The Tell All
Locust Point Mystery, book 1
by Libby Howard
Genre: Cozy mystery
Life at sixty isn’t quite what Kay Carrera expected. She’s working as a skip-tracer for a PI who is desperate to land his own reality TV show. She has a new roommate who arrived with more than the usual amount of baggage. And her attempts at knitting are less than stellar – way less than stellar. Worse, the cataract surgery that restored her sight has also delivered an unexpected and disturbing side-effect.
Kay sees ghosts. And when the dead turn to her for help, she just can’t say no.
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“F E L O P Z D.”
“Very nice, Mrs. Carrera.”
The doctor smiled at me as if I were a particularly clever child, then proceeded to flash his hand-held light thingy back and forth across each eye.
“The lens attachments look good. Everything has healed nicely.” He sat back on his rolling stool, looking for a few seconds as if he had a halo while my eyes adjusted to the room’s dim light.
For all I knew, he probably did have a halo. Doctor Berkowitz was a fit man who wore his receding hair trimmed short and had an affinity for t-shirts with quirky sayings on them. Today’s shirt proclaimed him to be a Browncoat—whatever that was. He was about my age with warm, friendly eyes in a face whose lines told me he’d spent a lot of his life smiling. Dr. Berkowitz was the type of guy that twenty years ago would have made my heart rate increase, but instead I felt nothing. Zip. Nada. Eli and I had always joked that marriage didn’t mean you suddenly went blind. Nor did it mean that ogling an attractive jogger or bartender was a prelude to infidelity. It was normal to see the beauty in other humans around you, and normal to know that the person you married was the only one who truly lit your fire.
But Eli was gone, and the last ten years of our marriage had been challenging. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t see Doctor Berkowitz as an attractive, eligible man, it was that I couldn’t see myself as an attractive, eligible woman anymore. I didn’t even recognize the face I saw in the mirror or the body I lathered up in the shower as mine. How had I wound up a young woman in an old body?
How had I wound up a numb robot in an old body?
Not that there was anything beyond professional friendliness in Doctor Berkowitz’s demeanor to suggest that he might find me attractive. Not that there had been anything in anyone’s demeanor in the last ten years to suggest they might find me attractive. I didn’t want another man. I wasn’t looking for a replacement for Eli or even a weird one-night-stand. It just would be nice if someone would see me as more than an old lady, a childless widow, as more than some androgynous robot. With cataracts. Who saw shadows out of the corner of her eye.
When did I get so old that a good-looking doctor did nothing for me? When did I get so old that a good-looking doctor wasn’t eyeing me up with a spark of interest in his own eyes? One day I was looking at forty in the mirror, and the next greeting my sixtieth birthday with surprise. Everything in between was a blur of work, bills, and doctors—endless, endless streams of doctors.
“. . . floaters. Quite common after surgery, especially in patients of your age.”
I’d not been paying attention. I was sure the doctor thought I had some kind of early-onset dementia, even though he smiled kindly and repeated himself. He wasn’t any younger than me. Still, sitting in this reclining chair in the tiny room, I felt ancient.
“So these floaters will go away? I’m not going to spend the rest of my life seeing shadows creeping around?”
It was irritating. In a way, it was more irritating than the cataracts had been. Every time I tried to focus on the shadows, they flitted out of sight. Sometimes they remained, moving to stay at the corner of my vision as if they were trying to get my attention but didn’t want me to look directly at them.
“Individuals prone to cataracts are sometimes prone to floaters, so while the condition might resolve somewhat as your eyes continue to heal, you may continue to have them. Eventually, you’ll get used to the dark spots and will no longer notice them.”
“They’re not spots,” I argued. Doctors didn’t intimidate me as they used to, and I’d found that it was important to properly articulate symptoms. “They’re elongated, with protuberances. They look like human shadows, only there’s no one casting them.”
Doctor Berkowitz patted me on the back of my hand. I wondered if I’d be offered a lollypop upon completion of the appointment. Or perhaps a bottle of prune juice.
“Well, the floaters can take on an oblong shape.”
I was subjected to a long monologue about vitreous fluid, then urged to contact him immediately if I began seeing flashes of light, or the floaters appeared as groups. Lovely. Basically, they might resolve over time, or they might not. I’d traded horrible night vision and fading eyesight for floaters, and I’d paid over six thousand dollars for the privilege.
Six thousand dollars I could scant afford. I still caught my breath thinking about it, but after spending over ten years neglecting my own health, I’d needed to do this. I’d been given this new chapter in the autumn of my life. It was like breaking the water’s surface for a gasp of air after nearly drowning. My eyesight had been my reward for survival.
“. . . avoid bright light. Wear sunglasses when you go out, and limit computer usage.”
Nope. I mean, I was fine with the sunglasses thing, but there was no way I giving up my internet. Funny cat videos had become a highlight of my evenings.
And how sad was that? I was sixty, not ninety. Sheesh.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Libby Howard lives in a little house in the woods with her sons and two exuberant bloodhounds. She occasionally knits, occasionally bakes, and occasionally manages to do a load of laundry. Most of her writing is done in a bar where she can combine work with people-watching, a decent micro-brew, and a plate of Old Bay wings.
“Cozy mysteries with a touch of the paranormal”