This Old Homicide: A Fixer Upper Mystery Book Excerpt - Chapter 1
“Hello, Jesse? Are you here?”
There was no response, and to be honest, I didn’t feel his presence in the house. So maybe he’d gone away for the week. But he’d always told me when he was going anywhere for any length of time so I’d be sure to keep an eye on his house.
Even though I didn’t feel his presence—and didn’t that make me sound like some psychic nut job?—I was still determined to check all the rooms. If he wasn’t home, fine. But what if he’d fallen and couldn’t get up? I needed to make sure.
From the foyer, I turned left and tiptoed down the hall to the last room on the right, which I knew was his bedroom. On the way, I took a quick peek inside the other two bedrooms—one of which was his office—to check for him. By the time I reached his bedroom, I was sorry I’d been so eager to nd him. Every room was a mess, with dresser drawers opened and clothing tossed everywhere. Even the sheets on the bed had been dragged off and were lying on the floor.
His office was a disaster, too, with the rug pushed back against the wall and the contents of his desk drawers emptied onto the hardwood floor. I had to watch where I stepped to avoid slipping on something. Had he been searching for something? He must’ve been in one heck of a hurry to leave things scattered everywhere without picking it all up.
I’d visited him countless times over the years and I’d never seen anything like this. Jesse was
like an uncle to me and he was one of my father’s closest friends. We used to get together all the time for barbecues and neighborhood parties. He didn’t go in for grilling much; he generally left that manly chore to my dad. But whenever it got cold and damp, Jesse would whip up a batch of his world-famous chili or, on the rare occasion, a big, rich chicken stew. Both were his specialties, and he’d invite the whole block over for a bowlful, served with his delicious corn bread muffins.
On those occasions, his rooms were as neat and clean as could be. Jesse had spent much of his adult life in the navy until he retired almost twenty years ago, so to say he kept things shipshape around here was an understatement.
But as I looked around now, the only ship this place brought to mind was the Titanic. I didn’t realize what a slob he’d turned into.
I felt instantly guilty for thinking those thoughts. Maybe I wasn’t being fair. Maybe he’d grown depressed lately. That possibility broke my heart, but it could explain the mess. I made a mental note to call Jane as soon as I got home to see if there was some way to help him get through this bad patch.
I returned to the foyer and turned left to go to the kitchen. “Jesse? Are you here?”
He wasn’t. But there was more of the same disarray in this room, with drawers pulled open and utensils and kitchen gadgets strewn across the counters and the floor. Cupboard doors were open, the contents shoved to the side or swept haphazardly onto the floor.
I scowled at the mess. Something was really wrong. If this was a sign of depression, Jesse needed help immediately.
But Jesse wasn’t depressed; I knew it in my gut. It wasn’t in his nature. No, this mess looked more like a desperate hunt to find something and he didn’t care if he left a disaster in his wake.
“Jesse?” I called again, more urgently this time. I headed for the small den off the kitchen, where he liked to watch television. And that was where I found him. He was sound asleep on the couch with one arm dangling over the edge.
“Jesse!” I hurried across the room, so filled with relief that I forgot about the mess and everything else. “Thank goodness you’re here. Don’t be mad that I came into your house, but I was worried.”