Mystery killing -Prologue

Friday, June 10

Nora Mae Gallagher, nee Covey, wasn’t liked. Not really.
Oh there were those in Covey Pointe (as in Nora Mae Gallagher nee Covey) who did their best to pretend. They went out of their way at social functions to make room for the eighty-two year old retired school teacher at their tables, they picked up her check at restaurants, they fussed over her, even going so far as to agree with her every word at Board of Directors meetings. But once out of earshot, the citizens of Covey Pointe put on quite a different face. But then, the fact was plain and simple. Nora Mae Gallagher nee Covey was a bitch. But, I digress.
Nora Mae stood staring at the Atlantic Ocean through the window above her kitchen sink.  There was a storm moving in. From her location atop Covey Hill, Nora Mae had a breathtaking view of the Atlantic. Her colonial style home faced west, and to her way of thinking, she had the best of both worlds. She could sit on her back patio each morning, taking in the sweet fragrances from the well tended flower gardens behind her home, and quietly sip coffee while watching the sun come up over the ocean. Each evening she would retire to her oversized rocker on the front porch, settle down with a pot of tea, and watch the sunset.
As Nora Mae waited for the kettle to boil, the lightening become more intense, and the heavy rain began. If it were a typical June storm, it would move in fast, hit hard, and move out as quickly as it had come. By morning the only signs of a storm would be the wet pavement, a few puddles, and the occasional plastic trash bin someone had carelessly left curbside.
It had been a long day. Nora Mae was more than ready to take a pot of tea and retire to her room. If she hadn’t given her live-in maid Tess McMurray the weekend off, she’d already be curled up, deep in the latest Joan Hess mystery, not standing here in her night gown and bare feet doing menial labor.
She had exhausted herself earlier that evening ruling over yet another Board of Directors meeting. Half-heartedly she had listened to Colin O’Banyon, the Director of The Oceanographic Center for Exploration And Nautical Research (OCEAN), do his best to convince the Board of their need for more funding. The funds, he said, were to be applied to the second half of the dive of OCEAN’s latest project, a Revolutionary War battleship which had gone down on the shoals northeast of Covey Pointe.
She had to give O’Banyon credit. He had actually shown some backbone. Having watched him grow up, she had been fortunate enough, to her way of thinking, not to have had him in one of her classes.
The Board of Directors had been split on their vote for funding. As Chairman of the Board, the deciding vote fell to Nora Mae. O’Banyon pled over and over for the funding, stopping just short of begging. While Nora Mae believed in the project, after all her great-great-great grandfather had been the decorated Revolutionary War hero Colonel Archibald Covey, she was just spiteful enough to deny O’Banyon the funding to complete the task. After more than an hour of being subjected to charts and copies of research data being flashed on the screen, Nora Mae had had enough.
“You’ll get more funding for this over my dead body. The answer is still NO! Meeting adjourned.”
Nora Mae stood and gathered her things to leave. O’Banyon stood across the table from her, eyes glaring. “If that’s the way you want it!” he said, then turned and stormed out of the board room to go his office.
A heavy clap of thunder drew Nora Mae back. She shivered as she listened to the rain pelting her kitchen window. She caught a glimpse of a shadow outside on her lawn, then heard persistent knocking at her back door.
‘Who in the world,’ she wondered, ‘at this hour and in this weather?’
Nora Mae peeked through the curtains covering the window of the back door. She couldn’t believe it. They had to be crazy to come out on a night like this. Given the fact that she had made her point perfectly clear earlier, she knew her visitor could only want one thing.
“What?” Nora Mae snipped, as she opened the door.
“I know it’s late. Couldn’t we just talk?”
The visitor edged a foot in the open door and pushed. Tall and healthy, the un-welcomed company easily had the advantage over Nora Mae’s four foot ten slender frame.
Nora Mae turned and moved to her kitchen fireplace, wrapping her arms around herself. She was grateful for the warmth the small blaze was giving off. Her night visitor followed, also grateful for the warmth. The unexpected shower had chilled to the bone on the walk up Covey Hill.
“I made myself clear earlier. What did you think I would do, change my mind once I’d had time to come home and think about it?”
“It’s like I told you, it’s not for me, it’s for…”
Nora Mae’s temper matched that of the boiling water in the tea kettle.
“I told you no already. And don’t start anymore of that sniveling, whining, piss-ant begging. I’ve heard more of that than I have the stomach for. You’re still the same little mousy coward you always have been. You showed more backbone earlier than I dreamed you had in your whole body. The answer then was no, and the answer now is no. You’ll get more money over my dead body!”
The whistling kettle screamed, breaking the silence. Nora Mae smirked, her toothless grin setting the visitors already raw nerves on edge, and then turned her back.
“If that’s the way you want it!”
The first blow cracked Nora Mae’s skull like a ripe melon. The next five were quite unnecessary, but the hand welding the fire place poker seemed unable to stop the rage.
Slowly reason began to take hold. The visitor stepped to the sink and rinsed the blood from the poker down the drain. Using a tea towel, all visible fingerprints were erased and the poker gently returned to the stand by the fireplace. Turning the fire out from under the kettle, the back door was opened, and Nora Mae’s visitor stepped into the pouring rain, silently pulling the door closed.
With a smile of confidence, the visitor turned and walked slowly through the rain across the lawn and into the night, the tea towel still in hand, being washed clean by the rain.
Inside, Nora Mae Gallagher nee Covey lay sprawled at an awkward angle, sightless eyes gazing out into nothingness, as the pool of blood under her head quickly grew.


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