Kinsey was finally back at her rental house, taking her bags from the trunk of the car. Her best friend, Cora, pulled in the drive and stopped the car just behind hers.

Kinsey hadn’t heard from her since leaving her house that morning for work, but Cora had mentioned she had left a few things behind.

“You didn’t have to drive all this way,” said Kinsey, feeling bad when Cora got out with her makeup bag. “I would have come over to get them.”

“Hey, it’s the least I can do. Besides, you’re going to need your toothbrush if you have another hot date tonight with Mr. Detective.”

“Thanks,” she said. “We haven’t set a time to see each other again, but there’s no telling when he could pop in.”

“Here, let me help you,” Cora said, taking one of the small bags from the trunk. “I know you’re glad to be back home, but I’m going to miss having you around. I always feel so much safer when you’re there.”

“Well, I love you, girl, but I missed my bed. That couch isn’t as comfortable as I remembered.” She hefted her bag up on her shoulder and closed the trunk.

“I was surprised you came home at all last night. I know you told me you had a good time, but did you two decide to take things slower or something?”

Kinsey headed to the house, hoping Chandler had everything cleaned up and ready for her as promised. “Not at all,” she said. “We had a wonderful time, and the more I’m around him, the more I like him, but we’ve had such early mornings.”

Cora stopped with her at the door as she unlocked it. “Wait. Let me get this straight. You both bowed out because of early mornings? What are you, sixty?”

“I didn’t say what time I got home, and I didn’t say what we did for the three hours before that.” She turned the key and opened the door, giving Cora a knowing look.

“His place?” she asked with a wide grin on her face.

“Yes.” Kinsey was prepared to tell her everything, but when she opened the door, the musty smell hit her so hard it distracted her from everything else. “Ew.”

Cora gave her a confused look until the smell hit her in the face. “Ew is right. What the hell is that?”

“I have no idea.” Kinsey walked inside and turned on a light. The floor was clean and dry, and the cabinets were all closed and seemed to be normal. In fact, her kitchen never looked cleaner. “I think it’s mildew. It has to be.”

“I thought he cleaned up all the water when he fixed the pipes. That was what he was getting paid to do, right?” Cora walked over to the table to put the smaller bags there.

“That was my understanding,” said Kinsey, dropping her larger bag to the floor. “I can’t deal with this.” She let out a heavy sigh. “What the hell do I do about this?”

“You’ll have to get Chandler over here and ask him what the hell is going on. He might know how to fix it. And you could have another leak that he didn’t know about.”

“What if it’s in the walls?” Kinsey walked out to the stairs between her house and the garage and went up to Chandler’s door to knock.

As soon as she raised her fist, the door opened. “Hey, you’re back?”

“Yeah, I was just getting home, and there’s this smell.”

“A smell?”

“Yes, it’s horrible. It’s like mildew. Are you sure you got all of the water cleaned up?”

Chandler stepped out on the small porch and shut his door. “Yeah, I’m sure. Let’s go see what you’re talking about. I did use a sealant when I connected the new pipes. Maybe that’s what it is. But I don’t think it had a smell.”

“Maybe you were just too used to it?”

“I don’t know. I’ll check it out.” Chandler headed downstairs, and Kinsey kept up with him.

When he rounded the corner into her house, he was surprised to see Cora standing in the kitchen. “Oh hey,” he said.

“Cora can smell it, too,” she explained.

“It’s horrible,” said Cora. “My eyes are burning, it’s so pungent.”

He looked at the cabinets and the toe kicks below them. “I don’t know what to tell you. I took everything out and made sure there wasn’t any water.”

“What about the walls?”

“I guess it would be possible but unlikely.”

“Well, what about under the island?” Kinsey knew there had to be standing water someplace.

“I’m telling you,” said Chandler, who was growing more defensive. “I took everything out and made sure the water was gone.”

“Well, where is it coming from?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is there another leak?” asked Cora.

“I don’t think so.”

Kinsey sighed.

Cora rolled her eyes. “Could you check?”

“Yeah, I’ll have a look around, but I checked the meter when I was done, and if there was another leak, it would register there.”

“Maybe there is another one since you checked,” said Cora.

“It wouldn’t smell like mildew already. I just checked a few hours ago when I finished up. You wanted the job done right. I did it right.”

Kinsey realized that he was offended because she and Cora were implying he hadn’t done a good job. “That’s not what I’m saying. I’m sure you did it right. I just want to know what’s going on.”

“I’ll look at the meter again,” he said.

“Thank you,” said Cora.

Kinsey gave a half-hearted smile. “I’d appreciate it.”

When he walked away, Cora sighed. “It has to be coming from somewhere. Maybe he used a smelly cleaner or chemical?”

“I don’t know. It’s just musty.”

“It’s probably black mold,” said Cora. “An older home like this? I bet it’s full of it. Did you know that it can cause serious health issues if it’s not dealt with properly? A friend of mine had to move out of her house until it was completely removed. And she had to replace an entire wall and part of her ceiling.”

“I don’t even want to think about that,” said Kinsey. “Let’s hope it’s normal and nothing that can’t be fixed.”

Chandler came back into the house. “The meter is not registering any use. There are no leaks.”

Kinsey sighed, but she didn’t know whether to be relieved or not. “So, what am I supposed to do?” She couldn’t go back to living with Cora. Not while she and Nolan were getting closer. She wanted to have the freedoms her own home gave her.

Chandler walked over to the kitchen window. “Open a few windows and air the place out. It will be back to normal in no time, I’m sure.” He opened the window over the sink.

“Wait, you want her to open her windows? Do you know how dangerous that is for a woman like her? With all that’s going on, she might as well write victim on her forehead and go stand in traffic.”

“It’s not that bad, Cora. I’ll be fine.”

“I don’t like it.” Cora gave Kinsey a worried look.

“I’m sure it will be fine.”

“You don’t know that. He could be looking for another victim. And if he’s not, you know what that means.”

“What?” asked Chandler.

Kinsey knew what Cora was getting at. “The news is speculating there is another killer on the loose.”

“Why would they think that?” he asked.

“Because,” said Cora, as if everyone in Adenridge should know everything the news reported. “The last person they found dead in town wasn’t cut to pieces like the others. Apparently, killers seldomly break their patterns. And this killer has never deviated, according to the news.”

“That doesn’t mean it wasn’t the same person,” said Chandler. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Well, I know it sounds terrible, but I hope it is the same person. And I hope they catch the bastard. He’s a creep who deserves to be put down like a rabid dog.”

Chandler looked at Kinsey as if he thought Cora was nuts. “I don’t know what else to tell you about the smell. I mean, short of moving, there might not be any fixing it.”

“I can’t move. I can’t afford anything else.”

“You could stay with me until you find a new place,” said Cora.

Kinsey didn’t want to offend her, but she needed her privacy. “I will just have to get used to it, open a few windows, and hope for the best.”

“Why don’t you two move in together? I don’t know what your place is like, but maybe you could get something bigger. You could split the cost. It might be great for you both.”

Moving wasn’t even an option for her. She had put all of her money into moving into the rental, and she had been so confident about spending on furnishings she hadn’t saved much. “I’ll deal with it.”

“Wow, Chandler, I think you hurt her feelings,” said Cora. “It’s almost like you want her to leave.”

“I didn’t say that,” he said, turning to face Kinsey. “I never said that. I just thought it would be better for you, is all.”

“It’s fine,” said Kinsey, who was going to keep her money issues to herself. “Anyway, it is what it is.” She walked over and opened the front windows that faced the street. “I’ll close them before it gets dark,” she promised Cora.

“I’ll call and remind you,” she said.

Chandler chuckled. “If the killer wanted in, no locked windows or doors could keep him out.”

“You’re not helping,” said Kinsey.

“Oh, speaking of being some use,” Cora said to him. “I work at the public library, and I’ve been working on plans for several events through the upcoming year. And the last event for this year is in a week. I still have several booths that have yet to be filled, and I need a bit of help with some of the booths that no one signed up for. I thought that you might want to have a booth with some of your furniture. It’s only thirty bucks to hold a space, and you’ll probably make tons more than that in sales.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I have my stuff at Crawford’s already.”

“Is it moving at Crawford’s? You could get your stuff more attention and promote Crawford’s in the process.”

“I’ll think about it,” said Chandler. “But I also doubt I’ll change my mind.”

“Fine, just keep it in mind. It’s a great place to meet people, too. The whole town comes out.”

“I went to the one last year. It was crowded.”

“See? Those people would all see your handiwork. It could drive a lot of business.” Cora was trying to hard sell the event, and Kinsey cringed, knowing it would be even harder for him to say no.

“I’ll think about it,” he said again, not making any promises.

Cora turned to Kinsey. “You and Nolan could help out. It would be great if we had some of law enforcement’s support, you know, with everything going on. The people of Adenridge need to see their officers doing more for their community.”

“I can’t speak for him.”

“Well, how about for yourself?”

“How far away is it?”

“It’s just a week away, but almost everything is done. It’s been planned forever. I just didn’t have as many volunteers sign up. And there are several fun things to do.”


“Face painting. Balloon animals.”


“That’s about it.”

“I’ll think about it, but I can’t see Nolan doing either.”

“Well, anyway, even if you can’t help, I was hoping you’d tell the students at the school about the art contest. They can submit any piece by the end of the week, and there’s a fifty-dollar prize.”

“I’ll tell them,” she said.

“I’m going before she convinces me to make balloon animals,” said Chandler.

“It’s for the kids,” she said. “You seem like the kind of guy who’s great around kids.”

Chandler chuckled as he walked away.

“Do you think you could talk him into it?” asked Cora. “I have ten booths that no one wanted. I think this stupid serial killer has made people too afraid to do anything.”

Kinsey sighed. “I’ll spread the news and see what I can do.”

“Thanks. I should get going. Remember, lock the windows when you close them.”

“Yeah, mom. I will.” She showed Cora out and went back to opening more windows. With any luck, the smell would be gone by the time Nolan came back around.


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