Murder Feels Awful

By: Bill Alive

For Ceci

The best friend and proofreader ever. :)





PART I





Chapter 1

So I’m just going to start typing, because I can’t decide where to start. The dead woman flying the glider? Or when Mark first read my mind? Or maybe that crazy creeptastic first funeral?

This writing thing is hard.

But this story needs to be told. For the victims. For justice.

Plus, we both missed a lot of work time with this murder stuff. It’s not like our finances are dire, officially, but Mark said I could try this ebook thing if we used the money on the mortgage first.

Not that the mortgage is the worst of our problems.

Thing is, people really did die. Somehow, in made-up mysteries, that doesn’t seem to hit the characters much. Trust me, it’s a big deal.

In fact, spoiler alert, this all does get kind of dark. Like, not even just murder. Some things are worse than murder.

But … on the positive side … working with an empath is freaking amazing.

And you know what, that’s exactly where to start this. On that Saturday hike with Ceci, just before my mind exploded.

Not literally. That would be gross. Although that did kind of technically happen later … ugh … anyway …

It was one of those rare Virginia mornings in late August that are magically coolish instead of the usual broil. The point of our hike was to bask in the splendor of our gorgeous Shenandoah Valley, with the gentle, ancient hills rolling around beneath us in green late summer glory.

But Ceci had picked some new trail that turned out to have no views at all, just a scrabbly single-file path through skinny oaks and poison ivy. In the deepest shade, beside huge boulders, the air was cold and damp and tombish. Our voices echoed a little too loud, like kids squabbling in a graveyard.

“Not going to happen, Pete,” Ceci said, in her southern Virginia drawl that higher education and a nursing career have only partly tamed. She flicked me back a firm glance over her buff shoulder. “You are not moving in.”

This hurt.

My current lease was up in a couple days, and I needed new digs fast.

Dad was serious this time — “Son, it’s been a year since graduation, time to pay your own way, blah blah blah…” But how was I supposed to make the rent in the stupid four-room palace Mom had settled me in? And why was Ceci being like this? With our history…

“Don’t you want help with your mortgage?” I gasped. The gasp was only partly emotional — I had to sprint to keep up as Ceci jumped easily from rock to rock up yet another steep incline. My calves and thighs were starting to ache.

No, I’m not out of shape. In fact, I’m lean and wiry, sometimes misinterpreted as “skinny”. But these days, Ceci treats every minor excursion like some kind of Tough Mudder Triathlon.

By the way, “Ceci” sounds like ”sessy”, and it’s short for “Cecily”. Which has always struck me as super fancy and feminine for a woman who’s built like a linebacker (if the linebacker were five foot six and had a cute lopsided smile).

“Besides,” I pursued, “you’ve already got other housemates.”

She groaned, that special Ceci I-love-you-but-sometimes-I-wonder-how-you-even-know-how-to-talk groan. “My housemates are all women.”

“And?” I said, confused. It took me a second to process what she meant. “Wait, you mean, because I’m a dude? Really? Is this some Baptist thing?”

“I’m not Baptist!”

I flinched with remorse. I’m pretty good with details, but for some reason I can never remember the precise flavor of her denomination. Not Baptist, apparently.

“Sorry,” I said. “But we’re friends, Ceci. We have this magical complete lack of sexual attraction! We always have.”

Ceci stepped wrong on a pebble and lurched sideways. But she righted herself instantly. “It’s not that,” she said.

I don’t know why it wasn’t. She’s one of my best friends. We met our first week of college, back when she was a chubby freshman fifteener instead of this transmogrified Miss Muscle. Since then, we’ve been talking pretty much nonstop. We were probably brother and sister in another life. I’m serious. (I used to not believe in past lives, but in the last couple years I’ve really gotten a lot more spiritual.)