The Death of Amelia Marsh: A Sally Nimitz Mystery (Book 1)
answering machine or new shoes. I was glad about the shoes. Her ‘40s and ‘50s style footwear on her tiny feet
was another fascination. And, since there was no answering machine, it was now a certainty Mrs. Marsh was
not at home or could not get to her phone.
I opted for caution over embarrassment. The lady had been perfectly fine when she waved her handkerchief
at me the day before, but a heart attack or a stroke was certainly possible. I called the manager of the condo
Barry found managing the buildings a suitable job while working on a night degree in computer science. He
had that admirable quality of being able to study while being interrupted frequently. His voice was cheer itself
as he listened to my concern.
“No problem, Mrs. Nimitz,” he boomed. With his clear, resonant voice, I thought again he was wasted on
his chosen profession and should have been a radio announcer or a high school teacher instead. “I’ll grab the
extra key and go over there to make sure everything’s okay. You want to meet me there?”
I did meet him at her front door. Everything was not okay. The front door was not locked. We found Mrs.
Marsh dead on the kitchen floor. It was obvious to both of us she had not had a massive stroke or a heart attack,
at least not initially. The side of her head was bashed in.
Two hours later the whole thing began to sink in. After saying, “my god, my god,” about a dozen times
Barry had the presence of mind to call the police. He was also contained enough to tell them there was no
question of needing an ambulance, at least for transport to the hospital, and I had myself together enough to
draw from my nurse’s training and contribute to his explanation to the dispatcher on the line. The body was
quite cold, and there certainly was no pulse. The unpleasant odor of old body elimination could not be ignored.
Many people don’t realize to what extent the body relaxes when it gives up the ghost. When I looked back it
surprised me we had not impulsively fled the kitchen, but neither one of us did. Of course Mrs. Marsh’s only
phone was in the kitchen, but Barry did not know that, and I certainly was not thinking about it. With the
murder mysteries everyone watches nowadays, you would think we would have fled the scene immediately.
Perhaps we were in shock.
In mutual, unspoken, agreement, we did go into the living room to wait for the police. Barry ran his hands
restlessly through his receding blond hair and repeated “my god” numerous more times, as he paced the room
and watched the street out of the front window. I sat down numbly on an old loveseat, the back of it covered in
one of Mrs. Marsh’s crocheted creations. My mind was fixated on the body of that elderly lady lying on the
kitchen floor in front of the sink. She was wearing black slacks, I thought stupidly, and a blue knitted sweater
over her white blouse. Her white hair pulled up on her head looked as neat as ever, except for the bright red
mass of blood on the side. Her face had been turned away from me as I knelt down on the floor, and I couldn’t
get up the courage to look at it. Perhaps I wanted to remember her face as it was alive, not frozen into whatever
mask her death had placed it.
“I suppose I should call the home office,” Barry speculated miserably. “They’ll be wild something like this
happened here. Nothing like this has ever happened here before.” He added as an after thought, “The poor old
“Yes,” I agreed inadequately. “Uh, why don’t you wait? The phone call to the home office, I mean. You can
tell them more after the police have looked at things.”
He nodded and continued his pacing, his eyes glued toward the front window, willing the police to hurry. It
took them about eight minutes; eight long minutes for both of us. The entire time I had this uncanny sensation
of something just not being right. It seemed absurd. How could anything be right about someone being
murdered? And how would I know? This was the first time I had ever seen a body at the scene of a crime. The
experience did not give me any inclination to join the local police force or an ambulance crew, either.
Two policemen arrived initially, soon followed by two more, and two more after that. I noticed one of them
was a woman. Over all they were polite and professional. I had only dealt with law enforcement on a very
limited basis over my lifetime. None of it had soured me on the police.
They asked a hundred questions, some of which we could answer, and some we could not. I gave them a
detailed account of my afternoon, beginning with my arrival on the deceased’s doorstep and ending with
Barry’s 911 call. We assured them we had—or I had—only touched her arm and wrist to confirm no sign of
life. I was able to provide them with the name of Mrs. Marsh’s local parish and the name of another neighbor