Tag Archives: adultery

Fiction: Slender Reed

“I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve gathered you here,” said Inspector Trottitt of Scotland Yard. He looked sharply around the room as if expecting an answer.

One man, in an overstuffed chair, shook his head slightly, causing the inspector to frown.

“Well, I shall tell you,” he continued. “After a thorough investigation, I have determined that one of you … is the murderer!”

Three constables stood behind him at the closed door, keeping watch on everyone. Trottitt began to pace around the room. As he did, he took a cigarette case from his jacket pocket and selected a smoke. The cigarettes were an expensive brand, distinguishable by the gold, silver, and black bands ringing the center. Trottitt came to a halt in front of Miss Wensley and lit his cigarette. Then he pointed at the man seated next to the young woman.

“Mr. Haversham! You stand to profit greatly from Mr. Haddock’s demise. The business is now in your hands alone. Such an opportunity has driven many a man to murder.” Haddock opened his mouth to protest, but Trottitt kept talking. “But His Royal Highness has vouched to me that you were in his company on the evening of the murder, and his word is, naturally, unassailable.”

“I should think so, too,” said Mr. Haversham.

The man in the overstuffed chair sighed loudly and repositioned himself. Trottitt took note of it and began pacing again.

“Mrs. Cravat! As his longtime housekeeper, you stood to know all of Mr. Haddock’s secrets. Perhaps he learned one of yours, too, and you killed him to keep him quiet.”

The housekeeper sniffed. “I have no interesting secrets.”

“I don’t believe that for a minute,” the detective snapped, “but you also have an alibi, having been at the church jumble sale at the time the murder was committed. The vicar has said as much.”

“Of course he has.”

The man in the overstuffed chair groaned softly. Trottitt whirled to confront him.

“Mr. Reed! Does the unveiling of a murderer – someone who is so anti-social and depraved as to kill a fellow man – bore you?”

“Not at all,” Mr. Reed said. “But your theatrics do. Couldn’t you just make an arrest and bugger off?”

One of the constables snickered but had regained his professional face by the time Trottitt had turned around to find the guilty party. Trottitt glared at all three for good measure and returned to Mr. Reed.

“I have my methods, Mr. Reed, and I will keep to them.”

“I hope you keep to your methods in the courtroom. And that the judge fines you £5 for delaying the trial.”

Trottitt fumed silently. “While we are dealing with you, Mr. Reed, your company has been losing money hand over fist to Mr. Haddock’s.”

“That’s putting it nicely. My company is all but bankrupt. But do tell the room why I didn’t kill Haddock.”

Inspector Trottitt smirked. “Your stature, of course. You are – ha! – shall we say, too slender a reed to have done the deed.” Reed rolled his eyes. “The murderer is possessed of much greater physical strength. Which means it was you, Mr. Soames!”

In the space of a thought, Soames leaped from his chair and flung himself on the detective, working to crush Trottitt as he had Haddock. The constables were jarred from their reveries and joined in the fray. They pried the murderer from their boss and laboriously handcuffed him.

“Take him downstairs, men,” Trottitt ordered as he regained his breath. “I’ll be along shortly.” Two constables pulled Soames out the door. The killer left a stream of invective in his wake.

As he straightened his tie, Trottitt stared hard at Mr. Reed.

“I took note during our earlier interviews that, curiously, you keep a small gun up your right sleeve. It is on a rail and may be produced quickly. May I ask why you did not employ it in my defense just now?”

Reed shrugged. “Soames is going to hang for one murder. I didn’t mind if he were to hang for two.”

Mrs. Cravat and Miss Wensley gasped at the rude reply.

“May I inquire, Mr. Reed, what I have done to earn the enmity we have seen you display this evening and that I saw privately on earlier occasions?”

Reed sat up in his chair. “Really? Something the great Inspector Trottitt doesn’t know?”

“How could I?”

“You could think back to your school days. The days when you were a bully without a badge.” Trottitt’s eyebrows began to climb. “The days when you would put firecrackers down the pants of someone like Jerry Whitsun, who couldn’t possibly fight back. The days when you would shoot peas at someone like Billy Street as he battled his stutter to recite a poem before the class.”

“Reed,” Trottitt whispered.

“Yes, and you called me a slender reed in those days, too. I’d have thought you’d have recognized your own pitiful joke. I still remember the awards day ceremony when you tripped me as I went to collect my award for top speller. I went down on my nose and lost my moment in the sun before my peers and my parents.”

The others in the room frowned at Trottitt.

“Well, Reed, that was a long time ago. Water under the bridge, eh? Boys will be boys?”

Reed stood and began to pace the room in imitation of Trottitt.

“Oh, I let all that go. But then you did something unforgivable: you married Maisie Andrews, the prettiest, most vivacious girl in the class. Why her father pushed her into your arms I never knew and never shall.”

“And you are upset with me over my choice of wife?”

“Not for my sake, but for hers. She deserves better.”

Trottitt pulled himself up haughtily. “I think she is well satisfied as my wife.”

“I know you think so. That, in addition to your not recognizing me after two private interviews and this gathering, tells me you’re not at all the detective you believe yourself to be. Maisie is miserable as your wife. You’re scarcely home, and when you are you treat her like a servant. You insist that she remain in when you’re out. You’ve had her locked up like a princess in a tower.”

“Everything I do is for her particular benefit. This is none of your affair,” Trottitt said.

“Actually, old bean, it is my affair. My affair with your wife. We had a chance meet one day when she disobeyed your order to stay home. We’ve been meeting ever since, and I’ve been giving her some of the joy you otherwise take from her.”

Trottitt’s face reddened.

“You have been meeting with my wife? Behind my back?”

“More like under your ruddy nose, you twit. There’s been no great need to be careful about it as you pay her no mind. Oh, yes, you caught a murderer today, but for all intents and purposes you lost your wife ages ago without having a clue.”

Trottitt now imitated Soames and leaped onto Reed, forcing him to the floor. The detective beat his wife’s paramour savagely. It took the remaining constable and Mr. Haversham together to pull Trottitt off of Reed, and their hold on him was shaky.

Reed flexed a muscle in his right arm and produced the little gun Trottitt had mentioned. The sight of it in Reed’s hand froze Trottitt in place.

“What wonderful headlines I can see,” Reed said. “ ‘Cuckolded Detective Pummels Smaller Man,’ perhaps. Or ‘Yard’s Finest Bloodies His Wife’s Lover.’ Something along those lines. Maybe ‘Inspector Fails to Detect Trouble at Home.’ That’s got a nice sound to it.”

“I will kill you, Reed.”

“First he batters me and now he threatens murder. Constable, I want this dangerous man arrested and charged.”

The constable pulled on Trottitt’s arm. “Come along, Inspector, before more harm is done.”

“He can’t get away with this!”

“Inspector,” the constable said quietly, “you’ve got a murderer downstairs to deal with. Plenty of good headlines in that. This bloke can wait.”

Reed stood. “You’re all witnesses. He struck me. He threatened me. I demand justice!”

The constable kept a snarling Trottitt moving, and they left the room.

Mrs. Cravat produced a small cloth for Mr. Reed, who applied it to his bleeding face.

“I agree, Reed, that we’re witnesses to what he did to you,” Mr. Haversham said, frowning sternly, “and that police officials have to set the standard for good conduct. But I don’t know that given the circumstances a judge will have much to say about it.”

“No, likely not,” Reed agreed. “But Maisie, at least, will get a divorce from that rotter. He won’t keep her, now.”

“That’s a rather callous way to talk about a woman, Mr. Reed,” Miss Wensley complained.

“Oh, fear not, Miss. I’ll make an honest woman of her again. We’ve already discussed it. Tonight, I’d better go see her safely away from her home, in case Trottitt would decide to stop in and confront her. I’ve a friend who will put her up.”

“Yes, that would be best,” Mrs. Cravat said.

Mr. Haversham turned to Miss Wensley. “I beg your pardon for asking, Miss, but why were you considered a suspect in Mr. Haddock’s murder?”

“Oh, that’s easy. He and I had been secret lovers. I’m from the wrong side of town, so he was never going to marry me, and he had just spurned me for another woman. I suppose Inspector Trottitt had thought I might want to kill him for that.”

“Oh, I see,” Mr. Haversham said, coloring at the sound of still more improper carnal activity.

“I would have, too, but Mr. Soames beat me to it. Lucky for me, really.”

Mr. Haversham looked at the floor.

“One last thing, Mr. Reed,” said Mrs. Cravat. “Did you consider killing Mr. Haddock?”

As the late Mr. Haddock’s partner, the question caught Mr. Haversham’s interest, and he studied Reed’s face.

“Goodness, no, Mrs. Cravat. My business is failing because I’ve been ignoring it to be with Maisie. My fault entirely, not poor Haddock’s. And I’m getting into a new line of work soon.”

“What line is that, Mr. Reed?” Miss Wensley asked.

“Those fancy cigarettes of Trottitt’s? My brother’s firm makes them, and I’m going to work for him. So every time Trottitt lights one up, I’ll be getting part of my salary paid.” Reed smiled. “I’ve got a feeling that the way his nerves are, business will be good.”

Fiction: A Glass of Water

A tall, shapely woman walked up the three flights of outdoor stairs and turned right, approaching the apartment she was looking for. She was reasonably well dressed and wore a matching set of 12-carat earrings, necklace, and bracelet. She made three sharp, short knocks on the door.

Another woman opened the door. She was a few years older than the one outside. She was not well dressed, she was not wearing jewelry, and her figure was settling.

“I’m Yolanda,” the younger woman said. “Mrs. Cates, I want you to let Horace go so he and I can be together.”

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Fiction: One Low Payment

“I’m going next door for just a little while,” Pastor Henniks told his wife.

“All right,” Sue said. “I’m going on to bed. Don’t be too long.”

He nodded at her and went out the front door of his parsonage and walked across the lawn to his church. He let himself in a side door and went directly to the sanctuary. The pews could hold about eight hundred people, and most Sundays they were filled. He turned on the chancel lights, leaving most of the room in darkness.

He knelt before the altar and stared at the gold-plated cross.

“Lord, I know I’ve done wrong. I’ve done more wrong than a man should, especially a man in my position. I’m sorry. I am so very sorry. Please, please help me. Don’t visit my sins on my poor family or on my congregation. They don’t deserve that. I know I’ve done wrong. But I’ll change, I’ll change. I’ll mend my ways if you’ll just take this cup from me.”

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Fiction: Road Hazard

Stan and Peggy hadn’t taken any food on their trip, so they were hungry from the first day of being snowbound in the blizzard. On the second day, their carefully shepherded supply of cold coffee ran out; they couldn’t gather snow because the electric motors for the windows were frozen. On the third day they ran out of gasoline and could no longer even risk carbon monoxide poisoning to keep warm.

A few hours later, he confessed.

“Peggy,” he stammered in the cold, “I can’t die with this on my conscience. I’ve been having an affair with Lora. It’s been going on for almost five years. I even took her on the Acapulco trip, the one I told you the company wouldn’t let us take spouses on. And your mother’s diamond necklace? The one I said was stolen? I gave it to Lora. I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.”

Peggy just stared at him, too bitterly cold to fully grasp the enormity of his words.

She awoke in the hospital a day later. Turning her head to her left she could see Stan in the next bed. She didn’t remember being rescued, but she did recall Stan’s confession.

She sat up in her bed and gingerly placed her heels on the floor. That didn’t hurt too badly and she hobbled the few steps to Stan’s bed.

“Stan?” she said softly. “Stan? Are you awake?”

“Hmmm?”

He came to consciousness quickly enough when Peggy yanked out his catheter.

Once the screaming had faded to a dull whimper, she told him, “And I’m just getting warmed up.”

Fiction: Crossing the Bridge

In the light of the full moon on a cloudless night, Ron walked to the middle of the bridge and put one leg over the guardrail, and then the other. He stood on a narrow catwalk meant for the use of painters and inspectors. Ron planned to use it as a launching pad, to launch himself into the deep waters of the Tondoscinewa River and end it all.

He took a deep breath, and released it. Depressed as he was, he thought perhaps he should get right with God before jumping. Of course, jumping itself was guaranteed to get on God’s bad side, and there was no point in asking for forgiveness and then committing the sin. So, no prayer.

Ron took another deep breath, thinking it would be his last. Then he heard the footsteps approaching slowly from the tree-laden far end of the bridge. He blew out the breath and wondered who was coming.

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Fiction: The To-Do List

A stray piece of paper is more likely to be picked up if it’s light pink with cute artwork of a kitten and some handwriting on it.

That was the stray piece of paper Denise saw on the grocery store floor, near the customer service desk and picked up. Next to the kitten, at the top of the page, was printed: “Things CONNIE Needs To Do Today.” It was from the sort of notepad advertised in junk mail, and Connie had ordered some. There was, indeed a list of things to do:

1. Call Mom
2. Deposit check
3. Pay rent
4. Take movies back
5. Get haircut – Fran
6. Wash car
7. Go to work
8. Get CheezPuffers, Bloody Mary mix, rat poison
9. Meet Terry at hotel
10. Put rat poison in Terry’s drink
11. Go home, wash clothes & clean out fridge!

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