In addition to my YA stuff, I'm working on an adult cozy mystery series starring Marty Melman, a 60-year-old curmudgeon inspired by my dad. For you mystery novices out there, a cozy mystery is usually set in a small town, where the murder and violence happen off stage. There's no swearing and no sex and nothing graphic. There's also a delightful cast of quirky characters and a slew of suspects. Cozies are more about the characters and the puzzle than the crime. It's escapist mystery for those who find Making a Murderer way too real (raises hand).
In this scene, Marty comes home from bike riding to find out a man he loathed (his daughter's ex) is dead. I'd appreciate any and all comments.
Geared Toward Murder
by Kimberly G. Giarratano
Marty put his key in the lock and opened the front door. The sun was dipping low in the sky, bathing the house in an orange light. It wasn’t late, but daylight savings time always had that way of blanketing the town in darkness before anyone was ready for it. Marty was grateful he wore his hooded sweatshirt. The mile ride home was far easier than the three miles he had ridden that morning. His rubbed his still sore rearend.
Marty tapped his sneakers against the door saddle, trying not to track in extra dirt that he would have to vacuum later. Now that Marty was on a forced retirement and home all the time, he was responsible for the housekeeping.
“Joanie? You home?” he said from the foyer.
“Marty is that you?” Joanie called from the living room.
“Who else would it be?”
“We’re in the formal living room,” she said, her voice shaky.
Marty dropped his wallet and keys into the ceramic catch-all bowl on the vestibule table before heading into the living room. They never used this room, except for company.
He halted at the sight of Jason, Miranda, and Joanie sitting on the beige Ethan Allen couches, wringing their hands. And some stranger. A man in his mid-30s with dark hair. He wore a suit and a navy tie with a pin.
Marty’s eyes flitted around. “What’s going on?”
Joanie leaped to her feet. She was still wearing her nurses uniform. “Where’ve you been? We’ve been worried. Your bike ride ended hours ago.”
Marty inwardly cringed. He thought about lying, but he was reading something in the situation that said this was serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly. “I went to see my dad.”
“I knew it!” Jason cried. “You owe me and Mom fifty bucks.”
“Not now, Jason,” Joanie barked.
“What’s going on?” Marty asked. “You’re freaking me out.”
The young man came forward and extended his hand. “I’m Detective Smalt. I came to speak with you about Dr. Gary Highhouse.”
Marty shook the young man’s hand. “What kind of name is Smalt?”
“Marty!” Joanie chastized.
“It’s fine, Mrs. Melman,” said the detective. “I get asked that a lot. My grandparents were British.”
“Oh,” said Marty. “So, not Jewish?”
The detective shook his head.
“Better luck next time,” Marty said, before taking a seat on the end of the sofa. “What’s this about High-louse?”
Miranda hissed, “Daddy.” Her eyes were red rimmed and puffy. “Gary’s dead.”
Marty’s eyes widened. “I just saw him.”
Detective Smalt withdrew a small notepad and pen from his suit jacket pocket. “When?”
Marty held his gaze on the detective who was poised to take notes. “This morning. He was at the Old Spokes ride. I don’t know, 9:50, I guess. The ride started at ten. What happened?”
“He had an accident on the trail,” Jason filled in.
“Well, it wasn’t an accident,” Det. Smalt pointed out. “Someone sabotaged his brakes. He took the curve too fast and …”
Miranda sobbed loudly. Marty put his arm around his daughter’s shoulders and tried to comfort her. “It’s okay, honey.” He gave Smalt a glare. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be out there trying to figure out who killed the guy?”
Smalt softened. “Witnesses say you and Dr. Highhouse weren’t on the best of terms. You were arguing this morning.”
“The guy was a two-timing louse,” Marty quipped.
“Marty!” Joanie hissed.
“May he rest in peace,” Marty finished. “Listen, I didn’t like the man. He hurt my Miranda a couple of years ago, but I wouldn’t kill him.”
The detective nodded. “Did you see him on the bike trail?”
Marty shook his head. “He said he was going to bring up the rear. I figured he’d get ahead of me.”
“Why’s that?” Smalt asked, pen paused.
“I’m out of shape,” Marty said glumly. “I’m not fast on the bike — yet. I assumed he’d pass me in no time. But he never did.”
“Witnesses said they saw Gary’s bike on campus, braced against the lamppost. Apparently, he ran into the academics building before getting back on his ride and getting on the trail.” Smalt looked pointedly at Marty.
“Well, I got on the trail immediately, pedaled a few miles, and then veered off toward the Assisted Living place. You can check the visitor’s log.”
“I will,” the detective said. “As a matter of procedure.”
“Right,” Marty answered drily. “Well, you have your work cut out for you.”
The detective rose from the couch and made his way into the foyer. “What’s that mean?”
Marty opened the front door for Smalt. “If his bike was leaned up against he lamppost outside, anyone could’ve had access to it.”
“I realize that,” said Smalt.
“Well, you’ll also realize that Gary wasn’t a good guy. I bet a lot of people wanted him dead.”
Smalt narrowed his eyes. “Including you?”
“You think I’m capable of murder?” Marty let out an exasperated sigh. “I’m a sixty-year-old Jewish man with a heart condition who just bike rode five miles today. I’m lucky I’m not dead.”
Marty waited for Smalt to climb into his unmarked police cruiser before shutting the door.