The Pub Aftermath, Chapter 2
“I’m so sorry for your loss, Mrs. Flint,” he said when she finally looked up. His comment, carefully chosen, brought on a fresh onslaught of sobbing. She blew her nose loudly into the borrowed handkerchief. McGuiness took note to throw it in the trash. He didn’t dare take the lipstick-smeared fabric back 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 looking up through thick lashes, “call me Melissa.” Her voice was husky with nasal overtones, but warm. It was the kind of voice that make men want to hear more.
“I’m still not used to being called Missus.” She gave him a quick smile that might have been viewed as seductive in other circumstances.
She was the picture of youth, vibrant, shapely, and well-endowed. He guessed her to be somewhere in her mid to late twenties. His eyes moved over her blouse which pulsed in and out as she sobbed. Her bronze tan line seemed to extend well below the low-cut neckline of the nearly transparent fabric. He waited another minute or two before he posed his first question wondering what might have drawn the stunning woman to the overweight, middle-aged man whose life so abruptly ended in the next room.
“Missus 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 detective with vibrant blue eyes tinged in red. While she composed her answer, he looked around.
Original works of art hung in tasteful groupings along the west wall, each lit with a tiny spotlight above the gilt frame. He recognized a few famous names among the paintings. On the exposed wall to the left of the fireplace hung a life-sized portrait of the missus wearing an elegant full-length evening gown. It reminded him of pictures in the fashion magazines his wife liked to read. Above the white, elbow-length gloves were diamond studded arm bands. A huge diamond engagement ring was worn outside the left-hand glove. He glanced back at her hands and noticed she wasn’t wearing the ring today. Not even a wedding band.
McGuiness continued his scrutiny focusing on the remnants of a fire smoldering in the vast stone-framed hearth.
“Kind of warm for a fire, wouldn’t you say?” The tropical climate of the island rendered a fire useful 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 another dazzling smile. “Kind of sets the mood,” she said.
“What time does she 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. He turned back to the widow and caught a whiff of alcohol on her breath.
"City Girls Just Seem to Find Out Early"
He asked the first question again, trying to phrase things differently.
“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.
“I called his name from the kitchen.” She looked down for a moment. “I needed some help with the groceries, you know.” She gestured with her head toward the other room beyond which was the kitchen.
“Yes, go on,” he encouraged.
“When he didn’t answer, I put the bags down and came into the living room. And . . . I saw him… hanging there, lifeless.” Her words brought on a fresh onslaught of tears. She blew her nose into the borrowed handkerchief.
“I could tell he was already dead from 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?”
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 and added, “But, of course, I was so distraught.” She sniffled and dropped her head to her chest.
McGuiness stood and went to the fireplace. He took an iron poker from the rack of implements and idly stirred the embers waiting for her to continue. Beneath the layer of spent ash, he struck a solid object. He used a pair of tongs to move it from the fire to 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. He’d need something more than a plastic bag to retrieve that bit of evidence.
“That’s all I’ll need 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.”
At the same time McGuiness was questioning the widow, Constable Muldowney sat at the end of a bed upstairs talking to Melissa’s ten-year old son.
“How long has he been your Dad?” she asked the boy.
“He’s not my Dad!” the child answered, hands gripping the plastic boots of a G.I. Joe. He tossed the doll into the air, flipping it in a perfect somersault, then caught it one handed. He repeated the motion.
“Well, then, how long have they been married,” she asked, hoping for a better answer.
“They ran off to Vegas without me,” he said. “Got hitched in some wedding chapel with Elvis.” He flipped the figurine into the air again. This time he missed.
“They didn’t even invite me. I got dumped at Aunt Marie’s house like a baby. They were gone a whole week. When they came back, they made me look at all the stupid pictures. I wasn’t in any of them.” He flipped the doll into the air, this time with better luck.
“Sometimes grown-ups need private time,” she explained. She checked her notebook and made a note to contact the widow’s sister. Her finger stopped in the middle of a page and she looked up at the boy.
“I’ve been taking care of my mom since my real dad left. Then he came along and ruined everything.” The frustration shadowed his small face. She gently patted the child on the shoulder. He moved from his spot on the carpet to sit next to her on the bed and leaned into the softness of her blouse. With a grimy fist he brushed away a tear.
“I thought your parents got married on the beach,” she said.
“That was the other one,” he said. “My Mom has a twin.”
Detective Muldowney carried two cups of coffee in Styrofoam cups into the interrogation room. She handed Melissa Flint one of them before taking a seat on the opposite side of the table. Along the side wall, a narrow mirror extended nearly the length of the room. A camera concealed inside the light fixture captured the process on film. 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 detective. “I have arrangements to make and things to take care of for the funeral.” Her tear-stained face remained beautiful despite the puffy eyes and red nose.
“It’s routine to take statements from the next of kin,” Muldowney told her. “We need to ask you a few questions about your husband.
“But the sign outside said Homicide Division,” she said, her voice growing quavery. “I don’t understand.” Her head turned slightly to one side. “My husband committed suicide.”
“Well, that’s what we’re here to determine,” the officer answered opening her worn leather-bound notebook
To Continue the Story
- The Pub Aftermath, Chapter 3
The main character from The Pub, its bookkeeper, Joe, returns with plans to pick up stakes, leave town, and start over in a new place.
© 2019 Peg Cole