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22nd October
posted by amber

Red Flag

The body lay in the midst of the tawny gold shag carpet of an October wheat field. A brindled bull stood in solitary majesty on the other side of a six-strand barbed wire fence. Blood dripped from his horns and he was still breathing hard. The blood wasn’t as visible on the body, being the same colour as the bright red jogging suit. I could hear loud music – it sounded like blues – coming from the man’s tiny ear phones.

“When did it happen?” I asked my men.

“Call came in about 20 minutes ago. The bull was still in this field when we got here.”

“Was he still…you know…goring him?”

“No, he was grazing. And when the farmer came to put him back into his field,” they pointed at a man fussing around with something at the gate, “he went meek as a kitten.”

“Len Swanwick, isn’t it?” I said, striding over to the gate and holding out my hand. “Is that your bull?”

“I can’t understand how he got out. We’ve had joy riders on quads going across our property, leaving the gate open, so we put this padlock on it.” He held up the lock. It had been cut with a hacksaw.

“So the bull has been out before? Pretty nice grazing in the next field.”

“No, that’s the point. He could have gotten out, but he never went. For a bull, he’s usually pretty much a chicken.”

“Not today,” one of my men muttered. Swanwick heard him, and reddened, but said nothing.

“Do you know the identity of the deceased?”

“Yeah, he’s my neighbour. George Murray.”

“The one who started the yoga classes?”

“That’s him. Yoga classes, book club, bird-watching. He’s retired, he was retired. Came here with lots of money and time, buys a farm but won’t work it. Lets Silas Ross cultivate this field for hay is all. The women think he’s better than sliced bread but most of us didn’t take much of a shine to him.” Len must have seen the way we were looking at him, because he added, “But I didn’t dislike him enough to set my bull on him. Even if I had thought old Fergie had it in him.” And a shadow of pride passed across his features, briefly.

“Where were you when the bull got out?”

“In town. At the Co-op. I called you as soon as I got home and saw what had happened.”

My men nodded. “Was there anyone else at home?”

“My wife’s been lying down all day. She took her pills this morning for a migraine. They pretty well put her out.”

“We’ll need you to bring her down to the station when she wakes up, to give us a statement.”

As we were driving back to the station after the body had been removed, my men began to talk about the terrible accident. “It wasn’t an accident,” I told them.

“How do you figure that?”

“My wife’s been taking those yoga and bird-watching classes, she was in the book club. And she said Mona Swanwick quit everything at once, no one knew why. She also said she saw Mona in the mall in Walnut Valley, buying a red jogging suit.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story written every day and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.

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