Gordon Rynearson was a dreadful organist.

One might have been tempted to blame the fact that he was pushing 90. But there were too many sour notes, too many missed cues, too many hymns that morphed into “Heart and Soul” without warning–and too consistently–for Rynearson to be sliding down any sort of gentle senile slope.

He had been a dreadful organist since he was pushing 60.

Hopewell Presbyterian was a greying congregation, it’s true, but not so grey that people didn’t enjoy lifting their voices in praise to something new every now and again. Rynearson would kibosh anything written after 1900 by refusing to play it, or–worse–breaking into “Heart and Soul.” He actively refused to admit his hearing was going downhill, leading to missed cue after missed cue–to say nothing about the notes themselves often being out of tune.

There was no shortage of qualified younger organists ready to take the job–it was, after all, an unpaid gig–but no one had managed to dislodge Rynearson in the near-decade since he had become the sole organist by outliving everyone else in the rotation. He wouldn’t step down, and he was the brother of dearly beloved and departed Deacon Rynearson. So neither Cynthia Merlowe with her musicology degree, nor Richard Hibblestrom with his six years’ experience tickling the ivories at Cascadia Congressional would see their place in a rotation, much less the position as sole organist.

Perhaps not the best reason for a murder. But it was reason enough, all the same.

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