Murder in the Family

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“If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet,

you’d best teach it to dance.”

—George Bernard Shaw

The springs of the rickety Explorer squeaked as Molly slid into the warm morning, sneakered feet thumping on the pavement. The scent of the rich blooms wafted over her, and she hesitated, looking up at the sky, this time at the bright blue contrasting with puffy cumulus clouds. Amidst the floral swirls, her stormchaser’s nose picked up a hint of ozone.

A front’s moving in. Rain by late tonight, early morning. Not a surprise. Alabama in the spring and summer almost always held the promise of some strong, juicy storms. Molly used her key to lock the door, tucked the ring into her jeans pocket, and turned, drawing up short so she didn’t trip over the two women who seemed to have materialized in the empty space next to the Explorer.

“Molly? Molly McClelland?”

They were a matched set, although at least twenty years separated them. Stout women in denim skirts, they also wore too-tight t-shirts and sneakers. Wild shocks of brownish hair that longed for a brush wafted in a dozen directions.

Molly, at five-nine, towered over both of them, and she took a step back, trying to get a better look, and bumped into her SUV. “Do I know you?”

“You’re Molly McClelland, aren’t you?” The older one stepped closer, while the younger stared mostly at the ground, glancing up occasionally at Molly. The older one wore glasses, and her hair had unruly shoots of gray throughout. Her t-shirt was a plain yellow that added a sallow tone to her pale skin. The younger one’s dark brown t-shirt declared her allegiance to a country music star who would probably be amused by the shape his face took when stretched across her substantial bosom.

Molly moved to go around them, grazing her shoulder against the Explorer’s mirror. She winced. “I am, but you’ll have to excuse me, I have an appointment—”

They blocked her path, planting their feet in a wide stance, like twin Sumo wrestlers. “Oh, we know all about that appointment. We have to talk before you see that interfering lawyer.”

Greed brightened their eyes, and Molly bit her lower lip. She wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. They had to be family, probably cousins, although she didn’t recognize them. Typical. This is why she left Alabama in the first place. She tried to go around them again. “I’m sorry, but—”

The older one put up an arm to stop her, and Molly got a whiff of rotten food and stale tobacco. She grimaced as the woman leaned toward her. “What gives you the right to inherit? We’re the ones who took care of Elizabeth, right up to the end, especially Lyric here.”

Lyric grunted an affirmative, and Molly shot a glance at her. Lyric? Who names their kid Lyric? “I’m sure, but—”

“No buts, Miss Molly. That estate is properly ours. You need to sign it over. Liz had no right to give it all to you.” A hand shot out, two fingers poking Molly in the chest.

Molly froze, her eyes narrow, annoyance building in her gut. Her voice dropped, a harsh growl sounding in her tone. “Don’t touch me. Ever.” The woman stiffened, but Molly continued. “You want more stuff. So you must be kin to me.”

“We are. You don’t recognize us? We’re cousins! I was Kitty Peevey. Filbyhouse now. Lyric’s my daughter. You don’t remember me?”

The angry words were out of Molly’s mouth before she could stop them. “Certainly not like this. The Kitty Peevey I remember dreamed of being a ballet dancer and getting out of Alabama. She would never assault a perfect stranger in a parking lot and demand that she give her more stuff! Especially if you were involved in her death. Were you? If you were taking care of her, why did you let her die like that?” Molly lunged at them, and both women took an astonished step backward. Molly dodged left, then right, scooting around the two. Kitty and Lyric couldn’t move fast enough as Molly sprinted toward the front door, but they squawked after her.

“How dare you! We didn’t have anything to do with it! That old woman died ’cause she was a fool!”

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