The Morning Paper Came with a Corpse
Munsterville was a good-sized industrial town, 70,000 give or take, with all of the standard issues accoutrements and divides of an average American city. The residents of Munsterville affectionately (or maybe not in some cases) referred to their city as Murderville because Munsterville seemed to have more than its fair share of weird deaths and wild killings. Though the city only saw a handful of homicides in a year, none of them could be ordinary, not a plain old shooting or stabbing or beating. No. Death in Murderville always had to have something unusual about it.
Pam Bendixen opened her eyes as soon as the she heard the first tones of her alarm. She slapped it silent and rolled over, turning it off. She was not a morning person, hated to get up early, but she’d been trained at an early age to get up with the alarm regardless of how she felt. Her husband, Drew, on the other hand had a mother that had to cajole him out of bed every morning and until he and Pam had moved in together, was late for work at least once a week.
Sunrise barely peeking around the edges of the blinds, Pam rolled over to her still lightly snoring husband. She pushed some of her sweaty blonde hair away from her neck before doing the same to the dark hair plastered to Drew’s forehead. Pam leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. His snoring didn’t even hiccup.
“Drew,” she said sweetly. “It’s time to wake up, baby.”
The snoring continued. Pam just smiled and leaned closer to his ear.
“Drew, sweetie, it’s time to wake up.”
The snoring stopped and Drew took a deep breath, but his eyes stayed closed.
“Show me those hazels and sit up or I’m dumping a glass of ice water on you,” Pam said in that same sweet voice.
Drew’s eyes snapped open and he sat up so fast that Pam had to move quickly or else his shoulder would have clipped her jaw. She’d only dumped a glass of ice water on him once, years ago, but it was an effectively memorable experience.
Pam sat up next to her husband, who was busy rubbing some life into his face.
“It can’t be time to get up already,” he muttered into his hands.
“Sad to say,” Pam said, leaning on his shoulder now that it was safely still.
Drew’s hands dropped away from his face and he looked at his wife. Pam smiled up at him and he gave her a sweet smile back before they shared a good morning kiss.
The last two years had been rough. Both of them had lost their jobs. Pam found part time work as a bookkeeper and then freelanced those same skills on the side. Drew fell into some construction work. When he worked, he worked hard, long days with great pay. But when he didn’t work, and he could go a week or two without working, it was all they could do to keep gas in the one car they still had. They’d sold the newer one. They still had payments left on the one they still had (it used to be just Pam’s), but it was closer to being paid off than the other one. They just had a few more months to go on it. Once they had that car payment money in the bank every month, things would feel a little more secure. But until then, Drew also took gigs doing magic tricks at kids’ birthday parties.
“What have you got going today?” he asked.
“Just Green Light,” Pam said, referring to her part-time bookkeeping gig at a local dive bar. “You?”
“Sheet rock at the Staley site,” Drew said with noticeable dismay in his voice.
“Oh, your favorite thing,” Pam said, frowning in sympathy. She gave him another kiss. “You’d better get in the shower then. You don’t want to be late.”
“No,” Drew said, throwing the covers off of his legs. “Wouldn’t dream of being late for a joy like that.”
Pam watched as he stumbled off to the bathroom. Once she heard the bathroom door shut, she got out of bed herself. She didn’t have to be at work until eleven, but Drew wouldn’t be home until late and when he got home, he wouldn’t be in the mood to do anything but sleep. And maybe eat. Pam’s day was full tomorrow. She wouldn’t see him at all. The past two years, they had to be grateful for the moments they could steal together. Pam would fix breakfast and they’d eat it sitting in bed together, Pam still in her pajamas and Drew in his clean work clothes that would be more than filthy by the time he got home. They’d talk or just sit in silence, maybe, and steal a few kisses here and there, and countdown the minutes before Drew’s work buddy Bear showed up and whisked Drew off to the work site he hated to do work that he hated. And before he left, Pam would kiss him one last time and remind him that it wouldn’t be this way forever. They just had to get the car paid off and things would change. And then she’d watch Drew and Bear drive off before she finally got ready for work, showering and dressing and washing the breakfast dishes.
Pam passed by the bathroom door and paused long enough to make sure she heard the water running before continuing down the hallway to the living room to get the morning paper. One of the first things they’d done when they both ended up jobless was cancel anything they didn’t absolutely need. That meant all magazine subscriptions, the newspaper, and cable. They’d kept the internet, though, because it was the easiest way to job search and Pam used it to communicate with her freelance clients. That expense was justified. However, at the Green Light Christmas party the previous year, Pam had won a year’s subscription to the local paper in the raffle. She really wanted the coffee maker, as that would have come in more handy, but having the newspaper again was nice, too. She’d missed occasionally working and always failing at the crossword puzzle.
Unlocking the front door, Pam pulled it open, and took one step out onto the stoop to retrieve the paper.
Instead of the paper on that chipped slab of concrete, though, there was a dead man.
Pam stepped back into her house and slammed the door shut.
She stood there for a minute in a kind of shock, trying to convince herself that she hadn’t seen what she’d really seen. There couldn’t possibly be a dead man on her front step. It must be a trick of the morning light. A shadow that made her morning paper look like a dead guy.
Pam eased her front door open once again and peeked outside.
Nope. There was definitely a dead guy on her front step.
Wanna read the rest? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.