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  • Susan Stoderl

Indie Writer's Life | Unpublished Murder Mystery | Eleven Days in the Death


Tuesday Morning, August 2, 1932

The Conway house sat back from Nobb Street on the crescent of the town’s only hill. Once plain, by adding a circular drive and white-columned portico, the two-story limestone dwelling was now the grandest house in Hamilton, Kansas. Perhaps even in all of Southwestern Kansas. Like the Conway family, the house was imposing and intimidating.

Edna Mae Sinclair quietly approached the great fortress through the back gate and leaned against it to catch her breath. The day would be scorching by noon. She forced her weary legs up the steps of the back porch and stooped to pick up the milk left earlier that morning.

The once shapely brunette looked worn and tired beyond her years. She clung to a worn handbag as if it alone held her meager frame together. The swollen screen door stuck fast with the heat and unusual humidity. Unfortunately for Edna Mae, she conquered the door and entered the Conway’s kitchen. She would soon regret she had ignored the door’s warning.

Chapter 1

After stowing her purse in the pantry, Edna Mae grabbed her faded flowered apron off the hook behind the door. Leaving it buttoned, she slid the apron over her head and poked her arms through the cavernous armholes. If only she could get just one good night’s sleep, she thought. Edna Mae hated working for Pearl Conway, but what could she do? Johnny was drinking again, and they had no money. She had a son to raise.

The wood bin by the stove was empty again. She forced herself to return to the porch to fetch some wood from the neat pile. She halted mid-kick, remembering Pearl Conway was still asleep. Quietly, she backed against the kitchen door to ease it closed. She kneeled close to the metal bin so that the wood would not clatter as it fell from her arms. Edna Mae was only thirty-one, but already her knees ached as if they were sixty.

While the stove was heating, Edna Mae shuffled her thin body over to the counter and measured out the coffee. She carefully poured the beans into the top of the battered wood grinder and turned the black iron handle until there was no resistance. When the drawer of freshly ground coffee had been added to the waiting pot, she added an eggshell and a pinch of salt to take away the bitterness. Too bad life’s bitterness couldn’t be remedied as easily.

Edna Mae cursed under her breath as she hurried to make the biscuits. A flour snowstorm scattered over the clean floor. No time to clean it now. Breakfast had to get on the table. Edna Mae finished rolling out the biscuits and put them in the oven. She carved thick slices of ham and bacon with a butcher knife for Mr. Conway and shaved off a few paper-thin slices for her family. She carefully wrapped them in a bit of wax paper before putting them in her bag. Eggs sat in a bowl on the counter like a cluster of grapes. Edna plucked two and added them to her bag.

She hated the thought of stealing and had resisted at first. But after laying awake night after night, too hungry to sleep, she knew she had to do something. Since the hard times began, Johnny had had no steady work. The pitiful wages she brought home from the Conways were not enough. Not even with adding what her son Bobby earned doing odd jobs for neighbors. She had to either adjust her morals or starve, so she adjusted.

Chapter Continues…


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