Monday, August 19, 2013

Beach Tale: "When We Were Middle Aged and Foolish", Seventh Installment

          This is the seventh  installment of my serialized short mystery, “When We Were Middle Aged and Foolish.”  The last installment will be posted next Monday.  If you missed the first installments, click here to be taken to the page of what’s been posted so far.
          For those of you returning, a quick reminder when last we left our middle-aged amateur sleuths they were going to search Monica Lyn's soo-to-be ex-husband’s house for the murder weapon.  You won’t believe what they find…

When We Were Middle Aged and Foolish
Installment Seven of Eight

            We returned to Monica Lyn’s old house, the one J.J. currently had custody of. J.J. was up in Boston for the day, having “unexpectedly received tickets to the Red Sox/Yankees game. Those tickets are hard to come by. Make that impossible. And I can’t imagine what strings Monica Lyn had to pull to get a pair. But I didn’t ask, and she didn’t tell.
           With the place to ourselves, we set out on a mission to find the murder weapon and/or the dismemberment tool. It’s not like the police hadn’t already searched the premises after our anonymous tip about the buried hacksaw, but we had the advantage in that Monica Lyn not only knew all the secret hidey-holes in the centuries-old mini-mansion, but also J.J.’s sneaky ways.
          We started with the dusty attic and worked our way down to the musty basement. Nothing. I was starting to doubt that J.J. had done murder. And kind of/sort of, in the darkest recesses of my mind, began to wonder if Monica Lyn might not have been the one to have hit her killing point. That could explain her intense focus to frame J.J. in order to get away with it. It could explain her stumbling across the dead body in the first place. I mean, what are the odds that the one day she decides to steal J.J.’s trash can is the one day it’s full of Kitty Kline’s pieces parts? And now that I thought about it, she just seemed a little too intent on proving J.J.’s guilt—and thus her innocence. Why not let the police work things out?
          We’d just finished our search of the garage and were heading along a cluttered breezeway/laundry room towards the house proper. “I need a drink,” Monica Lyn said. “You?”
          “Diet Coke.” I followed her, my mind trying to hold back the questions leaking through the wall between conscious and subconscious thoughts. “With a splash of rum,” I added, detouring to the half bath off to my left. “I’ll be right there.”
          I closed the door and leaned against the pedestal sink, closing my eyes against the riotous jumble of tropical colors of the bathroom’s décor. After drawing a deep breath of plumeria-scented bathroom air, I forced myself into a frank, honest, no-strings-of-friendship-attached assessment of the situation.
          Monica Lyn hadn’t taken J.J.’s infidelity well (what loving and devoted wife would, though?) nor were the divorce proceedings tilting at all in her favor. She was about to loose not only the man she loved and the house she’d turned into a home, but also the financial security she’d enjoyed all her adult life.
          So maybe she’d gone to his house to try to work things out but found Kitty there alone, wearing the satin kimono Monica Lyn bought on their recent trip to Japan, or bathing in her Jacuzzi tub using her ME! Mulberry bath salts, or just sitting around the pool drinking her Ketel Vodka. That might have been enough to set Monica Lyn off, after all Kitty was the cause of the unraveling marriage. (I’m not naïve enough to think that J.J. wouldn’t have hooked up with Kitty had there not been other problems, but I’d only heard Monica Lyn’s side of the story and the evidence was pretty damning against J.J..) Maybe, just maybe, an argument ensued and Monica Lyn reached her killing point.
          After she’d killed Kitty and stuffed her in the Hefty Cinch-Saks, maybe Monica Lyn then concocted a plan to frame J.J. for the murder. My arrival in town cast me in the starring role of witness for the defense. I was the perfect shill. Innocent, trusting, faithful, and above all, in debt for a lifetime of favors.
          There were a lot of maybes in there, but it all made perfect sense. Much more sense than all the other possibilities combined.
          But what would Monica Lyn do with me now that I’d figured it out? Would she blackmail me into keeping my mouth shut? Or would she make sure I kept my mouth shut by killing me too? Possibly. Wait, we’re talking about Monica Lyn here. No “possibly” about it. Once Monica Lyn set a goal, there was not stopping her. And I was about to stop her from framing J.J., and pointing her out as a murderess.
          A cold fear spread through my body. The type that set my teeth chattering. I had to get out of here. And I had to do it without Monica Lyn’s knowledge or suspicion.
          I reached for the doorknob, preparing to sneak out through the garage and down to  the bus station. But the sound of angry voices coming from the kitchen gave me pause.
          Monica Lyn’s I identified, but the other I wasn’t so sure about. It sounded like J.J., but the tone was lower and raspier. Maybe he’d caught a cold that night he’d slept poolside.
          I opened the door a crack and saw Monica Lyn running down the breezeway, followed in hot pursuit by Scott Hunter, J.J.’s twin brother. The years had not been kind to the man. His once swarthy complexion was now ashy; his athlete’s muscle had gone to fat; and those blue eyes, which had once sparkled with mischief, were nothing more than narrow slits of steel.
          I watched as Scott reached out and grabbed Monica Lyn by the ponytail, snapping her head back. With a skill perfected by four years on the varsity wrestling team, he wrapped her in a full Nelson. And with just as much practiced ease, pressed a stiletto knife to her jugular. “You didn’t fool me,” Scott said, his voice sounding like sandpaper on granite, “sending J.J. off to the game so you could poke around his house and find evidence of his Ponzi scheme. The proceeds of which kept you living like the rich bitch you are.”
          “I don’t care about his thieving ways. We were looking for the murder weapon, you jackass.”
          “J.J. didn’t kill Kitty. I did,” Scott boasted. “She found out about our little financial scheme and was threatening to go to the police. J.J. wouldn’t last a day in prison. I’m just looking out for my bro’.” Scott drew the knife slowly from the tip of Monica Lyn’s hairline down her nose and across her chin.
          Monica Lyn whimpered but didn’t scream.
          I almost screamed, but slapped my hands over my mouth to keep it in. It also helped keep in the vomit that bubbled up at the sight of the blood droplets forming along the slash line.
          I eased back from the door and pressed my back against the cool tiles. Think, think, THINK! Scott was the killer, not J.J., not Monica Lyn. Of course not Monica Lyn. How foolish was I to think my best friend capable of such a heinous act?
          If I didn’t do something, Scott was going to slice and dice her, the way he had Kitty Kline. I couldn’t hide in the bathroom while he did.
          My eyes scanned the bathroom for some sort of weapon but found nothing heavier than a double role of Charmin.
          Monica Lyn whimpered again.
          I reached out and slid the medicine cabinet open. It contained one item, a bottle of OFF! bug spray. It wasn’t much, but it was all I had.
          Scott spoke again. “And now you’re gonna join Kitty, the queen of sluts, at the bottom of the landfill. You and that sidekick of yours. Hey, where is Spring Roll, anyway?”
          “She went to pick up lunch at Melba Moon’s.”
          Now that was some BFF, trying to save me from being slashed up. How could I have ever doubted her?
          “Good.” Scott said. “I can take my time and enjoy this.”
          One heartbeat later, Monica Lyn let out a blood-curdling scream.
          I didn’t think, just acted.
          With my eyes closed, I yanked open the door, leapt into the breezeway and pumped that bug spray with every ounce of self-preservation I had. A mixture of ethyl alcohol, DEET, aloe and fragrance filled the breezeway.
          “Shit!” Scott yelled. “Shit! Shit! Shit!”
          Sharp, slicing pain shot up my arm followed by spreading warmth that indicates a gushing blood flow. I directed my bottle of OFF! towards where I thought I heard Scott breathing, still pumping that plastic nozzle like my life depended on it. Which it did. I threw in a couple of swift kicks, making contact with something hard, but I didn’t know if it was Scott or the washing machine, since my eyes remained closed. I kept spraying, moving my arm in sweeping arcs to make sure I covered all directions.
          Silence registered on my senses. I cracked my peepers open just enough to scan the room. Scott was only a few inches away, rubbing his eyes with the palm of one hand, holding the knife in the other. Monica Lyn laid crumpled, facedown, on the ground, in a puddle of her own blood.
          I reached for bottle of Clorox on the shelf near my elbow near and threw it at Scott. It glanced off his temple, knocking him backwards. In the process, he dropped the knife.
          I pounced on that stiletto like a seagull on a bologna sandwich, wrapping my hand around the hilt and slashing and stabbing in Scott’s direction. He crab-crawled out of arm’s reach, but I kept after him with sweeping slashing movements, not aiming, but hoping to make contact with a vital organ.
          I heard the faint sounds of sirens in the distance. Monica Lyn must have had presence of mind to hit the panic button in the kitchen.
          Scott must have heard them too, because he rolled to his hands and knees then to a sprinter’s starting position.
          I lunged forward, the Stiletto sinking deep into the back of his thigh.
          “I’ll kill you for that, bitch.” Those were his parting words before he escaped out the garage door.
          I ran to Monica Lyn’s side and rolled her over. Gawd, it looked like he’d played a game of tick-tac-toe on her beautiful face. Her left eye dangled from its socket by the merest wisp of tissue. She’d lost a lot of blood, but was still breathing. Barely.

* * * 
<<Join us again next Monday in Sagucci Bay as our tale comes to an end.>>

No comments: