by Elena Santangelo

Readers often ask where I get writing ideas. Preceding each story in this volume, you'll find a short note with what I hope is a bit of insight about the tale's evolution.

As for this first story, I was born into a large extended Italian family, all of whom seemed to love the Jersey shore. Each summer my parents drove me and my brothers the two hours east to the Atlantic for our annual dose. We'd stay anywhere from a day to a week. I've been to other beaches, but the South Jersey shore, anywhere from Ocean City down to Cape May, will always be special to me. I've never turned down a chance to visit.

The protagonist of this story, Mrs. Fanaglio, is a mishmash of my mom, her crazy, lovable cousins, and various other older Italian women I've known. I always felt my mother could have given Miss Marple serious competition as a sleuth.

“Mrs. Fanaglio and the Body on the Beach" was first published in the DEATH KNELL V anthology.



A cool summer breeze, welcome after yesterday's scorching heat, wafted over Beaver Point from the Atlantic, pungent with salt, but without the usual hint of decaying algae. The air had been washed clean by last night's rain.

Annie Fanaglio used both hands to pull herself out of the driver's seat of her Chevy. As her arthritic knees adjusted to a standing position, she listened to the cadence of the surf beyond the protective dune and to the forlorn counterpoint of the gulls overhead. Usually the sounds were a lullaby to her. The smells, the taste of salt on her lips, the unbroken line of the eastern horizon—all were like a soothing balm when her seventy-two years got the best of her.

Beaver Point was her favorite beach: no boardwalk, no casinos, no vendors, not even much of a road leading out here. Only a crescent of pebbly sand, a parking lot of crushed oyster shells, and in season, one part-time lifeguard. During the week, if you came over in the morning or after supper, you were almost guaranteed the whole beach to yourself. On a New Jersey map, Beaver Point was a speck so small hardly anyone bothered to look for it.

But this morning the tiny lot was full of cars. Annie spotted Eric's green Land Rover among the state police cruisers, official county vehicles, news vans. There, beside the wooden stairs leading over the dune to the beach, was Tina's white two-door, an old Ford Escort. Probably the girl's first car, Annie figured, all she could afford. Or maybe a hand-me-down from her family.

A petite woman with her hands clasped behind the black t-shirt she wore, was scrutinizing the auto like she was looking for infinitesimal chips in the paint. The real attention-grabber, though, was the Medical Examiner's van. Gulls circled and swooped overhead as a long black bag was shoved inside.

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