The Homeowner's Handbook for Murder
by F. J. Kemp
Trinity Ridge is cursed. The first family to settle on the ridge perished in a bloody massacre and the land has been untouched for over a hundred years, guarded by the descendants of those who survived the tragedy, until Henderson Construction decided it would be the perfect site to build an exclusive gated community...
Years later, Elaine Wilson is sleeping alone on her first night on Trinity Ridge when someone reports a dead body using the phone inside her house. Now her husband is missing and the police think he's a killer, but Elaine is worried he's another victim.
Elaine doesn't know who to trust. She is harassed by the local Sheriff, stalked by a Peeping Tom and her Homeowner's Association is full of strangers. She's fighting for her husband and her home, but maybe those things she's trying to save are the things Elaine should fear the most...
The pounding knock threatened to shake the front door from its hinges. Disoriented and tangled in a bed sheet, Elaine pitched toward the sound through the darkness, kicking over the labyrinth of moving boxes in the bedroom, feeling with her hand along the walls.
“Ah!” she cried, doubling over as she ran into the dining room table. In their infinite wisdom, the movers had left it blocking the hall. Elaine scrambled over the polished top, clutching the sheet to keep it around her, and stumbled to the front door.
“Someone better be dead,” she yelled and the hammering stopped. The door vibrated like a tuning fork, raining down drywall dust that settled in the back of her throat.
“Police!” a deep voice shouted from the other side.
Elaine toggled each light switch in the row by the door. Nothing happened. She peered through a glass panel, but all she could see were the sweeping arcs of a flashlight and the jumping shadow of the man who held it. “The power’s out,” she told him.
“The whole street is dark. Open up. Police.”
She caught a glimpse of his face as he turned toward her. His features looked hard in the white glare of his flashlight. “Prove it,” she said, and pulled the sheet tight around her, tying a knot. Why hadn’t she unpacked her clothes? The clearly labeled boxes were stacked in the wardrobe, underwear at the very top.
The man pointed his light through the glass at Elaine. “What was that, ma’am?”
Did he think calling her ma’am would convince her he was a cop? “I’d like to see some ID.”
He dug for it and pressed a laminated card against the glass. She could barely see it, let alone read it. “I’m Deputy Harper, and this is Deputy Trenton.” A second shadow shifted outside the door. “We’re here about your call.”
A shiver ran down Elaine’s naked back. There were two of them. “You’ve got the wrong house.” She wondered how fast she could run with the sheet swathed around her knees.
The man hesitated. “We heard from dispatch twenty minutes ago.”
“It’s a mistake.”
“We would have been here sooner but the gate at the bottom of the hill is dead. We said we’d come ahead, check on you and your story.”
“I don’t have a story.”
He read her address from a notebook held under the light.
He read her phone number and Elaine faltered, biting her lip. Her line had been connected just that morning. “I told you, it’s a mistake.”
“Is there anyone else in the house?”
“No,” Elaine said quickly and then kicked herself for admitting she was alone. Not that her husband would have been much help if he were there. Michael cared more about profit margins than personal safety, and would invite an axe murderer inside if he thought he could sell him a sharper axe.
“Are you sure about that?”
“Sure about what?”
“Sure that you’re alone in the house?”
“I…” Elaine looked over her shoulder, into the dark room behind her – a whole house of dark rooms, stacked with furniture and boxes and countless places to hide. “I…” How could she be sure?
“Ma’am,” Deputy Harper said, knocking against the glass to regain her attention. “Will you open the door now and show us where you found the body?”