A Home Crafting Mystery
That Thursday morning had been going so well until I found
the local handyman dead on my workroom floor. Walter lay on his
back, twisted to one side. His right hand was pressed to his throat.
The left clenched the chambray work shirt in front of his heart.
Streaks of moisture along the cuffs and in uneven splotches down
the front darkened the blue of the shirt’s fabric. I recognized the
signature yellow suspenders first, then the gray hair pulled back
into a ponytail.
Staring down at the ruin of his face, I covered my mouth with
one hand. His eyes were squeezed shut and his lips drawn back in
a horrific grimace. The interior of his open mouth was inflamed
and raw. His teeth, now a disturbing shade of dark gray, jutted
from what remained of his gums, and angry blisters welled on his
chin and jaw.
My gaze shifted to the open doorway, to where the sun had
finally pried its way through the clots of gray sludge above. The
Japanese maple in our backyard blazed incandescent orange
against the evergreens along the neighbor’s cedar fence. A chicka-
dee called through October air so crisp it would have crunched if
you bit into it …
Then I remembered to breathe. A long, shuddering inhala-
tion, and the oxygen hit my brain. Practicality surfaced through
my horror, and I spun and ran up the interior stairs to the main
part of the house. Through the kitchen and the foyer to Meghan’s
massage room, where I burst in without thinking. Thank God her
client was still dressed. Meghan’s eyes widened.
“Call 911,” I said.
She dropped an armful of white towels onto the massage table.
“Walter’s dead in the basement. Call 911.”
She nodded and went through to her office for the phone. As
she called out to the client that she’d have to reschedule, I turned
and ran back downstairs. I’d never been more grateful for Meghan’s
no-nonsense approach to things than I was at that moment.
Back in my workroom, I leane