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From Formula for Murder
Chapter Three Continued…
Shortly after 8:00 A.M. Mom called in a panic. Thankfully I was in
the shower so Jim had to deal with her near hysterics. She was
coming right over Jim informed me as I toweled off and stared into
“Okay, good. She can obsess over Laurie with me,” I said.
Jim snorted. “Laurie’s fine. You’re the one that needs to get looked
at. Please make an appointment.”
The doorbell sounded, interrupting our conversation. “That was
fast,” I said.
Jim left me to select some clothes and went to answer the door.
Paula’s voice drifted down the hallway.
I threw on a pair of jeans and a sweater and rushed to the living
room. My best friend, Paula, now eight months pregnant, was
cradling Laurie above her massive belly. She studied Laurie’s face. “I
got your message,” she said. “Pupils look fine. She looks alert and
happy. Has she vomited?”
“I don’t know. She spits up a lot. How can you tell?”
Paula’s two-year-old son, Danny, clung to her leg and pulled on
her maternity top. “It’s kinda hard. But you can usually tell by the
volume. Is she keeping anything down?”
“Yes. It must be just spit-up.” I knelt down and extended my arms.
He rushed to me and wrapped his arms around my neck, sort of
hanging from it. “Ouch! Oh, honey, wait.” I disentangled myself
Concern showed on Jim’s face.
Paula looked at me, her brow creasing. “Are you hurt?”
“No. No. I’m totally fine. He caught me off guard is all.”
The doorbell sounded again.
I moved toward it and pulled it open. Mom flung her arms around
me and crushed me against her. “I’m so glad you’re alive!”
I silently winced. My neck did hurt but no reason to cause a fuss.
Mom released me and rushed to pluck Laurie out of Paula’s arms.
“My love!” she said to Laurie, who cooed up at her. Then Mom
instructed Paula “to have a seat before she went into labor.”
“I wish standing caused labor,” Paula said.
I rubbed my neck. Paula squinted at me. “I’m scared about brain
damage,” I confessed to her.
“Why are you scared?” She smiled. “You’ve lived your whole life
I poked her arm. “Come on, idiot, not me.”
Paula made a face. “Laurie? No way. She was in a five-point
I nodded and chewed my lip. “But what if her little brain was
Paula laughed. “She’s not an egg. Babies are very resilient. She’s
fine. No brain damage. I promise.” Paula wrapped her fingers around
my arm. “You’re the one whose gonna be hurting.”
“I don’t care about me,” I said.
Jim put a hand on my shoulder. “We do, though. Make an
Paula agreed, then sat on my couch and put her swollen feet on the
coffee table. Danny tried to climb into the little room left on her lap.
Jim plucked Danny off her. “Come with me, buddy. Let’s make you
a chocolate milkshake.”
“Oh! I’ll take one of those,” Paula called after Jim as they headed to
Mom was doing an elaborate baby-calming dance for Laurie, who
was giggling up at her. “Where’s your Christmas tree?” Mom asked.
“At the Christmas tree lot,” I answered, taking a seat on the couch
next to Paula.
I put my head on Paula’s shoulder and whispered in a voice that
threatened to crack, “I’m a terrible mother.”
“I know, you don’t have your Christmas cards out yet,” Paula whis‐
pered back to me.
We watched Mom making faces at Laurie.
A tear slipped down my cheek without me even realizing it. It
touched my lip and I tasted the salt. “If I was a good mom I would
have never let myself get rear-ended with Laurie in the car.”
After a little prodding from Paula, Jim decided to take Danny to
the Christmas tree lot to pick out a Christmas tree for us. While they
were gone Paula hacked into my computer and printed out labels for
my Christmas cards. It took her about three minutes and saved me
several hours of frustration.
Mom helped out by executing a string of calls to my insurance
company, trying to get through to a live person. She finally gave up
when the garage called to notify me that my Chevy had been deemed
a total loss. The mechanic said I should be hearing from an adjuster
Jim and Danny returned with the best Charlie Brown Christmas
tree they could find. We spent the rest of the afternoon stringing
popcorn, decorating the tree, and listening to Mom singing carols
Several days passed and I still hadn’t heard from our insurance
company. I’d made an appointment with our regular pediatrician, Dr.
Clement, who concurred with the emergency room pediatrician and
Paula. Laurie seemed completely unharmed by the incident. I, on the
other hand, seemed to get progressively stiffer. Which Dr. Clement
suggested was absolutely normal.
I snuggled next to Jim on the couch and tried to put the accident
out of my mind. The day had been busy. Besides the appointment I
was doing background work for Galigani, which although a bit mind‐
less was helping me learn the general ins and outs of the investigation
Since giving birth to Laurie, I’d managed to be involved in several
murder investigations and basically had decided to launch a private
investigation business. But since I didn’t have a PI license, Albert Gali‐
gani, an ex-cop and now successful private investigator, had more or
less agreed, depending on his mood, to mentor me. He’d given me
what he called “homework” to improve my skills, but the homework
felt more like “penance.” My eyes were tired from staring at the
computer screen but every time I closed them I still saw typed text
floating and scrolling.
I must have dozed off because Jim shook me awake. “Look at this,
I pried an eye open and immediately looked for Laurie.
Jim indicated the television. “It’s Nancy Pickett. She was found
“What?” I sat to attention and stared at the TV.
“We are saddened to report that our colleague, Nancy Pickett, was
found dead yesterday afternoon. Nancy had been with our station five
years, reporting the best stories in the Bay Area.” The anchor’s eyes
filled with tears. “Again, Nancy Pickett, dead at the age of thirty-five.”
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