Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 49: That Green-Eyed Monster Two

That Green-Eyed Monster (Continued)

At the bottom of the stairs was a hidden exit from the house that led right into the woods. I waited in the trees until the last cop car had left. The lights had been on all over the house, and I figured they’d searched every inch of it. I was glad I had picked up the items from the stairs. One belonged to a friend, who I knew was innocent, and the other belonged to a killer. I made my way home through the dark streets and snuck in through my bedroom window. I knew my folks were asleep. Ma’s shift at the factory started at 5am. My pop was a janitor at Butler Memorial Hospital and his shift started at 4:30am. They’d both be out like lights by now; no sense getting them all excited with me coming in so late.

I got up early and went to the jail. I wanted to let Benny and Joey know I had made it out. Chief Bob told me I could go back and visit the three of them. What?

“Eddie,” Benny hollered, then remembered where he was and lowered his voice to a whisper. “How’d you get out of that house?”

“Not important,” I said.

That’s when I saw Lonny sitting on the bench in the cell. He looked like he’d run into a brick wall – hard - twice.

“Lonny, what are you doing here?”

“The cops came to my house and arrested me. Mrs. Hopper’s sitting with Ma now.” Lonny’s eyes filled with tears. “They said I had the motive to kill that old bastard because of what he did to Pa. They think I went over there this afternoon and fought with him and that’s how I got this black eye. Then, one of the cops said that I sent Benny and Joey over there at night to finish him off. The cop also said some anonymous somebody called the station and tipped them off right after it happened. Who would do that, Eddie?”

So that’s how the cops got there right away. Somebody tipped them off, but who? The killer? I bet he had still been in the house when we got there. He must have heard us fiddling with the front door lock, went upstairs and called the cops, and got out down the staircase. He figured he’d make sure whoever was coming in got framed for the old man’s murder. I wondered if he realized he had dropped his knife on those stairs. I decided to make sure he did.

“Lonny, I found your medal on the stairs leading out of the house, so I know you were there. Not to worry because I have it and I didn’t turn it over to the cops. I know you didn’t kill Harlson, but what were you doing there, and how did you know about those stairs?”

“Eddie, it’s true,” Lonny said. “I did go there, but when I left, he was alive. I gave Ma her pain medicine and she fell asleep. I knew she’d be out for a few hours, so I locked up the house and went to see Harlson. All I wanted to do was find out why he framed Pa. He laughed in my face and said my dad was no better than the dirt under his feet. Then he started pushing me. Out of nowhere, he punched me in my face, and told me to get the Hell out of his house or he’d have me locked up right beside my loser of a father. Then, somebody started pounding on his back door and he went to see who it was. I acted like I was going out the front, but when he went into the kitchen to get the back door, I slipped upstairs. Pa said Harlson kept papers up there and I wanted to see if I could find something to help prove he was innocent.

“I heard Harlson yelling, but I didn’t hear the other person. I figured I’d better get out of there. I knew about that back stairway because Pa told me about it. He said that’s how Harlson’s crooked suppliers brought him faulty materials and got their payoffs. Everything done in secret. I went through the woods to Wilbur’s Crossing, then across the field to my house. Ma was just coming around. I told her I slipped and fell on something and that’s why my eye was swelled up. That’s where I stayed until they came and arrested me. I thought the chain with my medal had fallen off in the woods.”

Okay. So the killer arrived via the kitchen door and left by way of the secret staircase. Time to bait the trap.

I headed over to Rosie’s Diner. Her joint was where everyone in town gathered to gossip. Anything said in here would definitely get around. I decided to use my outside voice inside.

“Hey, Ms. Rosie, it’s early, but can I have a burger and some fries?”

“Sure, Eddie, but I’m the only one who needs to hear your order. The next county sure don’t!”

Yep. My outside voice was dialed up just right.

“Sorry. It’s just Mr. Harlson getting murdered right under our noses is creepy business. First, my best friends get arrested, and now…wow.”

“Now what?” Ms. Rosie asked.

“Well,” I continued, at a slightly elevated volume, so no one would miss a word. “They found evidence in the master bedroom. It doesn’t match up to any of my friends, so they’ve got one of those forensic teams coming from the state in the morning to process the kni…I mean, it. The girl in dispatch is my second cousin, and she told me they didn’t remove it from the house yet. Once those CSI folks get done with it, they’ll have the fourth person involved in the killing. I can’t wait to find out who that is, can you?”

The diner was abuzz with everyone talking about who the other person could possibly be. I knew he was in here somewhere. All I needed was for him to take the bait.

Sitting in the dark waiting for a killer wasn’t cool at all. I don’t believe in spooks, but being in a house upstairs from where a guy had recently been murdered gave me the heebies. I was beginning to think I’d be visiting my friends next on Death Row when I saw the beam of a flashlight under that door to the secret staircase. The door opened and the killer entered, swinging the light around on the carpet searching. I was leaning against the desk and the light eventually shined on my feet. I heard a gasp. Apparently, our killer wasn’t expecting company. The light was moved up to my face.

“What are you doing here?”

“I might ask you the same thing, Mrs. Vanderly. That knife was yours? You killed Mr. Harlson?”

“Didn’t your mother teach you to mind your own business?”

“Leave my mother out of this. Why’d you do it?”

“I guess there’s no harm in letting you in on it. After all, it’s not like you’ll be able to repeat anything I tell you.”

She pulled a gun from her pocket and pointed it in my direction. Great plan, Eddie.

“It was an accident, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I was having an affair with Harlson. He was repulsive, but rich, and promised me big houses and trips. My husband Fred didn’t know anything about it. He’s repulsive too, but poor, and he never promised me anything. Everything was fine until Harlson decided to dump me and take up with that hotel clerk that just moved into town. After I put up with his reptilian touch for months, he was going to kick me to the curb for that blonde dimwit.

“I knew he framed that Draymond idiot because Fred helped him doctor the books. I went there that night to tell him if he dumped me for that bimbo, I’d blow the whistle on him. I had planned to just knock him out and then go through his files to find something I could use against him if he didn’t agree to dump junior miss. I brought the knife to use to get into any locked files. He started threatening me, so I pushed him as hard as I could. He lost his balance, fell backwards and hit his head on the table. I knew he was dead. I didn’t kill him on purpose. I just got lucky.

“After I got upstairs, I heard somebody messing with the front door. That must have been your friends. I called the cops and told them Harlson was dead and the killers were still in the house and then I hung up. I knew about the back staircase since that’s how I came in and left when I visited him. I was in a hurry and that’s when I must have dropped the knife. I saw the medal and chain on a stair halfway down and left it for the cops to find. Pretty smart, huh?”

I had to agree with her, but only to a point. I was pretty smart too.

The lights in the room came on and Chief Bob told her to drop the gun. She looked behind her and cops were coming up the back stairs.

“You little…”

“You heard all that, Chief Bob?” I smiled at Mrs. Vanderly. I had earned the right to be smug.

“Got it all on tape, son,” he said. He pointed to the bedroom door which led to the main staircase in the house. “After you, Mrs. V. You ride with me, Eddie, back to the jail, and I’ll drive you and your friends home after the lady is tucked in a cell. Always remember one thing, son. Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned.”

Duly noted, Chief. We hadn’t gotten to that yet in school. I wondered if that was a college thing.

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