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Richard Whitten Barnes

A Scent of Almond

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The morning fog had not yet burned off from low places in the fields when Andy drove into Echo Bay. Sun glistened off Emma Cardwell’s front lawn. Her begonias drooped slightly … they too, wet with dew.

Emma opened the door to Andy’s knock, still in her dressing gown, but gave no indication of annoyance to the detective showing up again so soon, and so early in the day.

Andy made no effort to apologize. “I think we need to talk some more.”

“Let me put something on and I’ll be with you,” the older woman said.

Andy paced around the parlor, inspecting a set of Hummel figurines, then a collection of old photographs in brass frames crammed together on a bookcase shelf. She was staring at one in particular when Emma returned.

“I think I recognize you in this one. You look quite pretty.” She lifted the framed picture from the shelf. It was a group photo of perhaps a dozen people, adults and children.

“Thank you. It was a long time ago.”

“And this is your husband?” She pointed to a good looking man standing next to young Emma. The man looked familiar.

“No…yes, it was my first husband—Everett.” She looked uncomfortable, quickly adding, “I keep the picture because I have so few of my son who died of asthma as a boy.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. That must have been terrible.” She added, “Are all those children yours?”

“Just the two young ones. My daughter, Janice, lives in Winnipeg.” A smiling girl of perhaps six or seven was holding the hand of an even younger boy.

Andy’s attention returned to the husband standing slightly apart with arms folded, a confident smirk of a smile. Your marriage … did you—”

Emma cut her off. “He died.” She took the photo and replaced it on the shelf.

“Let’s sit for a bit, Mrs. Cardwell.” Andy found a needlepoint chair for herself and Emma took the sofa. “I want you to know I’m eventually going to find out every detail involving the deaths of Vincent Acardi and at least three other victims I believe are somehow connected. The circumstances dictate someone past a certain age has to be involved, at least to a degree. I guarantee I will find out. Those men I showed you all had something in common. Your niece Claudia and you fit very well into this picture.”

Andy could see Emma’s composure slip away. She avoided eye contact. Her lips compressed as if trapping some revelation from escaping.

“I know you’re holding back, Mrs. Cardwell. Just tell me!”

Emma took a breath, turned to Andy and said, “I have nothing to do with those men.”

Andy held her gaze until, once more, Emma turned away. “I’m sorry you said that, because I think you do.” She rose and went to the door. “Your first husband—Everett— had a last name?”

There was pain in Emma’s eyes. “Cole.”

 “Goodbye, Mrs. Cardwell, for now.”

She marched out past the flower garden to her Jeep, the cheerful display so in contrast to the circumstance.

 

 

 

 

A. C. Mason

Deadly Bayou

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Call me paranoid, but I had the distinct feeling someone had been snooping around my house while we were out shopping. Obviously this person didn’t enter the house. Upon our return home, the doors were still locked and alarm set. Believe me, after what happened last year, I double check every time before I leave the house.

I dismissed my suspicions, only to have them return. Several more attempts later, I decided to inspect the exterior. I opened the sliding glass door and went outside.

I immediately noticed the dumped flower pot and started to put it upright again. No, there might be fingerprints or other evidence.

Our house sat on a corner lot. The side street led out of the subdivision past a wooded area on the edge of our property.

Tall pines and several varieties of oak trees formed a perfect hiding spot for people with criminal intent. In fact, last year a killer had stalked me and hid there while watching me and the kids. At least we have neighbors.

I used to love the privacy those thick woods provided, but now I’m not so sure about a need for seclusion.

A feeling of awareness, like someone watching me, raised the hairs on the back of my neck. That was silly. I had reminded myself about the Mardi Gras killer only moments ago. The power of suggestion?

A shiny object at the edge of the patio caught my eye. I walked over to check it out. A key, perhaps to a locker, attached to a key chain had been dropped in the grass. I reached down to retrieve it and noted the initial H dangling from the chain.

A sharp pain radiated through my head. My vision dimmed. I felt myself falling. Then nothing…

 

 

Coming Next Month

 

Ahh To Be Surprised by Sef Bumaat

Cloud Walker by Mary Mogus

Mariah's Gift by  Lilly Linville

The Secret Lives of the Harvested by Shari Rood

What If…? by Kev Richardson