(this is an excerpt from my "woman sleuth" novel in progress if it makes u want to read more, let me know.)
After Charlie Gibbons death, my resolve to sleep without all-night radio went out the window. Charlie died of “unnatural” causes which called for an autopsy. You can bet they weren’t as tidy as Martha Stewart deboning a Thanksgiving turkey. Lying in a refrigerated box with a name tag attached to your toe is bad, but lying there with your innards in grave disarray, is gruesome.
All-night shrink Joy Brown’s callers were a welcome distraction. The first night, a caller said, “I left my husband five years ago but I can’t stop thinking about a packet of photographs I left in a drawer of the house. I want them back. I’m obsessed with it.” That sounded like the kind of senseless detail that would derail me for five years.
The answer was so obvious - call your ex and ask for them. The woman had remarried, had children but every day she was tormented by the photos and the simple act of asking her ex for them was beyond her. I plotted ways of retrieving the photos that was irrational but infinitely better than scaring myself with autopsy stills.
If I was having disturbing thoughts, I could bet Charlene was distraught. I didn’t want to intrude on her grief but it seemed sensible to put any investigation of Tiffany’s demise on hold.
The tragedy had the unexpected effect of improving my standing in the neighborhood. Given my new profession, women I barely knew called to re-hash Charlie’s death and its aftermath thinking I could shed some light on the police report. The comments ran to “ thank God, Charlene is well provided for ” “thank God there were no children.”
Women say “thank God, “ or “oh, my God,” to everything. The washing machine overflowed. “Oh, my god.” Ethel Merman died. “Oh, my God.” As for the Roxbury Commoners, few had any thought of the deceased. It was all about Charlene who, as everyone was thinking, had been left a very, very rich woman. Figures of several million were thrown around.
The official line, that no one dared cross, was that the death was accidental. Even a hint of something more sinister made Charlene ballistic and no one wanted to antagonize the millionairess. Charlie, Charlene had said, often rested in the car a few minutes after the stressful rush hour drive home. Apparently that day he had dozed off and neglected to turn off the motor. Freaky but true.
Teneca, in a rare mood of sharing had said, “Yeah? How come he didn’t forget to close the garage door? There are three possibilities as to what happened: suicide, suicide, and suicide.” No law said the widow couldn’t believe it was accidental but on the record, it was suicide.
My own insights supported neither theory but to express them was to risk being thought crazy or worse. There were details that didn’t make sense. A self-made man rooted in strict Catholic conservatism wouldn’t choose brand new Ferregamo tasseled loafers for his suicide outfit. Charlie would have opted for black brogues or wing tips as better suited to the occasion. Charlie Gibbons still wore a hat and vest; jaunty tasseled loafers were an act of rebellion against his own somber nature. A declaration that he was seeing the future as more fun than the past.
Four days after they buried Charlie, I met the maid Rosalia in the supermarket and she related information that complicated my puzzlement one hundred fold. The millionairess widow, it turned out, was four months pregnant. By some peculiar extra sense that is probably invaluable for this job, I knew that Charlie Gibbons was not the father.
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