Short Story Wednesday: The Blue Coat

Short Story Prompt: “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J. D. Salinger

It took her exactly three hours to get through to the FBI. She knew the length of time because she had a prepaid cell phone that ticked off the minutes.

“FBI,” the agent at the other end of the line said. “Carpenter here. How may I help you?”

“I know where Seymour is.”

“Everybody knows where Seymour is.” There was frustration and lack of sleep in the agent’s voice.

“Look,” she said, “if you want Seymour, you’ll listen.”

She sounded serious, not like one of those crank calls the Agency had received in the past forty-eight hours. What would it hurt to listen? Carpenter asked himself.

“I only saw him three times,” she told Agent Carpenter and his partner, Agent Glass, sitting on the sofa across from her “He bought me a blue coat. Really nice. Would you like to see it?”

“Yes, please,” Agent Carpenter said. His partner didn’t say anything after he introduced himself. She couldn’t remember his name.

She modeled the coat for the two agents. It fit her snugly.

“Nice coat,” Carpenter said.

Glass studied her. Made her feel uncomfortable, like she had done something wrong.

“Why did you accept the coat?” Carpenter asked.

“He said I needed a new coat.”

“Did you?” Carpenter asked.

“Well, yes. My old one had holes in it. I never can afford one on my waitress’ salary. Tips ain’t that good either. He thought it brought out my figure. What do you think?”

The two agents nodded yes, it did.

She slipped out of the coat and laid it carefully across the back of an empty chair, then she sat back down.

“So what happened to Seymour?” Carpenter asked.

“We had our fling, then he left. Said he was going west. I tried to get him to take me but he wouldn’t.”

“So you called us.” Carpenter said in that relaxed way of his. Glass leaned forward.

“Yes,” she said.

“Know what I think?” Glass finally broke his silence. “I think you killed him. You called us so we’d catch you. That’s what I think.”

Her jaw dropped. “Why would I think that?”

“To assuage your guilt,” Glass accused. “Only question is. Where did you put the body?”

Carpenter said, “You want to show us where you put the body?”

“It’s in the basement. How did you know?”

Glass again, “You were putting in way too much effort. And you treated that blue coat way too nice. Like you were still trying to impress him.”

Finally Muriel would get the adventure she had longed for all her twenty-eight years. It might not be the one she had hoped for. But prison was better than nothing.