Sharon McCone Mystery Series by Marcia Muller
The row of Victorian houses loomed dark in the early June fog. I put my hand on the cold iron railing and started up the stairway from the street. As I pushed through the overgrown front yard, blackberry vines reached out to tear at my clothing.
Strange, I thought, that there were no lights. The houses were under renovation, but surely Jake would have brought a flashlight to the one where he had asked me to meet him.
I went up the marble porch steps and felt for a doorbell. Nothing. Finally I got out my pencil flash and shone its beam around the leaded-glass doors. The bell hung on wires, broken. I started to knock, and the door swung inward.
I paused in the high-ceilinged vestibule. There was no sound. Maybe my friend had gotten tired of waiting; I was later than Iâ€™d said I would be. I decided to see if heâ€™d left me a note.
I went through an arch and crossed the parlor toward the back of the house. Behind it was another room with an ornate fireplace, and beyond that another archway and blackness. I stepped through the archway and waited for my eyes to become accustomed to the dark. When they were, I inched toward a faintly outlined door at the rear. My foot hit something soft.
The back of my neck prickled. I turned on the flash again. It went out. I punched the faulty switch harder and shone the beam down, at the floor. At a manâ€™s prone body.
I recoiled, my heart pounding.
â€œJake,â€ I whispered. â€œOh, no. Jake!â€
Even at a glance, even in this light, I could tell my friend was dead. He lay on his side in what common sense told me must be blood. Only it didnâ€™t smell like blood.
My fingers clutched the flash. I stood for a moment, several moments. It seemed like hours. Finally I knelt and dipped my finger into the pool of liquid. It was thick and sticky. Paint. Bright-red house paint.
I straightened, wiping my finger on my jeans before I realized what I was doing.
â€œOh, Jake,â€ I said, louder. My words echoed in the cavernous room, and then the old house enveloped me in ponderous silence. From outside came the bellow of foghorns on San Francisco Bay.
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|Epub||May 30, 2020|