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Murder at the B&B. An Ophelia Perhaps Mystery.

Really, Really Dead.  

Dead. He was dead. No doubt about it. He was really, really dead.

I now sat at the desk of the intake officer, where his computer was taking forever to upload some forms. Vaguely glancing at the photos of him fishing in Scotland or somewhere equally cold and bleak, I was struggling to concentrate on the day. After years of asking my neighbors and friends about details of their own mysteries, here I was feeling foggy about events.

I did remember that I knew something had been wrong as soon as I’d reached the upstairs landing upstairs in my B&B. First of all, I could hear Wandering Jack yowling. He never yowls unless I’m there and he’s hungry. I had turned the key in the lock, but it was already unlocked. And Jack was yowling. My neck hairs stood on end.

I opened the door slowly, knowing you should never enter a room if your neck hairs are on end. I pushed the door so just my head was inside, another thing you shouldn’t do as I thought it over days later. I walked inside a few feet, which I should not have done. My left foot nudged a shoe, a Nike tennis shoe just like Robert . . . That’s when I knew it was him. That wanker! He was supposed to be gone! Had he drunk all my liquor and passed out? Or had a stroke like his mum? Or . . .

But then there was the smell. Like the time I’d found a bloated squirrel in the water trough at Grandpa’s farm. Grandpa had told me, “See, Feely, that will happen to you if you play around the horse trough!” He’d also once pointed out to me a flattened snake in the middle of their road.” “That will happen to you, Missy,” he’d said, “if you cross the street without looking.”

And now here was my ex-husband, sprawled not in a horse trough or in the middle of a street, but there on my red-rose patterned carpet. I’d been gone since before daylight to get into line to see the new Egyptian art exhibit at the Ashmolean. My ex was supposed to pick up the cat at 9 that same morning. He had a key. It was all arranged.

But here it was 6 in the evening, Jack was locked inside his carrier, which was sitting on the couch, and there was Robert in shorts, a T-shirt, and Nikes, dressed like he’d just come in from running or was just about to go running.

But he was not out running or about to go anywhere. He was dead. Drool out of his mouth dead. One eye half-open dead. One arm flung behind him dead. Hair a mess dead. Not sleeping, not just passed out drunk, but dead. He would have woken up at my screams if he hadn’t been dead. At least I think that was me screaming. Maybe it was Sarala screaming, I can’t remember.

This wasn’t like an episode of Law and Order, an enormously popular American TV series over here. I couldn’t call up the exact order of things like the TV actors. I couldn’t even exactly recall when I’d last seen Robert, things I knew this British cop would be asking me. I was in a numbing humid daze, like I was watching someone else open the door and enter the room. Maybe Law and Order scriptwriters had never seen anybody really, really dead.

But now Robert was dead. Like the squirrel and the snake. Really, really dead.

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