Murder Audit Chapter 2: When the Snow Falls

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I'm super excited to share Chapter 2 from my debut novel Murder Audit. Here you get to meet my protagonist, Cynthia Webber, CPA. If you missed Chapter 1, you can read it here.

Cynthia Webber stood in her dimly lit kitchen, looking out the window into the darkness. She watched the snow gently fall in the backyard which was lit only by the light at the back door. She cradled a cup of tea with both hands. The snow looked beautiful as it danced in the light. The weather reminded her of her son’s second birthday. That day, the snow had been falling for only about an hour when, Jason, knowing how much his in-laws disliked winter driving, offered to give them a ride so they could enjoy their grandson’s birthday, despite the weather.

Jason never returned home. Cynthia was told that a vehicle in oncoming traffic hit an icy patch and crossed the centerline. Jason was killed instantly.

“Mommy,” Luke called to Cynthia from the next room. Cynthia put her mug of tea down next to the kitchen sink.

“Coming, baby.” Cynthia calmly glided into Luke’s room, happy to have her melancholy memory of Jason interrupted. She gently sat down on the edge of Luke’s bed.

“I can’t sleep,” Luke said looking up at Cynthia with wide eyes.

“I’m just getting ready for bed. Do you want to sleep with me in my bed tonight?” Cynthia comforted Luke. Luke nodded. “Ok, give me two minutes,” Cynthia said as she stood to head back to the kitchen to put her mug in the dishwasher. As she flicked the kitchen light off, she looked out the window at the falling snow and thought about Jason. Happy New Year. Sleep well, my love. It had been over two years since she was able to say those words to Jason but she said them every night before she went to bed just as she had when he’d been alive.

“Alright, munchkin, come on,” Cynthia said as she passed Luke’s bedroom. Luke and Cynthia grew closer than ever after Jason died. Cynthia had her parents for support, but they felt so guilty about Jason’s death that Cynthia didn’t like to bother them too much even though they enjoyed spending time with Luke.

Luke hopped out of bed and followed Cynthia down the hall to her bedroom. When they reached Cynthia’s room, Luke noticed her school books on her desk. “Are you studying, Mommy?”

“The books can wait until tomorrow,” Cynthia answered. She was studying to take the Common Final Examination to become a Chartered Professional Accountant. Most of her studying was done after Luke went to bed. Luke always came first. Cynthia was fortunate to work at the Calgary office of Darlington & Associates (D&A), an international accounting firm. They were great about giving Cynthia time to study during her regular work days. Without the extra time, Cynthia knew she wouldn’t be as far in her career as she was.

Cynthia met Jason when she first started at D&A as an articling student. In an office with over four hundred staff, Cynthia was placed on Jason’s audit team during her first year. Jason was so impressed with Cynthia’s eye for detail that he requested she be put on his team again and again. Before long, it wasn’t just Cynthia’s attention to detail Jason was noticing.

Cynthia turned off her desk lamp and checked her iPhone one last time for the night. Luke climbed on Cynthia’s bed with such enthusiasm she wondered how long it would take for him to fall asleep.

“Shall we read a book?” she said pointing to the pile of Luke’s books on her nightstand. Luke nodded and pointed to his favorite book. He stretched his arms out wide and said, “I love you this much, Mommy.” Luke and Cynthia read Guess How Much I Love You and by the time they were done, Cynthia could tell Luke was getting sleepy. She kissed him goodnight and turned off the light.

Ten minutes later Luke was snoring in Cynthia's arms. Cynthia wiggled her way out of the snuggle and tiptoed over to her desk. She picked up her accounting books and her laptop and headed to the living room. She’d gotten used to very little sleep, between staying up late and getting up early to study before Luke woke up, she only got a few hours each night.

Cynthia brewed a fresh cup of strong tea and got herself set up on the floor with her books on the coffee table in front of the TV. Before long, Cynthia was asleep with her head on her books. Suddenly, a loud racket at the door caused Cynthia to jolt awake. She was out of breath, and her heart was racing. She saw the motion light flicker on the porch outside the kitchen door.

After Jason died, Cynthia started stashing unsuspecting “weapons” around her house to help make her feel safe. Turning everyday objects into weapons also kept Luke from asking too many questions. Although she lived in a fairly safe neighbourhood, she felt it didn’t hurt to have some extra protection.

She quietly ran for a baseball bat that she kept stashed in the pantry. Without turning on any lights, she snuck towards the kitchen porch ready for whatever hoodlum was sneaking around outside. As she got closer to the porch, she noticed the recycling bin had toppled over and Snuffy, Luke’s cat, was gleefully sniffing around whatever traces of food had been left on the tin cans. Goddamn cat, Cynthia muttered to herself. She took a deep breath as she put the bat down and headed outside to clean up the mess.

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