Death Makes the Front Page – Chapter 4

The minute I walked in the door, my mother was all over me like a pack of crazed women waiting for a sale to start at a department store. “Just what have you been up to today, Elizabeth?” I knew she was upset when she called me that. If she used my full name, I was toast. “I have been getting calls all day about the things that you have been doing around town. From what I have heard, you have been behaving rather scandalously. I don’t even want to talk about that phone call.”

Don’t you just love small towns, where gossip spreads faster than a rumor on social media? She caught me off guard, so I did the only thing I could think of: I denied everything. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Mother. Owen mentioned you were making meatloaf for dinner. It smells great,” I said, hurrying toward the kitchen.

“Don’t try to change the subject,” she replied as she followed me. “And please put that dog on the back porch. I just vacuumed in here.”

I opened the back door and let Babe out. When I turned around, Mother was sitting at the kitchen table, staring at me. She had that look on her face that told I wasn’t getting dinner until I spill my guts. Sighing, I sat down across from her. “What exactly have you heard?”

“Let’s start with your assault on a total stranger in the park. Delia was the first one to call me. She said you laid him out flat on the ground!”

“Did she happen to mention the man punched Dale Gordon?”

“Well, no, she didn’t.”

“I knocked him down so he wouldn’t hit Dale again. I was defending another person, which you taught me to.”

“I did not teach you to do by using the man like a tackle dummy, Elizabeth.”

“You do it your way, I’ll do it my way. What’s next?”

“Gladys called to say you were behaving like a common tramp at the café.”

“T.J. was leaving, and he kissed me goodbye. Gladys is just an old prude.”

“You have a point there,” my mother conceded. “She was like that when we were in high school.”

“I’m surprised she ever managed to get married. I wonder how she tricked her husband into that.”

Mother shifted in her chair. “We are not discussing Gladys right now, we are talking about you. Now explain to me why I got a call from Thelma, informing me that you have found another body.”

“I didn’t. Babe did.”

“Semantics, Elizabeth. Babe was with you at the time.”

“There isn’t much to tell. Body behind a tree, knife in the back, blood everywhere.”

“Spare me the gory details,” Mother said, holding up her hand.

“Are you satisfied I have not been besmirching the family name now?”

Mother got up to check the meatloaf. “I knew you didn’t, Elizabeth. I raised you better than that.” I bit back a retort. “How is your new job working out?”

“I’m pretty sure I’m not going to win a Pulitzer Prize with articles about the local garden club.”

“As long as you like the work, that’s the most important thing.”

“I’d rather be home, working on my novel, but it’s nice to have a little extra money in the bank. May I ask you a question?”

“Of course, dear.”

I chewed on my lip for a second. “How long have you known Dale?”

“Oh goodness, let me think. He moved here when I was in the third grade. He was a year ahead of me in school. Why do you ask?”

“Do you think he would ever be involved in anything underhanded?”

She looked at me, puzzled. “I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking, Lizzie.”

“Before I tackled the guy in the park, he and Dale were having a very intense argument. Maddie at the café said they had breakfast there this morning, and Dale had his reporter’s pad out, writing things down. She doesn’t know what they were talking about, but it sounds like he is working on some big story.”

“Well, he is the editor of the newspaper, Lizzie, he does write stories once in a while.”

I sighed. “I know that, Mother, but I just get the feeling that Dale is in over his head.”

“But you don’t have any concrete proof.”

I shook my head. “It was just watching the two of them together. I…can’t explain it.”

“Your gut instinct?” I nodded. “Your instincts have always been pretty accurate, Lizzie. If you think something is going on, there’s a good chance you’re right. Dale wasn’t always the grumpy person he is now. We even dated for a while in high school. He was a real sweetheart back then.”

“Are we talking about the same person? Dale Gordon? The biggest pain in the…”

“Set the table,” Mother interrupted. As I did what she asked, she continued. “Yes, the very same person. He was valedictorian of his senior class, extremely intelligent. He got a scholarship to Northwestern University in Illinois. After college graduation, he worked for a big newspaper up there, and was even nominated for a Pulitzer.”

“You’re kidding!”

“I never kid. He married some high society woman. I don’t remember who she was – I never met her – and they had a daughter.”

“Dale’s married?”

“Was married,” Mother corrected. “He lost his wife and daughter in a tragic accident thirty years ago. He quit his job and came back here.”

“Wow, I had no idea. Dale never talks about his personal life. He’s too busy growling and barking orders at everyone.”

“His life is that newspaper. I’ve tried to invite him to dinner and social gatherings, but he always turns me down. It’s like his life ended when his family died, and he doesn’t have any interest in being happy.”

Something told me there was more to the story than Dale had told people. But little did I know that those events from thirty years ago would have an impact on what was to come.

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