SHORTCUTS TO MAYHEM
by Elena Santangelo
often ask where I get writing ideas. Preceding each story in this
volume, you'll find a short note with what I hope is a bit of insight
about the tale's evolution.
As for this first story, I was born into a large extended Italian
family, all of whom seemed to love the Jersey shore. Each summer my
parents drove me and my brothers the two hours east to the Atlantic for
our annual dose. We'd stay anywhere from a day to a week. I've been to
other beaches, but the South Jersey shore, anywhere from Ocean City down
to Cape May, will always be special to me. I've never turned down a
chance to visit.
The protagonist of this story, Mrs. Fanaglio, is a mishmash of my mom,
her crazy, lovable cousins, and various other older Italian women I've
known. I always felt my mother could have given Miss Marple serious
competition as a sleuth.
“Mrs. Fanaglio and the Body on the Beach" was first published in the
DEATH KNELL V anthology.
FANAGLIO AND THE BODY ON THE BEACH"
A cool summer breeze,
welcome after yesterday's scorching heat, wafted over Beaver Point from
the Atlantic, pungent with salt, but without the usual hint of decaying
algae. The air had been washed clean by last night's rain.
Annie Fanaglio used both hands to pull herself out of the driver's seat
of her Chevy. As her arthritic knees adjusted to a standing position,
she listened to the cadence of the surf beyond the protective dune and
to the forlorn counterpoint of the gulls overhead. Usually the sounds
were a lullaby to her. The smells, the taste of salt on her lips, the
unbroken line of the eastern horizon—all were like a soothing balm when
her seventy-two years got the best of her.
Beaver Point was her
favorite beach: no boardwalk, no casinos, no vendors, not even much of a
road leading out here. Only a crescent of pebbly sand, a parking lot of
crushed oyster shells, and in season, one part-time lifeguard. During
the week, if you came over in the morning or after supper, you were
almost guaranteed the whole beach to yourself. On a New Jersey map,
Beaver Point was a speck so small hardly anyone bothered to look for it.
But this morning the tiny lot was full of cars. Annie spotted Eric's
green Land Rover among the state police cruisers, official county
vehicles, news vans. There, beside the wooden stairs leading over the
dune to the beach, was Tina's white two-door, an old Ford Escort.
Probably the girl's first car, Annie figured, all she could afford. Or
maybe a hand-me-down from her family.
A petite woman with her hands clasped behind the black t-shirt she wore,
was scrutinizing the auto like she was looking for infinitesimal chips
in the paint. The real attention-grabber, though, was the Medical
Examiner's van. Gulls circled and swooped overhead as a long black bag
was shoved inside.
it now on Amazon.
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