane after a day of dealing with criminal types and their unhappy relatives.

She totally enjoyed being one of the hosts for the annual flower and garden walking tour that the town sponsored, accepting compliments and handing out advice like a professional landscaper.

I was of course relegated to the watering as my summer contribution, not knowing the difference between a weed and a flower in most instances. She stated flatly that she deemed me a hazard to handle anything of more importance, and I humbly accepted my role without regret.

She continued to talk about various flowers and planting locations, showing me pictures of the ones she was the most interested in. I mostly just sat and smiled, enjoying listening to the passion in her voice and the taste of the coffee in my cup.

Eventually however, a funny look came over her face.

“I think I’m hungry Jeeves,” she stated matter-of-factly, “I believe I’ll have breakfast on the veranda.”

“Would madam prefer the usual,” I chimed in, not missing a beat as I stood in preparation of leaving the room.

“The usual will do nicely,” she continued, “but don’t skimp on the eggs this week you brat.”

I laughed and turned to head toward the kitchen. On Saturday morning we would throw caution to the wind and fill up on a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast; cholesterol be damned.

The rest of the week we tried to be good, semi-following the food pyramid or whatever they called it these days. Big greasy breakfasts were something we were both raised on, and we totally enjoyed our weekend morning excursions back in time.

I started on the bacon, getting out the big black iron skillet, no pansy microwave bacon for us. When that was done I poured out the grease (most of it) and started the eggs and toast. As I was getting ready to call up to Betty, I heard the tap tap tap of Lucy heading for the stairs, her keen hearing having detected Betty’s approach. I looked up to the beautiful site of my wife descending the stairs, wrapped in a white fluffy robe, her hair a muss in a totally sexy way.

She glided up to me, put her arms around my neck and lifted her face to mine in a lingering kiss. As she pulled away she was smiling, asking what a girl had to do to get fed around here.

I led her to her chair and stated that payment would be extensive, but she did not have to pay up until after breakfast. I returned to the stove to turn the eggs as the first batch of toast popped up out of the toaster. Setting it on a plate, I inserted two more slices and took the first batch to my wife.

“Eggs will be ready in a moment” I called over my shoulder as I headed back to the stove to finish the preparations. As I was finishing up I refilled our mugs with steaming coffee, then went back to retrieve the eggs and the new batch of toast.

We dug into the decadent treat and ate until we had our fill, finishing up with another cup of coffee while we sat around the table and talked. The case was at an impasse so we decided to take full advantage of our day off for some fun. Betty had the day planned out and she ticked off her schedule for my approval. Her whole day was full of things she loved to do, and I approved wholeheartedly of the plan, not having occasion to spend days like this together often.

After cleaning up the kitchen we got dressed and started the day off by hitching up Lucy and heading out on a several-block walk. Upon our return we started getting ready for the main part of the day, with a slight interruption while we took care of my breakfast payment. Fully satiated now, we got showered and dressed and headed out to Betty’s Jeep for a long day of antiquing and snacking at some favorite culinary haunts of ours.

Starting with lunch at Lenny’s, we would enjoy a piece of pie at Mona’s bakery in the afternoon and supper at the Black Olive for some Italian, finishing up at the Dairy Mart for an ice cream dessert. In between the gluttony we would visit every Antique shop in the county, Betty being an avid collector of old furniture and knick-knacks.

We had decided to forgo a day ending visit to the pub in favor of a romantic evening of drinks in front of the fireplace. This was my only personal contribution to the day’s schedule, and one that Betty readily agreed to when I had mentioned it.

It was indeed a wonderful day, following a schedule but having no schedule. I believe we must have looked at everything over fifty years old that the county had to offer, at the same time enjoying each others company like we were still dating.

Arriving back home about seven o’clock, we were plenty tired but looking forward to our time together in front of the fire. I pulled together some old newspaper and kindling and started on the fire, then went off and took a quick shower, returning just in time to put some bigger logs on and get a good blaze going.

Betty said she would be back in a little while, as she was going to take a bubble bath and soak for a little while. Leaning over and kissing me gently, she moved her lips to my ear and whispered, “Don’t worry; it will be worth the wait.” Smiling alluringly, she sashayed off to her date with our claw foot tub.

“I love you” I called out after her as she disappeared around the corner.

“Back at cha buddy,” she called out from the hall, her typical response whenever I told her I loved her.

When we had first started dating, she had just finished with a nasty divorce. Determined not to ever fall in love again, she was nonetheless taken aback by her growing feelings for me. To hold up her end of the bargain with herself, she started using the response whenever I told her I loved her. After awhile it seemed quite a normal response and I had determined to let it ride for as long as we were together.

I went to the sideboard and made Betty a drink, taking it over to the couch before sitting down in front of the now blazing logs to enjoy the warmth. Leaning my head back on the cushions, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the feeling of the heat on my face.

I was surprised when I found myself back in my mysterious room, the warmth of that fire also feeling good on my skin. I took my usual place at the chair and picked up my coffee, inhaling the aroma before greedily taking a long draw of the liquid.

Glancing over at the chess board, I saw that my defensive move of earlier had held up and effectively detained the hordes for now.

Instantly seeing my next move, I moved my knight to the position I had laid out in my head earlier in the day. Feeling pretty proud of myself, I again leaned back in the chair and savored both the quiet and the coffee.

Leaning my head back into the pillow of the chair and closing my eyes, when I reopened I found that I was suddenly transported to a quiet country road.

As I looked around, the subtle odor of cigar smoke nudged for my attention. I was trying to discover the source of the scent when I noticed a house to my left. An older house, it had a large front porch that was draped with an American flag. Back in the shadows there appeared a small orange-red glow, growing brighter for a few seconds before it diminished until it was barely noticeable.

A noise caught my attention on the opposite side of the road. It sounded like a door closing, but no one was visible at the house sitting directly across from the first. A rustling noise then came from the side of the house as I made out a person walking. Head down, they were headed toward the road carrying something wrapped in what looked like a garbage bag. The dark hood of a coat or sweatshirt masked their identity from me.

Making it to the road, he or she turned away from me and made their way down the road a hundred feet before they got into a dark-colored compact and started the motor. Driving off down the road slowly, the person left the headlights off on the vehicle. I listened to the car retreat away from me, wondering at the sanity of someone driving with no lights on these dark roads.

 

***

 

BOOK: Murder! Too Close To Home
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