Today's Reading

Arlo's ears began to hum as Chief Matthew "Mads" Keller shooed everyone away from the body. "Go on now," he said.

Mads, so nicknamed from his high school football days, crossed his arms so everyone would know he wasn't budging. Most turned and trudged back to their stores, spinning around once or twice as if to make sure the scene was still the same, that their eyes weren't playing tricks on them.

"Do you think he jumped?" Jason Rogers, Mads's first officer, nudged the body with the toe of one boot.

"Would you stop violating my crime scene?" Mads growled. Jason held up both hands and backed away. "Sorry, big-city cop."
 
Mads rolled his eyes.

Arlo rocked in place, staring in horror. Wally Harrison was dead. In front of her store. And dead.

"Well?" Jason asked.

Mads squatted down next to the body and used the end of his pen to lift the baseball cap from in front of Wally's face.

"The Yankees," Jason scoffed. "Of course he liked the Yankees. He left here and got all big-time on us. Too good to root for the Braves."

Mads let the cap fall back into place. Arlo knew he wanted to say something to Jason, but he was too controlled for that. One day though...one day he was going to blow. She hoped she was around to see it.

People continued to walk past, pretending to be shopping as usual, but slowing down to take in as much of the scene as they could.

The crime scene. In front of her store. She had to get ahold of herself.

"Did he?" she finally asked. "Kill himself?"

It was a stupid question. Why would a man like Wally Harrison kill himself? He had a successful life. He was raking in the dough from his book; he was handsome. Once upon a time, he had been everything in their small town. He wasn't the geek who made it big. He was the golden boy, the one that got away. The one who would put Sugar Springs on the map if he ever admitted to being born there.

Well, Mads could have had that kind of life too, if he hadn't blown out his knee in the first game of the AFC playoffs his third season in the NFL. After that, he became a cop in Memphis and eventually made his way back home to Sugar Springs.

"Looks that way," Mads said on a breath of a sigh.

"Arlo."

She turned at the sound of her name. Chloe Carter stood in the doorway of the store they shared. Her face was a contorted mask of disbelief and horror with a little disgust thrown in for variety. After all, there was a strange past between Chloe and Wally, but that was a long time ago.

"Have you been in there all morning?" Arlo asked.

Chloe ran the "more" of Arlo and Chloe's Books & More, which included a coffee bar, cake counter, unique gifts, and fine chocolates. She had, on occasion, been known to offer flowers, but that had given Joyce at Blooming Blooms an apoplexy and so Chloe had dropped the idea before the roses even wilted.

Chloe nodded, but before she could say anything, a loud voice rang out, bouncing off the Civil Warlera brick that lined Main Street.

"Bozhe miy!" Inna Kolisnychenko, Wally's trophy assistant approached from the end of the block. Her thick Ukrainian accent added a hard edge to every word she said. "What is going on here?"

"Ms. Kolisnychenko." Mads stood and Arlo could tell by the look on his face that he would rather be anywhere but there, anywhere but telling this woman that her employer was dead—most likely by his own hand. Arlo had to give Mads points for correctly pronouncing Inna's name though.

"Is that—?" She stopped, almost as if posing, as she stared at the body on the sidewalk, one hand on her hip as she bit her lip in confusion. She was a study in beauty.
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