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Death Beneath the Laurel
Handwriting is a projection of personality, a mirror of one’s thoughts. It reveals strengths and weaknesses, and dark secrets. —Katharine Everitt
The scream and ensuing silence struck an irreverent chord in the otherwise tranquil morning hours on campus. Minutes earlier, Kat Everitt strode toward her office. Her four-inch stiletto heels tapped counterpoint to the construction noise from the new fine arts building. Students yawned in concert while they strolled in the woods on the edge of the university for their final field exam.
The shrieks of terror—more than one now—came from the birdwatchers, all students in the Ornithology 301 class. Kat sprinted toward the sound faster than the reigning short distance track champion. She halted abruptly inside the thicket of trees. Students shouted, “He’s dead! A man under the trees.”
Adrenalin pumped through her. She urged the students to stay back. Beneath the canopy of laurel trees she inched toward the man lying quiet and serene on an Indian blanket under a hemlock tree. She bent just enough to check for a pulse without disturbing the scene.
Back on the path she dialed the local police on her cell phone, then campus police. Katharine, known to most as Kat, handled publicity for Mountain View University but murder was her sideline. She usually dealt with the dainty side of death, helping police pinpoint suspects through the use of handwriting analysis. Somehow it often turned personal. Last year she’d had the bad luck to see up close a professor found stabbed in his chemistry lab. This time, finding the body pushed her past her comfort zone.
She recognized this man. Dying in his sleep wasn’t a likely demise for such a cantankerous person. He irritated her nerves like scratching with steel wool ever since he began running the Mountain View Men’s Championships five years ago, but the tournament meant needed resources for the university, and the manager made it happen despite his prickly personality.
Mentally setting their differences aside she said a prayer, then turned her mind to practical matters. His death at the beginning of the tournament brought trouble. She quickly called her boss, who would want to control publicity.
Scanning the surrounding area for clues, Kat noted the sparse grass and hard ground under the thin blanket of hemlock needles. No possible footprints there. But no drag marks. He probably died where he lay.
Her senses heightened, Kat smelled the damp earth, and sweat of August in the Poconos. Even the bumblebees lazed about, too slow to frighten human neighbors. The verdant leaves of laurels dominated the landscape, their bright glossiness unmarred by the morbid happenings played out beneath ... Read more