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  • Writer's pictureSusan Russo Anderson

Fina’s Backstory

Here’s an excerpt from Fina’s fifth book, a standalone Brooklyn mystery called Dorset in the Dark. In this scene, Fina’s just found a woman sitting in the park. The woman is in distress. Fina looks up for a second, just for a second, and—as can happen with all of us, no matter what we’re doing at the time—memories intrude.

While I stared out over the slow-moving water, the past intruded. I thought of Mom and the many times we’d stood on this very spot together. And then in my mind I was back in high school and sitting next to her on the subway as she went for her umpteenth job interview shortly after she’d been fired from Heights Federal. Waiting for her outside the office into which she’d disappeared, I prayed for her just to be calm and impressive, not that frenetic, insistent Mom I’d known of late. I leaned against a wall, watching the traffic on Canal Street, wishing I understood Chinese while two men quarreled outside a hardware store and a shard of late afternoon light slashed pedestrians standing on silent corners. I could still see the slump of her shoulders when she returned. “Not this time,” she’d said. It was the lowest we’d ever gotten, and I knew I had to do something or we’d lose the house, so I began taking out the garbage for old Mrs. Adams across the street, then graduated to scrubbing her floors and throwing out old newspapers. Soon she recommended me to two of her neighbors, and before I knew it, Lucy’s Cleaning Service was born, a business that kept us off the streets. I can still remember the day I came home with a check to cover half the mortgage, waving it in front of Mom’s shocked face. It was enough so that our lawyer could plead our case with the bank. And after that, we’d never missed a payment. But cleaning homes and offices every night after class and on weekends meant I barely squeaked through the last two years of high school.

The wind picked up and seagulls squawked overhead. “You’d like your grandchildren,” I whispered as the sky lightened, rosy and cloud-ladened, and I let the clean smell of the ocean dispel the ache in me. “Carmella has your eyes and Robbie, your temperament—thank God.” I heard the breeze laugh, and before I got too far down maudlin lane, reminded myself how lucky I was to have a husband who loved me; to have two healthy, happy toddlers; to have a mother-in-law who didn’t meddle and helped with my business; to live close to my best friend since kindergarten, Cookie, who also helped me in my detective agency. I needed to get her involved in the drugstore robberies.

Photo: Cover, Dorset in the Dark. Cover Design, Avalon Graphics

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