A COMPLETE MURDER MYSTERY IN UNDER 100 PAGES!
"A damn good read!"
"Will keep you on the edge of your seat!"
"Good mystery. You kept us in suspense and mystified about who pulled the trigger
until the final spellbinding chapters."
"You should have it published! It kept me moving from chapter to chapter."
"What a fabulous read! I couldn't and wouldn't stop until the end....will tell friends and family - all avid readers - to check it out.....great stuff!"
"It was interesting because every time you thought something was about to happen
something else showed up."
"A very enjoyable read with more twists & turns than most published mysteries, a real page turner."
"I enjoyed the story. It could have gone so many ways, it kept my interest."
THE MARRIAGE FROM HELL
Gwen looked across the breakfast table at Nathan and wondered, "What am I doing with such a creep? Look at him, sitting there, so smug, so sure of himself, and never even saying a polite word to me, or even acknowledging my presence by a nod."
He was partially hidden behind his newspaper, which was his usual habit in the morning, but she could see him lift his coffee cup periodically and slurp some liquid into his mouth, part of which dribbled down his chin. Of course she couldn't actually see his mouth, hidden as it was behind the paper, but she had seen it before while unprotected by a barrier.
Oh, he had a lot of people fooled. He was handsome in an effete snob sort of way, and rich, and could be most charming when he decided to be, which was when he was with others, whether business associates or at social gatherings. However, at home he acted like the finer points of civilization had escaped his grasp entirely. Not hard to choose which person in The Odd Couple could be his clone. The people he fooled never saw how he left partially eaten food on the floor by his chair in the living room, and dribbled liquids down the hall as he lumbered about carrying cups and glasses to his den.
Gwen slammed her coffee cup on the saucer to see if he would look out from behind his paper. No.
She walked across the room and lifted the coffee caraffe; walked to where he was sitting and poured a few drops of it onto his head. His reaction was to touch his head with his left hand, the right one still firmly in control of the newspaper. No response.
It was at that moment Gwen resolved to extracate herself from this ten year exercise in marital futility and rejoin the singles world, which had once seemed lonely but now seemed exceedingly attractive. She didn't care if she got any alimony; after all, she could always rejoin the working world which she'd enjoyed before this ridiculous marriage. Having no children she didn't need child support either, and this seemed the perfect time to file, as he had been complaining of late that people would think him impotent or sterile if he had no heir. That one made her laugh. If he had been trying to reproduce, he had a strange way of going about it, being totally disinterested in sex for the past two years.
She began to rehearse what she would say to him when she announced her intentions. Was that a good idea, or should she just have papers served on him with no preamble? Her mind went back and forth on this until she saw him stand, tossing the newspaper on the table willynilly which meant half of it covered her own plate.
"Excuse me!" she yelled at him, tossing the paper off onto the floor.
He looked at her for the first time that morning with a confused look on his face, "Why, what'd you do?" he began to sniff the air.
"Never mind. Go. Just go."
"If Brewster phones, tell him I've left for the office," he instructed her. This was the same thing he said every day as he exited the house and she felt no need to reply.
"Did you hear me?" he asked crossly.
"Aye, aye, Captain!" she mocked, with an exaggerated salute.
He shrugged and left the house, the door closing quietly behind him, as appparently he was now in his gentile mode in preparation for joining the outside world.
Gwen pushed in her best friend's phone number for their morning chat.
"Hi Susie, well, the great oaf has left as usual at 8:20 right on the dot."
Susie laughed, "He is nothing if not punctual!"
"He is nothing is right! Ya know, I'm going to finally file for divorce today, or maybe tomorrow."
"Better do it today before you lose your nerve. Are you going to warn him or just let the papers be served?"
"That's what I've been going back and forth over...."
"He did punch a hole in your bedroom wall last year, remember? What was that over anyway, I forgot."
"Oh yeah, that. We were going to a social gathering at some classy restaurant, you know the kind of place that puts a small dollop of food on your plate, swirls various colored sauces around it and charges a hundred and fifty. He said I should wear the blue dress, but it was at the cleaners, so I put on the green one and he hit the ceiling, or, in this case, the wall."
"Oh yeah, I remember now. Jeeeez, he doesn't sound like the kind of guy I'd want to anger...."
"Yeah, kid, too bad you already divorced Jeff...I could use an easy one like him to leave..."
"Jeff wasn't violent, he was just out to lunch, plus he had this congenital weakness for sleazy women..."
"How'd he end up with you anyway? You are so far from sleazy.."
"He wanted to please his parents. Thought a blue eyed blond who dressed conservatively would fit the mold of what a proper wife looked like, plus I was so pliable at the time that he figured I would never give him a moment's...."
"Then you gave him more than a moment's concern!" Gwen interrupted, "He was easy, though. Well, of course, you did have to fight to retain the house, but even then he caved."
"Yeah, he never enjoyed confrontation, so he caved. But Nathan? Oyyyy!"
"What say I just give him the damned house; make it clear right from the start?"
"But Gwen, I doubt he'd be livid over material possessions, he always struck me as someone who was more possessive of his image..."
"Right....remember how I told you a couple weeks ago that he'd been making noises about our having a child?"
"I've gotta get out of here before he makes good on the threat. He doesn't actually like children, mind you, but he's concerned that his cronies will think something's the matter with him if, after ten years of marriage, there are no kids."
The finer points of how to approach divorcing Nathan went on for well over an hour, and would have continued had the doorbell not rung.
"Just a sec, gotta answer the door, Susie..."
"I'll call you back later. Bye now." Gwen could hear Susie hang up.
Not expecting company, but knowing that Nathan ordered an amazing amount of goods online, Gwen went to the door to accept whatever package was proffered by the delivery person.
But it wasn't the delivery person....it was the Cops, two of them standing somberly on her doorstep.
"What can I do for you, Officers?" Gwen asked, not having a clue why two uniformed policemen would be on her doorstep.
The red-headed Cop shoved a picture in front of her, "Recognize this person?" he asked gruffly.
She reached for the picture, but he was not about to relinquish it and made her come along side him so she could see what it was.
"This looks like Cliff Brewster," she commented. "He and my husband work together at Kline, Brewster & Schmidt."
"If you see him, would you contact us immediately?" another Cop put in.
"Why? Is he missing? What has he done...." Gwen was totally confused.
"We think he may have committed a murder, lady. We got your address from his address book.
"He kept a black address book in his top right hand drawer at work.....has names, phone numbers, addresses..."
"He must have hundreds of names, phone numbers and addresses in that thing, why did you come here of all places?"
"Because he also wrote comments in red pen alongside the names, phone numbers and addresses...."
The red-head was the only Cop brave enough to say, "He had 'hot stuff' written by yours."
Gwen laughed, it was so ludicrous. "OK, OK, where's the camera? Am I being punked? X-ed?"
"This is no joke, Mrs. Howe. This man that you identified as Cliff Brewster killed one of his co-workers..."
"He did? Who?!" Gwen was hoping against hope it was Nathan.
"Hard to say. The lab is still trying to ID the guy. The gun blast blew off most of his face...."
"Oh my God!" Gwen was aghast. Whoever it was, this was beyond grisly.
"We appreciate your help, lady, and if this guy shows up here, please give us a call."
"I most certainly will!" Gwen meant it. Good grief, Cliff had written 'hot stuff' by her name? What kind of pervert was he?
Gwen made a beeline for the phone, quickly calling the office. The phone was answered immediately, "Kline, Brewster and Schmidt," the familiar voice said, "This is Pamela."
"Pamela! This is Gwen Howe. Is my husband there?"
Pamela's voice shook, "Oh Mrs. Howe.....how can I tell you the tragedy....."
"I already know. The Cops were here. Who did Cliff Brewster kill? Was it Nathan?"
"Oh Mrs. Howe, it's terrible, terrible! What a tragedy...."
"Get a grip, Pamela. Who did Cliff Brewster kill as far as you can tell? Think, woman, think! Did Nathan arrive at the office this morning on time?"
"Yes. Right on time, as always."
"Then what did he do? Did he have any appointments?"
"Yes. One man, Mr. Jones. I took coffee into them. One black, one with cream and sugar. Mr. Jones took the cream and sugar...."
"How long did he stay?"
"About fifteen minutes. Oh the tragedy!"
"Was it Nathan who was shot?"
Suspicion crept into Pamela's voice, "How do you know he was shot? He could have been stabbed."
"The Cops said that Cliff Brewster shot someone's face off..."
A fresh round of hysterics, "Oh the humanity! the tragedy!"
"Was it Nathan he killed?"
"Oh Mrs. Howe, how can I tell you?"
"Just do it, Pam!"
She heard Pam blow her nose, "It was Nath...I mean Mr. Howe who was shot. I still can't believe it. It's too awful...."
Gwen wondered why she, the so-called bereaved widow, was calm while the secretary was falling apart and shook her head.
Pamela sniffed and continued, "They took the body away to the lab, or morgue or wherever they take bodies to....." then a fresh round of crying.
"Looks like they're hunting for Cliff Brewster. I take it he's missing?"
"He was here, then he left."
"After the murder?"
"Did they find the gun?"
"Do they think Cliff has it with him?"
For someone who was so loquacious a few minutes earlier, Pamela seemed to be running out of words.
"Phone me when you find out anything....anything at all, will you, Pamela?"
Gwen rang off. Walking to the full-length mirror in the master bedroom, the room she'd been sleeping in alone for two years, she surveyed herself to see why Cliff Brewster had written 'hot stuff' in his address book.
Nothing sensational. Wavy brown hair, good features, a trim figure but not the type of body Playboy is interested in featuring in its center fold.
Cliff Brewster? That mild mannered teddy bear of a man a killer? Didn't compute. Had he been harboring a secret crush on her for years and she'd just never picked up on it? No, that was ridiculous. His wife was a very nice woman, maybe a little dull, but Gwen had never heard a word about marital trouble from Nathan, who seemed to get a particular delight in other peoples' crumbling marriages.
Funny, he seemed oblivious to the crumbling going on right under his own roof.
Gwen phoned Susie again, who picked up on the second ring. "Gwen?"
"Yes. Listen, Sus, something big has happened. I'm coming over."
"Great, see you in a few...."
Gwen clicked off, threw on her coat, scooped up her purse and headed out to her car, slamming the heavy wooden door behind her.
THE NEWS HITS THE
Susie was waiting at the door when she saw her friend's car pull into the driveway and opened it open before Gwen had a chance to ring the bell.
"What is it? You sounded so agitated!"
Gwen tossed her coat and purse on the counter by the door and quickly crossed into the living room, flinging herself down on one of the couches.
"The Cops just showed up at my house..."
"That's right! Two Cops! They said that someone had been shot at the law office, and that Cliff Brewster was being hunted, as appaarently he bolted shortly thereafter, so they were looking for him."
"Oh yes! The Cops actually didn't say who it was because the victim was unidentifyable, having had his face blown off by the shot....but it was Nathan."
"My God!" Susie was in thrall, "So what makes you think Cliff Brewster killed Nathan? It could have been someone else.."
"I phoned up his office and that simp, Pamela, answered. She was all but in hysterics and it took me quite a while to get anything out of her, but she finally said that Nathan had been shot."
"Why did the Cops come to your house so fast after the crime, Gwen?"
"They probably thought Cliff was hiding there."
"Why would he do that?"
"Because, next to my name in his address book he had written 'hot stuff' if you can imagine!"
"Hot stuff?! Whatever for? I don't mean to imply that you aren't attractive, but to Cliff?? Hmmm, the Cops didn't come to tell you that Nathan had been killed? That sounds more likely than that they thought Cliff Brewster was hiding out there."
"Not sure the Cops knew who the victim was. I don't think they were positive. But they were postive about who the perpetrator was, and was hoping the case could be wrapped up quickly if they could find him at my house having a tryst with me.."
"I would laugh if the whole thing weren't so tragic!" Susie leaned forward, "How are you doing, Gwen? You must be upset."
"I won't miss Nathan, but I was hoping for something more mundane, like maybe he'd drive his car off a cliff."
"You were talking about divorcing him..."
"Right. It almost feels like I put the energy out into the universe, you know the 'I need to get rid of this guy' energy, and got results, results more drastic than I was asking for."
"So what happens now? If Pamela the receptionest is sure it was Nathan that was shot, will you have to go down to the morgue and ID the body?"
Gwen groaned, "I suppose so. Now, that sounds like a nightmare! No way do I want to see Nathan with his face blown apart, or anyone else, for that matter, with their faces blown apart. The medical profession didn't lose out on a great candidate when I decided it was too bloody a job."
"I can go with you when you have to...."
"Thanks, Suse, maybe I'll take you up on that," Gwen looked at her watch, "Is channel 3 still having news at 11 am?"
"Yeah. Let's turn it on..." Susie reached for the remote and in a few minutes they were watching and hearing, "Breaking News! A prominent lawyer was murdered this morning sitting at his desk....the body hasn't been positively identified yet, but there's a strong suspicion it's Nathan Howe, who lives at 286 Chestnut Hill Drive...."(a camera positioned in a helicopter shows the house from above, then angles slightly so the front yard and front door are visible before going on to show the office of Kline, Brewster & Schmidt.)
"The Police are looking for Clifford Brewster as an investigative lead, as it appears he was the last person to see Mr. Howe, who arrived at his office at 9:15..."
"9:00, you simp!" Gwen yelled out, "The man was punctual!"
".....if anyone knows the whereabouts of Mr. Brewster, please call the police...." the announcer then went on to another piece of news.
"For Pete's sake, what's with the helicopters over my house, are they looking for Cliff and his mistress 'hot stuff'?" Gwen groaned.
"Hot stuff?!" Susie giggles again.
"Yeah, hot stuff. Why on earth did he write that by my name? Cliff has never given off the vibes that he had a 'thing' for me. He's been civil but that's all. He spends most of the time when he's out socially talking business because I get the impression he has little or no personal life. His wife is pleasant, but with no discernable personality...she just listens to him talk and nods her head in agreement."
"Have you ever spoken to her one to one?" Susie asked.
"I think one time when they were at our place she came out into the kitchen when I was in there and asked if we had any Sweet n' Low. That's it."
Susie concentrated, then got a bright look in her eyes, "Maybe someone else wrote 'hot stuff' in his address book!"
"I cannot imagine why!"
"I can't imagine any other explantaion from the stuff you've told me..."
"Well, when this whole mess is straightened out, we'll hopefully know what the motivation for that sappy addition in red ink was for."
"Right. The rest of the names, phone numbers and addresses were in black."
Gwen could hear her cell phone ringing from inside her purse, which was still on the counter by the front door.
"OK, what now?" she asked as she ran over and rummaged around in the purse for it. Retrieving it, Susie heard her say, "Yes, this is....yes........right now?...........alright, I'll be right down."
Gwen went back into the living room and stated, "It looks like you and I have a date with the Coroner's office."
Susie jumped up from the couch, "OK, let's roll!"