Three Bedrooms, One Corpse - By Charlaine Harris

Chapter One

My career as a real estate salesperson was short and unofficial, but not uneventful. It started in the lobby of Eastern National Bank at nine-thirty on a weekday morning with my mother glancing at her tiny, expensive gold watch.

“I can’t make it,” she said with controlled savagery. A person who couldn’t manage her appointments was inefficient in my mother’s estimation, and to find herself coming up short in that respect was almost intolerable. Of course, her dilemma was not her fault.

“It’s those Thompsons,” she said furiously, “always late! They should have been here forty-five minutes ago! Late for their own house closing!” She stared down at her tiny elegant watch as if she could change its reading by the force of her will. Her slim crossed legs were jiggling with impatience, one navy pump-shod foot swinging back and forth. When she got up, there might be a hole in the bank’s ersatz oriental carpeting.

I sat beside her in the chair I would vacate for Mrs. Thompson, when and if she showed up. A couple standing up Aida Brattle Teagarden Queensland for their own house closing was simply amazing; the Thompsons were gutsy, or so rich they wore an impervious armor of self-assurance.

“What are you going to be late for?” I was eyeing her crossed legs enviously. My own legs will never be long enough to be elegant. Actually, my feet couldn’t even touch the floor. I waved at two people I knew in the time it took my mother to answer. Lawrenceton was like that. I’d lived in this small Georgia town all my life, and figured I’d be here forever; sooner or later, I’d join my great-grandparents in Shady Rest Cemetery. Most days that gave me a warm, fluid feeling; just part of that ole Southern river of life.

Some days it made me crazy.

“The Bartells. He’s come in from Illinois as plant manager of Pan-Am Agra, they’re looking for a ‘really nice home,’ and we have an appointment to see the Anderton house. Actually, they’ve been here, or he’s been here, I didn’t get the details— he’s been here for three months living in a motel while he gets things lined up at Pan-Am Agra, and now he has the leisure to house-hunt. And he asked around for the best realtor in town. And he called me, last night. He apologized beautifully for disturbing me at home, but I don’t think he was really a bit sorry. I know the Greenhouses were thinking they would get him, since Donnie’s cousin is his secretary. And I’m going to be late.”

“Oh,” I said, now understanding the depths of Mother’s chagrin. She had a star listing and a star client, and being late for introducing one to the other was a professional disaster.

Getting the Anderton house listing had been a real coup in this smallish town with no multiple-listing service. If Mother could sell it quickly, it would be a feather in her cap (as if her cap needed any more adornment) and of course a hefty fee. The Anderton house might truthfully be called the Anderton mansion. Mandy Anderton, now married and living in L.A., had been a childhood acquaintance of mine, and I’d been to a few parties at her house. I remembered trying to keep my mouth closed so I wouldn’t look so impressed.

“Listen,” said Mother with sudden resolution, “you’re going to meet the Bartells for me.”


She scanned me with business eyes, rather than mother eyes. “That’s a nice dress; that rust color is good on you. Your hair looks okay today, and the new glasses are very nice. And I love your jacket. You take this fact sheet and run along over there—please, Aurora?” The coaxing tone sat oddly on my mother, who looked like Lauren Bacall and acted like the very successful realtor/broker she is.

“Just show them around?” I asked, taking the fact sheet hesitantly and sliding forward to the edge of the blue leather chair. My gorgeous brand-new rust-and-brown suede pumps finally met the floor. I was dressed so discreetly because today was the third day I’d followed Mother around, supposedly learning the business while studying for my realtor’s license at night. Actually, I’d spent the time daydreaming. I would much rather have been looking for my own house. But Mother had pointed out cleverly that if I was in the office, I’d get first chance at almost any house that came up for sale.

Meeting the Bartells might be more interesting than observing Mother and the