Wednesday, February 8, 2023

"Broken Hearted Killers" - Chapter Seven

The following blog entry is one chapter in “Broken Hearted Killers,” a serial novella written by 16 Writers Who Kill. To read the complete story, please begin with Chapter One, published on the WWK blog on February 2, 2023.

By Nancy Eady

Helen sat quietly in Nella’s Toyota Hybrid, watching the scenery as they drove towards downtown and Charles Fairweather. The oaks, elms, and maples formed canopies that dappled the outsides of the stately mansions with shifting shade as the wind teased through the leaves restlessly. She could see from the way a few of the younger saplings carried a sprinkling of color that the fall foliage explosion would arrive in the next couple of weeks. Unlike the newer end of town where the Walmart, the Oak Haven towers and other apartment complexes and trailer parks abounded, downtown Granite Falls resisted change with a chip on its shoulder. Even downtown, with its smattering of eateries, one drug store, Turner’s hardware (in business since 1879, thank you very much), the police station and buildings subdivided into offices for accountants, lawyers, doctors, and insurance agents kept the turn of the century charm intact. With one exception—the County Courthouse, a five-story Fifties’ monstrosity. Helen was never sure if the county commission at the time it was built was thumbing its nose at the old monied families who believed it was their God-given right to run the town, or if it had honestly believed the courthouse was an improvement. 

After Detective Torres had left the towers, Nella reluctantly concluded it was time for her to go to work. Helen imagined Iris lying dead on the floor, the award beside her covered in blood. Uncomfortable at being alone, she asked Nella to give her a lift so she could see if Charles was available. After all, he might not yet know about Iris and Betty had suggested that Helen call him.  

Nella pulled up to Charles’ office. “Are you sure you don’t want me to wait for you?” she asked. 

Helen shook her head. “No, since I didn’t make an appointment, I’m not sure how long I’ll have to wait. I’ll come by your office once I’m done if that’s okay. It’s only a couple of blocks away.” 

“No problem,” Nella said, dropping Helen off and pulling away. 

The heavy oak door quietly closed behind Helen as she entered the waiting room for the office of Charles Fairweather, Attorney at Law. Since Charles had technically retired, he no longer kept a receptionist, depending instead on a bell to alert him when people entered his office. The simple three-room office had the entry way, a records room, and Charles’ office, along with a back door into a center hallway that was shared by several offices. As she heard the bell ring announcing her arrival, she also heard a soft snick, the sound of a door closing. 


When no one answered, she tentatively walked toward the office. As she drew closer, she heard another sound, labored breathing in the room she was approaching.

“Charles, are you there?” Still receiving no answer, she pushed open Charles’ office door, which was ajar, then froze. 

Charles Fairweather lay on the floor of his office, unconscious, his silver hair mottled with red and a bloodied trophy lying beside him. In that moment of shock, she noticed a copy of Howard’s End by E.M. Forster open, but lying face down on his desk, as if he had been interrupted while he was reading. For some reason that detail shook her out of her shock. At least he was breathing. His best chance would be for her to get help to him quickly, since she knew nothing about First Aid and didn’t have anything to work with anyhow. As she reached the telephone on the credenza behind his desk, something beside the phone also caught her attention—a miniature train identical to the one Renee had shown her earlier that morning.

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Why I wrote what I wrote: I have lived in several small towns like Granite Falls and wanted us to move outside of the apartment complex, where we'd been for a few chapters, and get a better feel for what was in the town. Small towns, especially, their downtown areas have interesting quirks you never expect.