Book title: The Tell All
Series: Locust Point Mystery
Author: Libby Howard
Genre: Cozy mystery
~ Blurb ~
Life at sixty isn’t quite what Kay Carrera expected. She’s working as a skip-tracer for a PI who is desperate to land his own reality TV show. She has a new roommate who arrived with more than the usual amount of baggage. And her attempts at knitting are less than stellar – way less than stellar. Worse, the cataract surgery that restored her sight has also delivered an unexpected and disturbing side-effect. Kay sees ghosts. And when the dead turn to her for help, she just can’t say no.
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~ Excerpt ~
I’ve mourned my husband twice. Once after the accident that took away the man I’d married. The second time when the stroke took away a man that I’d grown to love—the one who, up until he died, still held random shards of his original self.
Twice. But I’d never had time to mourn the loss of myself until now. How many lives do we go through in the course of one? By my count, I’d had three so far and was beginning my fourth. This fourth, it was the one that scared me the most, the one I felt most unprepared to face. My fourth life—my new life, where there were no clear markers to help me decide my path or the course of my future.
“What do you think I can get for it?” I asked Carson. The words lodged in my throat like boulders that needed to be jackhammered before rising to the surface.
Our home. No, it was my home now. Still, the best memories I had were of when it was ours. Every beam and post held a story. They were imbedded deep into the plaster, reminding me of the past—both good and bad. I hated to sell this place.
Maybe it was for the best. The thought of remaining in this house for the rest of my life, waking every morning alone to the same walls that had seen so much…. Let someone else take my place here, meld their own experiences with the thirty-five years of our own.
Though the thought of living somewhere else was just as depressing. More so, actually. Some little apartment where I could hear the footsteps of the tenant upstairs? Escaping the past and launching myself into a new life in a tiny, inexpensive apartment wasn’t something I relished. I didn’t want to leave. I wasn’t ready. But there was a mortgage, and I was painfully aware that I couldn’t make the payments—at least not for long. With my new job, I might be able to manage a few months, but after that I’d be on the path to foreclosure. Better for me to list it now and leave with my chin up then be pried from my beloved home by sheriff’s deputies and an eviction notice—which would be even more humiliating because I knew those sheriff’s deputies. Sell. Like a butterfly emerging from my cocoon, fly free and leave it all behind. And fly away to some cheap, dingy one-bedroom that reeked of old smoke and onions.
I was about to sell my home—our home. Lord, how could I ever sell our home?
“Are you sure, Kay?”
Carson had been my friend for decades. The freelance research work that he’d thrown my way over the last ten years had kept me from losing my mind. He’d kept me sane by asking me to do property title searches as well as find copies of deeds, and other documents buried under mounds of courthouse files. Our friendship was more than just the occasional odd bit of work, though. We’d been buddies in college, but after graduation, when we’d gone on to careers and marriage, our camaraderie had turned into more of a couples friendship with dining out, wine festivals, and charity fundraisers. It was friends like Carson that I cherished—the ones who hadn’t abandoned me when I had needed their support the most. His wife, Maggie, had kept me going with casseroles while Carson had provided moral support through those dark years.
“No, I’m not sure. I don’t want to leave just yet, but I can’t afford to stay here.” I winced, hating to tell Carson the sordid details of my finances. “The insurance policy took care of the funeral and the remaining medical bills, but I can’t swing the mortgage on my salary.”
The house had once been paid off, but after the accident, we’d needed to take out a mortgage to pay the medical bills, then a second mortgage to help pay the first. Then the 401k had been gobbled up with early withdrawals. I was in so far over my head that I doubted I’d clear anything after the sale, even with Carson kindly waving his seller’s commission.
“Can you take in some roommates? One or two would cover the mortgage and give you time to think about what you want to do. I hate to see you sell this place, Kay. It’s beautiful. It’s the house you and Eli had always dreamed of having, the one you both wanted to grow old in.”
It had been our dream house—a huge three-story Victorian on a quiet street. I’d fallen in love for the second time in my life the day I saw it. The gingerbread trim, porches, thick wood baseboards and coffered ceilings—it was magical. It was also too big for two people. We’d intended to fill it with children, but life took another turn and five of the six bedrooms had remained empty. It was too big for two people, and it was definitely too big for one, but I wasn’t sure I could expose my raw emotions and precious memories to a roommate who would leave dirty dishes in the sink and muddy shoes on the foyer carpet.
“Look, I know someone who is searching for a place. It’s very hush-hush, so I don’t want to name any names unless you’re interested. He’s getting ready to go through a messy divorce and needs somewhere that doesn’t look like a bachelor pad so he can push for fifty-fifty custody.”
“Please tell me he’s not one of the people in that sex scandal?”
That would be the sort of thing that led to a messy divorce. It seemed a Madam—and I mean that with a capital ‘M’—had gotten herself arrested earlier this week. Not a big deal unless you considered that Locust Point was a tiny town. That sort of thing would have even been shocking in nearby Milford, but here in Locust Point where everyone knew everyone, it was the topic of every conversation. Caryn Swanson. Attractive, immaculately groomed, party-and-wedding-planner Caryn Swanson. What a scandal.
If having a woman you were likely to run into at the grocery store turn out to be a Madam wasn’t enough, there was the juicy speculation on who her clients were. And a Madam meant there were prostitutes. Prostitutes. In Locust Point. We were all eyeing each other, wondering who had been doing a bit of side work with Caryn. But so far the woman kept her lips tightly sealed. No named prostitutes. No incriminating black book. Just a resounding claim of innocence from her lawyer. I had no doubt those coral-pink lips would become unsealed once a plea bargain was on the table.
A Madam in Locust Point meant johns in Locust Point, and I didn’t like the idea of having a man who might have solicited prostitutes living in my house.
Carson laughed. In fact, he laughed until I thought he might pass out. “Uh, no. I’m not saying this guy is beyond having an affair—I’m not privy to the details of his divorce. But there’s no way that he’s getting his loving from prostitutes. No way.”
I was willing to take Carson’s word for it. But beyond having a morally bankrupt sex-crazed guy living with me, I had other objections. “He has kids? I’d probably be okay with the occasional overnight, but fifty-fifty custody?”
I hadn’t been around kids often in the last ten years, and really not much before that. Our friends tended to be childless, or the type who got babysitters when we all went out to eat.
“They’re not infants, Kay. His kids are teens. They’ll probably play loud music and spill chips all over their rooms, but you wouldn’t have to deal with crying babies, and at most they’d only be here half the time. This place is huge. It’s not like you don’t have the space. Plus, he’s looking for a two-year lease. It would give you money to help with the mortgage, and time to think about what you want to do.”
With the rest of my life. It was the unspoken finish to his speech. I didn’t care about loud music or snack foods. There wasn’t anything two teens could do that two hundred years of families hadn’t already done to this house. It was built for more than one person, but could I cope with sharing my home with three strangers after so many years of just Eli and me?
~ About the Author ~
Libby Howard lives in a little house in the woods with her sons and two exuberant bloodhounds. She occasionally knits, occasionally bakes, and occasionally manages to do a load of laundry. Most of her writing is done in a bar where she can combine work with people-watching, a decent micro-brew, and a plate of Old Bay wings.