Mixed Messages (A Malone Mystery)



Patricia Gligor



Post Mortem Press


Copyright © 2012 by
Patricia Gligor

Cover Image copyright © 2012
Aleksejs Polakovs | Dreamstime.com


All rights reserved.


eBook Edition


Post Mortem Press Cincinnati, OH




No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are
the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



To Theodore Gligor and Jean Rineair,

the best parents a girl could ever have.


Dad, I wish you were here with me now but I know that

you’re smiling down at me.

Thank you for everything you taught me

and the qualities you instilled in me.


Mom, you’re always there for me.

I thank God every day that I have you.





Chapter 1

Monday, October 27
, 2008


, biting her thumbnail and trying to figure out what she would say. This was it; this was the morning she would confront her husband. She couldn’t put it off any longer.

David trudged into the kitchen. His complexion was pasty and when he mumbled,

Morning,” to her, his voice was raspy. Ann knew the signs all too well: too much alcohol and
oo many cigarettes the night before.

When she looked up at him and saw the dark circles under his bloodshot eyes and the sour expression on his face, she briefly considered postponing their talk. No, she decided, I have to talk to him now whether he’s in a good mood or not. If I wait for the right time, well

He headed straight to the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee.

She took a deep breath. “David, I need to talk to you. I want to ask you something.”


“Is something bothering you? Lately, well, for a while now, you seem different. You’re out later and later and I know
you’re drinking a lot and ..

He slammed his mug down and coffee sloshed over the lip onto the counter. “Damn it,
you’d drink too if you had all the responsibility I do.”

“What do you mean? Is it your job?”

“No, it’s not
job is the only thing that puts food on the table around here! Don’t worry about it and stop trying to

Ann felt as if she’d been slapped. “
don’t say that. I’m not trying to mother you. I love you and I’m just trying to help.”

“‘I’m just trying to help,’” he mimicked her in a singsong voice. “If you really wanted to
help, you’d get a job. Now
would help,” he said, smirking. “There’s a job at the church that
could be yours if you wanted it. My mother would gladly recommend you and Father Andrew would hire you in a second. He thinks very highly of my mother.”

“I know your mother worked the whole time you were growing up but I thought
we’d agreed that it was more important for me to be home with the kids.”

“Look around, Ann. Do you see the kids? The kids are in school! And, Mommy, did you ever consider the fact that I might not
to drink if I didn’t have to worry about paying all the bills?”

“Don’t call me that!” she snapped. “I am not your mommy!”

“Well, that’s what you act like. You sure don’t want to hold up your end and be a
! And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to know what you do with all the money I bring home. I hand over my paycheck to you but that’s never good enough.”

“That’s not fair! Everything
so expensive. Prices keep going up. I write out all the bills, buy groceries. The money you make barely covers our expenses.” The second the words were out of her mouth, she wished she could take them back.

“Oh, so now I’m not even a good provider?” he shouted, slamming his fist down on the counter. “All the more reason for you to get a job, my dear!”

“I didn’t mean it
way. I just meant that money’s tight but you never said anything about me working before. How was I supposed to know?”

“Do I have to spell
out for you, Ann? Can’t you ever think for yourself? How many women these days are stay-at-home moms? Think about it.”

“Well, I … .” she stammered.

“I don’t have time for this now. I gotta go. This is pointless!” He slammed the kitchen door as he left and she heard his tires squeal as he backed out of the driveway.

She leaned forward and put her face in her hands, massaging her throbbing forehead with the tips of her fingers. Why can’t David and I ever have a decent conversation anymore? she wondered. Why does everything turn into an argument?

After a few minutes, she stood up and walked to the kitchen sink. She got a glass from the dish drainer, filled it with cold tap water and rummaged through a kitchen drawer to find her bottle of aspirin. She pried open the bottle
removed two
. She popped them into her mouth
raised the glass to her lips
and took a long gulp of water

The phone rang, startling her, and she dropped the glass. It hit the counter and shattered

She reached for the wall phone, picked up the receiver on the second ring
and answered with a breathless, “Hello.”

“Mrs. Kern, this is Amanda Williams. Is this a bad time?”

“No. No.

Visions of a
ll sorts of playground accidents
flashed through Ann’s mind
. “
Is something wrong? Is Davey okay?”

“Davey’s fine, but there is something I’d like to discuss with you.”

“What is it? Is there a problem

“I think it would be better if we talked about it in person. Could you meet with me at, say,
one o’clock tomorrow? And please, don’t worry. It’s nothing to be alarmed about.”

Ann agreed to the time and
frowned as she
hung up the phone. “I wonder what’s wrong
now,” she said aloud. She liked her son’s teacher and she knew that Ms. Williams wouldn’t call her if it weren’t important.
Now she had another thing to worry about.
She retrieved her dust pan and whisk broom from the cabinet under the sink
quickly cleaned up the broken glass
and shoveled the
shards into the trashcan
What else could go wrong?

I’ve got to get in a better mood, she decided.
She knew
what w
: music!
She turned on the
portable radio that was perched on the small built-in shelf above the sink and tuned it to the local Oldies station. She opened the kitchen window and pushed the curtains aside. Sunlight streamed in, making the room, which
painted a bold shade of yellow, even brighter. She could hear the laughter and cheers of kids playing soccer at the YMCA a couple of blocks away.

As she listened to the last few bars of “Elvira,” sashaying to the music, she began to feel better. The song ended abruptly and the DJ announced a news update.

“Another woman was found strangled in her Westwood home today. Police are
withholding the name of the victim pending the notification of family members. They’re urging
all women to exercise extreme caution.”

Chapter 2


. That’s it, she decided. I can’t deal with
of this right now
She walked through the apartment and out the front door. She heard the sirens the second she stepped onto the porch. She hated the sound; it evoked too many bad memories. As she hurried down the steps and into the yard, anxious to see what was going on, the wails got progressively louder, coming closer and closer. She couldn’t tell which direction the cries were coming from but she was sure that something bad had happened to someone.

She looked up and down the tree-lined street but couldn’t see any flashing lights or emergency vehicles. Abruptly, the screams stopped. It was almost as if they’d never existed, as if she’d imagined hearing them. Everything seemed normal again.

She took a deep breath, walked over to where she’d left her rake propped against the house and began
to rake
the front lawn. After she’d accumulated a large pile, she reached down and scooped up bundle after bundle of dried leaves, stuffing them into a large plastic bag.

She stood up and tucked a strand of her short, dark brown hair behind her ear, pausing to rest. In the distance, she could hear the electronic carillon from Westwood Methodist Church playing the theme song from the
television show,
The Ad
am’s Family
. She began to hum along with the music.

She looked up, cupping her hand to shield her eyes from the bright sun. The sky was a vivid blue without a cloud in sight. She stood there, gazing at the three-story, cream-colored Victorian, admiring its multi-gabled slate roof, turret and wrap-around veranda. She heard a noise and looked up. Olivia, her landlady, was tapping on the glass and waving to her from the living room window of her second floor apartment. Ann smiled and waved to her.

She reached into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out a black
plastic tie. In one quick motion, she picked up the bag of leaves, twisted it around and secured the tie. Wiping the beads of perspiration from her forehead with the sleeve of her sweatshirt, Ann walked toward the house, dropping the bag at the foot of the stairs in line with several other orange bags with black pumpkin faces. She leaned the rake against the railing and climbed the few steps to the shady porch.

With a sigh, she sat down in one of the white wicker armchairs, sinking into its soft, padded cushion
rested her head against the back of the chair and closed her eyes. She began to relax as she breathed in the crisp autumn air.
It was so cool and peaceful on the porch.
The only sounds were the birds chirping, the steady whirring of a leaf blowing machine, which
sounded as if it were coming from the street behind her, and occasionally, the soft scraping of tires on pavement as a car rolled slowly down the street. A squirrel dashed by and scampered up the trunk of
the huge
oak tree in
e corner of the yard. She watched, mesmerized, as the little trapeze artist glided from branch to branch.

After a few minutes, she
to doze off. She forced herself to open
her eyes and sit up. Across the street, a young mother was pushing her baby in a stroller and, a few yards behind her, an elderly man and woman were holding hands as they strolled leisurely down the sidewalk. You can tell they’re in love, Ann thought. She watched them until they were out of sight. I always thought David and I would be like that when we got old but the way things are going, I’m not so sure. We used to have so much fun together but lately
… .

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