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Authors: Jack Kilborn

Crime Stories (2 page)

BOOK: Crime Stories
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“Not very neighborly of you, Jim. Screwing my wife while I was at work.”

“Ralph! Please!”

Jim’s hands tried to find purchase on the sides of the yacht, but they were slippery with blood. Ralph dumped more onto his head, making Jim gag.

“Keep struggling.” Ralph smiled. “The big guys love a moving target.”

“Don’t do this, Ralph. Please. I’m begging you.”

“You’d better beg fast. I see that we already have some company.”

Jim stared across the open water. The dorsal fin approached at a brisk pace.

“Please! Ralph! You said you considered me a good friend!”

“Sorry…wrong choice of words. I actually meant to say I considered you a good chum.”

It took a while for Ralph to stop laughing.

Satire, written for the webzine ShotsMag.uk at their request. This pokes gentle fun at the sub-genre of zero-violence cozy mysteries, with their quirky but spunky amateur sleuths.

“T
his is simply dreadful!”

Mrs. Agnes Victoria Mugilicuddy blanched under a thick layer of rouge. Her oversized beach hat, adorned with plastic grapes and lemons, perched askew atop her pink-hued quaff.

Barlow, her graying manservant, placed a hand on her pointy elbow to steady her.

“Indeed, Madam. I’ll call the police.”

“The police? Why, Barlow, think of the scandal! Imagine what Imogene Rumbottom, that busy-body who writes the Society Column, will say in her muck-raking rag when she discovers the Viscount de Pouissant dead on my foyer floor.”

“I understand, Madam. Will you be solving this murder yourself, then?”

“I have no other choice, Barlow! Though I’m a simple dowager of advancing years and high social standing, my feisty determination and keen eye for detail will no doubt flush out this dastardly murderer. Where is Miss Foo-Foo, the Mystery Cat?”

“She’s in her litter box, burying some evidence.”

“Miss Foo-Foo!” Agnes’s voice had the pitch and timbre of an opera soprano. “Come immediately and help Mumsy solve this heinous crime!”

Miss Foo-Foo trotted into the foyer, her pendulous belly dragging along the oriental rug. Bits of smoked salmon clung to her whiskers.

“Barlow!” Agnes commanded, clapping her liver-spotted hands together.

Barlow bent down and picked up the cat. He was five years Mrs. Agnes’s senior, and his back cracked liked kindling with the weight of Miss Foo-Foo.

Agnes patted the cat on the head as Barlow held it. Miss Foo-Foo purred, a sound not unlike a belch.

“We have a mystery to solve, my dearest puss-puss. If we’re to catch the scoundrel, we must be quick of mind and fleet of foot. Barlow!”

“Yes, Madam?”

“Fetch the Mystery Kit!”

“Right away, Madam.”

Barlow turned on his heels.

“Barlow!”

Barlow turned back.

“Yes, Madam?”

“First release Miss Foo-Foo.”

“Of course, Madam.”

Barlow bent at the waist, his spine making Rice Krispie sounds. Miss Foo-Foo padded over to Agnes and allowed herself to be patted on the head.

Straightening up was a painful affair, but Barlow managed without a grunt. He nodded at Mrs. Agnes and left the room.

“To think,” Agnes mused, “only ten minutes ago the Viscount was sipping tawny port and regaling us with ribald tales of the gooseberry industry. Just a waste, Miss Foo-Foo.”

Agnes’s eyes remained dry, but she removed a handkerchief from the side pocket on her jacket and dabbed at them nonetheless.

Barlow returned lugging a satchel, its black leather cracked with age. He undid the tarnished clasps and held it open for Mrs. Agnes. She removed a large, Sherlock Holmes-style magnifying glass.

“The first order of business is to establish the cause of death.” Mrs. Agnes spoke to the cat, not to Barlow. “It’s merely a hunch, but I’m compelled to suggest that perhaps the lovely port the Viscount had been sipping may have been tampered with.”

“An interesting hypothesis, Madam, but perhaps instead it has something to do with that letter opener?”

“The letter opener, Barlow?”

“The one sticking in the Viscount’s chest, Madam.”

Agnes squinted one heavily mascaraed eye and peered through the glass with the other.

“Miss Foo-Foo, your hunch proved incorrect. The poor, dear Viscount appears to be impaled through the heart with some kind of silver object. But what can it be, puss-puss?”

“A letter opener, Madam?”

“Could it be a knife, Miss Foo-Foo? Perchance some rapscallion gained entry to the den though the window, intent on robbing the rich Viscount? Perhaps a fight ensued, resulting in the bloodthirsty criminal tragically ending the Viscount’s life with this vaguely Freudian symbol of male power?”

Barlow peered at the body.

“It appears to be the letter opener you bought me for my anniversary, Madam. The gift you presented to me for fifty years of loyal service.”

“Miss Foo-Foo!” Agnes bent over the fallen Viscount and lightly touched the handle of the protruding object. “Why, this is no knife! It’s Barlow’s letter opener! I can see the engraving.”

“‘How lucky you must feel to have served me for so many years.’” Barlow intoned.

“This changes everything!” Mrs. Agnes placed the magnifying glass back into the satchel, her gnarled fingers latching onto a tin of fingerprint powder. “Some heathen must have stolen Barlow’s lovely gift—”

“Sterling silver plated,” Barlow said.

“—with the intent to frame our loyal manservant! Barlow!”

“Yes, Madam?”

“Open this tin so I may dust the offending weapon!”

“Yes, Madam.”

Mrs. Agnes used the tiny brush to liberally apply a basecoat of powder to the letter opener’s handle.

“Why, look, puss-puss! There’s nary a print to be found! The handle has been wiped clean!”

“Perhaps the murderer wore gloves, Madam?” Barlow reached for the powder tin with a gloved-hand.

“Or perhaps, Miss Foo-Foo, the killer wore gloves! This fiend is no mere street malcontent. This seems premeditated, the result of a careful and calculating plot. But why the Viscount?”

“Perhaps he was a witness, Madam? To another murder?”

Mrs. Agnes squinted at her manservant.

“That’s daft, Barlow. Even for a lowly servant such as yourself. Do you see another victim in this room?”

“Indeed I do, Madam.”

Barlow removed the cheese grater from his vest pocket, a gift from Mrs. Agnes for his forty year anniversary, and spent forty minutes grating off the old dowager’s face.

The old bat still had some life left in her after that, so he worked on her a bit with his thirtieth-year-anniversary nutcracker, his twentieth-year-anniversary potato peeler, and finally the fireplace poker, which wasn’t a gift, but was handy.

When she finally expired, he flipped the gory side face-down and spent a leisurely hour violating her corpse—something he couldn’t have managed if she were alive and yapping. Sated, Barlow stood on creaky knees and picked up the bored Miss Foo-Foo.

“You have a date with the microwave, puss-puss. And then I’m the sole heir to Madam’s fortune.”

Miss Foo-Foo purred, making a sound like a belch.

Three minutes and thirteen seconds later, she made a different kind of sound. More like a pop.

“T
here’s a line.”

A long line, too. Thirty people, maybe more.

Aaron cleared his throat and spat the result onto a rock. He could feel the desert heat rising up through the leather of his sandals. An unforgiving sun blew waves of heat into their faces.

“It seems to be moving.”

Aaron squinted at Rebekah, fat and grimy. The wrap around her head was soaked with sweat and clung to her scalp in dark patches. Her eyes were submissive, dim. A bruise yellowed on her left cheek.

Looking at her, Aaron felt the urge to blacken it again.

“I cannot believe I let you drag me here.”

“You promised.”

“A man should not have to keep the promises he makes to his wife. In another nation, you’d be property. Worth about three goats and a swine. Perhaps less, an ugly sow such as you.”

Rebekah turned away.

Aaron set his jaw. A proper wife did not turn her back on her husband. He clutched at Rebekah’s shoulder and spun her around.

“I could have you stoned for insolence, you worthless bitch.”

He raised his hand, saw the fear in her eyes.

Liked it.

But Rebekah did not finch this time, did not cower.

“I will tell my father.”

The words made Aaron’s ears redden. Her father was a land owner, known to the Roman court. A Citizen. On his passing, Aaron would inherit his holdings.

Aaron lowered his fist. He tried to smile, but his face would not comply.

“Tell your father—what? Any husband has the right to discipline his wife.”

“Shall I open my robe to show him the marks from your discipline?”

Aaron bit the inside of his cheek. This sow deserved all that and more.

“Our marriage is our business, no one else need intrude.”

“And that is why we are here, Husband. I will not tell Father because you consented to this. It is the only way.”

Aaron spat again, but his dry mouth yielded little. The line moved slowly, the sun baking their shadows onto the ground behind them.

As they approached the river, Aaron’s throat constricted from thirst.

But this river was not fit to drink. Shallow and murky, the surface a skein of filth.

“Perhaps I should tell your father that his daughter has been seduced by a cult.”

“My father knows. He was cleansed a fortnight past.”

“Your father?” Aaron could not believe it. Her father had clout and status. Why would he jeopardize that by fooling around with fanatics?

Aaron stared at the river, confused. Another person waded into the center. Unclean, smelling of work and sweat, someone’s servant.

The man known as the Baptist laid hands on the zealot’s shoulders and plunged him underneath the scummy waves.

Then the Baptist yelled in a cracked voice, about sin and rebirth and Jehovah. A few seconds later the servant was released, gasping for air.

“He has been saved,” Rebekah said. “John has cleansed his soul.”

Aaron frowned. The man did not look saved. He looked muddy and disoriented.

“You are a fool, Rebekah. This talk of souls and one god is illegal and dangerous.”

“It works, Aaron. I have heard the tales. Healing the lame. The sick. Purging anger and hatred from men’s hearts.”

“I will not let that fool dunk my head in that putrid water.”

“Good day, Father.”

Aaron followed her eye line, turned.

Rebekah’s father Mark smiled at Aaron, clapping a hand on his shoulder.

“There is nothing to fear, Aaron. The stories are true. At my baptism, I felt as if released from bondage. I felt my soul shrug off the chains of sin and soar like a bird.”

Aaron stared into Mark’s twinkling, smiling eyes and calmed a bit.

“I am not afraid, Mark.”

“Good. You are next.”

Rebekah and her father stepped onto the bank with Aaron. The warm water lapped against his toes.

“Am I to go alone?”

“We are family,” Rebekah said. “We shall all go together.”

She took his hand, a gesture that she had not made since their wedding day. As a unit, they waded over to the man called John.

“Are you ready to cast aside sin and be reborn in the glorious love of your Father, Jehovah?”

Aaron looked at Rebekah’s father. The older man smiled, nodded.

“Yes,” Aaron said. A quick dunk and it would be over.

John put his hands upon Aaron’s shoulders and shoved him downward.

The water was hot, alive against his skin. Aaron’s shoulders were pressed down to the bottom and the muck parted to accept him.

He held his breath, straining to hear the words John would speak.

But John spoke nothing.

Aaron shifted, placing a hand on John’s thick wrist. He gave it small squeeze, a signal to begin.

The wrist did not yield.

Aaron felt another hand upon him, and then a weight against his chest.

He grasped at it.

A foot.

Alarm coursed through Aaron. Something was wrong. He opened his eyes, peered up through the murk.

BOOK: Crime Stories
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