Today's Reading

After two years of college and four murders in six months, she had tried therapy.

Dr. Miller first said she'd seen too many murder mystery shows and didn't believe her when she said she wasn't a fan of them. Then he suggested possible paranoid schizophrenia. Or maybe just paranoia. She left the appointment with a prescription for brexpiprazole that she didn't fill.

During her second appointment, Miller's receptionist was murdered while Mallory and the doctor were arguing in the next room. When they discovered the body, Dr. Miller accused her instead of validating her, and then, when she obviously had a perfect alibi, refused to treat her further.

He didn't appreciate her solving the crime either. Probably because the killer had been his own wife, who had been convinced he was sleeping with the victim.

She'd turned to religion next. She didn't care which; she just made a list of places one could worship in Raleigh and rolled a die. Each holy leader she spoke with told her to trust in a variety of higher powers, give herself over to Christ, follow the Tao, meditate, pray, volunteer, whatever. They each thought she was presenting a troubled mind that their faith could focus, not a real problem. But she couldn't just magically believe in something; she had trouble believing in what was actually happening in front of her.

"Miracles happen daily if we just open ourselves to it," one priest had said while she was in confession. He hadn't wanted to call it a miracle when, while hearing Mallory's confession, a parishioner had been murdered in the church's parking lot. The church had not admitted she was right; they instead accused her of orchestrating the crime. This was her eighth murder and she should have known better.
She opened her private life to law enforcement, from local cops to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, to prove she had nothing to do with the murders. The only result was that her computer got broken and they wouldn't replace it. They never found any evidence linking her to any crime, but they never stopped being suspicious.

She often found the bodies by accident. She almost always helped solve the crime.

"If what you say is true," the insufferable Miller had told her before his receptionist had died, "then why not enter law enforcement or become a private investigator?"

As if she'd never thought of that. Even though she'd had little interest in official police work, she had looked into it. Unfortunately, her proximity to the murders she'd already solved killed any chances she had of entering law enforcement herself. Suspicion was too high. She also had trouble getting her own PI license. Turns out a grumpy SBI agent had made it his career focus to investigate her, and even without evidence he said she was too dangerous to be allowed to go into any kind of professional investigation work. He'd hindered her every way he could to keep her from following the one career path she was good at.

It hadn't helped that she didn't graduate from college, thanks to a murder. She dropped out after sophomore year, having solved four murders.

Everyone left in her family feared her, except for her aunt, who thought she was insane and needed help by way of a mental institution. Her friendships dried up. Romance was out of the question; if someone dated Mallory, then someone close to them would die. Without fail.

After she left school, she'd foolishly attempted to date a few times. She met John in 2037. He'd taken her home one Easter to meet his family, but then his sister died at a Christmas party. When Mallory figured out that their childhood friend next door was the murderer, John didn't appreciate it. She got the line, "I have to be here for my family and mourn my sister," and then six months later his wedding announcement appeared on social media—the bride was the cop who'd investigated the murder.

Another disaster came in the form of dating Sarah, Mallory's first girlfriend. That relationship had ended after Sarah's English teacher died. Mallory had accompanied her to his office hours to recite the opening to The Canterbury Tales and found him dead in his office, strangled by his broke brother-in-law, who'd just been released from prison.

She still remembered the opening lines to The Canterbury Tales, at least. Her small knowledge of Middle English had come in handy during a murder investigation a few years later, so that was something.

Then there was the bright, hot regret that was Bob in 2038: she'd found a job, met him, and had been happy for a full year with no murders. Mallory had been naïve enough to relax and think life could become normal. But then they went to a Charlotte Hornets game and Bob got down on one knee during halftime. The jumbotron focused on them, and Mallory gasped in delight. Before Bob said anything, his eyes focused past her just as people started screaming. Two rows behind them, shown on the screen for all to see, was a still-bleeding dead body. A woman slumped to her right over an empty seat, a precisely severed artery in her neck ruining the upholstery.
Bob had gone home; Mallory stayed to help solve the case. The woman had been killed by the former foster child she had abused. Not a lot of people mourned her, but unmourned murder was still murder.

The video of the "worst proposal ever" had been a hot meme for a while, with Bob in the foreground on his knee and the woman bleeding out two rows above them. Talk shows had asked to interview them, but she refused. She hadn't seen Bob again. By now she couldn't blame him.

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