Jane tucked her lemon-Pledge-soaked dust rag back in her apron pocket and moved on to the laundry room, the chemical citrus wafting away with her. She needed to strip the beds and get the laundry going if she was going to get out to her next house on time. On her way past the laundry room, she grabbed a hamper.
Then she stopped. Monday was laundry day. Laundry day and payday. The envelope full of cash was always pinned to the bulletin board with her directions. That envelope was supposed to buy her books today. Standing still with the hamper on her hip she debated. Stop now, call Pam, and ask for directions and money, or just keep working? The laundry would take two hours, whether she was paid or not, so she moved to the master bedroom. She could call Pamela after she had the first load in the machine.
Jane pushed open the bedroom door with her hip.
In a smooth set of motions perfected over her two years as a housekeeper, she set the hamper down, grabbed the end of the comforter and pulled all of the bedding off the bed. Then she looked up to grab the pillows.
Bob was still in bed.
“I am so sorry!” she whispered. She backed away from the bed.
Bob hadn’t seemed to notice her.
Heat rose to Jane’s face. What a complete moron! She should have knocked. She could have given him the chance to wake up a little. She looked away from the bed, waiting for him to speak.
He didn’t say anything.
In fact, Bob hadn’t moved a muscle when his covers had come flying off him. Surely, if a big guy like him had moved, she would have noticed.
She stepped back to the bed.
Bob was very still, and his face was pasty.
Jane’s heart thumped against her ribs, like a small, hard fist.
Bob was not well.
Her feet felt like bricks as she pulled herself across the Persian rug to the side of Bob’s bed.
He was wearing an A-line tank top—a wife-beater. His huge shoulders were covered in brown wiry hair. She had never seen Bob’s naked shoulders.
Jane placed two shaking fingertips under his jaw, and turned away.
She couldn’t feel a pulse. She moved her fingers across his thick neck, trying to find even the faint hint of life, but it wasn’t there.
Jane shoved her hand into the pocket of her jeans and yanked out her phone. 911. Must call 911.
“Ambulance, Police, or Fire Department?” The voice of the 911 operator was steady, solid.
“Where are you located?”
Jane gave the operator the address of the Crawford home.
“An ambulance will be right there. Can you stay on the line with me?”
“No, I can’t. I’ve got to call his wife.”
“I understand. We’ll be right there.”
Jane ended the call and began scrolling through her phone for Pamela’s number.
Pamela could be at the gym right now, or at the salon, or with the board of directors dealing with the business. She could be anywhere.
Jane found their daughter Phoebe Crawford’s number first and hit send.
“This is Phoebe.” Her voice was rough like she had just woken up.
“Phoebe, it’s Jane Adler. I’m at your parents’ house and your dad—” Jane’s voice broke, but she took a deep breath and continued, “I called the ambulance. I think it was another heart attack. Can you get here?”
“Slow down, what?”
“I’m at the house, and I think your dad has had another heart attack. The ambulance is on its way. Can you make it over here? Do you know where your mom is?” How did Phoebe not understand? Jane walked to the window to watch for the ambulance. Her knees felt like water.
Phoebe yawned on the other end. “That’s awful,” she said. “I had a rough one last night. Call me when he’s at the hospital and I’ll be right there, okay?”
“But I’m just the cleaner…you need to be here. Or your mom.”
“Oh, you’re that Jane. I wondered who this was. Call me when you know what hospital he is at and I will meet him there, okay? It’s just another heart thing. He’ll be fine.”
“I don’t think he’s going to be fine.” Jane saw the ambulance turn the corner, its lights spinning and siren blaring. A fire truck was right behind it.
“Okay, so call me later.” Phoebe yawned again and hung up.
Jane pressed her lips together.
Bob was definitely not fine.
She needed to call Pamela. She scrolled through her numbers again but didn’t see it. Bob’s cell. Phoebe’s cell. Jake’s cell. Even Pamela’s sister-in-law’s number.
The ambulance pulled into the driveway.
Jane ran down the stairs to let them in. She threw open the door and directed two paramedics up the stairs. “The door at the end of the hall!” she hollered as they passed.
Jane followed them, with another paramedic right behind her. She reached the room just in time to see one of the men grab Bob by his feet.
Another man grabbed Bob’s shoulders. Together the paramedics pulled him to the ground.
Bob landed with a thud. Jane’s stomach twisted at the sound.
The man at Bob’s shoulders grabbed the neck of the tank top and ripped it down the middle. He began chest compressions, counting in a low voice.
The woman who had followed Jane pulled out the defibrillator.
Maybe Phoebe was right. Maybe they could start his heart again. The paramedics stuck wires at his chest and hip, and then applied the charge.
The man who had ripped Bob’s shirt attached an oxygen mask.
“How did you find him?” The third paramedic asked. She had been busy pulling things out of her medical bag and handing them to the two who were performing CPR.
Jane jumped. She hadn’t been expecting a question. “I just, I opened the door and went to strip the bed and there he was. He didn’t look right so I checked for a pulse.”
The paramedic nodded, encouraging her to continue.
Jane shook her head. “There wasn’t one so I called 911. Is he going to be okay?”
The paramedic tilted her head, her mouth in a small frown.
Jane looked back at her phone and scrolled through the numbers. She needed to find Pamela Crawford. Now. She went through them all three times, the numbers and names swimming. She closed her eyes and pressed the heel of her hand over one eye. She counted to three. She opened her eyes and scrolled through one more time, slowly.
“Pamela’s mobile.” Under P, instead of C with the rest of the Crawfords.
Jane hit send.
The paramedic on his knees looked up at his partner and shook his head. The partner pulled out a cell phone.
A phone rang in the master bathroom.
The woman who had spoken with Jane put her hand on Jane’s back. “Would you like to answer that call?”
Jane held out the phone in her hand and pointed at her Bluetooth headset. “I’m trying to get a hold of Bob’s wife.”
The paramedic nodded and went back to work.
When Jane’s call went to voice mail, she hung up. What message could she leave Pamela? Thirty years of wedded bliss were likely over?
The phone in the master bath had stopped ringing, but Jane thought she’d check it. Maybe Pamela had been trying to call Bob, trying to find out where he was.
Everything went in slow motion as she moved to the bathroom. The doorknob clicked as it turned, as though it needed to be oiled. The door caught on the threshold as she pushed it in. She scrubbed that floor every Friday and could feel, in her fingers, exactly how much higher the bathroom tile was from the bedroom floor.
The voices behind her sounded like they had gone into slow motion as well. One voice said, “Get the declaration of death,” but the words went on forever.
Jane pushed against the doorknob, but it stopped against something. She pushed harder. It seemed to be hitting something that had a little give, but couldn’t be pushed out of the way just by opening the door.
She put her shoulder to the door but couldn’t bring herself to shove it open.
Bob was dead.
Good, Clean Murder: A Plain Jane Mystery is available at
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