I cleared my throat.
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You don't have to give me your name at this time. Just come in the end door, you know, the door that opens on the staff parking lot? You can park there, too. Definitely a local; I could tell by the number of syllables in "tell. Carol Althaus lived in the middle of chaos.
I had dropped all but three of my customers, and I wished Carol had been one of them, but I'd had one of my rare moments of pity and kept her on. I was only cleaning Carol, the Winthrops, and the Drinkwaters, and Monday was the day I did all three. I went back to the Winthrops on Thursday, and I remained open for the odd errand or special cleaning job other days, but I was also working for Jack, so my schedule was complicated. Carol's life had gone out of control when she'd married Jay Althaus, a divorced salesman with two sons. To Jay's credit, he had custody of his sons.
To Jay's debit, he was on the road all the time, and though he may have loved Carol, who was anemically attractive, religious, and stupid, he also needed a live-in baby-sitter. So he married Carol, and despite all their previous experiences with the two boys, they had their own babies, two girls. I'd begun working for Carol when she was pregnant with the second girl, throwing up intermittently every day and sitting limply in a recliner the rest of the time.
I'd kept all of the children for a day and a half, only once, when Jay had had a car wreck out of town. Probably these children were not demonic. Possibly, they were quite typical.
But collectively, they were hell. Carol needed me to come at least twice a week, for maybe six hours at a stretch.
She could afford four hours a week, just barely. I gave Carol Althaus the best value for her money she would find anywhere.
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During the school year, it was nearly possible for Carol to cope. Heather and Dawn were still at home, only five and three years old, but the boys Cody and Tyler were in school. Summers were another kettle of fish. It was late June, so the kids had all been home for about three weeks. Carol had enrolled them in four Bible schools. The First Baptists and the Central Methodists had already completed their summer programs, and the house was even more littered with paper fish and bread glued to paper plates, sheep made from cotton balls and Popsicle sticks, and lopsided drawings of fishermen pulling in nets filled with people.
I entered with my own key to find Carol standing in the middle of the kitchen, trying to get the snarls out of Dawn's long curls.
Shakespeare's Counselor: A Lily Bard Mystery
The little girl was wailing. She had on a nightgown with Winnie the Pooh on the front. She was wearing toy plastic high heels and she'd gotten into her mother's makeup. I surveyed the kitchen and began to gather dishes. When I reentered the kitchen a minute later, laden with dirty glasses and two plates that had been on the floor in the den, Carol was still standing in the middle of the floor, a quizzical expression on her face.
Would she be reassured about my well-being if I told her I'd tried to kill Jack the night before? Dawn looked up at me with as much fascination as if I'd been a cobra. Her hair was still a mess. I could solve that with a pair of scissors and a brush in about five minutes, and I found the idea very tempting.
Carol shook her head, that faint smile still on her face. As she worked the brush through the little girl's thick hair, the oldest boy dashed into the kitchen in his swimming trunks. I was invited," Cody assured her. As Carol laid down the law I loaded the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen counters. Tyler retreated to his room with a lot of door slamming and fuming.
Dawn trotted off to play with her Duplos, and Carol left the room in such a hurry I wondered if she was ill. Heather appeared at my elbow to watch my every move. I am not much of a kid person. I don't like, or dislike, all children.
Lily Bard Mysteries
I take it on an individual basis, as I do with adults. I very nearly liked Heather Althaus. She would be old enough for kindergarten in the fall, she had short, easy-to-deal-with hair since a drastic self-barbering job that had driven Carol to tears, and she tried to take care of herself.
Heather eyed me solemnly, said "Hey, Miss Lily," and extricated a frozen waffle from the side-by-side.
Detailed Review Summary of Shakespeare's Counselor by Charlaine Harris
After popping it in the toaster, Heather got her own plate, fork, and knife and set them on the counter. Cleaning woman and karate expert Lily Bard is a woman with a complicated past. Trying her best to cope with her terrifying memories and horrible nightmares, she decides to join a weekly group therapy Welcome back to Shakespeare - a charming Arkansas town with endless back roads, an eclectic mix of residents, and a dollop of noir.
Charlaine Harris's beloved series returns just in time for Christmas with this paperback re-issue. She was born and raised in the Mississippi River Delta area.
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