Posts Tagged ‘Little mysteries’

18th January
2012
written by amber

Homicide is Where the Heart Is

White picket fence, pots of geraniums lining the cement walk, gingham curtains at the window, two cats peeping from behind the fabric. I felt as if I was walking into a 1950’s sitcom. Except for the dead body lying just inside the front door.

Blunt force trauma is never pretty, but in this charming home it seemed especially ugly. The instrument of the trauma lay next to the body. A shovel.

“The wife’s a witness,” my men told me. “She’s waiting next door with the neighbour. She’s pretty shook up.”

As well she might be, I thought.

I took my time, wandered through the house, finding nearly everything clean and orderly other than the crime scene. Little plaques with verses about love hung on the walls. Dishes were washed and drying in a rack next to the sink, three pet dishes sat ready in the back porch, labelled ‘Frizzly,’ ‘Soxsie’ and ‘Nibbles.’ The bathroom was sparkling, the shower stall damp but all the towels dry and neatly folded. In the bedroom, the bed had been made but lain on afterwards, the small garbage bin next to the bed heaped with wadded tissues.

I stepped outside. I’d noticed the garage open and the car parked halfway down the driveway when I’d arrived. Now I saw that the hood was badly battered – more blunt force trauma.

“What does the wife say?” I asked one of my men as he escorted me to the neighbour’s house.

“She says there was an intruder. She was in the bedroom and heard a commotion, came out and saw a young man with a scraggly beard and dark shadows beneath his eyes, ‘like someone who doesn’t get enough sleep,’ she said. He was beating her husband with the shovel, which she identified as their own, normally stored in the garage. When he saw her, the young man ran away, grabbing her husband’s wallet before he ran.”

The wife sat at the kitchen table in the house next door, the neighbour holding her hand, an untouched cup of tea in front of her. Not a young woman, but not as middle-aged as she appeared, I surmised, in her lank unstyled hair and shapeless pink track suit with a cartoon kitten on the front. I expressed my condolences, then began asking questions.

“Why was your husband home at this time on a work day?”

She answered promptly. I was not the first to ask this question, nor would I be the last. “He got ready to go, then didn’t feel well. He told me he was going to rest for a while in the living room. I lay down on our bed, I wasn’t feeling well either. Maybe it was something we ate.”

“A stomach upset?”

“Yes.”

“Can you speculate on why the intruder would have responded so violently to your husband’s presence in the house?”

Again she did not hesitate. “Well, of course, he didn’t want anyone to see him robbing our house.”

“So, why then do you think he ran when you appeared on the scene?”

This gave her pause. At last she said, “Because…I had a gun. I took my husband’s gun from his side of the bed and brought it with me. I aimed it at that boy.”

I looked at my man. He shook his head. I asked her, “Why didn’t you mention this before?”

“I forgot all about it. I put it away before, I mean after I phoned for help. That gun frightens me. It’s the first time I’ve ever touched it.”

I thanked her and walked back to the house with my man. “Have them dig up the back yard,” I told him.

“What – do you think there are more bodies buried?”

“Yes. One. The body of a cat. And book her for murder.”

“Why?”

“She killed him with the shovel he’d just used to bury the cat he ran over. She loves her cats more than she loved her husband.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year 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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

10th January
2012
written by amber

Duck Costume

“A man walked into the bar wearing a duck costume,” one of my men told me.

I looked away from the body behind the bar. “Are you practising to be a stand-up comedian or what?”

“No – our witness says that someone walked into the bar wearing a duck costume, not long before closing time.”

Across the room, a man sat on a bench against the wall. Someone had draped a blanket across his shoulders. “Is he hurt too?” I asked. The victim had taken one clean shot to the back of the head.

“No, he’s just cold. They turn down the heat in here at night and he didn’t have a jacket or anything.”

“He couldn’t leave, or call for help?”

“Bar tender locks everything before he moves the cash to the safe. Wit couldn’t find the keys. He thinks the vic took them. And the perp cut the phone lines. Neither wit or vic have a cell.”

“Nor vic.”

“What?”

“Never mind.” I wandered around the crime scene – the bar, the foyer with its empty coat hooks, the office where the safe gaped open and chill air seeped in through a small broken window, the washrooms, the utility room with its snarl of rag mops and crusty rags and a metal-hatched chute which probably dropped to an incinerator in the basement. I wandered back. “Why does the wit say he was here?”

“Says he used to work here. He and the bar-tender were pals.”

“Cuff him.”

“Say what? We corroborated the duck suit story with other customers, and that guy’s not dressed as Daffy.”

“And he doesn’t have a coat either. Who goes out in this weather without a coat? Check the basement – I’m betting you’ll find the duck suit in the incinerator. And probably the money too.”

“I thought incinerators were illegal.”

“They are, as of last year. Our perp probably worked here when burning stuff in them was still allowed. So he tried to get rid of the evidence that way.”

“Why’d he need the duck suit?”

“He probably didn’t cease working here on friendly terms. This might not be his first attempt to rob the place.”

“Why burn the dough?”

“He couldn’t get out of here, so he had to pretend to be a witness. He knew we’d find the money if he hid it someplace in the bar. If you’d done a walk-around outside, you would have found these.”

I showed him the bagged and tagged keys I’d found in the alley beneath the tiny shattered window, along with the crystal paperweight the victim had used to break the glass, thus ensuring that the thief wouldn’t escape, and possibly signing his own death warrant.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year 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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

31st December
2011
written by amber

Chocolate Death

The first body of the New Year lay on the sparkling clean tile floor of the kitchen of an upscale restaurant. The time was 1:01 a.m.

“We served the last guests in the dining room at 10,” the maitre d’ told us, “then everyone moved into the bar to see in the New Year around the fire place. We finished cleaning up by 11:30.”

“It’s very clean,” I complemented him. I’ve seen worse. Far worse.

The man looked upset. “Kent kept the staff on their toes. He was a perfectionist,” he commented, with a sideways glance at the body.

“Is he the owner?”

“He’s the boss. Married to the owner.” The maitre d’ began to cry. “Someone should notify her.”

I nodded at one of my men. “Get her details,” I said, and walked over to examine the body more closely.

“Could be some kind of allergic reaction,” they’d told me when I arrived. “Looks like strangulation, but there’s no ligature marks. And then, there were the locked doors.”

The victim had dialled 911 on his cell phone, but was unable to utter more than a garbled word which sounded like, “Help.” When the paramedics arrived, they’d had to break down the doors to the restaurant, which were locked from within.

“Was he allergic to anything?” I asked the maitre d’.

“Yes, to chocolate. Chocolate could kill him.”

“You’re kidding,” one of my men said. Chocolate Indulgence was the name of the restaurant.

“Well, he wasn’t always allergic, he got that way about five years ago.”

I walked into the man’s office. A large box of chocolates sat open on the desk, the kind with a bow, the kind you buy for a sweetheart. Half of the chocolates were gone. One of my men joined me. “Someone sent him a deadly gift?” he surmised. “The wife? Or maitre sweetie – he seems a bit more upset than an employee would be.”

“He’d know better than to eat the chocolates. And he wouldn’t lock himself in to eat them. It was suicide. There’s chocolate all over his fingers. He was eating them as fast as he could.”

“But he called for help.”

“So he changed his mind. That’s not uncommon. Maybe he found out it didn’t taste as wonderful as he’d come to imagine it. Not wonderful enough to die for after all.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year 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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

Happy New Year to everyone!

18th December
2011
written by amber

Hospital Death

The body lay on a bed, tied down with wires and tubes. An electronic device nearby gave off a steady tone.

“Someone shut that thing off,” I said, then asked, “Why exactly are we here?”

“I know it looks like a natural death, sir,” one of my men told me. “But the family is convinced it’s a homicide. They say she was on the mend. And then there’s this.”

The transparent tube bringing air to a clip near the woman’s nose had been severed cleanly.

“Is that enough to kill her?”

“The doc says no. And he says they often get cut if patients move their bed up and down too much – the tubes can get caught in the mechanism. So – what do you think? Should we call in the crime scene gang? Or should we let the docs do what they want and get her to the cutting room to save her organs for donation?”

“Give me a minute.” I sat down beside the woman in the next bed. “Did you see what happened?”

Without missing a stitch in her knitting, she said, “It’s been like Grand Central Station around here. The new husband kept coming in with a lawyer – he’s quite a bit younger than her – trying to get her to change her will. Her son and daughter and their spouses and the grandchildren are here all the time, fussing over her. Then there were the ladies coming in to trim her nails or massage her feet, and her secretary because God forbid she’d fall behind on her correspondence. She had a stylist in to do her hair this morning. From the way she carries – carried – on, I guess she was someone important. I never heard of her.”

I thanked the woman, then went behind the curtain and took a last look at the victim. Her hair was as I recalled it, dishevelled.

I stepped into the hall and told my men, “Yes, call out the troops. And have them confiscate all the pillows in the room and the scissors of the woman in the next bed.”

“Her?”

“Yes, her. The nice lady with the yellow skin whose chart says she’s waiting for a new liver.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year 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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

22nd October
2011
written 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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