Death of the Couch Potato's Wife: Cozy Christian Mysteries (Women Sleuth, Female Detective Suspense)

BOOK: Death of the Couch Potato's Wife: Cozy Christian Mysteries (Women Sleuth, Female Detective Suspense)
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D
EATH OF THE
C
OUCH
P
OTATO’S
W
IFE

Christy Barritt

Published by
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

 

DEATH OF THE COUCH POTATO’S WIFE BY CHRISTY BARRITT
Published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
2333 Barton Oaks Dr., Raleigh, NC, 27614

ISBN 978-0-9847655-9-1
Copyright © 2012 by Christy Barritt
Cover design by Bluetail Books & Design:
www.bluetailbooks.com
Book design by Anna O’Brien
www.behindthegift.com

Available in print from your local bookstore, online, or from the publisher at:
www.lighthousepublishingofthecarolinas.com

For more information on this book and the author visit:
www.christybarritt.com

All rights reserved. Non-commercial interests may reproduce portions of this book without the express written permission of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, provided the text does not exceed 500 words. When reproducing text from this book, include the following credit line: “
Death of the Couch Potato’s Wife
by Christy Barritt published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.”

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Barritt, Christy.
Death of the Couch Potato’s Wife
/ Christy Barritt 1st ed.

Printed in the United States of America

 

D
EDICATION

This book is dedicated to anyone who’s ever lived in suburbia and experienced the joy of a homeowners’ association and nosy neighbors.

A special thank you goes out to: Pat Mathias, Kellie Yates Miller, Stephanie Ludwig, Pamela Trawick, Laura McClellan, Kate Hinck, and Sharon Lavy. Your input was invaluable!

Chapter 1

“This is called breaking and entering.”

Babe, my neighbor, waved her hand in the air in a laid-back way that made me wonder if she’d been a cat burglar in her pre- senior citizen discount days. “We’re not breaking anything.”

My neck muscles clenched tighter. “How about the law?”

“Nonsense, Laura. We’re just being neighborly.” Babe used that word a lot, including when gossiping and borrowing lawn equipment from other people’s sheds—without their permission. My husband and I had been the recipients of her neighborly deeds on many occasions.

Babe and I stood on the porch of Candace Flynn’s house, staring at her front door. Though it was only 3 p.m., the crisp winter sun was already beginning its descent, and a glare of light caught on the glass atop the door, nearly blinding us. All the other neighbors on the cul-de-sac seemed to be occupied at the moment because no one else stirred. Most of them were working or at afternoon tot time at the local gym.

Sure, Candace’s husband had been out of town all week on a golf outing. But was that really an excuse for the mostly dry, yellowing grass in her front yard to be uncut with wisps of some kind of winter weed waving to everyone who passed? Or for the garbage cans to remain curbside for two days? For various flyers, once stuffed behind her door handle, to now litter the stoop?

Even more disturbing than the aesthetic no-nos of her yard was the fact that the storm door, which had been closed just yesterday, now flapped open.

And there was the small fact that no one had seen the woman in two days—and Candace always made herself known. She wasn’t even answering her cell phone, which usually appeared to be glued to her ear.

All of these things left me with three thoughts. First, I considered that maybe Candace had spontaneously taken off on a trip herself. I couldn’t fault her for doing so, because I knew her husband never cut her any slack. If she was going to go, it should be now, while he was out of town. My second thought was that perhaps she’d decided to abandon all responsibilities for the week. I couldn’t blame her for that either, though, if that were the case, I at least wanted to help Candace by sending my husband Kent over to cut the wispy grass. The third possibility, and this was the one I didn’t want to consider: What if she’d run into trouble? A heart attack with no one around to help? A home invasion that had left her tied up inside with the front door flailing open?

Perhaps the correct way to be neighborly was by calling the police.

But Babe insisted I’d lived in Chicago too long. She said this was the way things were done here in small-town America. She said that neighbors checked on each other.

I was no expert on the subject and Babe, by all accounts, was. At seventy years old, she knew nearly three times more about life than I did. And when I moved here nine months ago, I knew nothing—nothing—about small towns. All I knew was that this small town was actually named Boring. To top it off, the sign at the end of the road labeled our neighborhood Dullington Estates.

When my husband first told me, I thought he was joking.

Nope. Boring, Indiana, was as real as they came.

I nodded toward Candace’s door and glanced back at Babe, who was all decked out in a jean jacket, a Rolling Stones T-shirt and Converse tennis shoes. The woman had moxie, I’d give her that. We’d already knocked, but there had been no answer. Babe’s plan now was to try the handle and see if it was unlocked. Yeah, like I sa id—breaking and entering.

“You go inside first, so when the police come, I can attest this was all your idea.” I took a step back and the winter wind assaulted my already frozen skin. I ignored it. “In fact, maybe I’ll just wait out here.”

“Laura, people around here look out for one another. Look at her house. Something is not right.”

I had to agree that her house was even more neglected than usual. If I thought Candace had taken an unexpected trip and her home was empty, then vandals—or dare I say gangs, even?— might also notice and take advantage of the fact. I shivered at the thought of crime moving into the peaceful neighborhood.

Flashbacks of Chicago slammed into my mind. I touched the scar below my collar bone. The mark still throbbed a year later. Survivor’s guilt, maybe? I closed my eyes as sweat sprinkled across my forehead. I could still feel the knife, the—

“Laura?”

I yanked my eyes open and saw Babe snapping her fingers mere inches in front of my face. I’m not in Chicago anymore. I’m in suburbia. Boring. Sweet—but safe—suburbia. Things like what had happened to me in Chicago didn’t happen here.

Did they?

I could put my fears at ease simply by checking on my neighbor.

Babe’s voice took on a sweet tone. “Come on, Laura. If you were out of town and your storm door was banging on its hinges, wouldn’t you want me to check things out? Wouldn’t you want me, or someone, to close it for you before the real bad guys realized you were out of town and stole all your valuables?”

The bad guys would be sorely disappointed if they tried to steal my valuables. The most they’d get was my DVD collection of
The Real Housewives
. My husband believed in living on a budget. A tight budget. A really tight budget. In my less-than- stellar moments, I might have even called him a penny pincher a time or two.

Babe tapped her foot. “Well?”

I considered what I’d want done if I were in Candace’s shoes. Maybe we could just check out things inside her home and then lock the door behind us as we left. I had a lot to learn about this “being neighborly” thing. In Chicago, being neighborly just meant saying hello as you passed each other in the hallway of the apartment building. I might even go as far to say that in the big city, we practiced “mind your own business” as a way of showing we cared.

“Okay, but we check it out and then go. The last thing I need is the gossip girls telling everyone that I’m a criminal who moved to Boring to escape the law.”

Babe smiled as if the idea amused her. She knew better than anyone how people in this town were prone to speculation. But her smile disappeared as she twisted the handle and the front door opened freely. “Anyone home? Candace? Jerry?”

We looked at each other. An unlocked front door wasn’t good. Not good at all.

“Candace?” Babe called again.

Silence.

“They’re not home.” I jerked my thumb behind me. “Let’s just go. I’ll clean up the yard myself. Roll the trash cans back up the drive.”

“Nonsense. We need to make sure everyone is okay.”

She stepped inside and circled her hand in a “follow me” motion. I closed my eyes and imagined elderly Babe being clobbered by an intruder while I stood outside and waited for her. I sighed. “I’m coming.”

I stepped onto the tiled foyer. Balls of dust danced across the floor as the wind swept into the room. I wasn’t the world’s best housekeeper, by any means, but smelling the inside of Candace’s house made me vow to do better. It was a mixture of dirty socks, rotting trash, and something else I couldn’t identify. Decaying meat, maybe?

“We’ll just do a quick walk-through. Then we’ll leave. I promise.” She held up three fingers in what I assumed to be an attempt at Scout’s honor.

That’s when I heard someone in the distance. My heart stuttered, and I grabbed Babe’s arm, pulled her back. “Do you hear that?” My own voice rose with each syllable and broke with a pubescent-sounding squeak. “Voices.”

She nodded, a twinkle in her eyes. “We should be careful.”

“How about ‘we should leave’?”

She took another step forward and grinned, her eyes dancing. “I don’t think she will hurt us.”

I paused and listened to the tinny sound coming from near the steps. The TV. Of course. I could hear Oprah talking about how a new brand of jeans could flatter every woman’s figure. That’s what I needed: flatter, not fatter jeans. And I needed to mind my own business.

Tension knotted at my neck regardless. Storm door unlatched. Garbage cans on the street. Lawn ragged. Candace had time to watch TV but not to take care of her home? None of it sounded like the Candace I knew.

I crept forward, Babe in the lead. We passed the formal living room, which was loaded with boxes full of papers, videos, and magazines. I paused at the stairway and glanced up steps cluttered with shoes, clothes, magazines, and sheets of coupons. Coupons, for goodness sake? That’s like newly found gold. I cocked my head and listened. The sound of the TV definitely came from the den. If the house turned out to be empty, we would click off the TV, lock the door, and leave. Our good deed of the day. I’d appreciate it if someone did the same for me.

“Just take a peek, Laura.” Babe nodded toward the den. “In case.”

“Why me?”

“Because I’m elderly.”

Convenient. I shook my head and started down the short hallway, past the coat closet and into the den. I stopped abruptly, and she nearly trampled me.

Candace lay on the couch, eyes closed, mouth open. Her slender arms were neatly folded across her chest.

I looked at Babe. “Sleeping?”

My partner stepped back, one hand on her throat. “You check.”

My eyes widened. “Babe! You’re the one who insisted we do this.”

She recovered somewhat and peered past me at the couch and Candace. “You first.”

I chewed on my lip. I just wanted to put this whole experience behind me. I would apologize to Candace for interrupting her nap and then leave before any more damage could be done.

I took a step forward. “Candace?” No snoring. I stepped closer. The remote rested in one hand and a bag of pork rinds in the other. This wasn’t like the Candace I knew. She hated that hulking flat screen hanging over the mantle. Her husband gave that TV more attention than he did his own wife.

Leaning down, I nudged her shoulder. Candace Flynn emitted a raspy hissing, like the exhalation of a tire going flat—or a corpse expelling gasses. That’s when I recognized the source of the terrible stench.

Candace Flynn.

BOOK: Death of the Couch Potato's Wife: Cozy Christian Mysteries (Women Sleuth, Female Detective Suspense)
3.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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