Cleaning Lady's Secret

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Gracie and her friend are two elderly cleaning ladies. But a serial killer is targeting older women, and surprisingly Gracie's the number one suspect. After all this isn't the first time Gracie killed someone.

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Chapter 1

He follows me. I am this killer’s type. Sixty something, living alone with a dozen cats. He thinks I will be an easy prey like Junkyard Jenny, the homeless woman he beat to death behind a dumpster, and like Mrs. Craig, the widow who lived three streets over. He bludgeoned her with a baseball bat while her cats ran for cover under the sofa.

Since even before the murders started, a lone male follows me to work each morning. He is a dark shadow who stays in the distance as I walk down the cold streets. Sometimes I glance behind me, so he knows I am aware of him. We each stop and glare at each other. In the dark, I cannot make out his features. We are shadows. That’s all we are to each other - for now.

I volunteer at the animal shelter most days. I clean the cat area before the regular staff gets there. Mrs. Craig’s cats are there, still scared, hovering in their compartments like street children bundled up for warmth. We, the shelter volunteers and staff, give them love, and we hope they’ll find new homes. They saw their mistress bludgeoned to death. That’s a horrible thing.

It’s 6 a.m. and still dark in these cold months when I walk to the animal shelter. I stop for coffee at the Starbucks. Gracie meets me there. She is the cleaning lady at the women’s shelter. We chat about Mr. Clean sponges, Tide Pods and micro-fabric cloths as we sip our morning coffee.

“Is he still following you?” Gracie asks.

“I didn’t see him this morning,” I answer.

“You need to call the police.”

“What can they do? I keep my cell phone turned on and ready. All I have to do is press ‘Send,’ and it goes to 911.”

“They couldn’t get to you in time.”

“I know that. I’ve taken self defense courses. I carry pepper spray. I would put up a fight.”

“You’re sixty some years old. What about your arthritis? He’ll have a weapon. He used a baseball bat on… on that poor lady.” She means Mrs. Craig. Gracie didn’t get along with her. Before the murder there had been some disagreements.

Gracie looks sad. She walks to work too. She could be a victim. But she seems no more concerned for her own safety than I am for my own safety. Instead we worry about each other. Perhaps she carries a gun in her purse. The man committing these crimes should be careful. Some of us old ladies might fight back.

He could be following her some mornings. Maybe she just didn’t see him.

We finish our coffee and walk east. The sun is coming up. It’s a thin line on the horizon. When we come to the women’s shelter where Gracie works, there’s two police cars sitting near the entrance.

“My god,” I say. “I hope he didn’t get another of those poor homeless women.”

Two officers walk toward us. “That’s not why they’re here,” Gracie says. “They’re going to arrest me.”

“What? Why?” I don’t know if she hears my questions. The police officers have taken her purse and handcuffed her. I hear one of them say, “You are under arrest for the murders of…” She looks at me with sad, scared eyes. An officer reads her her rights.

Gracie turns toward me. She shakes her head. “I didn’t do it,” she says so softly, I have to read her lips.

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