Retired from her life as an actuary, Zoe M. McCarthy lives near Richmond, Virginia and writes fulltime when she’s not teaching preschoolers as a children’s leader for Bible Study Fellowship International. She currently writes romantic suspense novels but has published two books of contemporary Christian short stories: Pearls in the Muddle and Crumbled, Tumbled, Humbled—Saved. She has given dramatic readings of her stories to Christian organizations, to community centers and libraries, and to young male prisoners. Her readers report they have used her stories for Bible studies, skits, devotionals, and for pure entertainment. Her books of short stories can be found at http://localtalentbooksmusic.com.
With the many interruptions to her already loaded schedule, when would she find the time to kill Rita?
Margo Kawalski let herself into the house, blocking the cat with one foot and balancing her grocery bag against the doorjamb. She squeezed inside without the cat, only to face Dick’s tennis bag abandoned next to the stairs, Tina’s coat slung over the banister, and Corky’s Rollerblades askew at the bottom step. Maybe she’d become a serial killer.
Margo tossed the No Sugar Added Fudgesicles and Hot Pockets into the freezer and stashed the bag of Oreos on the top rack in the dishwasher, where the kids wouldn’t find them. She needed every Oreo to make the dirt for the flowerpot dessert to wow their Dinners-of-Eight club Saturday night.
That brought her back to her problem. Rita had to be dead before Saturday night. She opened the can of peanuts she pulled from her shopping bag and leaned her elbows on the counter. She selected a peanut and studied it before popping it into her mouth. Maybe Rita was deathly allergic to something like peanuts. Lacing Matilda Henry’s coleslaw with peanut oil at the Women’s Mission luncheon on Thursday would be easy.
Rita always ate seconds of Matilda’s slaw. If the police discovered Rita had died of an allergic reaction, the investigators might believe it was an innocent mistake. What a brilliant idea. But what if someone else was allergic to peanuts? She didn’t intend to murder anyone other than that nasty, overbearing, gossipy Rita Dugwig.
Margo pounded her forehead on the counter. Time was running out. Maybe she’d have to go with stabbing, but it seemed so unnecessarily violent and messy. Where would you stab a body to make sure one stab finished the job? She touched her ribs. You’d probably drive a sharp knife upward, starting below the ribcage. She’d seen that on TV. She slid the chef’s knife out of the knife block. Not the butcher-like one, but the long one.
She grasped the handle and thrust the blade upward a few times into an imaginary Rita. It seemed too much knife, like she was going after Rita with an umbrella. It would also be harder to hide than a paring knife, but would a paring knife be long enough to do the job? She gathered the long knife, a paring knife, and a ruler then hurried from the kitchen. She stepped over Corky’s Rollerblades and without caution took the stairs two at a time to her office.
She had just Googled “stab wounds to the heart,” when the phone rang. Rats.
“Mom, I forgot my tennis shoes for cheerleading practice. Can you get them here really quick?”
Margo wondered if her peanut butter–hating daughter was allergic to peanuts. “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
In the car, Margo turned off the radio. She had to think. That miserable Rita had her breaking out in a sweat. Half the angst would be over if she could figure out the best way to get rid of her without getting caught.
If she did go with a knife, when and where would she stab Rita? Of course. Wednesday after handbell practice. Rita always stayed and put the bells away, claiming she was the only one who did it right. Wait a minute. If she whacked Rita on top of her head with the largest bell, would the police think it fell from the cupboard accidentally?
She pulled out her cell and thumbed numbers. “Sandy, am I glad you’re home. I’m ready to murder her.”
“Of course, Rita. She’s insufferable. No one can stand her. You remember what she did to Matthew.”
“I don’t think he’ll ever recover his reputation after the lies she spread about his embezzling when he served as a church teller.”
“But Matthew must recover, I’ll see to that. I think I’m in love with him, Sandy.”
“Margo! Someone may hear you and tell Dick.”
“I’m on my cell in the car.”
“Maybe it’s been tapped.”
“Enough, Sandy. I need you to help me with the murder.”
Sandy’s tone was cautious. “What kind of help?”
“I need you to help me figure out the best way to kill Rita.”
“In that case, how about drowning her in her bathtub?”
“Rita’s a big woman. She’d win in a struggle. I can’t see holding her underwater.”
“Her car brakes fail?”
“If I can figure out how to do that. Maybe . . .”
“Got to run, Margo.”
That night, Margo flipped pancakes to feed her family. When they entered the kitchen and spotted what she was fixing, they grumbled worse than the Israelites.
The murder was consuming her. She no longer had the presence of mind to take meat out of the freezer. Frozen meat. A frozen pork loin would make a mean weapon. Cook it up, serve if for dinner, and the weapon is gone.
“Mom, you’re burning the pancakes!”
Margo scraped black pancakes into the sink and started over. Why did the three of them have to sit at the kitchen table and stare at her with that hungry look in their eyes? Did they have an inkling she was planning murder? How, oh, how would she pull it off? She’d have to pray about it.
Corky turned to his father. “Dad, can we call rent-a-mom during Mom’s next book deadline?”