Flies swarmed lazily around the crumpled body lying on the kitchen floor. Shards of a broken mug and the stains of dried coffee were scattered about on the otherwise immaculately clean white tiles. A fair-sized pool of coagulated blood surrounded his head like a hellish halo and his green eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling.
Marie Dawson cleaned Arville Rainwater’s house every Friday. She let herself in the front door with the key Arville had given her nearly sixteen years earlier and set about tidying the living room before heading upstairs to do the bedroom and bathroom and get the laundry started.
Marie always suspected Arville kept her on because he was well aware of her financial circumstances. Things were tight since her husband died in Vietnam and the pittance of a pension she received as his widow wasn’t enough to keep body and soul together. She had taken the job of housekeeper a few months after Arville’s wife was killed in a tragic accident at Knighten’s Crossroads. Arville was naturally neat and needed a housekeeper like a pig needs lipstick, but he kept her on nonetheless. He used the excuse that he just didn’t want to be bothered with all the stuff and nonsense of running a house. He had a hardware store on Ladiga Street that kept him busy and when he threw his hat in the ring for the mayor’s job, and won it, he was left with even less time than ever.
With the wash going and the upstairs rooms finished Marie trundled herself down the stairs, humming some song she couldn’t remember the title of and thinking ahead of the other houses she would clean today. She hoped she would be home early tonight. Her grandson had promised to come by with his friend and take her out to dinner. She wanted to look extra special when she was out with them.
Marie is not a screamer. Never has been. That fact didn’t prevent a low moan in her throat as she gazed on the unexpected vision of Arville lying in a pool of his own blood. Her meaty hand grasped the door jamb in an effort to maintain her balance. She instinctively started toward the body but stopped short. She watched enough CSI to know she shouldn’t contaminate a crime scene.
“911, what is your emergency?” answered the flat voice that sounded as lifeless as Arville looked. “This is Marie Dawson. I’m at Arville Rainwater’s house and he’s dead as a hammer on his kitchen floor. Get someone over here right away!” Knowing there would be a rain of questions, Marie went out to the front porch and sat on the swing, wishing she had a glass of iced tea to calm herself. After about 5 endless minutes she heard the first siren coming from the direction of the Huddle House café a few blocks away. The sound gave her a sense of calmness, knowing help was on the way.
“He’s in the kitchen; I reckon I’ve seen enough death in my time to know he’s gone on to his reward, Pat.” Marie worked part-time as a Nurses Aide at the hospital before they closed it down. She had, in fact, seen much death on her weekend shifts.
More officers arrived and yellow “Crime Scene” tape was strung around Arville’s house and yards. The place was abuzz with activity. Marie couldn’t help getting the feeling that although all the police officers were busily running around and looking self-important, that none of them really knew what they were doing. It wasn’t like CSI. None of these people seemed to know about DNA and trace evidence and such-like. The coroner, Sam O’Brien, came to pronounce him dead and allowed the death was probably from natural causes. The blood pooled on the floor was caused by a blow to the table edge on his way down. “Probably a heart attack” Sam allowed.
As she made her way down the two blocks to her house, Marie was certain the coroner and police had missed something. Arville was healthy as a horse and took good care of himself. His last physical exam, not more than 4 months earlier had shown him to be in peak condition. She sure hoped that critical evidence wasn’t about to be dropped into a hole in Highland Cemetery…