Today's Reading

CHAPTER 1

Dr. Kent Abner began the day of his death comfortable and content.

Following the habit of his day off, he kissed his husband of thirty seven years off to work, then settled down in his robe with another cup of coffee, a crossword challenge on his PPC, and Mozart's The Magic Flute on his entertainment unit.

His plans for later included a run through Hudson River Park, as April 2061 proved balmy and blooming. After, he could hit the gym and some weights, grab a shower, have a bite in the cafe.

On the way home, he thought he'd pick up fresh flowers, wander through the market, and get the olives Martin so enjoyed, maybe a nice selection of cheeses. Then he'd meander to the bakery for a baguette and whatever else appealed.

When Martin came home, they'd open a bottle of wine, sit and talk and have some bread and cheese. He'd leave the choice of eat in or eat out to Martin, with, hopefully, a romantic ending to the day—if Martin wasn't worn out.

They often joked Kent as a pediatrician handled the adorable babies and charming kids, while Martin as headmaster for a K12 private academy juggled charming kids with hormonal and broody teens.

Still, it worked for them, Kent thought as he filled in 21-Down.

Toxic.

He spent an entertaining hour with the puzzle, tidied up the kitchen while music filled the air of their town home in the West Village.

Kent changed into his running clothes, added a light hoodie. He packed his gym bag, deciding he'd drop it off in his locker before his run.

As he zipped it, the doorbell rang.

Humming to himself, he carried his bag out to the living room, set it on the coral sofa he and Martin had chosen when they'd redecorated six months before.

Out of habit, he checked the door monitor, saw the delivery girl he recognized with a small package.

He disengaged the locks, opened the door. "Good morning!"

"Morning, Dr. Abner. Got a package for you."

"So I see. You just caught me." He took the package, offered her a smile as the Queen of the Night's vengeful second-act aria poured out to Bedford Street. "Beautiful day!"

"It sure is. You have a good one," she added before she walked down the steps to the sidewalk.

"You, too."

Kent closed the door, studying the package as he carried it back to the kitchen. Since it was addressed to him, he opened the drawer for the box cutter. The return label had a Midtown address and a shop name—All That Glitters—he didn't recognize.

A gift? he wondered as he cut the box.

Inside the box, under the packing, another box. Small, simple, he thought, smooth, dark faux wood closed with a small lock, the key attached with a thin chain.

Baffled, he set it down, unlocked the clasp.

Inside the box, nestled in thick black padding, sat a small- undeniably cheap—golden egg, closed tight with a tiny hook.

"All That Glitters," he muttered, flipped the hook. The lid stuck a bit as he started to lift it. He gave it a harder tug.

He didn't see the vapor, didn't taste it. But he felt the effects instantly as his throat seemed to snap shut, his lungs clog. His eyes burned, and his well-toned muscles began to tremble.

The egg dropped from his fingers as he stumbled blindly toward the window. Air, he needed air. He tripped, fell, tried to crawl away. His system revolted, expelling the light breakfast he'd had with his husband. Fighting through the tearing pain, he tried to drag himself across the floor.

He collapsed, convulsing as Mozart's Queen hit high F.

On a bright spring afternoon, Lieutenant Eve Dallas stood over the body of Dr. Kent Abner. That late-afternoon sunlight streamed through the windows he'd failed to open, spilled over the pools of body fluids, the shards of broken plastic.

The victim lay face up—though the contusions on his forehead, temple indicated to her he'd fallen face-first. His eyes, red, swollen, with the film death had painted over them, stared back at her.
...

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