Buried Deeds — Part 10 ( A Meghan Bode Mystery)

Rain is falling on Friday, and fieldwork has been postponed until Monday. In the afternoon, Meghan sits in her lab, reading the Virginia Suburban Daily. Despite the threat of a lawsuit, Faulkner’s story is on the front page, and the headline would catch anyone’s eye—Body Found at Wyndham Thicket B&B.

Fortunately, the article isn’t as sensational as the headline. Faulkner mainly stuck to the facts, stating the skeleton came from beneath the floor of the old manor house’s cellar. Accompanying the story is the photo he showed Meghan yesterday. Irene’s body hides the flask, and none of the other artifacts are visible. Faulkner speculated the body could be from the Walkers’ time or maybe an Indian. And he recounted the old legends of the slave and mistress.

At least he didn’t mention the one about Abraham Walker being a Tory, Meghan thinks. And thank God he didn’t say anything about me other than I’m doing the archaeology.

Still, the article ends with Faulkner wondering why the excavation didn’t follow normal state procedures. To Meghan’s critical eye, he didn’t come out and say the Brownes had something to hide, but there was no mistaking the insinuation.

The staccato click of heels in the hall leads her to look up, just as Evelyn bursts into the room, clutching a copy of the paper.

“They’ll wish they’d never published this by the time I’m done with them. Firing Faulkner won’t be enough. I don’t appreciate having to cut short my vacation to deal with this sort of rubbish.”

“Um—”

“Who the hell is this Josiah Kent that Jackson told us about? And what’s he doing in my cellar?”

“A privateer—”

“My ancestors couldn’t have done this, Meghan. Someone else killed him.”

“That’s poss—”

“It’s not just possible, it’s what happened. I’m going to the state library first thing tomorrow to look into this Kent character. I’ll bet there’s a good reason somebody did him in.”

“There might not be much—”

“Damn, I can’t go tomorrow. Douglas and I are meeting with the county attorney about the Riverton development. If Faulkner wants a story about not following state laws, he should look into them, getting the zoning changed next to my farm. And let’s not forget Frank Sloma trespassing to get that photo. Faulkner turned a convenient blind eye to that fact.”

“You’re sure it was him?” Meghan asks, finally getting the chance to finish a sentence.

“Who else could it be? I don’t know what his game is, but you can bet I’ll find out when he and his wife come to the farm this weekend. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to meet with our culinary supplier.”

She turns on her heel and starts out the door.

“Evelyn?”

“Yes?”

“Was there a reason you stopped by?”

“What? Oh, of course. The police are sending someone out on Monday to look for evidence in the woods. They’ll probably ask you about what you saw. I wanted to give you a heads up so you have time to remember all the details.”

“Oh, thank you. Did you want to see the skeleton before you leave?”

Evelyn shudders. “Absolutely not. I’d have nightmares for a month. I don’t know how you can bear to touch such a thing.”

***

The lab is quiet again, and Meghan thinks about Frank Sloma. Why is he so interested in Wyndham Thicket? She tries to remember what she’s heard about him from Evelyn and his endless talking when the guests visit the excavations. He’s an accountant with some firm around DC, and he and his wife have two children. But other than that, Meghan can’t recall any details about him.

On a whim, she grabs her tablet and types his name into a search engine. And gets nothing but genealogical hits for men in the 1800s and obituaries for some into the early 2000s. She tries Frederick and Franklin, thinking he might not use a nickname professionally, but finds even fewer results.

How does someone not show up on the Web in this day and age? she wonders. A professional membership? Hobby club? Something should be here.

Her thoughts are interrupted by the phone.

“Dr. Bode? Hi, it’s Deb Cooper from Pembershire Realty. I was calling to see if you and your husband would like to look at some houses this weekend. There are a few in your area and price range I think would fit your needs.”

“Oh. Sure. Would Sunday afternoon work?”

“Absolutely. How about one o’clock? I’ll email you the listings later this afternoon. There’s a great Colonial that just came up. I think you’ll really like it. And I’ll bring the paperwork so we can get yours on the market first thing next week.”

Meghan sits back after the call. Buying a new house. Selling this one. After years of talk, she and Rick can really do it. A yard for John and his friends to play in, just like she and his father had. And a dog. Her long-time argument that pets deserve more than a townhouse is toast.

I won’t be like Mom, she thinks. I’ll make them do most of the work.

Meghan can already hear her mother laughing.

She packs her work bag to head home. If the house is going on the market, she needs to start cleaning.

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part 11 next Tuesday.

New to the Meghan Bode Mysteries? You can catch up with her first complete story and the previous installments of Buried Deeds with this link.

54 thoughts on “Buried Deeds — Part 10 ( A Meghan Bode Mystery)

    • Of course, I’m sure I did all the work of taking care of my dog when I was growing up…. 😉

      It’s clear now that this story will be longer than Meghan’s first. I thought it might be a similar length (and I would really need to flesh it out for a published version), but she appears to have other ideas. I think she likes having control of the blog on Tuesdays. My other characters have been just as blindsided as I was. They’re wondering why they didn’t think of something like this! 🙂

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  1. Hmmmm. …Frank Sloma, identity thief!?
    I LOVE the interruption when Meghan’s reverie is broken and she’s forced to prioritize homelife over dead bodies and mysteries! Your timing is perfect….and SO real -life! This is one of the most relatable stories I’ve had the pleasure to read!

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    • You’ve just made my day. 🙂 I really want my main characters to come across as real people you could know in “real” life and for the stories to make you think this could happen. If that’s coming across, then I’ve cleared a major hurdle in writing a good story! I have a sneaking suspicion Meghan has more plans for me and my time down the line…. 😉

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  2. It sounds like Meghan really has her hands full. I like the dialogue with Evelyn while showing how Meghan can’t get many words in at first. Can’t wait to see what happens with the Sloma mystery now!

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    • She is busy, isn’t she? And I think many of us can relate to that—family, work, buying a house…. As I just mentioned above, I really want my characters to come across as people you could know in real life. I think I might be getting there with Meghan, who did get a bit distracted at the end…. 😉

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  3. I’m still with this. Definitely not over with the I.D. on the skeleton. Evelyn sounds like she’s determined enough that she might try to suppress evidence or even falsify things to cover up anything negative about her ancestors.

    I don’t think the headline would use the word “body,” though. It’s a skeleton. A body still has meat on it.

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    • Evelyn is the kind of person who might run over you to get what she wants, not necessarily in a vindictive way. She just might not notice you’re there. This unexpected turn has caught her off guard, and I’m not sure how she’ll react….

      I debated on body/skeleton and went with body thinking the headline writer was going for eye-grabbing rather than accuracy. But Dianne also notes this in her comment below, and I’ll reconsider it for the published version. I suspect it will come down to deciding whether this newspaper is more concerned with good journalistic reporting or selling copies.

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  4. I love the way Evelyn comes across as controlling and this isn’t told to the reader, it’s shown through dialogue. I don’t think the newspaper headline should say ‘body’ because it gives the impression that it’s ‘fresh’ (but I think someone else has already commented about this) 😉 Nice work…

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    • Yay, I’m showing and not telling! There may be hope for me yet. 🙂

      I debated about body vs. skeleton and went with body, thinking the paper was more interested in grabbing attention than being accurate. But I’ll give that more thought for the final version. And if I stick with body, I’ll make it clear the paper is more a tabloid than an objective news source. 🙂

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  5. Ha, the kids are getting a dog after all! Also, I suppose Evelyn forgets that touching skeletons is kind of what archaeologists do…silly woman. Oooooh! Maybe Frank Sloma isn’t his real name! Huh?? Huh???

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    • Hmm, now why would he use a false name….? There could be reasons, I suppose…. 🙂 But Meghan did get distracted by that house-buying stuff again…. And the dog. 🙂

      We’ll learn more next week!

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    • Where I was growing up, scooping wasn’t something people did. But dogs weren’t taken for walks there. They “did their business” and stayed in their own yards. Scooping there was an option!

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  6. At least, you can see from your story that you enjoy writing it. I know it takes a lot of effort, but it looks seamless and effortless on paper. That’s a great thing.
    Keep it up. Really enjoying this.
    Scott

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  7. I love the fact that Meghan has a lot of stuff competing for her attention: the dead from years ago, the new mystery with Frank Sloma, the dog, the house, the family life as a stepmom…. very well drawn. I look forward to your installments!

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    • Oh, I need to rephrase that section! Meghan isn’t John’s stepmother; she’s his mom. But I see where the wording was confusing. I was trying to avoid saying “she and Rick” in back-to-back sentences. But even so, she does have a lot on her plate, as many folks do. I hope that helps make her a more realistic character. 🙂

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    • Well, I hope this story won’t take on those epic proportions! I think we have nearly all the main elements in place. Now to begin solving the puzzle. 😉 Then we’ll see if she decides to relinquish control of the blog for a while so we can regroup for another adventure….

      I may be learning it’s okay to leave more “likes,” but I can’t refrain completely from commenting! 🙂

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  8. I’m really liking this. Your characters have distinct personalities and are wonderfully done. All of the other great stuff, I’m sure, has already been said, but I also like the blend of archeology and history. I’m looking forward to Tuesday. Don’t worry, after the second story and this many installments, I’m sure your readership being hooked is NOT a fluke.

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    • That is so nice of you to say—thank you! These stories really challenge me as a writer, and I know that’s good. But sometimes I fear I might have bitten off more than I can chew. 😉 Fortunately, Meghan hasn’t steered me wrong!

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  9. I really love how you interrupted the mystery for Megan’s real life concerns. You give us a great insight into her personality and her motivations this way, plus it keeps everything ‘real’. How interesting about Sloma and the fact she can’t find him on the web. Everyone’s on the web in some capacity, right? Even my dog! 😉 I have a feeling Megan is getting close to figuring out who this guy is and what he’s up to.

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    • Thanks, Kate. 🙂 I believe I see my writing skills maturing in these Meghan stories. And I hope that growth is also transferring to the rewrites of my novels. If not—back to another round of revisions. 🙂

      I think we’d be hard pressed to avoid a web presence these days without going off the grid. Granted, before I started blogging, you’d only have found professional and genealogical links for me. But those work links in particular are almost impossible to avoid these days, especially for someone in business. There must be a reason Frank Sloma isn’t showing up…. 😉

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  10. It is more fun with Meghan having to stop and clean, look at houses, muse over yard work – the interruption is more like real life so readers should more closely identify with her ( and dream of having the rest of her life!)
    Hmmm, historical area, legends, archeological digs, re-zoning property conflicts…it is real life – well done sneaking in all the details in a well constructed suspenseful plot – not an easy task!

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    • When characters are supposed to be “normal” people, I like to see the normal parts of their lives as part of the action. One thing I haven’t put into these stories is Meghan teaching in the classroom. In an expanded version of the story, I should. 😉 The “normal” details help me relate to the character, and I hope other readers feel the same way!

      I don’t think Meghan would be too concerned if she learned her GGGG grandfather might have killed someone. After all, it was a long time ago. But for some people, like Evelyn, it would be a big deal. She’ll have to do some soul-searching, I think.

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  11. Interesting developments, and I’m curious to how the two plots (Meghan’s professional life and her personal one) may intersect.

    Evelyn shines, here. There’s something lovable about some characters, even when they’re steamrolling. Her rapid talking is a good contrast to Meghan’s thoughtful internalization. I like how she’s only half-concerned with Kent, while the mystery of his death is what’s stuck in Meghan’s head.

    I don’t know you necessarily need the *** to separate the two scenes. They feel like they flow pretty naturally from one to the next. If Meghan went home, maybe you’d want that separation…but I still think it progresses organically enough. That’s just my opinion, though; it reads just fine with the asterisks.

    Fun stuff all around!

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    • Thanks, Mayumi! I struggle some with scene breaks. There are times, like in this episode, where I feel like I’m pausing to draw a breath, and I’ll tend to put a break there—even if the POV doesn’t switch. I usually see what my test readers say and revise from there. 😉

      Evelyn is a dynamo, and I think Meghan, who is more thoughtful and laid back, is often exhausted after interacting with her. A storm of events is brewing around Wyndham Thicket, and Meghan seems to be caught in the middle, I think….

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  12. JM, I thought of you and Meghan today when I visited the Google home page. Have you seen it? Two dogs … woman with her tools … are those Sloma’s footprints? 🙂 He’s so sneaky, I can’t wait to find out more about him! I rushed over here after I saw that because I forgot that yesterday was Tuesday and I hadn’t read the next installment

    I love the dialogue. The showing and not telling. They dynamics and drama. This story and your story-telling are great! And I feel like I’m learning so much from your process as well. Good for you to see growth in your writing! Guess this Meghan thing is working out for you … which is good for us 😉

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    • Oh, how fitting—Mary Leakey! She and her husband, Louis, were famous paleoanthropologists who worked in Africa. They discovered a number of fossils (and fossil footprints) of our early ancestors. Maybe those tracks belong to one of Frank Sloma’s ancient ancestors. 😉

      It’s interesting that the dialogue for this story comes so much more easily to me than it does in my other work. There’s something about Meghan that makes writing speech simpler. Isn’t that odd? I really can’t explain it at this point. Maybe part of it is that maturation process. Or maybe it’s just Meghan. 🙂

      I still have that feeling of dread that I’ll write myself into a corner at some point. But I really should know by now to trust Meghan. 😉

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  13. I was thinking about how these posts are about the right length. Enough story to read and keep going but not too much that you get stuck here (meant in a nice way of course), or it being too long to read (and therefore don’t).

    Anyhoo, like it and look forward to the next part 🙂

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    • Thanks, Elliot. 🙂 Somehow, the episodes seem to fall in the 800-1100 word range each week. When I put them all together for publication, it’ll be interesting to see if I need to rework them as I add more bits to them to make a ca. 20,000-word story. Having never done this before, it’s all new territory!

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  14. So much drama — the newspaper story, Evelyn’s anger, Frank Sloma — and balanced with Meghan’s real-life concerns. Nicely done! This Evelyn: methinks the lady doth protest too much. Skeletons (forgive me, I can’t help it) in her ancestral closet?

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    • You’ve probably hit on Evelyn’s worst nightmare—an ancestor who was a black sheep or who did something illegal! I think we have the main pieces of the puzzle. Now Meghan needs to assemble them and find the links between them. Hint, hint, Meghan—it’s time to start writing next week’s installment. 😉

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    • I have a hint of an idea from Meghan…. 😉 And Part 11 is drafted. But I’d really like her to sit down and spill the beans about how exactly we’re wrapping this up. 😀 I’ve already told her I need a break when this story is finished. And the characters from my other books are threatening to kidnap her so I’ll spend more time with them. 😉

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