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Aftermath Chapter 2 - Sequel to the Pub, a Murder Mystery

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Peggy Cole is a self-published author who enjoys writing fiction stories, book reviews and articles about simpler times.

Paradise Lost

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The Grieving Widow

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” McGuinness said when the widow finally looked up. His comment brought on a fresh round of sobbing. She blew her nose loudly into the borrowed handkerchief. McGuiness reminded himself to throw it in the trash rather than take a lipstick-smeared hanky home.

“I realize this is a difficult time for you and truly apologize for having to ask you questions right now, Mrs. Flint.”

“Please,” she said glancing up through thick lashes, “call me Melissa.” Her voice was soft, husky and warm. Despite nasal overtones from prolonged crying, it was the kind of voice that made men melt.

“I’m still not used to being called Missus.” She gave him a shy smile that might have seemed seductive in other circumstances. The picture of youth, vibrant, shapely, and well-endowed, he guessed she was mid to late twenties. His eyes took in the sheer blouse which pulsed in and out as she sobbed. Her bronze tan seemed to go well below the low-cut neckline of the nearly-transparent fabric. He wondered what might have drawn the stunning woman to the overweight, middle-aged man whose life so abruptly ended in the next room. He waited a few seconds before posing his first question.

“Mrs. Flint,” he paused, “um sorry, Melissa, can you describe how you came to find your husband when you arrived home?” She took a deep breath and glanced up at the rafters with vibrant blue eyes tinged in red. While she composed her answer, he looked around.

“Well, you know, he was just dangling there.” She started to sob again.

His eyes followed her upward gaze, then, efficiently swept the room. Original paintings were grouped by subject along the west wall, each canvas illuminated by a tiny spotlight above their gilt frames. He recognized one or two of the paintings. On the wall to the left of the fireplace was a life-sized portrait of Melissa in a sequined, full-length evening gown. He was reminded of photos in fashion magazines his wife liked to read. Above the white, elbow-length gloves she wore gold arm bands studded with what appeared to be diamonds. Worn outside the glove on her left hand was an enormous engagement ring, its sparkle in the painting illuminated by the spotlight. He glanced at her hands and noticed she wasn’t wearing the ring today. Not even a wedding band.

Smoldering Ash

McGuiness focused on the remnants of a fire smoldering in the vast stone-framed hearth next to the portrait.

“Kind of warm for a fire, wouldn’t you say?” The tropical climate of the island rendered a fire practical only a few days of the year, certainly not on a warm summer day.

“Our maid always sets the logs first thing each morning,” she told him. “We like to have our coffee in this room with the fireplace glowing.” She gave him a dazzling smile. “Kind of sets the mood,” she said.

“What time does the maid normally arrive?” The Chief had mentioned that the anonymous call about the deceased came in very early in the morning.

“I don’t really know. She prides herself on being unobtrusive.” She began to fidget with her fingernails, then, abruptly returned her hands to her lap.

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He asked the same question again with a different approach.

“What did you do when you first came home?”

The widow took another deep breath and began to speak. He focused his full attention on her.

“I came in the back door with some packages from the store,” she began, slowly at first, appearing to pick up steam as she spoke. She focused on the ceiling as if reading a script from the wood. As she spoke, he caught a whiff of alcohol on her breath.

“I called his name from the kitchen.” She looked down then continued, “I needed some help with the groceries, you know.” Her head tilted toward the kitchen in the next room.

“Go on,” he encouraged.

“When he didn’t answer, I put the bags down and came in here. And . . . that’s when I saw him… hanging there, lifeless.” Her words brought on a fresh onslaught of tears. She blew her nose again.

“I could tell he was already dead by the color of his face.”

The detective scribbled a note on a small tablet.

“Have you seen a dead person before?” he asked.

“No, but there was no mistaking it.”

“How long were you out of the home?”

“Most of the morning,” she said.

“Do you know of any reason he might want to take his own life?”

“No,” she said. “I thought he was happy.”

“Are you aware that your husband’s death had already been reported early this morning?”

Stayin' Alive

The Remains

Her mouth formed a word that might have been, “No,” or “Who?” but no sound passed through her lips.

“That must be why the police showed up here so quickly.” It was if a light bulb went on in her head. “It seemed like I had just called them when I heard the sirens. I was barely inside before they came barging in.” She paused, “But, of course, I was so distraught.” She sniffled and dropped her chin to her chest.

McGuiness stood up and walked over to the fireplace. With an iron poker from the rack of implements, he idly stirred the embers waiting for her to continue. Beneath the layer of spent ash, he struck a solid object. He grasped the object with some tongs and put it on the marble hearth. Too hot to touch, he prodded it with the poker. It appeared to be the remains of a thick book, heavily charred with the center pages still intact.

He motioned for his second in command to bag up the remains of the book. The Sergeant gave him a frown and shrugged his shoulders.

“I’ll need more than a plastic bag for this,” he groused.

“That’s all for the moment,” McGuiness told the widow. “Would you be willing to come down to the station later to make an official statement?”

“I don’t know how much more I could tell you,” she said, growing uneasy. “I wasn’t here when it happened.”

“It’s just for the official report,” he told her. “We’ll need to document the events of the morning.”

She nodded.

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At the same time McGuiness was questioning the widow, Constable Muldowney sat at the foot of a bed upstairs talking to Melissa’s ten-year old son.

“How long has he been your Dad?” she asked.

“He’s not my Dad!” the boy yelled. He grabbed his G.I. Joe by the boots and tossed it into the air. The doll turned a perfected somersault before the boy caught it in a practiced one-handed motion.

“Well, then, how long have they been married,” she asked, hoping for a better answer. The child scowled and continued flipping the doll end over end.

“They got hitched in some wedding chapel with Elvis.” He flipped the doll. “I don’t know. Maybe it was a few months ago. They didn’t even invite me.” The doll flew head over heels again. Muldowney nodded, a look of sympathy on her face.

“I got dumped at Aunt Marie’s like a baby. Seemed like they were gone forever. When they finally came back, they made me look at all the stupid pictures. I wasn’t even in them.” The figurine went into the air like punctuation. This time the boy missed.

“Sometimes grown-ups need private time,” she explained. He frowned.

“Who’s Aunt Marie?”

“That’s my mom’s sister.” Muldowney made a note to contact the widow’s sister. Her finger moved down the page and stopped at the center. She looked up at the boy.

“I’ve been taking care of my mom since my real dad left. Everything was fine until he came along and ruined everything.” Frustration shadowed his small face.

She patted him gently on the shoulder. With a grimy fist he brushed away a tear.

He stood up and leaned into the softness of her embrace.

“I thought your parents got married on the beach,” she said.

“No. Those pictures aren’t Mom. That’s Aunt Marie, Mom’s twin.”

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Detective Muldowney carried two Styrofoam cups of coffee into the interrogation room. She handed Melissa Flint one of them then took a seat with her back to a narrow mirror stretching nearly the length of the room. A camera in the upper corner of the room captured both women. Behind the two-way glass, Detective McGuinness watched as the interrogation began.

“I’m not sure why I’m even here,” the widow told the Muldowney. “I have arrangements to make and things to do before the funeral.” Her tear-stained face was beautiful even with puffy eyes and a red nose.

“It’s routine to take statements from the next of kin,” Muldowney reassured her. “We need to ask you a few more questions about your husband.

“But the sign outside said Homicide Division,” she said, her voice growing quavery. “I don’t understand. My husband committed suicide.” Her head tilted to one side. Muldowney opened her worn leather notebook and jotted something down.

“Well, that’s what we’re here to determine.”

Need Some Backstory?

© 2019 Peg Cole

Comments

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on March 10, 2019:

Hi Linda, It's so nice to have you following along on the story. Thanks so much.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 09, 2019:

Very interesting! I like the mystery and suspicion that's developing. The presence of a twin is intriguing.

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on March 04, 2019:

Hi Lawrence, Nice to see you here in the story. Thanks so much for coming by.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on March 03, 2019:

Peg

Really enjoyed this, it has me wondering already

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on March 03, 2019:

Hi Jackie, Looks like you made it quickly to chapter two. Thanks so much for continuing on with the story. I appreciate your feedback, too.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 02, 2019:

Ah, very good, Peg, pulling me right along. So many tidbits to stir up our curiosity, the little boy, the twin. So well done! Know I am going to love it!

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 23, 2019:

Hello Genna, You are quite observant as you read between the lines to detect the characters' inner personalities. And I'm very grateful for your visits to this story. Thank you so much for the encouragement.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on February 23, 2019:

Very Intriguing, Peg. And enjoyable. I so much liked your descriptions of how the characters give some of themselves away in terms of who they are " It was the kind of voice that make men want to hear more." "She focused on the ceiling as if reading a script from the wood." This is a page turner! :-)

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 13, 2019:

Hi Flourish, Glad to see you here today. Still working the kinks out of Chapter 3 but I hope to release it soon. Thanks so much for the kind words and thoughts.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 13, 2019:

Very well written, Peg. The dialog is authentic, it's filled with intrigue, good descriptions, and action. I look forward to reading the next chapter!

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 13, 2019:

Hello Maria, Thanks for the visit and encouraging words. I'm busily dropping crumbs of clues, hoping I'll be able to find my way back to the story line. Yes, twins - how about that? Never too late to drop in and sit by a warm fireplace. Hugs to you.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on February 13, 2019:

Oh I hope they throw the (burning) book at the culprit(s) in this case, dear Peg.

I am ever so intrigued about the Flint twins... Melissa and Marie - a mysterious twist!

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I am late to comment. However, like a great book, it's easy to pick up and quickly become immersed again in the evolving story.

Have a great Wednesday. Love you, Maria

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 11, 2019:

Hi Shauna, Funny you should ask about Joe. She will be making a comeback in Chapter 3. Others from the original cast are set for a return appearance as well. So glad you're liking it so far.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 11, 2019:

This is a real who done it Peg! Can't wait to discover who the killer is.

BTW, is Jo in this novel?

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 11, 2019:

Hello William, Thanks for taking time to read this chapter and for the glowing compliment. As a writer yourself, you know how much that stuff means to us. Working on chapter 3 today!

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on February 10, 2019:

I love your description, Peg. It's so clear and you paint a beautiful picture of the scenes. I feel like I'm right in the middle of the investigation. Thank you for another exciting chapter.

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 09, 2019:

Hi Peggy, Thanks for stopping by to read this one. I always look forward to seeing your take on the story. Cheers!

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 09, 2019:

Hello Pamela, Thanks so much and I really appreciate the encouragement on the story. :)

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 08, 2019:

Hello Dora and welcome to the Aftermath! Thank you for that beautiful comment. Hope you'll stick around for more.

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 08, 2019:

Hello Bill, I really appreciate your dropping in to check on the story. Your encouragement means so much to me.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 08, 2019:

You certainly have all kinds of interesting characters in this chapter, Peg. The possibilities are many as to which direction this story will take.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 08, 2019:

This is an excellent 2nd chapter of this story. I am wondering what will happen next, so I hope you have a 3rd chapter ready soon!

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 08, 2019:

Hello Mike, Sorry about the book burning. We may find out that it might have been something other than a book. Who knows? Ms. Flint has wiles that cover flaws yet to be revealed. She hides them better than most people can.

I'm looking forward to seeing your concept for a book cover. Looks like I better get busy writing. Smiles.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 08, 2019:

I like that although the heat is being turned up, the process is slow. You give us time to form opinions of new characters. Your writing exhibits many admirable strengths.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 08, 2019:

I like chapters which start with dialogue. I think it sets mood very quickly. You are at peak form with this one...keep it coming, please!

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on February 08, 2019:

Hello Verlie, You come up with the best descriptions! I love it. Gripping and scintillating - wow. I'll have to remember that for the book blurb. Glad you liked the loops and "out of the mouths of babes" clue. Thanks for sticking with the story.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on February 07, 2019:

Hello Peg - The characters have set the stage. We have fireplaces going in Summer. We have a book burning. (Oh, did you have to burn a book? That hurts. But nice clue.) Missus Flint is in bad form to have not been wearing her wedding ring. And a twin has my interest peaked. I think McGuiness has himself a case.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on February 07, 2019:

Oh! Gripping and scintillating chapter Ms Peg mystery writer... I love it. You are so funny and sharp. This is good. Keep it up. You sure threw a lot of loops into this one. Wow! From the mouths of babes, what a twist, a twin!