During the Lecture

WINE BOTTLE AND GLASS - WolfBlur -- PX

The lecture finally came to an end about 9:20 p.m.  That was almost an hour longer than it should have lasted. I hadn’t realized that there would be so much time in which to carry out my plan, or I would have gone about things much more leisurely.

Professor Thomas Crenshaw was known for being windy, of course, but I didn’t want to count on that fact, so after I’d slipped unobtrusively from my seat on the last row and exited the lecture hall, I literally ran to my car and changed into my disguise.

Black is so non-committal, isn’t it? Especially at night. One can sneak between parked cars and through alleys and even private yards without being noticed.

I didn’t have to drive, since Smith lived just a block off campus. I slipped into the alley that ran behind his house, making my way silently. I guess I wasn’t completely silent — or else my human scent caused an alarm — because a dog sent up some noisy yapping as I passed one residence, but as soon as I was twenty feet way, he want back to his normal nightly business.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself for executing this little maneuver so well. I’d even played the good neighbor and offered to bring over my WD40 and oil his back gate that squeaked. When I’d been there for the staff barbecue last week and realized how it squeaked, I knew I’d have to take care of that little problem before I could carry out my plan successfully. But a few little squirts, and problem solved. I have to laugh now when I think how profusely Smith thanked me for being so thoughtful.

And, of course, he thanked me profusely again when I presented him with that expensive bottle of burgundy today as a birthday gift. That’s the thing about old Smith. He did everything rather profusely — even his drinking. And that’s what I was counting on. The old sot! How anyone could believe he was fit to be made the Chair of our department was beyond me. The choices had come down to him and me, and I was positive I’d be their pick. But when the university President told me that the board was swinging heavily toward Smith instead, it was all I could do not to unload a torrent of curses right there in the hallway of the administration building.

No matter. My little maneuver tonight took care of everything. As I approached the back door, I was fully confident that the bottle of burgundy was empty and Smith snoring like the pig that he is — well — that he was. I’d been right, of course. I’m surprised his own snoring didn’t wake him up. The man was a disgrace to our university, and it was past time someone did something about it. One little jab of a needle, and the quick-acting poison I’d chosen took care of old Smith for good. And I quietly and sedately slipped back into my seat in the lecture hall in plenty of time to hear the last thirty minutes of Thomas’ mind-numbing lecture.

Now, as I sit here at my own desk, listening to the digital recorder I had left in my lecture seat — along with the reserved sign so no one else would sit there — I’m diligently making notes on the lecture. When the authorities question me — as they undoubtedly will — I’ll have my name on the sign-in sheet and the sign-out sheet for the lecture. And I’ll have the notes I’ve taken, proving that I heard every single word Professor Crenshaw spoke from 7:30 to 9:20 p.m.

THE END

 


Daily Post Prompt: Lecture

 

 

~~~

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Friday Fictioneers: 7/14/17

To participate in this week’s Friday Fictioneers, visit Rochelle’s site. The picture prompt below is the property of  Janet Webb.

 

BETRAYED BY TECHNOLOGY

He’d done it. He smiled at the perfect job. He’d left her lying across the bed with the pill bottle in her hand. And she hadn’t even suspected that he’d doctored her drink.

She did love to drink, and that had made it so easy. He smiled again as he leaned back in his easy chair savoring his success. Leaving the lone candle burning was an artistic touch. And his fake alibi was so tight, he’d never be suspected.

Now, to call Bernard and report his success. Reaching into his pocket, he froze. Where the hell was his cell phone?

 

~~~

Friday Fictioneers 6/9/17: ‘The Gardener’

It’s been a while since I’ve had opportunity to participate in Friday Fictioneers, but this week’s photo just pulled this little tale right out of me. If you’d like to join in the fun, visit Rochelle at the link above.

This week’s photo is courtesy of Sarah Potter. There was no link for Sarah on the host site. Sorry. But her photo is below, and my story follows that.

summer house

Photo © Sarah Potter


THE GARDENER

There it was: the jar labeled plant food. Just as I’d left it when they’d handcuffed me and carted me off. It looked innocuous amidst the heinous overgrowth of Hilda’s desk-top garden. Everyone knew plants were her life, and a jar of food drew no attention at all.

The police finally released me; no trace of evidence I had poisoned her. The doctor identified the fatal stuff with some multi-syllabled word, but nothing pointed to my having any of it.

Now … to mix a drink for these damned plants with the rest of that powder.

 

 

~~~

Prompt Nights – Glimpse Into the World of Edgar Allen Poe

This week on “Prompt Nights” Sanaa has challenged us to get our inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe. I’m super pressed with my regular teaching this week, so I don’t have time to write a brand new piece, but Sanaa assures us that previously written work is welcome. So since the theme immediately brought to mind a story I wrote some time ago — and since it’s a story I think even Ol’ Edgar himself would appreciate — I’ll share it this week. (Those of you who have read it previously have my permission to skip it this time.)

THE FOG

LIGHTHOUSE WITH FOG
The fog’s especially heavy tonight. I can’t see three feet past the door, so I guess it’s a good time to stay inside and write this letter. The lighthouse on the island has sounded the foghorn every two minutes for hours now.

I haven’t been back to the island since that night. In some ways, I wish I had moved away when you did. I’m sure it’s a lot easier on you not having to look out across the water and see that island every day. I know the spot is overgrown now, but I can still pick it out as clearly as if we’d left a marker. And hearing that blasted horn blow every time the fog moves in really gets on my nerves.

Tonight it’s as thick out there as it was the night we buried him. I often wonder what would have happened if the fog had lifted in time for someone to see us digging the grave. But, of course, that wasn’t likely to happen. Once the dratted stuff moves in, it clings to us like a shroud for the whole night.

I wish you were sitting here with me, sharing a bottle of our favorite whiskey. I hate being alone with my thoughts. I’m always chilled and shaky when there’s fog. And it feels as if something’s choking me. I wonder if that’s how he felt as we tightened that rope around his neck until he stopped breathing.

I sure wish you were here with me. I hate fog.

~~~

Prompt Nights Challenge: Life is a Masquerade

I’ve chosen to offer a piece of fiction for this week’s challenge. The topic is masks, facades, and lies. To participate in Sanaa’s challenge visit her site here.

 

THE TRIAL OF MARYBELL WESTMORELAND

man-shoveling-full-yardMarybell Westmoreland was, at the delicate age of 82, a soft, pink-cheeked, quiet woman. Standing merely five feet, one inch tall, she nevertheless commanded total respect from rich and poor, elite and scoundrel.

No one really knew for sure how rich she was. Very few people ever saw her actually spend money, but she always had a well-stocked larder, immaculate gardens, late-model vehicles, elegant gowns, and hoards of priceless jewelry.

She seldom entertained these days, but when she did, the party was one for the society columns to slobber over. She nearly always had a guest list that included several members of royalty – from half a dozen different countries – as well as homeland celebrities and scores of friends. They ate; they danced; they gossiped; they groveled where necessary; and they had an all-round rollicking good time.

That’s why, when the Thursday morning papers reported that Marybell Westmoreland had been arrested and charged with poisoning her gardener, citizens from all around the world were in shock.

“I just do not believe it!” one duchess was heard to exclaim to her husband as she slammed down the paper at the breakfast table. “Why, we’ve known Marybell for decades! She hasn’t an evil bone in her little body!”

“Mmmm,” replied her hubby. “Well, my dear, these things generally do take one by surprise, you know.”

“Nonsense! They have the wrong person; that’s all! You’ll see!”

“Well … time will tell, my love,” hubby replied, as he finished his coffee and rose to gather his hat and briefcase, preparing to head out for a meeting.

“I must send her a telegram to encourage her!” he heard his wife add as the butler let him out the front door.

And so the duchess sent her telegram – as did scores of other friends and family from all echelons of society.

Having been released on an exceedingly large bail, Marybell Westmoreland, chose to go straight to her home and refused to see anyone or go out in public for any reason. News reporters swarmed the area just outside the boundaries of her property, hoping to get a tiny glimpse that would allow a chance at a photo that would, no doubt, at least triple the sales of their particular newspapers.

One enterprising young woman reporter did manage to talk one of the maids into speaking with her, and when asked how Miss Westmoreland was behaving, the maid answered, “Oh, she’s the same as ever, Lord love her. She goes about the house hummin’ to herself just like usual, and she has her meals at the right time, and eats like a horse. It’s a sure bet she ain’t worried about gettin’ a death sentence.”

By the time three months had passed – and the scheduled trial was still two more weeks away — the reporters went back to ordinary stories and let the old lady go on about her life uninterrupted. Gossip seemed to die down. There just wasn’t enough activity taking place in Marybell’s day-to-day life to add any fuel to the fire.

Finally, the trial began. Each side presented various forms of what they considered evidence, but everything was so circumstantial that most of the people following the proceedings had made up their minds within three days that there would be nothing to convict the old bird.

They were all the more shocked then, when the defense attorney put Marybell on the stand herself. Naturally, the judge asked her publicly if she understood that she did not have to testify, and she replied that she did understand. “But I don’t mind, Your Honor,” she told him. “I’ll be glad to testify. After all, it’s my own trial, is it not? How ill-mannered would I be to expect people to come to my trial if I don’t even act like a good hostess and talk to them!”

The judge rolled his eyes and turned to her attorney. “Do you agree with this decision, Mr. Withers?”

“No, Your Honor, but my client has insisted.”

“Very well. Proceed then.”

“Thank you, Your Honor,” he said and cleared his throat for the coming interrogation. After asking Marybell to verify her name and other identifying information, he went right to his first shocking question.

“Now, Miss Westmoreland, will you tell us, please, did you poison your own gardener, Mr. Samuel Trustbody?”

“Yes, I did,” she replied, looking him directly in the eye.

The audience in the courtroom – including both attorneys and the judge – sucked in an audible breath.

“I beg your pardon?” said Mr. Withers. And days later, one reporter made the comment that the look on the  poor defense attorney’s face at that moment was one for the history books.

Very calmly, as if she did that sort of thing every day, Marybell replied, “I said, yes, I did.”

Mr. Withers cleared his throat again. “You are saying that you poisoned your gardener, Mr. Samuel Trustbody, in order to kill him?”

She nodded her head, her soft pink cheeks looking just a little pinker than usual, but with no other sign of any agitation. “Yes, that is correct.”

Poor Mr. Withers had never lost a case so quickly, and he just did not know how to deal with the situation.  He cleared his throat again, but when he began to ask the next question, his voice came out so squeaky that he had to start again. “And … may I ask why you killed your gardener, Miss Westmoreland?”

“Well, you see I had to.”

“Go on, please. Why did you have to kill him?”

“Because he just insisted on digging up the whole yard behind the greenhouse to plant a new garden. Naturally, I couldn’t let him do it. I tried to talk him out of it. I even ordered him not to do it. But all he would say was that his contract with me said that he had free rein to plant anywhere he saw fit, and he was convinced no other place would be right for that kind of garden.”

“But … surely … madam … that was not sufficient reason to take his life!”

“Oh, I had to! Don’t you see? If I had let him go back there and dig up all that area, why … he would have discovered all the other bodies I’ve buried back there.”

 

 

Friday Fictioneers 6/8/16 –

To join the fun of Friday Fictioneers 100-Word Story Challenge, just follow the link for the details. Photo by Jan Marler Morrill.  My story is below the picture.

PHOTO PROMPT © Jan Marler Morrill

 

Sebastian had said, “Follow the alley until it curves right. Stop at the blue door in the wall. Knock four times.”

Okay, here was the turn. Yes … the blue door. Four short raps. She held her breath. … No answer. … She waited. … Still no answer.

Drat the man!  Why all this mystery? Couldn’t they just meet at a cafe?

Lying on the floor inside, Sebastian stretched his arm to reach the door handle. But the knife in his back had done its work. He lost consciousness as the girl turned in frustration and left the alley.

Daily Post Prompt: Island

LIGHTHOUSE WITH FOGThe fog’s especially heavy tonight. I can’t see three feet past the door, so I guess it’s a good time to stay inside and write this letter. The lighthouse on the island has sounded the foghorn every two minutes for hours now.

I haven’t been back to the island since that night. In some ways, I wish I had moved away when you did. I’m sure it’s a lot easier on you not having to look out across the water and see that island every day. I know the spot is overgrown now, but I can still pick it out as clearly as if we’d left a marker. And hearing that blasted horn blow every time the fog moves in really gets on my nerves.

Tonight it’s as thick out there as it was the night we buried him. I often wonder what would have happened if the fog had lifted in time for someone to see us digging the grave. But, of course, that wasn’t likely to happen. Once the dratted stuff moves in, it clings to us like a shroud for hours on end.

I wish you were sitting here with me, sharing a bottle of our favorite whiskey. I hate being alone with my thoughts. I’m always chilled and shaky when there’s fog. It feels as if something’s choking me. I wonder if that’s how he felt as we tightened that rope around his neck until he stopped breathing. I know if I could hear your voice now, you’d tell me to stop being so fanciful.

I wish you were here with me. I hate fog.

~~~

To participate in this prompt, visit The Daily Post.

 

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Daily Post Prompt: Countless

Visit the Daily Post to find out how to participate in today’s prompt.

Exif JPEG
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THE DECISION

`I’ve thought about you countless times this past year. I sometimes wish I hadn’t been so hasty to make the decision. There are days when I wake up thinking how good it would be to still have you beside me for a few hours. And, of course, every time I make the curried chicken casserole I think about you. It’s downright lonely in the kitchen these days. And I don’t even cook most of the time. I do carry-out.

I don’t order from our favorite Chinese place, though, and I don’t go in there anymore because they almost always ask me, with sadness in their eyes, how I’m doing now that you’re gone. That gentle couple who own the place really got to like you. I think you were probably their favorite customer during the three years we ate there. I miss the Chinese place, and some of the other haunts we made our own. But I’m finding new interests and new friends, and things will work out.

But — sometimes — on a summer evening — when the windows are open to the gentle night air and someone’s laughter floats across the breeze, it reminds me of your laugh. I think that’s one of the things I miss most about you. You were so abandoned when you thought something was funny. You never held back.

But then, as well as I can remember, you never held back on any emotion. And that fact, of course, is what finally led me to make my decision. You just couldn’t seem to hold back on your feelings for all the other men in your life — even my best friend — a man who I’d thought would have my back through thick and thin — especially after all we’d been through together in the war. But you were just too much for him. He fell just like all the others. And so I made the decision.

Yeah — as I consider it all again now — I know it was the right thing to do. It put a stop to the hurting for me and for all the rest of ’em too.

The only thing is that — on nights like tonight — with the fragrance of the roses you planted drifting in from the garden — and the radio playing an old song we used to dance to — well — I have to admit to myself at least — I do feel just a little sorry that I poisoned you.

 

~~~

Premeditation

BUTCHER KNIFE - PUB DOM -- POITR SIEDLECKI. smaller“So tell me, did you kill her?”
“You doubt my innocence?”
“I’ve known you for a long time,
And certain things make sense.”

“Like what? You judge me harshly.”
“No, I just understand:
She caused you grief and sorrow,
And you’re a hurting man.”

“But, still, to think I’d kill her —
That seems a drastic act.
I could not stand much more, but
Other ways can deal with that.”

“But other ways are not sure,
Could leave you open wide
For further persecution
If she came back to your side.

“Besides, I saw the blood stains,
And they your secrets tell.
And then I found the knife that
You thought you’d hidd’n so well.”

“I see … Well, that quite grieves me
Because you’ve been my friend;
Alas, I have no other choice:
So your life, too, must end.”

“A second murder? No way;
Your guilt soon all would guess.”
“Not once they read your own note
In which you will confess.”

“You cannot make me do it.
I’ll never write the note.”
“No need. I’ll type it neatly
Once I have slit your throat.”

The moral of this story
Quite easily could be
That one who learns dire secrets
Should maintain secrecy.

 

(Not my usual poetry, but sometimes you just need to get out of the box.)

 

 

~

 

Wordle 219 Writing Challenge: ‘The Case of the Copy-Cat Crimes’

I just discovered a writing challenge called “Wordle,” which you will find at “The Sunday Whirl.”  It involves writing a poem or short piece of fiction that uses the words in a prescribed group for each week. Writers can use any form of the words that fit their stories/poems. Below, you’ll see the green box with the group of words for this week. If you’d like to take part in the challenge, just follow the link to “Wordle 219” for October 4, 2015 and join in.  My story is below the box of words.

WORDLE 219

THE CASE OF THE COPY-CAT CRIMES

Detective Becker pressed his left hand against his temple. It was tender from the pain where a migraine was threatening, but he had to go over this list of people who had received threats in the past month. The letters had all been made out in the same way: typed words that had been cut and pasted – one word at a time – onto a black sheet of paper and mailed in red envelopes. He’d sworn he’d figure out the nexus they shared that had made them victims of such a hateful attack, but time wasn’t on his side any longer, because the first two people on the list had already been killed.

His buzzer sounded, and his secretary reported that he had a call waiting on line one: his superior, Detective Holmes. “Yes sir,” Becker spoke into the phone. “What can I do for you?”

“The press has gotten wind of the fact that eight other people have received threatening letters. They’re pushing for a story, but, of course, we can’t tell them anything that could disrupt the investigation. I just wanted you to be forewarned that they’ll be waiting outside the front door when you leave the office.”

“Thanks for the warning. I slip out the basement entrance.”

“Have you figured out any connection yet between the two who are dead and the other eight?”

“I think I may have, Sir. All of these people served on a jury together about fifteen years ago. The decision of that jury was unanimous and resulted in the death sentence for the man on trial.”

“Who?”

“Malcom Leiberman.”

Dead silence on the other end of the line caused Becker to stay quiet and wait. He could hear that the wind outside had started blowing harder, and he knew the storm that had been predicted was almost upon them. Finally, Holmes responded: “You know, of course, that Leiberman was convicted of perpetrating a series of murders after sending out threatening letters to his victims.”

Becker sucked in his breath. “No sir … no, I haven’t had time to research the case yet. But that’s too weird.”

“Yes,” replied Holmes. “And now I think I know who we’re looking for. His brother swore he’d get revenge. But then he got sick with some disease that the doctors said was incurable, and he was hospitalized for years. I guess everybody forgot about his threats. I know I did. But we need to find out if he’s still alive, and if so …”

“I’m on it, Sir,” Becker said. “I’ll call you back as soon as I have the information.”

Two hours later, Becker walked into Holmes’ office with a medical report. “He’s alive all right,” he said, laying the report on his superior’s desk. “And living right here in the city.”

“You’ve got an address?”

Becker nodded.

Holmes rose from his chair and strapped on his gun. “Let’s go get him and save eight people’s lives.”

~~~

Friday Fictioneers, 6/19/15 – ‘The Life You Save May Be Your Own’

Friday Fictioneers 100-Word Story Challenge

Why is it that it’s always on days when I have a thousand other things I’m supposed to be doing that the Friday Fictioneers picture grabs my imagination and won’t let go?  I really don’t mind, except for the fact that I feel to doggone GUILTY the whole time I’m writing the story because I know I’m supposed to be using the time for something else.  Aaahhhhh, I just had another thought: Perhaps that aspect of it adds to my creativity …….

ROCHELLE'S CHANDELIER

Photo Copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields


THE LIFE YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN

The image of that chandelier hanging from the scroll-work ceiling is emblazoned on my mind for life. My enchantment with the artistry of that ceiling was almost my downfall. I still don’t know what sound made me look to the right in time to see Sheila leaning over the top-floor banister, aiming her rifle at me. I choked on my questions — and my scream. But the railing broke away a mere second before she fired, so the bullet missed me.

When I’d filed through that railing, re-painting it, I’d hoped it would do the job when Sheila leaned on it as she loved to do. But I’d had no idea how much my own life depended on my success.

~~~

Friday Fictioneers – 2/13/15 — ‘Direct Hit’

Hop over to Rochelle’s place to get the details about taking part in the Friday Fictioneers challenge with your own 100-word story based on the picture below. This week’s photo is thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields as well.  My story is below photo.

VERANDA - ROCHELLE'S

DIRECT HIT

“Your instructions were to meet me on this veranda at 5:00 sharp.”

“Sorry, the tour group just left. They’d have seen us.”

“You bring the dough?”

Nodding, handing over an envelope. “It’s way too high, but here. You’d better be as good as you say.”

Black eyes sparked fire.

“Well, I can’t take any chances. You’re sure you can shoot from here and make the kill with just one shot?”

You just be sure you raise her window and then get out of the way. Or you might get two for the price of one.”

~~~

Five-Sentence Fiction – 5/16/14 – ‘Making Sure’

This is the first time I’ve participated in Five-Sentence Fiction. It was fun. If you’d like to join in, use the link below to find out the details on the home site.

http://lilliemcferrin.com/five-sentence-fiction-doors/

 

 

DOOR_6 - w. nameMAKING SURE

 

    The door to Samuel’s office was closed for good. Ever since he’d shot himself there, his father, the patriarch of the business, had forbidden anyone to open it once the body had been removed.
     Everyone thought Samuel had shot himself because of his wife’s death from an apparent heart attack, but Carol knew differently, and she had to get into that office to make sure he hadn’t tucked away a confession somewhere. Sam had given her a key, and she’d use it after the building was closed.
    If he had left a note admitting that he’d murdered his wife, Carol wanted to be sure he hadn’t told the whole story, including naming his accomplice.

 

~~~

 

~

 

 

 

100-Word Challenge for Grownups – Week 120

Well, I’m almost late with my story for this week’s challenge, and, to be honest, I’m a tad over the word limit, but I don’t have any more time to edit it further. So here’s my offering for Julia’s picture prompt.

 Week#18

THE BUNDLE

At dusk, Marla went to retrieve her shoes from the window where she’d left them to dry after the storm. Glancing out, she saw an old woman exit the side of the building across the street. But that building had been abandoned for a year!

The woman, carrying a small, tight bundle, sneaked through the deserted street to the river’s edge. After looking around furtively, she heaved the bundle into the rushing water.

Barely able to see through the gathering gloom now, Marla glanced back at the building and saw an adolescent girl’s face in the window. The girl’s frightened eyes met Marla’s for a second before the girl ducked from view.

Marla tried not to understand what she had seen.

~~~

Visit the host of the 100-Word Challenge:
http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week120/

 

~~~

The Trial of Marybell Westmoreland — a short, short story

MAN SHOVELING - FULL YARDMarybell Westmoreland was, at the delicate age of 82, a soft, pink-cheeked, quiet woman. Standing merely five feet, one inch tall, she nevertheless commanded total respect from rich and poor, elite and scoundrel.

No one really knew for sure if she was rich or just extremely smart and thrifty. Very few people ever saw her actually spend money, but she always seemed to have a well-stocked larder, immaculate gardens, late-model vehicles, elegant gowns, and hoards of priceless jewelry.

She seldom entertained these days, but when she did, the party was one for the society columns to slobber over. She nearly always had a guest list that included several members of royalty – from half a dozen different countries – as well as homeland celebrities and scores of friends. They ate; they danced; they gossiped; they groveled where necessary; and they had an all-round rollicking good time.

That’s why, when the Thursday morning papers reported that Marybell Westmoreland had been arrested and charged with poisoning her gardener, citizens from all around the world were in shock.

I just do not believe it!” one duchess was heard to exclaim to her husband as she slammed down the paper. “Why, we’ve known Marybell for decades! She hasn’t an evil bone in her little body!”

Mmmm,” replied her hubby. “Well, my dear, these things generally do take one by surprise, you know.”

Nonsense! They have the wrong person; that’s all! You’ll see!”

“Well … time will tell, my love,” hubby replied, as he finished his coffee and rose to gather his hat and briefcase, preparing to head out for a meeting.

I must send her a telegram to encourage her!” he heard his wife add as the butler let him out the front door.

And so the duchess sent her telegram – as did scores of other friends and family from all echelons of society.

Having been released on an exceedingly large bail, Marybell Westmoreland, chose to go straight to her home and refused to see anyone or go out in public for any reason. News reporters swarmed the area just outside the boundaries of her property, hoping to get a tiny glimpse that would allow a chance at a photo that would, no doubt, at least triple the sales of their particular newspaper.

One enterprising young woman reporter did manage to talk one of the maids into speaking with her, and when asked how Miss Westmoreland was behaving, the maid answered, “Oh, she’s the same as ever, Lord love her. She goes about the house hummin’ to herself just like usual, and she has her meals at the right time, and eats like a horse. It’s a sure bet she ain’t worried about gettin’ a death sentence.”

By the time a month had passed – and the scheduled trial was still three more weeks away — the reporters went back to ordinary stories and let the old lady go on about her life uninterrupted. Gossip seemed to die down. There just wasn’t enough activity taking place in Marybell’s day-to-day life to add any fuel to the fire.

Finally, the trial began. Each side presented various forms of what they considered evidence, but everything was so circumstantial that most of the people following the proceedings had made up their minds within three days that there would be nothing to convict the old bird.

They were all the more shocked then, when the defense attorney put Marybell on the stand herself. Naturally, the judge asked her publicly if she understood that she did not have to testify against herself, and she replied that she did understand. “But I don’t mind, Your Honor,” she told him. “I’ll be glad to testify. After all, it’s my own trial, is it not? How ill-mannered would I be to expect people to come to my trial if I don’t even act like a good hostess and talk to them!”

The judge rolled his eyes and turned to her attorney. “Do you agree with this decision, Mr. Withers?”

“No, Your Honor, but my client has insisted.”

“Very well. Proceed then.”

Thank you, Your Honor,” he said and cleared his throat for the coming interrogation. After asking Marybell to verify her name and other identifying information, he went right to his first shocking question.

Now, Miss Westmoreland, will you tell us, please, did you poison your own gardener, Mr. Samuel Trustbody?”

Yes, I did,” she replied, looking him directly in the eye.

The audience in the courtroom – including both attorneys and the judge – sucked in an audible breath.

I beg your pardon?” said Mr. Withers. And days later, one reporter made the comment that the look on the  poor defense attorney’s face at that moment was one for the history books.

Very calmly, as if she did that sort of thing every day, Marybell replied, “I said, yes, I did.”

Mr. Withers cleared his throat again. “You are saying that you poisoned your gardener, Mr. Samuel Trustbody, in order to kill him?”

She nodded her head, her soft pink cheeks looking just a little pinker than usual, but with no other sign of any agitation. “Yes, that is correct.”

Poor Mr. Withers had never lost a case so quickly, and he just did not know how to deal with the situation.  He cleared his throat again, but when he began to ask the next question, his voice came out so squeaky that he had to start again. “And … may I ask why you killed your gardener, Miss Westmoreland?”

Well, you see I had to.”

Go on, please. Why did you have to kill him?”

Because he just insisted on digging up the whole yard behind the greenhouse to plant a new garden. Naturally, I couldn’t let him do it. I tried to talk him out of it. I even ordered him not to do it. But all he would say was that his contract with me said that he had free rein to plant anywhere he saw fit, and he was convinced no other place would be right for that kind of garden.”

But … surely … madam … that was not sufficient reason to take his life!”

Oh, I had to! Don’t you see? If I had let him go back there and dig up all that area, why … he would have discovered all the other bodies I’ve buried back there.”


THE END

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© 2013 Sandra Conner