Monday, February 13, 2023

"Broken Hearted Killers" - Chapter Twelve

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 E. B. Davis

“I don’t understand, Melody,” said Helen Hornsby, as she took cups of tea from the microwave. “Why would Ashley drop her children with you? I didn’t think you knew Ashley well.”

Melody held her head in her hands, elbows propped up on the breakroom table, staring at the tabletop. Helen patted Melody on her still trembling arm. After finding Betty August bashed over the head, Melody had dived into action calling the police from the stockroom.

The police arrived a few minutes later, got the rudimentary facts from the women, issued an AMBER Alert on the missing twins, and closed A Likely Story, getting the contact information from those customers remaining in the store. Betty was rushed to the hospital. She was still alive when the EMTs had loaded her into their ambulance. Although Helen didn’t know Betty well, she hoped the younger woman survived.

Detective Torres questioned Melody and Helen in detail. Helen made sure to mention that she’d seen Renee leave the store. It was now obvious that Renee and Betty knew each other. At Helen’s condo when Nella contacted Renee to have her check on Betty’s condition, Helen assumed they didn’t know each other. But now she realized that without an introduction, Renee had greeted Betty by name. Duh! Helen felt a half-step behind in the investigation race. But Iris, or perhaps just Renee, had implicated her. Helen had to clear her name.

Had Melody told Detective Torres of Renee and Betty’s discussion in her store? It was, after all, the last Melody had seen Betty before she was assaulted. But Helen couldn’t be sure what Melody had said because they were interviewed separately, and then Melody’s demeanor deteriorated. “Those kids were in my care….” Tears had run down Melody’s face.

Torres asked Helen to get Melody something hot and sweet to drink. While the police investigated the storeroom, Helen led Melody to the store’s small breakroom. She fished teabags and cups out of the cupboard, microwaved them hot, and brought both cups and a bear filled with honey to the table.

Melody took a sip of tea. She licked her lips. “To answer your question—I’ve known Ashley since she was a kid. Smart girl. She hung out here at the store to get away from home. The family who adopted her had money and drug issues, which is why she ended up with a jailbird as her ex.”

“I hadn’t realized,” said Helen, flipping the lid on the bear above her tea. How strange that both Ashley and Nella were adopted. Nella isn’t too much younger than Ashley. But Nella’s adopted family had good values and enabled her to get an education. How sad for Ashley. “Were you close?”

“I hadn’t seen her in years, until she started coming to the book group, but she trusted me. I gave her the books the group read because she couldn’t afford to buy them. I guess, like Iris, she took some out of the library.” Melody wrinkled her nose.

“How old is Ashley?”

“I think she’s thirty-six, why?”

All of the members of the Page Turners were old enough to be Ashley’s parents. Helen stirred the honey into the tea with a straw. “I wonder why a woman her age would be interested in a sixty-something man like Philip. What was so important about meeting up with Philip for her to have dumped her kids on you?”

 Melody shrugged. “She was looking for a man to protect her from her ex, but maybe it had something to do with trying to find her birth parents.”

Helen felt her eyebrows raise and quickly lowered them. “And?”

“I think she found her mother.”

“Who?” Helen raised her cup to her lips but didn’t sip.

“She wouldn’t tell me, but I will say she seemed mad as hell, a bit hurt, but mostly furious.”


“Ashley said her birth mother had plenty of money. She could have kept and raised her, but for some reason chose to put her up for adoption.” Melody slumped, pressing her back against the chair.

Detective Torres leaned into the doorway. “How are you feeling?”

“Better, thanks,” said Melody, with a nod of her head.

“Good news. We contacted the mother, Ashley. She took her children from your storeroom. She said she backed up to your loading dock and put her children in their car seats. She was rushed and forgot their stroller. We cancelled the AMBER Alert.”

Melody exploded up from her chair. “Why didn’t she let me know?”

“She claims to have written you a note and left it on your desk. We looked for it. Not there—at least we can’t find it.”

“That really ticks me off. I was so worried.” Melody clenched her teeth. Her knuckles were white, fingers bunched in a fist.

Torres shook his head. “I don’t blame you. I’d be angry, too.”

“Did she see Betty when she was in the stockroom?” Helen was curious about the timing.

“We’re going to interview her next. If she did, I think she would have mentioned an injured woman. I’m just glad the kids are okay.”

Helen wanted to diffuse the tension. “Yes, that’s the important thing.” She stood, wanting to go to the comfort of her home. It had been far too long of a day.

“Time for you ladies to go home. I’ll be in touch if I need further information.”

Helen and Melody parted outside the store. Anger still emanated from Melody, who got in her car, slammed the door, and zoomed away. Without a drive offer, Helen bundled her coat around her and walked. Buying a car might go onto the “must have” list. The night had turned gusty and cold.

Was Ashley avoiding Betty or Renee and didn’t want to come into the store’s public space? What if Iris was Ashley’s mother? Lionel and Iris never had children. Thirty-six years ago, Helen left Granite Falls. There was a gap in her knowledge of her high school friends—a six-year gap when she got her B.S. and Master’s, actually a five-year program via the Education Department. What had Iris been doing while Lionel and she were together? If the picture of Iris and Charles at the model train show was any indication, Charles could have been Ashley’s father. Perhaps that explained their murder and assault if Ashley was bent on revenge. Helen knew she was speculating based on what Melody had told her. Melody could easily have been Ashley’s mother. Who better to pass her children off to than to their grandmother? Maybe the animosity Melody claimed Ashley had for her mother wasn’t true. And yet now, Ashley might have stirred Melody’s ire without letting her know about the kids.

But then, there had to be a connection to Renee…she could be Ashley’s mother, too. And what if Ashley’s interest in Philip wasn’t to date him. Perhaps he was her father. Iris and Philip? Maybe Charles had arranged the adoption. Had Iris hidden her pregnancy from Philip? If he hadn’t known and found out through Ashley, could he have struck out in anger at Iris? The red envelope with Philip’s writing on it—not confirmation—but a definite connection.

But what of Betty? Renee?

Helen let out a frustrated sigh. Too many questions swirled in her head. When Helen turned the corner onto Quarry Street, out of the wind, the night fell silent. Tree limbs no longer screeched, bent to the wind’s will, and no leaves rustled against the sidewalk’s frictional surface. She released a breath and relaxed her shoulders.

What about the model trains at the crime scenes?

She heard footsteps behind her. Here she was, a woman alone walking in the dark, woolgathering, rather than being alert to her surroundings. The footsteps behind her quickened. She sped up, jogging as fast as a sixty-two-year-old could. A cold sweat broke out on her forehead. Would the lights of Oak Haven ever appear? Detective Torres had warned her, but his warning seemed lame. She couldn’t afford to be a half-step behind now. She had found the caboose—the end car. Would she be the next victim?

# # #

E. B. Davis’s short stories have appeared in many anthologies and online magazines, including Kings River Life and Mysterical-E Magazines. Look for “The Ice Cream Allure” a romantic mystery spoof contained in Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing. E. B. Davis’s “Compromised Circumstances” appeared in the anthology, Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays. “The Pearl Necklace” appears in the anthology, The Fish That Got Away. Carolina Crimes: Rock, Roll, and Ruin contains her short, “Stevie and Keith for the Save.” More stories and links can be found at She interviews authors and blogs at, and is a member of SinC, the SinC Guppy Chapter, where she serves as the Education Coordinator on the Steering Committee, SinC Chesapeake Chapter, SinC Triangle Chapter, and The Short Mystery Fiction Society.


  1. So glad the twins are safe, but now Helen may be in danger. Oh, my!

  2. I'm loving this story! So many twists. Can't wait to read the next installment.

  3. How do these adoptions and relationships weave into our mystery? Who is the culprit?

  4. I love how this is all coming together!

  5. Uh, oh! Poor Betty! Quite the body count racking up...

  6. love the twisted plot threads and what ifs.

  7. Wow, more twists. I need my own Murder Board to keep this all straight. Run Helen!!

  8. The suspense builds! Great chapter, Elaine.


  9. Thanks, everyone! I posted this on Facebook.

  10. Helen's inner dialogue and speculation really helps pull things together!