Why did the chicken cross the road anyway?

An adult faerie tale not for kids.

Splattered all over the highway lay Humpty Dumpty. Sitting on his throne, Old King Cole wanted to know why. After all, he was a merry old soul, and this did not set right with him.

“Well, sire,” Hansel, his viceroy, said. “It has to do with The Chicken crossing the road.”

“What?” his majesty stuttered. “That Chicken never crosses the road.”

“I’m afraid she did this time.” Hansel stood beside the throne and leaned in toward the king.

“Why?” the king asked. “Why did The Chicken cross the road? This time?”

“If we knew that, we would know how Humpty Dumpty came to such a fate, now wouldn’t we?”

“Then find out. And have the culprit executed if there is a culprit.”

“And if there isn’t one, sire?”

“Then execute somebody anyway. It’s a good week for an execution. In fact, every week is a good week for an execution, don’t you think?”

“Of course, Sire. We haven’t had an execution in a month of Sundays. It’s about time we had a few. I’ll have the secretary type up the order, then you can seal it with your nice Big Seal.”

The king went back to his nap. Hansel left the throne room and walked the five minutes through the palace it took to get to the secretary’s office.

Gretel looked up from behind her desk. “I’m bored,” she said to her brother. She was in her late twenties. Blonde hair and blue eyes too. As blue as the Danube that passed down the street and making like the nice river it was.

“I have a bit of typing for you.”

Gretel’s cute little body perked up. “It’s about time. You know I’ve been behind this desk with nothing to do for I don’t know how long. For a blue moon, that’s how long.”

Everybody said she had a cute little body. Even Jack-Be-Nimble. And he ought to know. He’d seen enough women’s bodies to make Casanova blush. But Gretel never believed. him. She knew all he wanted was to get under her dirndl and she was not about to have any of that. She had other plans. Jack wasn’t sugar daddy enough to be her sugar daddy.

She wanted the country’s brothel concession and she needed someone to help her manage it. She had been counting on Humpty. He was such a good egg with figures. But now he was dead.

She typed out her brother’s dictation on her manual Underwood. Since she was a perfect typist, not one correction had to be made. When she finished, she handed the typewritten scroll to her brother. He quickly proofread the parchment and found it in good order.

Just as he was about to leave, she addressed him with a question she had been addressing him with for quite some time. “When is the king going to approve my vacation? I need to get to work on my business plan, and there is no time like the present.”

“You know what I think of your business plan,” Hansel looked at his sister. His face was aggrieved. “Mom would be totally pissed.”

“I don’t care. You know what a slut she was. Dad died when the large oak fell on him. Then she slept with every Peter Piper and Simple Simon around. That’s not for me. Maybe it is for me but I am not giving it away for free. I want my vacation. I’ve earned it. And if I don’t get it, all I can say is we’ll see.”

“Okay,” Hansel said “As soon as we get whoever did this dastardly deed to poor Humpty, you can have your vacation.”

He knew how stubborn his sister was. There was no talking her out of her business plans. Being a Taurus, once she made up her mind she made up her mind, then there was no turning back. It had been that quality that had gotten them out of the mess with the witch some time back.

Besides a good brothel might just be the thing. It could bring back all those tourists the kingdom had lost when the Happily-Ever-After Corporation opened up a theme park in the next kingdom over. He rolled the scroll up into a nice neat roll and put a rubber band around it so it would stay rolled nice and neat.

As soon as her brother left the room, Gretel went back to checking her list for the business and checking it twice. She wanted to make sure the naughty was connected with the nice. She wanted a palace to put the king’s palace to shame. Would actually call it The Leisure Palace. Had heard that was what they called them in Vegas: leisure palaces. She had acquired the services of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, Architects to Kings.

Next thing on her agenda was the girls. Who would she get to serve as Ladies-in-Waiting in her palace? Last she’d heard Little Bo Peep was out of a job. She’d blown the shepherdess gig and lost all the sheep. She couldn’t live on unemployment forever. Actually she could if she was frugal, but it was a fact that Bo was not frugal. And Little Miss Muffet was flat broke. She had come to Gretel, crying that she was out of curds and whey. What was she ever going to do?

Hansel skulked back to the throne room. The king was at his snoring again. Hansel went to wake the king.

“Yeah, yeah, Cindy,” king said half asleep and half awake. “You don’t have to go back to cleaning your stepmother’s chimney. I’ve got enough money to buy you all the window cleaners in the kingdom.”

Hansel shook the old man.”Sire.”

The king popped his popping-fresh eyes open. “It’s you, Hansel.”

Hansel gave the king the order. The king signed it. He always signed anything Hansel put in front of him. That was how Hansel had come to get his greedy little hands on half the kingdom. The king went back to sleep, dreaming about his wonderful wife, Cinderella. He’d lost her in a fire at the palace and never got over it.

Hansel hurried to his office. He had just the one for the job. He called in The Flunkster.

“Flunky, get me The Cat.”

Five minutes later, and not a minute too soon, The Cat was standing before the viceroy.

“What can I do you for?” The Cat was not a cat to beat around the bush.

“I want you to investigate the Humpty Dumpty situation. The king is concerned, and so am I.”

“But why me?” The Cat asked as if he already knew the why me. “Who else but me, I meant.”

“You’re the one who brought Dish back, and with Spoon of all things.”

“That was easy. I knew they wanted to do a Romeo-and-Juliet. Not the dying part, of course. They were out to get married. So I chased them down to Tijuana. Where else would a teen couple, who had the marriage bug, go?”

“So? Can you do it? Find out?” Hansel was getting impatient.

“Of course, I already have the case solved. I do believe I know why The Chicken crossed the Road.” The Cat was up to his usual Sherlock Holmes.

“Yes?” Hansel wanted to know, and he wanted to know real bad.

“It was Little Red.”

“Little Red?” Hansel wanted to know some more. “Not Little Red. It can’t be Little Red.” It was hard to believe it could be her. So cute and cuddly. And innocent. When they had dated, it had been hard just to get a kiss out of her. And now she was being accused of murder.

“Little Red needed a chicken for dinner. You know, for the basket for her sick grams. So she chased The Chicken across the road. Humpty saw her. You see, The Chicken was that egg’s mom. He was out to rescue her from a wringing-of-the-neck.”

“So Red killed Humpty?”

“Not really. It was a little red convertible.”

The viceroy was all confused now. “But?” That was all he could say. Nothing more, nothing less.

“Big Bad was driving. Ran right over Humpty.”

Hansel wasn’t convinced. “Are you sure?”

“Saw it myself. I happened to be out fox hunting. Had chased poor Foxie up a tree. I was going up the tree when I heard this noise. It was the convertible rushing down the highway. Splat! went Humpty. Big Bad turned the car around and ran over Humpty again just to make sure.”

“No?” Hansel said. Amazed.

“Absolutely. B. B. pulled over and watched Red kill The Chicken. He parked. I followed him following her. She got to her apartment. After she fixed her Grams’ picnic basket, she came out of the apartment. He confronted her. But she convinced him that Grams would make a better meal than she and The Chicken. Man, she does have a way with words. Could sell an Eskimo a refrigerator.”

“Just what did she do with The Chicken?” Hansel was a gourmet cook. He remembered Red loved his steak tartar. She always wanted to learn how to cook. Now she had cooked real good. Convincing Big Bad the way she did.

“Chicken marsala with mushrooms. I got a whiff of that chicken. Mmmm, bon appetit.”

“So I guess we have them in custody? She for The Chicken, he for Humpty?”

“Not quite, sir. That’s the problem. We did arrest them. But they both got away. Red gave the guard, how shall I say, a coitus dilecti. We know that’s what happened ’cause we have the lip prints. And B. B. overpowered his man. So they are on the loose. We’ve got a man watching Gram’s house. Just in case they show. But I don’t think they will.”

“You don’t?” Hansel couldn’t believe his ears. He was going to fire every guard in the place. Have them replaced with robocops.

“Think Big Bad has taken a liking to Little Red.”

Hansel was exasperated. “Why would she go for him?”

“It’s the Goldilocks Principle, sir. Not too big and not too small but just right, if you know what I mean.”

 

What do you do with a dead body?

You put it in a mystery, of course, and then hope that somebody stumbles over it. However, and there’s always a however, at least there is most of the time; however, if it is a Hitchcock who has you stumble over the body, it will be “The Trouble With Harry”. The trouble with that Harry is that nobody notices the body. When they do take notice, they are not concerned with finding out who did the deed. Mostly they do not want to trip over a corpse. It is such an inconvenience.

There is no chance that the body of Marvin Winkleheimer will not be tripped over. He falls nine floors and thumps onto the awning over the front door of the Westchester Arms Apartments, then bounces off. Considering that his corpse flops onto middle of the sidewalk, it is bound to be tripped over. And tripped over it is by some little old grandmother walking her dog, Mr. Peepee. She lets out a scream and faints and people rush to attend to her with smelling salts. They see Marvin with his Errol Flynn good looks, lying face up. In his left hand he holds a king of hearts, and he is waiting for the cops to show and ask, “Perhaps this was a suicide, huh?”

“It’s amazing that he committed suicide,” Maude Findlay, one of his neighbors in the Westchester Arms Apartments, says when asked by the uniformed policeman.

“People say he had a lot of girl friends?”

“Floozies is what I’d call them. A different one every night.” There was anger in her voice. “Some in the building call him the King of Hearts.”

“Perhaps,” the cop says, “he’d run out of his Viagra and was having a rough time keeping it up.”

“Well, it’s just too bad he fell off his balcony,” she says. deciding to make nice and check her anger. Her voice goes soft. “It must have really hurt when he stopped.” Going through her motherly mind is the thought that standing there in front of her is a nice boy. He would make a good husband for her divorcee daughter. After all, he is not wearing a wedding ring. “You know you should meet my daughter. The two of you would make a good couple.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he says, writing down everything she tells him for his report later. The officer, whose name is George, is having none of this blind date business. He walks away from Maude’s apartment, shaking his head. He just broke up with his wife and is suing for a divorce and is not about to become involved with another woman. Especially one who’s mother is a witness to a crime scene. A one night stand, yes, but he is in no mood for a new relationship. At least, not yet anyway.

But the cops are starting to have suspicions about Marvin’s demise. Things just aren’t adding up to a suicide. Ole Marv had way too much going for him.

“Could Marvin have been murdered?” George asks his partner Ned, who is also getting a divorce. “Everybody says he was a happy man and a good neighbor. Except for a few indiscretions.”

“I sure would like to have his indiscretions,” Ned says. “Guess we’d better contact homicide.”

“Everybody liked him,” another elderly female neighbor tells the lieutenant, standing in her doorway. “He was such a nice man.” The neighbor’s name is Jessica Fletcher. She is a mystery writer and she is “Murder She Wrote” famous.

“Mmmmm,” says Lieutenant Colombo, finishing his chocolate-coated almond bar. He wads the candy paper up and stuffs it into his pocket and wipes the melted chocolate onto the side of his trench coat, smearing it with brown spots. He is the homicide man assigned to the Marvin-splattered-all-over-the-sidewalk case. “Guess he had his troubles though. Jumping off the side of the building like he did.”

“You just never know.” Mrs. Fletcher is grossed out at the sight of Colombo’s chocolate-stained coat and watching him picking at the almond stuck in his teeth.

“You don’t happen to have a toothpick, do you?”

“Yes. Let me get you one,” she says and rushes off into the kitchen.

She returns to the living room with hand wipes and a box of toothpicks in her hands. He is fingering the papers neatly stacked on her desk. She cringes, and runs over to him, almost stumbling as she does, and grabs his hand.

“Didn’t your mother tell you not to touch other people’s things?” She hands him a hand wipe to clean his hands and the box of toothpicks.

“So,” he says as he wipes his hands off, “this is where a world famous mystery writer solves all of her mysteries?” He drops the wipe onto her desk. “By the way, Mrs. Fletcher, my wife loves your books. She keeps telling me that I might learn something from them. So I went out and bought one.” He pulls a paperback book out of his trench coat pocket. “Would you mind signing it?” She picks up the wipe by its edge and puts it into the garbage can by her desk.

“Why, yes,” Mrs. Fletcher says and thinks, “Anything to get you out of her.” She takes the book from the lieutenant and, of course, it has chocolate stains on its cover. As she looks at the book, her hand meticulously avoids the stain. “Oh, it’s The Corpse Danced at Midnight. That one brings back such pleasant memories. It was my first book. Such a hard one to let go of and give to the world. Who shall I make it out to?” She doesn’t know that Colombo is the world famous television detective, who bumbles his way into solving every case he is assigned to, and he does it in ninety minutes too. How could she know? She does not have a television. She has no time for such foolishness, what with all the writing and the travelling and the murder-solving she does.

“You’d do that for me?” He takes a toothpick out of the box, sits the box onto the desk and starts picking his teeth.

“Of course,” she says, trying to hold back her disgust as she picks up a pen off her desk. “Who shall I make it out to?”

“Well, I am thrilled,” he says, still picking his teeth, studying the apartment room, eyeing the hundreds of books on the shelf behind her desk. “So this is where it all happens. My wife is not going to believe this. She just will not believe this.”

“But who shall I sign the book to?” Her voice rises with impatience.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Detective Colombo says. “You can make it out to my wife.”

“What is her name?” Mrs. Fletcher is frustrated. How can I get rid of this vulgar, vulgar man? I have a deadline and I need to get back to my book and he is so annoying picking his teeth like that and rifling through my papers the way he has. God only knows where those scuffed up brogans have been and they are filthing up my carpet.

“Who?” he asks. He takes the toothpick out of his mouth and it falls to the floor. “Finally. That was one hard nut to crack.” He laughs as she picks up the toothpick with a Kleenex she pulled from a box on her desk. She throws both into her desk can.

“Your wife, what’s her name?”

“Oh, my wife.”

“Yes, what is her name?”

“Mrs. Colombo’s name,” he says, “you want that?”

“Yes, what is her name?” She wants to scream, “You idiot”, but she doesn’t.

Finally he gives up the name. “Just sign it ‘To Mrs. Colombo.’ She’ll get a kick out of it.”

Mrs. Fletcher scrawls her signature onto the page and thrusts the book into the detective’s hand.

He hands it back to her. “’My number one fan please.”

“My God, man, will you please…” she starts to say but holds back. She quickly scribbles the epithet and shoves the book into the lieutenant’s hand. He puts it back into his trench coat pocket.

“Now, if you don’t mind,” she says, pushing him toward the door, “I have a novel to write.”

“I know, you writers have your deadlines.” The policeman, his hands in his pockets, turns to leave.

“That’s right.” She goes to close the door.

He stops and faces her again.

“By the way,” he asks, “you don’t happen to play cards, do you?”

“Yes, I play bridge. Why do you ask?”

“We found this in the dead man’s hand.” Colombo hands her the card found in Marvin’s hand. “It’s a King of Hearts.”

“I can see that, Detective.”

“Call me Lieutenant. You wouldn’t have any idea why a King of Hearts would be in his hand, would you?”

“Not really. We played some together. Even partnered from time to time. He wasn’t very good, you know. But I can’t think why that card would be on him. Unless…”

“Yes?”

“I don’t want to arouse any suspicion. But Maude Findlay down the hall, I once overheard her call him the King of Hearts. You don’t think she had anything to do with his death?”

“Can’t say. I doubt it though. She doesn’t seem like she’d be involved with a sordid thing like this. But they never do seem like the sordid type, do they, Mrs. Fletcher? Oh, well. I have to get back to my paperwork at the station house. You know, there’s always a lot of paperwork when these suicide things happen. More than when it’s murder. Never understand that. Call me if you can think of anything else.”

“I will,” she says.

“You promise?” he says. “Don’t go off and poke your tiny nose where it doesn’t belong the way you do in your books.” He pats his pocket. “It could be dangerous.”

“Oh, I won’t, Lieutenant. That’s only for my books.”

“Well, good day.” Colombo turns and walks toward the elevator.

Mrs. Fletcher closes her apartment door. Then she realizes she still has the card in her hand. She turns the doorknob, then stops herself. She drops the card on the table by the door and returns to her desk and her writing.

She writes, “The woman looked at Jessica, Jessica looked at the woman. “’So, you did….’”

The doorbell interrupts her concentration.

“Oh, shit,” she says. ”Did I just say shit?” She giggles. She never says shit. She is much too too fine a person for that word and so are her characters. Even the murderers. They may do nasty things, but they would never talk nasty.

The doorbell rings, insistent this time.

She rises from her desk and goes to the door and opens it. Standing there is the trench-coated bumbler who had just left.

“Lieutenant, don’t you ever give up and leave a person in peace? I didn’t push Marvin off his balcony, so go away. I have a deadline to meet and you’re intruding with that.”

“Excuse me, madam, but I forgot the card,” He reaches over and picks up the card. “And here it is. But did I hear you correctly. Did you say Marvin was pushed? And off his balcony? I don’t think I ever brought up where he was pushed. Or that he was pushed.”

“Oops,” Jessica Fletcher, mystery writer and solver of murders extraordinary, walks over to her sofa and falls down onto it. She is dazed at the information she just revealed to this bumbler of a detective. If she’d only watched “Colombo” on tv, she would have been on her guard.

Lieutenant Colombo follows her into the apartment.

“So you did kill the King of Hearts?”

“Yes, but it was an accident. Such a horrid accident. You see, he had been cheating at bridge. And you don’t do that. You just don’t cheat at bridge.”

“But people cheat at cards all the time?”

“Not at bridge,” Mrs. Fletcher says, her face in her hands. “When I confronted him, he laughed. ‘Don’t take it so seriously,’ he says to me. ‘It’s just a penny ante game.’ That wasn’t the point. It was bridge.”

“You mean, you murdered him over a game of bridge?”

“He cheated and it wasn’t murder, Lieutenant. It was an accident. I was so angry I pushed my umbrella into his stomach. ‘Now hold on,’ he says. But I keep pushing on my umbrella. It was bridge and he needed to apologize. Not just to me. But to all of us who play in the building. So I push more and he keeps objecting. Soon he is through the French windows and out onto the balcony. He laughs and says, ‘You know you should see the look on your face when you talk about bridge. It’s priceless.’ I pushed one last time, thinking this will teach him a lesson. He went over the balcony and that was the last…the last of the King of Hearts.”

Jessica Fletcher looks up at Colombo with tears in her eyes.

“Do you have to handcuff me? I’ll go peacefully.”

“No, ma’am,” Colombo sticks out his arm for her. She wipes the tears from her eyes, takes his arm and stands up. As he escorts her out of the apartment, he says, “This should put you back on the bestseller list, Mrs. Fletcher. But my wife is going to be so disappointed.”

This is a bit of fan fiction, not for profit but simply for the fun of writing it.

Near 500 words: Buddy’s dead, now what?

Episode #26 of The Writer

It was almost midnight when the police finished questioning TW (aka The Writer). He told the police what Buddy had told him. That there were two men leaving his house and one had slugged him. And now he was dead.

Sitting in the Denny’s, picking over his eggs, nothing made since to him. Two of the closest creatures in his life, Cat, then Buddy, were dead. And it was possible that their deaths were connected. But why? And why would two men be going through his house.

He lifted his coffee cup to his lips and drank, then set it back down on the table. He asked himself a question. If I were a character in a novel, what would I suspect was going on? And what would I do next?

If this was the plot of a novel he was writing, the two deaths definitely would be connected. That meant that the two men had been in his house before. They had let Cat out and sliced her with a blade. Maybe they had taken her with them and she escaped. Yes, that’s what happened. The thought sickened him.

And Buddy had surprised them. They were not expecting Buddy to drive up to his house. That also meant they knew where he was. Probably because they had someone watching him. So they had plenty of time to search my house.

But what were they looking for?

It was becoming obvious that the two men took the postcards and the two wooden carvings. What was it about the postcards? Why did they want them? And were they watching him right now?

Of course, they were.

Okay, knowing all this, what could he do about it?

TW was tired. He drove the several blocks to the motel the police had sent him to, almost falling asleep at the wheel. He pulled into the motel parking lot. The police had decided that he was not going to go back to the house since it was a crime scene.

He got out of the car and went into the manager’s office. The manager gave him a key. “It’s one of the rooms around the back.”

The second floor room was sparse. Two beds and two dressers, a TV and a lamp.

He locked the door behind him and slid the chain into place. Then he turned off the lamp and dropped onto the bed.

He woke up with a pounding in his head. After a minute or so, he realized that it wasn’t in his head. It was at the door. He pulled back the curtains to see two uniformed police officers outside.

He opened the door and the two men stepped inside. “We need you to come with us. The sergeant has some more questions.”

Murder at the Nudist Resort

The call came in to the  Wayne Police Department around two p.m. just after my snooze break.

“Hey, Buff,” the sergeant called out.

“Yeah,” I answered. I was the only detective in the department.

“You’re not going to believe this.”

“What’s to believe?” I asked.

“We have a dead body over at The Magical Mystery Tour.”

“Isn’t that the local nudist camp?”

“That it is. That it is.”

I reached into the drawer, pulled out my Smith & Wesson, jammed it into the holster and strapped it under my arm. I straightened my tie and slipped into my suit coat. I wanted to look nice for the upper class clientele. After all. it was a resort and not a camp.

As I went out the door, the Sergeant suggested, “Maybe you’d better stop by your house and pick up your birthday suit.”

I called out, “I’d rather go au naturel.”

The sergeant laughed and yelled, “Keep me abreast of the situation.”

I passed a strip mall and drove under the big sign above the gate of the resort, Magical Mystery Tour. I stopped and showed my badge. The guard said, “Complex Five.”

I pulled up in front of the designated place and parked. A blond man met me. As far as I could see, he looked like he had nothing to hide. “This way.” The blond led me inside the complex. Several apartments overlooked a swimming pool. On the cement floor beside the water lay a man.

He was face downward, looking where the sun don’t shine. His hiney was mooning me like all get out. It was a full moon, and a red moon at that. Not a pretty scene. I reached over and checked for a pulse. He wasn’t pulsing. I didn’t need a medical examiner to tell me the guy was dead. He was dead.

“Who is he?” I asked blondie.

An elderly woman in her altogether joined the two of us. “Ruff N Ready.”

“Yeah,” the blond said, “he was the Big Enchilada of this place.”

I rolled the dead man over so that he was full frontal. The body didn’t look none too happy. There was a frown on his face and a burrito in his mouth. I’d never thought of a burrito as a murder weapon. Then again I never thought a taco could be one either.

“He owned the Taco Tater.”

“Isn’t that the Home of the Taterama?” I asked. “You know the one that’s so delicious it will make you shout, ‘Lord, hallelujah.'”

“That’s it,” the woman said

I looked back at the big galoot. “Looks like he was the big banana too. Guess he was all dressed up and had nowhere to go.”

A brunette woman walked up beside the woman. “Clothes do make the man.”

When it came to women, this one made nudity into an art form.

So it was a dead body. I had seen them before but this one was unique. He was naked, naked as the day he was born. For my money, that’s pretty darn naked. And he’d gone to that taco factory in the sky.

“What’s that smell?” I inquired.

“Refried beans,” Brunette said.

“Guess he did have a thing for Mexican food.”

“How can you tell?” Brunette again.

“He’s got a burrito stuck in his mouth.” I put on my latex gloves and pulled the thing out.

“You think it’s poison?” Elderly asked.

“We’ll have to dust the burrito for prints.”

So far all I had were the bare facts. But I didn’t see anything that would lead me to the murderer.

“Now who else is here?” I asked nobody in particular.

Ten other Nothing-to-wears stepped out into the light. They were a sight. One thing was for sure, I didn’t think there was a cover-up. If anything, these people looked like they had nothing to hide.

“Did anybody see anything?”

“I did,” a Mr. Cool-Calm-And-Collected stepped forward.

“What did you see?”

“Somebody fired the burrito into his mouth from over there.”

“You know everybody was always trying to get a rise out of him,” Blond said. “Nobody could.”

“Looks like he got a rise out of somebody,” me again.”

“He was a really nice man,” a second brunette spoke up. She had dyed her hair to cover the gray.

“Nice man, my rear end.” The man was middle-aged and wore sunglasses.

“Could you shed a little light on the situation?”

“Always ramming that Taco Tater down everybody’s throat.” His naked emotions were showing.

“Darn good eats if you ask me,” Blond butted in.

“Nobody asked you,” Middle-aged said.

“What do you have against the Taco Tater?” the elderly woman asked.

“Taco Tatter! Taco Tatter! I can’t take it anymore.”

“So it was you,” I said, “that jammed that burrito down his throat?”

“It was a duel. With burritos. I just had better aim.”

I’d heard of dulleing banjos but never duelling burritos.

“But I didn’t think it would kill him.”

Since the man had exposed himself, this put some clothes on the case. Case closed.

The Wednesday Afternoon Club

The four women met once a month on the first Wednesday for ten years. They sat in a circle on the wooden floor in a little shack by a lake. It was quiet outside, only the lapping of the water. A few birds sang their hearts out, celebrating spring. They were talking about their husbands. Or at least one husband. Dora’s.

“Let’s just get it over with,” Alice said.

“Now hold on,” Dora came back. “We don’t want to rush this. We have to be careful not to make a mistake.”

Each of the four women wore black. Black shoes, black pants, black blouse. And no jewelry.

“I hate this,” Maxi said.

“We all hate this,” Carol said.

“Yes,” Alice said. “We all hate this. But we have to do it. It’s what we do. So let’s get on with it.”

The others agreed. Each time the four met, they picked a husband to do a murder on. It was a game that ran all the way back to the first time they met. It would be more fun than just gossiping.

They never actually did the murder. Something always came up. Maxi might say, “It was Tuesday, and you know how Tuesdays are.” The others would shake their heads in agreement.

Or Carol might say, “I planned it for Friday and he brought me a dozen roses. How could I kill him on a day he brought me roses?”

The excuses were just as infinite as were the methods used for the crime.

“Are we sure Dora will do it this time?” Maxi was the oldest. Her hair was gray, almost white. She looked over at Alice.

“I was there when the police came,” Dora said, affirming what the other three already knew.

“Yes,” Maxi offered. “I saw them take Mrs. Sullivan away in the police car.”

“But it really wasn’t her fault,” Dora continued. “Her husband drove her to it.”

“Good riddance, I say,” Carol pointed out the obvious.

“The only question is how do we do it.” Maxi straightened her pants. “We know who. We just don’t know how.”

Usually the who was obvious. It was always the what. They had to do it without getting caught. Sometimes that was hard. Very hard.

Late in the afternoon, Dora walked through her front door. There was Jack with his head buried in the newspaper.

“Hello, Dear,” he said without looking up.

Dora leaned over and kissed the top of Jack’s head.

“Did you have a good time?” he mumbled, absent-mindedly reading his paper.

“Yes, Dear.” Dora sat down across from her husband. She slipped off her shoes. “We did. We discussed how I was going to murder you. We decided poison would be best.”

“That’s nice. What’s for supper?”