On Fridays I’m going to share a chapter a week from one of my books. The first book is Souls Lost. If you wish to purchase it to read faster, you can find it at your favorite retailer. Find chapter 1 here.
Taran worked the whole street, knocking on doors at the not-so-uniform brick and wood homes, talking to everyone through the long afternoon and into the evening. He’d gone back and forth, catching those who weren’t home when he’d first canvassed. He had a pile of notes to finish and he’d do that in the morning, maybe.
His shirt was wet with sweat and his belt dragged at him, making him feel like he was wading through a swamp. True to the swamp analogy, the mosquitos had found him, and he was slapping and swatting which worked up even more of a sweat.
As darkness began to fall, he heard televisions come on and saw lights shine in living rooms. His stomach began to complain about being ignored all day. Taran settled into the cruiser and headed around down the road to the single fast-food offering in Corbin Meadow. The McDonald’s had stood in the same place since he’d been a child, had probably stood there since his father had been a child.
Once back at home, Taran settled himself at his kitchen table, an ancient Formica and chrome thing that he’d inherited from his parents, an act that had made his older brother laugh with relief because apparently his momma had been trying to unload the table on him and his wife was having none of it. Taran didn’t care because while the white top was scuffed and a piece broken off at the corner, it had held up surprisingly well, all things considered. It was large enough to hold his extra value meal along with the notebook. The only sounds in the room were his chewing and the soft swish each time the pages turned.
The air conditioner had done its work earlier, cooling the place to a bearable temperature, although Taran was tempted to turn the thing back on to make the air move. It was stuffy even though it wasn’t warm. The table itself sat beneath a vent where the cool air would have felt good against his still moist skin. A shower would be up next.
Around him the kitchen was silent, the cream-colored refrigerator making the occasional fart or burp and then nothing. The brown wooden cupboards stared at him with their too narrow handles, which, like the narrow width of a tie, consigned them to an era long past. Even the countertops were a beige that came from an era before Taran had ever been born.
Like most houses in Corbin Meadow, at least north of Main Street, his home had been built back around nineteen forty. South of Main Street the oldest of the homes, some of which dated back to the nineteenth century, still stood, narrow things that had once had large yards but during a decade of growth the yards had been subdivided, and homes decades newer squished in between.
Then there were the shacks that looked more ancient than the mountains themselves, huddled on the hillsides up roads that went nowhere and often ended abruptly. No one knew how many times some of those shacks had been rebuilt. Taran’s first wife, Kay, had grown up at the bottom of one of those hills in a house that had been built around the time she was three, which had been a big deal then, given where it was placed. Now many of the shacks had converted to trailers and manufactured homes, single or double wide, depending upon the size of the family and how flush they’d been feeling when they bought their new place. Lower on the mountain, where Kay had grown up, there were even a number of detached homes like hers, never huge and not always tidy, but more than the shacks that looked ready to fall down the day they were put up.
Taran finished his Big Mac and picked at his fries while he read the notes. He could have summed everything up in one sentence: no one saw anything. If he was feeling verbose he could add that no one had heard anything either. In fact, had Mary Jo and Louella not gone looking for her, Elaine could well have laid there in her yard for weeks before anyone noticed they hadn’t seen her. Except the library patrons, Taran corrected, none of whom seemed to live on her street.
Taran closed the notebook, a slight slap against the table. He leaned back, taking a long swing of his sweet tea, thinking.
Like the other women who had been murdered two years and more ago, Elaine was a professional women. She cared about Corbin Meadow. She wasn’t particularly politically active but she was known. She held a position of authority. Was there some man in the tiny town who had a hatred for successful women?
Taran knew he’d be naïve to think that there weren’t any men in town who resented powerful women. Like so many towns in the area, Corbin Meadow had been hit hard when jobs making furniture had been cut and shipped overseas. Even factory furniture had to have workers to finish and to run the factory. Corbin Meadow had done mostly hand-crafted items but a number of residents had commuted down to larger places where they worked in small factories.
While they’d never been rich on the slopes of the mountains, they’d been comfortable enough, Taran knew. His father had been one of the furniture makers. The loss had been a blow. His dad had retrained in IT, something he hated but which he did. He still had carpentry tools in the garage and when Taran and Kay were married, he’d talked about building them their own furniture by hand. Kay had taken the dining room table with her.
His father hadn’t bothered to build anything for him, so Taran had gone to Hickory and raided the Goodwill for most things and drove around picking up Craigslist items. Seeing the mishmash of furniture he was amassing, his momma had donated the old kitchen table to him.
Taran got up and walked across the cracked vinyl flooring and down the hall, where the beige carpet was only a few years old, having been replaced just before Taran had purchased the house. Kay would never have lived there in a million years, but it was what he had purchased after selling their nicer home to give her half in the divorce.
The tub-shower combo was clean and neat, the white tile now a dull gray white. Sit might not be pretty but the water pressure strong enough to relax his back and the shower head high enough to hit him above the chest. Someday he’d put it on the ceiling, Taran thought, a thought he always had stepping into the shower.
Why was Elaine killed two years after the others?
Had someone left town or been arrested and was now back?
As small of a town as Corbin Meadow was, he should know if someone had left and returned. But the only person who had come back to town lately had been Zoe Mason-Hyer Parker. It was unlikely that Zoe was the killer, although she’d been visiting her momma before her death. If memory served, she’d had to turn around in Chicago to fly back to North Carolina, having made it only halfway home before she’d heard the news, but she was a link. Taran resolved to talk to her in the morning.
Chapter 7 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.