©Neville Goedhals 2007. Visit my site at: www.NevilleGoedhals.com

THE FOUNDATION NAIL

 

By

 

Neville C. Goedhals

 

  

 Dirk watched in surprise as his date dropped her martini glass to the floor. It shattered, shooting fragments across the hardwood flooring. He cursed silently. The home was new and he had moved in only a few days ago. It was like someone running a key across your car’s paintwork.

She leaned back, clenching the sofa upholstery in white-knuckled hands, making choking noises.

His concern over the floor vanished. “Brenda! What is it?”

Her bulging eyes pleaded with him.

“An olive?” he asked, springing off his side of the sofa.

She gave a short desperate nod.

Dirk pulled her upright, and standing behind her performed the Heimlich maneuver. Nothing happened, so he tried again ... and again.

#

“Dirk Mitchell, isn’t it?” asked the detective scribbling in a well-used notebook.

“That’s right.” Dirk gave him an imploring look. “Do you need my details again?”

“Nope. I still have your folder on my desk from the last time you dragged me out here.” The detective glanced into the lounge where the coroner was bent over the woman’s body. “It all appears aboveboard ... an unfortunate accident, but there’ll be an inquest. It’s a matter of departmental policy because the deceased--”

Brenda.”

“Yes, Brenda ... died of unexplained causes. Um, what was her last name again?”

Dirk’s eyes closed and he shook his head. The sight of Brenda’s lifeless form was almost too much to bear. “Whitmill I think. It was our first date.”

“And she trusted you enough to come into your house?” The detective held up his hand in a pacifying gesture. “Not that I could blame anyone for wanting to see inside. You have an amazing home.”

“We know each other from work,” explained Dirk. “Not well, but our paths had crossed. She works ... worked in the print room. Plotted some plans for me on rush jobs.”

The detective scrawled busily. “And that’s Edward and Sons? The architectural company?”

“Yes.”

“I suppose you designed this house?”

“Yes. As I told you last time, I’ve just moved in.”

The detective tut-tuted. “Real bad luck you’re having. What with the neighborhood welcome-woman tripping on your path and breaking her neck, and now the young lady--”

Brenda.” Dirk’s tone had an edge to it now, anger filling the void left by sorrow.

“Yes.” The detective frowned. “Funny thing. Well maybe not funny ... strange I mean. There’ve been a number of deaths in this area recently. An associate said that a couple of days ago the local postal worker was found dead in her truck, just outside your house. A stoke apparently. She was only forty.”

Dirk remembered her. The postal worker had been very friendly, all smiles as she made him sign for a parcel.

“Then there were the two little girls from next-door,” continued the detective. “Both died from bee stings. Seems they were allergic.”

Dirk had been unpacking the last of his boxes when he saw the children. He had glanced down from his bedroom window to see them fetching a Frisbee from his back yard. They had clambered back over the fence, and he recalled thinking what a perfect neighborhood it was.

“You’ll have to excuse me as I see the forensic team’s arrived. I’ll get back to you.” The detective walked back into the lounge where he greeted a handsome looking older woman with a young man in tow.

Dirk released his breath with a hiss, thankful that the detective hadn’t heard about the other strange deaths. He gave an involuntary shudder as he recalled the past few days. Brenda’s death was simply the last straw.

A loud thud and shouts from the lounge brought him running. The CSI woman was flopping on the lounge floor like a beached fish, foam spilling from her mouth. The detective struggled to hold her still while the coroner gave her an injection.

Dirk could do nothing but shake his head in dismay. He knew they were wasting their time. She was a lost cause. There had been a stage when he was still prepared to believe in coincidences, but this evening had put such hopeful thoughts to rest.

#

The following morning Dirk took the day off. He’d seen enough death in the past three days to harden a war veteran. Something had to be done.

He’d searched the net for similar incidents, even chatting with weirdos on physic discussion boards, and had finally resorted to browsing the yellow pages. His quest seemed hopeless. What he was looking for was help, although the exact nature of the help he needed was anyone’s guess.

He started when the door chimed. Answering it was out of the question. Inviting further deaths was the last thing he wanted. When the chimes persisted he gave up and made his way to the front door.

Dirk peered cautiously through the eyehole. A small brown man dressed in khakis stood on his doorstep. Dangling from his hand was a thin chain with a crystal on the end. The man was watching it spin in rapt concentration.

The work kook sprang to Dirk’s mind. He opened the door. “Can I help you?”

The brown man grinned. “The question sir is ‘can I help you?’” His English was precise, almost British in pronunciation, a foreign accent flavoring his speech.

Middle Eastern guessed Dirk. The man might have been old, but had an ageless quality. His head was shaved or he was bald, and not a wrinkle marred his smooth light-brown skin, while his short skinny frame made his clothes look a size too large. “Whatever you’re selling I don’t--”

“Have there been any unforeseen deaths lately?”