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The Deceased in the Dumpster
About the Author: Linda Norlander is the author of the Cabin by the Lake Mysteries including Death of an Editor, Death of a Starling, Death of a Snow Ghost and Death of a Fox. She has also published award winning short stories and humor.

When I read the story in The Times I had to chuckle. Criminals aren’t always the brightest bulbs. The police had arrested a 55-year-old man after his neighbor called them from the Sunset Mobile Park. The neighbor, a man named Dexter Darling said he had been awakened by a knocking at his door. “The guy next door wanted me to help him move his trash barrel to the curb. He said it was too heavy because of the body. As soon as I saw the dead guy rolled up in a blanket, I called the cops.”

The death was being investigated as “suspicious.”

“Suspicious? No kidding!” I commented to my cat. She licked her paws, stretched and sauntered away.

Two days later Cyrus called me. He’s an attorney specializing in corporate fraud. He uses me from time to time as a consultant. “Well Greta, are you up for another job?”

“That depends. What have you got?”

He told me he’d been hired as a favor to a wealthy client to investigate the trash barrel incident. “Turns out Maynard, the guy who allegedly put the body in the dumpster, is a nephew of my client. He claims Maynard is harmless, not too bright and was drunk when he asked the neighbor for help. Says he can’t believe Maynard would hurt anybody.”

I had to admit the situation piqued my curiosity. “What do you need?”

“A little cleaning job at the Grayson Building downtown. DT Development Company leases office space on the first floor. They’re the developer that’s trying to clear the Sunset Mobile Park to build condos.”

I remembered reading that the park residents were fighting the developer. “Do you think it’s related?”

“Well, the deceased in the dumpster was rumored to be very vocal about the advantages of selling to DT. Coincidentally, the council president died just two weeks ago. She’d been meeting with the city to try to halt the evictions.”

“Okay, I’ll mix up some of my super green cleaning products and see what I can do.”

I run Greta’s Green Clean, a housecleaning and janitorial service. It’s amazing what you can learn when you walk into an office or a house wearing a smock and carrying a basket of cleaning supplies. People act like you don’t exist which means you can overhear interesting conversations. Also, in this digital age, I’ve found that people still print out emails and documents and often stick them in the trash as if no one would ever read them.

My cleaning service is popular, and I’m usually booked out for months. Part of the reason for it is my use of organic non-toxic cleaning products—most of which I’ve mixed myself. The other part is my use of a variety of essential oils. When I’m done, the room smells of citrus or lavender or cedar or some other oil depending on what I think is best for that particular environment. I discovered in my early years that I have a nose and an instinct for what a client wants.

Before going to the Grayson Building where Cyrus had arranged with the building manager to set up my cleaning services, I read everything I could about DT Development, the people who had recently bought the mobile park. Their business involved buying mobile parks situated on the periphery of urban areas, clearing out the residents and selling the land to other developers. If the residents balked at being evicted, or asked for compensation, they used the threat of lawsuits to assure compliance.

“They appear to be bad actors,” I told my cat. As usual, she had no comment.

Late that afternoon I parked my mint green van outside the Grayson Building and rolled my cart of cleaning products inside. As I walked in the building, a man walked out. His head was shaved, and his muscular arms were covered in tattoos. He didn’t bother to hold the door for me.

“Thanks,” I growled as I struggled with the door.

The DT offices were eerily quiet. Most of the desks were completely empty, no computers or signs that anyone used them.

“Greta’s Cleaning,” I called out just in case someone was still working. I pushed my cart to the executive office. The name plate by the door was empty as if awaiting the next occupant. To my surprise, a woman sat at a large dark wood desk talking on a cell phone. She had platinum blonde hair and a long, horsey face. Behind her stood an empty credenza and next to it an empty bookcase. Even from the doorway, I smelled her perfume. It was a lilac fragrance that was way too sweet for my taste.

This story appears in our AUG 2023 Issue
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