A Murderer Among the Mourners

A Murderer Among the Mourners


I had no invitation to Miss Evangeline’s funeral. That wasn’t the way things were done in small-town Ednalee. Her death notice and a short obituary were in the local paper, giving the date and time for her burial. That was enough for anyone who was interested. It was such a murky day and, according to the Tulsa meteorologist, storms were a possibility. Only those who were dedicated to the small owner of the Carver farm or the curious would dare to face the elements.

Would the murderer make an appearance? For, in my heart, I believed that Miss Evangeline’s death was not accidental. Maybe, for some reason, her gentle mare was startled and pitched her off, causing her to hit her head and die. Or, maybe it was only meant to look that way. Would I see guilt on anybody’s face as they stood around her coffin? I doubted that the guilty person’s conscience would overcome him and he would break down and confess at her graveside, but one never knew.

At last, the hands of my old-fashioned wall clock pointed to one thirty. It was time to make the trek to the cemetery, that final resting place of past Ednalee citizens, including Uncle Javin. It always made me sad to go there and, try as I might, I couldn’t feel any of the joy I had known while my uncle was here on earth. All I could feel was emptiness and the sadness that he, my last living relative, was gone.

A big green awning flapped in the wind at the cemetery. People were already gathering—the family and, I supposed, several of her employees, were sitting under the shelter of the canopy. Others stood close by. I saw Cade and took my place beside him. His hand closed around mine, warm and comforting. I smiled at him.

The pastor of the Methodist church, Reverend Hershel Hart, began the service by reading John 14:1-4. After he sat down, to my surprise, Ken Riley stepped to the microphone. In a rich baritone, he sang the old hymn, “Day By Day.” Tears filled my eyes at the lovely words.

After Ken sat down, the pastor returned and read Miss Evangeline’s obituary.

The wind steadily rose, flapping the canopy with such enthusiasm that it was difficult to hear Pastor Hart’s words. I glanced at Cade. He squeezed my hand. Leaning close to my ear, he said, “Maybe you’d better go home, Ned. Looks like a pretty bad storm is heading our way.”

I shook my head. If he was staying, I was staying. Stubbornness is a strong character trait in my family.

Lightning flashed and the rain began, just some sprinkles at first. I heard Cade’s phone when it signaled he had a text message.

“Let’s stand for The Lord’s Prayer,” Pastor Hart said.

As everyone outside the tent was already standing, that meant only those under it rose to their feet. Before we could open our mouths to say, “Our Father,” a figure clothed in a small black hat, a black coat and gloves, and, I presumed, black shoes, although I couldn’t see them, jumped up from her chair under the tent, brushed Pastor Hart aside, and grabbed the microphone. Who was she? Was she one of the people I had met the day of Miss Evangeline’s death? With the rain, it was difficult to see.

The wind took her hat away, and her hair streamed out in the gale, whipping against Pastor Hart as he vainly tried to calm her and regain the microphone. With her black coat flapping in the wind, she reminded me of pictures of witches I’d seen in my childhood.

She pointed her shaking finger toward the family group. I would have had no problem hearing her without the microphone. “You killed her!” she shrilled. “You killed her, and may you never have a moment’s peace until you confess your heinous act. Murderers!” Who was she talking to? Evidently, it was someone in the tent.

MOONSTRUCK AND MURDEROUS, a Ned McNeil moonlight mystery by Blanche Day Manos

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