Lethal JournalI kiss the kids goodbye, hug my parents, and head for work, knowing it’s going to be a long day.

When I arrive, the place is overrun with cops. Not surprising since there was a murder here. Lieutenant Masoski gives me a long, appraising look. Does he think it’s my fault the victim’s journal disappeared? Maybe he’s right. Yesterday morning, Jake Appleton, who never talks to anyone, offered to let me read his private thoughts. By lunch, Jake was dead and the journal gone. Coincidence?

I don’t have time to think about that. I have a job to do. As Activities Director, I’m supposed to make sure residents are happy and engaged in Riverview’s social life, something I usually enjoy. Today, it could be a challenge. As if the word had conjured him, here comes Challenge #1 – Nate. He stops in front of me, shakes his head tragically, and says, “No one can say I didn’t try.”

Recognizing a cue, I ask: “Try what?”

“I offered to help. They laughed.” Long pause. “You don’t spend your life around Shakespeare and not learn about the evil that men do.”

Ah, as I suspected, our former thespian feels he’s been upstaged. I pat his hand, glad that at least one resident is behaving normally. “Keep your eyes and ears open,” I tell him. “Maybe you’ll learn something. Then they’ll be glad for your help.” He nods sagely and wanders off. I go to the lounge to see how the other residents are coping.

The tea ladies are buzzing about something. These six women, made up of far more spice than sugar, set the tone for the community. Georgie, a southern belle who refuses to fade, is talking while she paces. She looks like she’s addressing the British Parliament. The others are listening with varying degrees of attention. Tess, a retired FBI agent, seems focused on her knitting, her face expressionless. I’ve learned to bypass Tess’s inscrutable manner and gauge her mood by the velocity of her knitting needles: click, click, click, click.

Georgie lowers her voice and whispers something.

Tess bites her lip. Clickclickclickclick.

I join them. “Everything okay?”

Tess says, “Local cops. Bunch of amateurs.”

I move on, knowing better than to argue, and make a mental note to keep my eye on the tea ladies.

Thus, the morning passes. I spend a little time with all the residents. They’re coping just fine; everyone has a theory about who killed Jake and why. No one seems traumatized. So far, so good.

Next up: a meeting with Leda, our Executive Director, that I know will stretch through lunch. Lunch in the Dragon Lady’s office is not something I look forward to. We pick at limp salads while she issues conflicting instructions: “Stay out of police business.” and “Find out what’s going on and keep me informed.” I nod and rise to leave, wondering how I’ll manage to do both.

Leda stops me. “Make sure you keep the residents as far away from this investigation as possible.” She stops, then adds, “Especially Nate. I won’t have his antics making a bad situation worse.” In case you haven’t guessed it, Leda can be a pain in the neck. The saving grace is that she loves Riverview as fiercely as I do. There’s one big difference: For Leda, Riverview Manor is a place; for me, it’s the people who live here. I leave the office wishing, just once, she’d say: “Use your own judgment” but knowing it’ll never happen.

I spend the rest of the afternoon racing back and forth between Masoski and the residents, helping him search for the journal and trying to reassure them that Riverview is still a safe, secure place.

Finally, it’s time to pick up the kids. I head for the car, confident Riverview will survive the storm. Despite what some people think, old people are resilient and aren’t adverse to a little excitement in their lives.

I take a deep breath when I turn into my parent’s driveway. Voices reach me from the back yard. I round the corner of the house and stop to watch my sons. They seem to float in the semi-darkness, chasing fireflies. Dad’s holding a jar filled with tiny blinking lights. I watch the insects throw their bodies against the glass, haunted by my last visit with Jake, with him staring out the window and clutching the journal to his chest.

Andy’s voice interrupts, “Don’t worry, Mom. We’re gonna set ‘em free.”

I smile. At least for the little creatures in the jar there will be a happy ending. And for Jake, in time, I hope – justice.

You can read more about Jennie in Lethal Journal, the fifth book in the “Jennie Connors/Riverview Manor” mystery series, published by Sandra Carey Cody. The first book in the series is Put Out the Light. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on June 25, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of LETHAL JOURNAL. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
Sandra Carey Cody is the author of the Jennie Connors/Riverview Manor mystery series. These stories are set in a retirement community and explore the challenges facing a single mother as she learns to balance independence with family and career responsibilities – all while solving the occasional murder. She has also written a standalone, Love and Not Destroy, as well as a number of short stories, which are available as ebooks. All are described in more detail on her website: www.sandracareycody.com

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