Title: The Fog Ladies
Author: Susan McCormick
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
The Fog Ladies is a cozy murder mystery set in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco where old ladies start to die. Mrs. Bridge falls off a stool cleaning bugs out of her kitchen light. Mrs. Talwin slips on bubbles in the bath and drowns. The Pacific Heights building is turning over tenants faster than the fog rolls in a cool San Francisco evening.
Young, overworked, overtired, overstressed medical intern Sarah James has no time for sleuthing. Her elderly neighbors, the Fog Ladies, have nothing but time. Sarah assumes the deaths are the natural consequence of growing old. The Fog Ladies assume murder.
Sarah resists the Fog Ladies’ perseverations. But when one of them falls down the stairs and tells Sarah she was pushed, even Sarah believes evil lurks in their building. Can they find the killer before they fall victim themselves?
Vicarious thrill! I’ll bet, Mrs. Carmichael thought, turning the page so hard it ripped. Oopsy. Hopefully Mr. Glenn wouldn’t notice when she gave the journal back to him. She smoothed the page down and read some more.
What have I done? Bessie, you can never know this.
How did this happen? You’ve been so sick, Bessie, but the hardest part is over. Why didn’t I think things through?
Women, that’s why. Conniving, manipulative, deceitful women.
Muriel Bridge. My hand is clenching around this pen as I write her name. She is nasty. So very nasty.
She set me up. She planned it out. She waited until just the right time, just when I was most vulnerable.
She had no regard for you, Bessie. In her mind, you probably never entered into it. She was only thinking of herself.
It started with a picture frame. It sounded plausible. She wanted to move a large picture and she needed my help to rehang it.
You were asleep when I left. You were asleep all day.
It was a heavy picture. I was out of breath just carrying it across the room. Why do women always need to change things around? That’s what I was thinking. That’s all I was thinking.
Muriel moved up next to me to steady the picture against the wall, to keep it straight. I waited for her to move back, to tell me if it was crooked or not, so I could put the nails in. But she didn’t move away.
She moved closer. She slipped her hand into my pocket. I jumped and the picture slipped to the floor, pinned there by our bodies. Her hand didn’t move, it just tightened.
I should have walked out. Let the picture fall, left her standing there. What was I thinking?
I wasn’t thinking, Bessie. It has been so long. You have been so sick. I am still a man.
I can’t even tell you what happened next.
I came home and vomited. You, my innocent Bessie, you were still asleep in our bed. You didn’t even wake up when I climbed in. When I took you in my arms and cried.
Bessie, I am so sorry.
Sorry! Fat lot of good that does you, Bub. Blaming this on Muriel Bridge as if you had nothing to do with it.
Mrs. Carmichael needed another latte. She had to roll over to extricate herself from the chair, she had sunk so low. There was no line at the counter, thank goodness. She ordered two more, and the girl behind the counter didn’t flinch. Mrs. Carmichael tapped her long fingers on the counter while she waited for the lattes. The latte girl was sure taking her time. She had to get back to the story!
So now you know. I should have realized you would find out. Muriel is part of that group. I know how these ladies’ groups work. Nothing to do but gossip. About what I did. Once one knows, everyone knows.
Enid Carmichael. She’s a caricature, with her freakish face paint and her snooping and prying. Muriel told Enid and Enid told you.
Who did he think he was? He could use a little face paint himself. And what did he mean, snooping and prying? Hmph. She almost knocked her coffee onto the journal she was so mad. Her hand was shaking and she put the cup carefully on the table and read on.
You don’t know the half of it. The humiliation. What that woman said to me as I stumbled from her bed that day.
Ha! Mrs. Carmichael knew. She remembered exactly what Muriel had said and the look on her face when she recounted it. Muriel said Mr. Glenn was such a poor lover, it was not even worth the time it took, which was no time at all. That she needn’t have bothered to change the sheets. That at least she hadn’t worn her new underwear. And what was that crusty wart down there? Disgusting, that’s what it was. And it had better not be catching.
Muriel Bridge certainly had a way with words. Though Mr. Glenn, surprisingly, wasn’t bad himself. Mrs. Carmichael tried to turn the page to see what he was saying now. Her hand had a tremor and she had to try three times before she got the page to move.
Bessie, how can I make this up to you? You had the courage to tell me like you tell me everything. Without fury, that was never your way. Without any emotion at all. You had the grace to say we can get through this.
I will make this up to you. I will make up for this mistake.
Well, that Bessie was a class act, Mrs. Carmichael had to agree. She turned the page.
Bessie, my Bessie, you are gone.
My life, my love, over in less time than it takes to say “mistake.”
In less than a week. Your doctor says it was your heart, that rarely the chemotherapy can cause it to weaken. It wasn’t the chemotherapy. The doctor doesn’t know everything. It was your heart, though. It was your heart, and I broke it.
That had been such a shock, hearing Bessie Glenn was dead. Mrs. Carmichael’s chest tightened as she remembered. That was a chaotic time. Mrs. Noonan blamed herself and the Fog Ladies, as if they had been the ones to have an affair.
Mrs. Carmichael’s chest hurt more now. She let the journal slip into her lap, lost in thought.
“We’re closing, ma’am.” Mrs. Carmichael jolted her head up to see the Starbucks latte girl standing over her.
“Six o’clock. We’re closing,” the young lady repeated with that Starbucks smile on her face.
“Oh, yes, six o’clock, of course.” Where had the day gone? Wasn’t it still morning? Why weren’t they open late tonight, of all nights?
Susan McCormick writes cozy murder mysteries. She is also the author of Granny Can’t Remember Me, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease. She is a doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in Washington, DC and San Francisco, where she lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in the book. She served nine years in the military before settling in the Pacific Northwest. She is married and has two boys, plus a giant Newfoundland dog.
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