TUESDAY: Suitable Fate, Chapter 1

BY A. R. GROBBO

A. R. Grobbo is the author of the Gloria Trevisi Mysteries. This is an excerpt from the latest in the series. Copyright rests with the author.

GLORIA TREVISI LAMBERT stared down at the body that lay at the foot of the long flight of metal stairs leading from the dusty back alley to her upstairs apartment.

It wasn’t simply its presence that robbed her of breath and caused her heart to stop. It was its familiarity. Clutching two heavy grocery bags, she tried to think through the shock. Certainly she recognized the suit — but the person wearing it?

It was a man, a tall man with dark hair, fair skin…and a lot of blood to lose.  Oh, God…. “No, it’s not Tony,” she whispered. “It couldn’t be Tony.”

It was definitely not her husband, recently back in her life after a four-month absence. Of that she was certain, even though the face was mostly turned away, and what was visible was…well, unrecognizable. She backed away a step and crossed herself. A grocery bag dangled from her hand and bumped lightly against the infant carrier slung against her chest.

As for what he was wearing…. “Oh, shit.” She had taken that suit of Tony’s to the Goodwill in Kitchener a few days ago, along with several other items of clothing that he would no longer need. Appalled that he could discard an expensive, tailored masterpiece such as this one so casually, she had considered keeping it, just in case…what? In case he ran out of money for clothes? Not likely. But perhaps someone tall, broad-shouldered and extremely broke might get some use out of it, she reasoned. Someone, perhaps, with Tony’s coloring. The shade was rather becoming to a man with dark hair and grey eyes, like…. Were his eyes grey? She let out the breath she’d held for several seconds.

What should she do? Scream? Screaming was not her style; swearing was. And either way, she would wake her infant daughter, who slept peacefully against her chest in the canvas infant carrier.

It was too late to worry about waking Arianna; Gloria’s pounding heart likely was a drum roll next to her baby’s sensitive ear. She heard a slight whimper and felt tiny hands push against her chest. “It’s all right, Sweetie,” she breathed, patting the warm bulge under the canvas. “It’s not your daddy.” She swallowed to relieve the constriction in her throat.

Tell someone, an inner voice commanded.

How? The body was blocking her stairway. Should she simply step over it, climb the stairs to her flat, and phone the police from there? She lifted a foot…and took another step back. Her knees felt like jelly on toothpicks.

She took another breath and focused on tiny details that she might need to remember later. Yes, nearly as tall as Tony, but not tall enough, and shoulders a bit too narrow judging by the slackness in the jacket. The cuffs of the pants revealed shoes that were scuffed and worn down at the heels. The large hands were rough, and he wore no wedding ring; Tony always wore his. The hair was dark, nearly the same shade as Tony’s but shaggy and ill-groomed. To someone who did not know her husband as well as she did, it could have resembled him. An ugly thought gripped her; turning away finally, she forced a step, and then another, dropped the grocery bags and ran.

By the time she arrived at the busy main street and flung open the door to her cousin’s small bakery, she could barely stand.

“There’s a dead body on my stairs,” she said to the young woman behind the counter. Her voice shook, and she drew a hurricane breath. “He’s wearing Tony’s clothes. And I dropped my groceries in the alley. Loretta, will you hold the baby while I use the phone?”

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