Thursday, May 12, 2016
Flash Fiction Friday, Week 37: Raising the Dead
The prompt this week was to write a detective story, and one of the main characters must be a mother. Some prefer the past to remain past. If only it would…
Raising the Dead
“Mom, I know I’m here to visit, but I can’t turn this down. The richest man in town’s been murdered and his wife, who is 30 plus years younger than he, is the only suspect. She asked if there was a PI in town, someone referred her to me, and she hired me to look into it. Why are you so upset?”
“Ralphie, how can you get involved? Young woman like that marries a man so much older that’s worth millions and he’s found beaten to death? It’s so obvious that she did it.”
“Mom, just because she’s younger doesn’t mean she killed him.”
“The paper says Tommy Fitzhugh saw her and her husband walking into that deserted apartment building on Fourth. Then, Bob Wilson saw her toss the tire iron she beat her husband with into the dumpster at the corner. Tommy and Bob are at the diner in town every day for lunch. They’re still talking about it.”
So much for not tainting the jury pool.
“Mom, I’m only going to ask a few questions.”
“Fine. Just don’t turn your back on that floozy, Ralphie.”
“Mom, how can you talk that way about someone you don’t even know?”
“Just be careful. Don’t dig too deep into this, Ralphie. Some things are best left buried.”
Mom’s favorite line. I sometimes wonder if she realized all things eventually make their way to the surface.
When I had spoken with my client, she told me she and her husband had been happy. On the night he was killed, she said he received a phone call and went out, but she didn’t know who called him or where he was headed. After he left, she said she too received a call about a friend, but when she arrived to meet the person who called her, no one showed up.
The case against Mrs. Halverson was pretty flimsy, but since it came down to two witnesses and a lot of gossip, it may hold up in our small-town court; especially if the jury is made up of the gossipy old biddies that live here.
I decided to start by re-interviewing the two witnesses. I didn’t want to step on any toes, so I checked with the Chief of Police first. He told me I could talk to whoever I wanted since the case was, in his words, ‘all wrapped up’ and the ‘widow’s arrest was right around the corner’.
I wanted to speak to Fitzhugh and Wilson privately so as to eliminate any attempt at grandstanding in front of the locals. I found Tommy in the hardware store where he worked.
“Can we go in the back, Mr. Fitzhugh? I just want to confirm your statement to the police.”
“I’ll tell you what I told the cops. I was taking my nightly walk that everybody knows I take, by the way, when I saw them. I always go down Fourth past those old apartments, and then stop at the drug store at Fourth and Taylor to get my wife’s tonic. Something bright caught my eye and when I looked, there they were. Mr. Halverson was walking in the front door and his wife was right behind him. I knew it was her with all that long blonde hair. She had on a white outfit and her sparkly bracelets were flashing in the streetlights. I thought it was odd, but didn’t say anything until the next day when I heard she reported him missing. I told the cops what I seen and they found his body right there inside the lobby.”
“There’s nothing else that you can remember?”
“There is nothing else, Ralph.”
“Well, thank you for your time, Mr. Fitzhugh.”
“Wait. There is one thing that just occurred to me. Maybe you could tell the cops for me. I just remembered how odd I thought they looked.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s just that whenever I saw them in town, she was so much taller than him, you know? But that night, she looked a lot shorter. Maybe she wasn’t wearing her high heels that night. It sure was odd.”
“Thanks, Mr. Fitzhugh. I’ll be sure to mention it to the police.”
Odd indeed. Mr. Halverson was 5 feet, 5 inches tall – the same as me. His wife towered over me since she was well over 6 feet in slippers, which is what she was wearing when I met with her in her home. I was very anxious to hear what Bob Wilson had to say, and found him having his lunch in the park.
“Mr. Wilson, could you tell me what you saw the night Mr. Halverson was killed?”
“She’s guilty, Ralph. The Chief said so, but I’ll tell it again. I was visiting my wife’s grave as I always do before I go to bed, and I saw this person all in white across the way. Well, it was Mrs. Halverson because she’s the only woman in town with all that long blonde hair. She had on a white coat and pants and diamonds and was trying to throw something into the dumpster. In the streetlight, I could see it was a tire iron. First though, she was wiping it off with a rag, I think.”
“What do you mean, ‘trying to throw’?”
“Well, it seemed hard for her, even though a tire iron isn’t that heavy. She seemed to have trouble lifting up her arm.”
Something told me it was her left arm.
“Which arm was it, Mr. Wilson?”
“Her left, Ralphie. She was having trouble lifting up her left arm.”
I think I always knew she was guilty. All those years of whispers and secrets. It wasn’t all that hard to fit the pieces together. Mom was right. I have always been good with puzzles. When I walked into the living room though, I have to admit I was surprised to see her pointing a gun at me.
“Really? What would be the point? I notified the police before I came here and they’re outside waiting for me to bring you out. Did you actually believe you could get away with two murders and one attempted murder? And now, you’re going to shoot me?”
“They all needed to die, especially Griffith. That first wife of his would have been dead too if he hadn’t come home early from his business trip. Since pushing her down the stairs didn’t kill her, I was going to finish her off by strangling her, but I ran out the back when I heard the key in the front door lock.
“I don’t want to hurt you, but I’m not going to jail because I did nothing wrong. They all deserved what they got. Now, get out of my way because I’m walking out of here. We both know there are no police outside.”
“Missus,” the Chief of Police announced from the front yard. “If you have a weapon, you need to put it down and come outside with your hands up. There doesn’t need to be any more killing.”
“You would do this to me? You could never understand.”
“I do. I understand all of it. You told me not to dig too deep into this? I’ve been digging into this one way or another all my life. You had an affair with Griffith Halverson and became pregnant. He told you he couldn’t marry you because you were both already married and he couldn’t afford the scandal. You thought you could solve both problems with murder. You killed your husband and tried to kill his wife, but she survived and ended up paralyzed. In spite of the affair with you, his devotion to her was strong. He cared for her all those years until she died recently.
“In the meantime, you raised the child totally on your own. After his wife died, you believed he would marry you, and make up for all those years you struggled. But, what did he do instead? He brought a young woman into his home, married her, and still refused to acknowledge you or his son - me.
“You called Halverson with some bogus story and told him to meet you by those apartments to prevent the scandal of anyone seeing you two together. You wore a wig, a white suit and flashy jewelry because you knew Tommy Fitzhugh would walk by and see you. Once inside, you killed him. Then, you called his wife, made up a story about a friend needing help, and told her to wait in the school parking lot which was deserted at that hour so she wouldn’t have an alibi. You also knew Bob Wilson would see you toss the tire iron into the dumpster. You should have tossed it in with your right arm. Your left’s been weak since that fall you took when I was nine.
“Put the gun down now, and I’ll walk out with you. The time has come to do the right thing, Mom.”