The first time Chet died, Kathy Waters rolled her eyes. Her fellow theater castmate could never execute a realistic death onstage. But when the star of Hamlet fails to rise for curtain call — and his missing EpiPen turns up in Kathy’s purse — Kathy is forced to leave the safety of Shakespeare to delve into a real-life tragedy.

 

As a former news writer still taking anti-anxiety medication, Kathy would rather forget opening night altogether. But her new editor won’t have that. With this new assignment forcing her to face uncomfortable realities, Kathy finds support from a surprising source — her snarky younger sister, Liz.

 

Liz barely passed British Lit, but had no trouble snatching up an art scholarship. While Kathy can barely draw a stick figure, her uncanny retention of everything she hears leads to several murder suspects. Having both witnessed the crime from opposite sides of the curtain, the Waters sisters must combine Liz’s eye for detail with Kathy’s way with words to catch the killer before their own relationship is threatened.

Chapter 3

(A snippet therefrom)

          Kathy was two cups of tea from feeling human again as she gripped the steering wheel like a life ring amid a river of stop-and-go traffic. The rain splattered on her windshield, adding a London-like backdrop to her murky mood. And the traffic’s caterpillar pace did not improve it. True to form, she’d made her deadline, but only with minutes to spare. At most, she’d only gotten five hours of sleep. A quick look at her reflection in the rear view mirror confirmed her nagging suspicion that she’d left something undone; one eye lacked mascara.

          Once, there had been no such thing as Leesburrow rush hour, unless you counted the rush of folks stampeding the stores in search of milk and bread whenever snow threatened. Five years earlier, the city could boast of little more than a block’s worth of touristy shops (which frequently changed hands due to lack of tourists) and a charming view of the Tennessee River – or what you could make of it through the mountains of kudzu swallowing the shoreline.

          However, with the city's urban renewal initiative and the arrival of Starbucks, Publix, and an organic farmer’s market, Leesburrow had become a haven for yuppies and hipsters alike. The city even cleaned up its waterfront, adding parks, a public fountain, multiple playgrounds, and a riverside walking trail to appeal to out-of-towners. These improvements in turn drew the restaurants, clothing boutiques, workout centers, and hair salons. Now tourists flocked the area in search of outdoor recreation and/or indoor pampering. City planners couldn't build condos fast enough.

          Kathy parked her car outside the Leesburrow Line office building and turned in her seat to get her umbrella. She’d grabbed it before leaving the house, but could only find Subway napkins, dried-up pens, and her sister’s Pez dispenser in the backseat. She must have left it in the hallway.

          Crap!

          Rain streamed down her driver-side window, and the last thing she wanted to do was sing in it. After shouldering her purse and psyching herself up for the thirty-meter dash to the entrance, Kathy flung the car door open and stepped into an unseen puddle, soaking her slacks past the ankle. “Argh!” She slammed the car door shut and accidentally caught part of her purse in it. Kathy jerked her handbag free, but at the cost of one of its pocket toggles. She trudged toward the office building like a resigned cat, occasionally shaking excess water from her extremities.

          Trailing wet footprints behind her, Kathy passed the main newsroom on the ground floor. Before heading up to her cubicle in the Leesburrow Line’s Community News Division/storage area, Kathy gazed at her former world through the round porthole in the door. Tall windows lined the far brick wall, framing yellow leaves against the moody gray sky. Her heart panged a bit when she saw news writers, copy editors, photographers, and IT staff dance around partitions with rough drafts and layouts in hand. Computers hummed, phones rang, and the smell of strong coffee beckoned from underneath the door.

The Community News floor on the next level suddenly seemed about as exciting as a doctor’s office. Safe, yes. Sanitary, yes. Dull?

          “Yes,” she murmured.

          “Kathy, is that you?” a voice called from above. The doctor himself.

          Kathy turned from the window and gazed up to the second floor landing. “Yes, Mr. Newman.”

          Her new editor stood akimbo and looked like he'd recently finished a glass of sugar-less lemonade. “Quit lollygagging and come up here. The press waits for no man.” He always said this when he had trouble finding a story. No news was bad news, so sometimes it had to be invented.

          Kathy plodded up the steps and yawned from behind her hand.

          “Late night?”

          “Dress rehearsal.”

          “Which explains why your article almost missed its deadline.” He slid coke-bottle glasses higher on his nose and straightened his stiff bow tie. “When I started in this business, my editor wouldn’t print an article unless it was on his desk by 5:00 pm on the dot. But now, people just email things minutes before the printers get going. If you ask me, the Internet is the number one contributor to mass laziness in this country – not to mention ignorance.”

          Kathy nodded and ignored her vibrating purse. Now was not a good time to check her phone.

          “Anyway,” he continued, “I put some story leads on your desk. Heard the circuit judge might be becoming a bachelor again, so it may be timely to write something on how to navigate the divorce process — tips on how to choose a lawyer and so on …” He followed Kathy into the office kitchenette.

          She filled her electric tea kettle as he listed his other topics for the week: healthy Halloween treats to stem childhood obesity, the mayor’s autumnal family traditions, how to burglar-proof your home (recycled topic), and a new lingerie shop opening across from Leesburrow’s oldest gynecologist practice.

          She made the appropriate “Yes, sir,” here and there, then zombied to her gray-walled cubicle, plopped onto her swivel chair, and eyed the blank computer screen. Only the click of her kettle announcing the arrival of hot water could snap her out of staring into the void.

To Be Continued ...

(C) 2018 Katherine Ladny Mitchell