“So I can kill Leonard Grady.”
“Jesus!” Jay flinched like I’d just shot him. “What did he do to you? Why would I help you out? And now we’ve been seen out walking in public…”
“You talk like I’m going to get caught, Jay. I’m not.” I squared around to face him. “Leonard killed Maggie.” I tried to keep my inflection flat. I wanted him to think I could keep my emotions together. But my voice cracked on her name.
He stared first. Then he looked around for a bench. And after he sat down, he fixed his eyes right back on my face. “You’re sure? Because Maggie… God Maggie…”
“You think I want to ask her ex-husband for favors?” I pulled out a printout from my blazer. Jay flinched again, but he took it. He understood. He was a scientist, after all, one of the most brilliant stars of our generation and a member of the SciArt collective.
“How did you get his semen sample?”
“Paid a hooker. Can we skip this part? I’ve got a short window to get in position.”
“But how did he get to Maggie?” Jay looked so damned confused. Just like he had when she served him the divorce papers.
“Same way I’ll be getting to him,” I said. “He tunneled.”
“When I saw it in the news, I thought you did it.” He spoke rapidly, his voice running into hysteria. “But then it didn’t make sense for you to kill her on your honeymoon… But this… this is right back to graduate school.”
“Not quite,” I said. “In graduate school, you and Leonard tried to woo her with genetics. I guess he got sick of losing out.”
“He was always unstable. But she liked that. You know she only ever went with me in the end because I have viable sperm.” In fact, I had known that. I didn’t know that Jay knew it, though. “I thought I could make her love me like I loved her, but it doesn’t, just doesn’t work that way.” The longer he stared at the lab report, the more he stammered.
So I took it away. But he kept talking, now watching his hands instead of me, squirming on the bench like a kid in the principal’s office, “I thought she was resigned to me. But then you showed up…”
“Jay. I don’t have time. I need your tunneler. Leonard’s collective is scattered right now for the holiday. They’ll be back in their bunker again by tomorrow, and all of your colleagues will be back at SciArt. I don’t know when I’ll get a chance this good again.”
Jay brought his head up sharply. “You’re going after him at home?”
“It’s probably the last time this year he won’t be behind protected walls. I wasted my shot in the big city making sure, hooking him up with the whore. Maggie was my wife, you know.” Again, I tried again to keep my voice level; again, it cracked on her name. “I’m so close now, I can…”
“I’ll do it.” Jay came to the decision suddenly, and all the twitching stopped. “Come on. You can leave from the office basement. SciArt is clean. There won’t be any record.”
He drove us to the collective. But he had to take an anxiety pill before he showed me how the tunneler wand worked. I brought in my gear from the car and changed into a turtleneck and ski mask. We targeted Leonard’s home address, then scrolled around on the tunneler’s little screen. There was only one person home, a woman by the body waves. Leonard’s wife. I said, “I can use her.”’
“I said use, not kill.”
“Take this.” It was a syringe. “Sedate her.”
He helped me aim the wand at a blank wall in his collective. The tunneler’s screen showed Leonard’s basement. “Come back here,” Jay said. “I’ll wait.”
I fired the wand into the wall, and my body hurtled forward at a speed that threatened to dislodge my stomach contents. I landed in a heap at exactly the place Jay and I had determined, 300 miles from where I started. Travel time, less than a second. Recovery, however took several minutes. No wonder those damned wands were only allowed in the collectives. Bending space hurt.
I checked my equipment one last time and used the tunneler to find Leonard’s wife in the house. It looked like she was upstairs napping. This was a distance I could walk. I mounted the steps on cat feet and slipped into the master bedroom. I taped her mouth before she was fully awake, and I bound her to the bed.
She thrashed, but I had a good two hundred pounds and a lifetime’s training on her. As soon as she was tied, arms above her head, legs splayed out, I leaned in close to her frantic eyes. “Shh,” I said. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m not even going to undress you. In a few hours, you are going to go on with your life. But when your husband comes through that door, he dies.” I showed her my gun.
She tried to scream something around the tape. I showed her Jay’s slender needle. “The question is whether you want to watch him bleed, or whether you’d rather sleep through the whole thing. Blink once for the needle, and blink twice for the viewing theater to remain open.”
She screamed some more then, but eventually she believed me. And then she looked at me, as if she could memorize the features of a man in a mask. And she blinked twice. “Brave girl.” Then I sat down beside the bed, waiting for the front door to open so I could relieve her of a husband.
“Consider the avocado. Its disproportionate half-moon shell is even shaped like an ovary. The creamy flesh shelters a single seed. This is the very definition of ‘fruit’.”
Obdurate and nine, he replies, “Get off your high horse, Mom. Fruit is sweet.”
Mom protests, “Not all fruit. Not tomatoes…”
“Tomatoes aren’t fruit.”
“Yes they … look, we’ll Google it together.”
He says, “I don’t want to Google it.”
“Look at this page,” she says. “It explains vegetables can be fruits, but fruits can’t be vegetables.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Just eat your lunch, Jeremy.”
“I don’t like avocados.”
I don’t think that this Mom is going to get her son to have faith that avocados are tasty. But I have faith that you’ll love Lance’s 100 word song meme! Go visit him here and add your own entry!
In the first rehearsal with the real gun, Ella screamed and raced over to make sure Aaron Meddins, who played the Gestapo Kriminal Assistent, hadn’t really been hit. It didn’t matter that she fired blanks.
But she had to control that fear, because Demons at the Door’s success hinged on creating Sister Edmund as a plausibly faith conflicted nun. She disarmed Daniel and his pregnant wife Freda when they first begged for shelter, but at the climax herself shot the Nazi who stumbled onto the convent’s hidden Jews.
“I’m fine,” Aaron said, then offered, “I’ll wink when you cross left. The audience won’t see.”
On opening night, that gun felt heavy when Ella’s Sister Edmund snuck to its hiding place, and heavier still after she exited, waiting backstage for her cue to return.
Then, onstage, Freda said, “Please, our baby will come any day,” and Ella stepped into the sanctuary. Everything was as it had been in rehearsals, and yet different. She didn’t see her friends Aaron, Kera, and James. She saw a villainous gray-dressed monster menacing the quaking, pregnant Freda and her helpless husband. She regretted terribly taking the gun from Daniel, who would surely aim true now. She hated that she must be damned for a murderer, when the monster himself was yet a child of God. But for Daniel, and Freda, and their baby, and all the children hidden in the orphanage, Sister Edmund fired. The explosion rocked her back a little on her feet, and as the gray man fell, the Sister ran to the young couple. “To the cellar now, quickly,” she said. “He will have a partner somewhere.”
“But Sister Edmund,” Daniel protested.
“Go,” she commanded him. “We are all but God’s vulgar servants, and if I have offended His eyes, then I will answer to Him.”
As Freda and Daniel scurried away, Aaron winked at Ella. And Sister Edmund, seeing that flutter of an eye, thought that the monster might just need some more killing.
This week at Trifecta, the word is vulgar.
And over at Story Dam, the weekly Linkup asks for a story where a character takes a stand.
If Sheena, not Benjamin, but if Benjamin, then possibly also Rob.
Archer Bancock ran the scenarios through his head again like it was one of those logic problems he completed to pass the L-SAT. He even had a chart drawn up, but too many things cancelled each other out. He thought he might have found the one O in all those columns of X’s, but he wanted to be sure, so he got out a fresh sheet of paper and started writing.
1) Visa confirms, duplicate card delivered to office while we were in Caymans.
2) Since we got back, card has been used to make several $50 purchases around town.
The fact that Sheena had her own card and had drawn the withdrawals to Archer’s attention didn’t make her innocent. Archer had long since realized that one of the dangers of using your wife for your secretary was that she grew entirely too familiar.
Sheena thought herself entitled to confidential case information, treated his clients like close personal friends, and spent Archer’s money like water. It wouldn’t be at all beyond her to order another card, use it on the sly, then report the theft to baffle him, knowing he wouldn’t cancel the card until he sniffed her out. But she was with him in the Caymans when the card arrived, and Archer arrived at the office before she did upon their return. Thus, he leaned more towards the affable janitor, Benjamin or the IT dope, Rob.
Archer checked his watch. He had twenty minutes before he needed to leave for lunch with his son, Winston. This was the first year Win’s class break failed to coincide with the family trip. This meal would be the first time father and son both had time to see each other in over a month. Still, there was more than enough time to work through this whole conundrum once again.
Benjamin cleaned the office twice while the Bancocks vacationed, each time picking up and straightening the mail that had fallen into a pile inside the door. He had opportunity. And he certainly had a motive. He had been housekeeper to the family that owned the building before it became Bancock Law. But the family moved out of town, and Archer had no need for daily cleaning. Now, a cleaning service employed Benjamin. He said he worked the same hours for half the pay, and this was only one of the buildings on his route.
Another watch check. Still ten minutes before Archer had to leave to be in the campus dining hall by noon. Winston seemed to think Archer ought to take him for a grander reunion, but Archer refused the expense. He told his son, “I used to love eating in this very cafeteria when I was in college.” He was looking forward to the buffet line.
Finally, there was Rob. Archer wished it were practical to hire someone to operate his computers, someone who didn’t try to pad his own pockets with unnecessary expenses. Instead he outsourced, and Rob was simply the least of the evils the service inflicted upon him. This winter, Archer finally gave into Sheena’s whining and Rob’s persistence and allowed a systems upgrade while he was gone. So Rob had a building key for those two critical vacation weeks, as well.
And that brought him back to his chart. If Sheena, not Benjamin, but if Benjamin, possibly also Rob. The chart didn’t answer his questions at all. Nonetheless, Archer thought he knew where his money was going, and he left for lunch whistling softly.
This week’s Story Dam prompt asked:
Write a piece in which your character catches that dramatic break in the case and is on the verge of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. Help us solve a classic “who-dunnit” but don’t tell us who it is! Let’s see if we can guess for ourselves in your comments!
So. Who, dear readers, stole the card, and more importantly, why?