The Mysterious Man
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
This is the opening scene from Death on Atlantic Avenue, Fina’s eighth Brooklyn mystery standalone. Her half sister, Kate is alone in her store.
A horrific crash. Somewhere above her. Kate Fitzgibbons flew under the nearest table and gulped air. Plaster dust, she breathed plaster dust. Must be from the ceiling. Grabbing her phone, she punched in her sister’s number, but the call went to voicemail. “It’s me. I need your help. The store. Hurry.”
Kate watched as the chandelier directly above her head swayed. She hoped the handyman had fastened it well. This was the first time she’d used him. The first time she’d hired anyone. The first time she’d had the wherewithal. She shut her eyes and squeezed, waiting for the final cataclysm.
Nothing. Maybe she’d imagined the sound. No, she’d heard a definite boom, like bricks falling into a heap, or a huge load of lumber clattering to the ground. She held her breath, waiting for silence. Fat chance, what with the stream of traffic on Atlantic Avenue, a noise she’d almost dismissed because of its ever-presence. With its constant in-your-face, Brooklyn was not at all like her hometown in Dutchess County. Sweat prickled her armpits. She glanced outside at the usual eclectic crowd of pedestrians hurrying past the store’s plate-glass window, hurrying to wherever, women wearing hijabs or hats, wigs or wool caps, young women pushing prams, older women pulling shopping carts, parents with bundled and backpacked children walking fast, all of them part of the usual scene.
All of them unknown. Except for a man she recognized because she’d seen him before, usually walking a cute little dog, the kind of mutt with spindly legs and a curly coat, the kind that looked like they had a beard or mustache or something, full of play. Dreamy eyes—both the dog and his owner. Now he was without his pet and peering into the shop window. Always wearing shiny loafers, he was dressed with care each time she’d seen him. Today he wore jeans that fit his tall legs like blue skin. A suede jacket almost too light for the weather, a dark matte suede or perhaps sheepskin—Kate wasn’t conversant with the ins and outs of male fashion—but definitely pricey. For sure he worked out. She could almost feel the bulge of his biceps. No gloves. No ring. She felt her face redden. Something about his demeanor, too, she liked. He had a presence, all right, but it wasn’t the least bit insistent. Although he wasn’t shy or clumsy. He had an ease that suggested humor. No, he had an ease that suggested humanity, that was it. Each time she’d seen him he’d been alone and seemed, well, curious. Certainly not pushy. Kate hated pushy. If he were pushy, he would have swaggered into the shop and introduced himself long ago. He must have seen her staring at him because he stopped for the briefest of seconds and gave her a tentative grin and a wave before continuing on his way. When she opened the door to invite him inside, he was nowhere in sight. Kate closed the door and leaned against it, closing her eyes and listening to the silver bell she’d had the handyman attach to the door. Fina hated that bell. She’d said it was too old-fashioned and “not for this neighborhood.” Kate liked it all the more. But the mysterious man. She couldn’t wait to talk to Tessa about him. Tessa would know all about him. Tessa knew everything about everybody.