Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 4

The Holistic Side of Death

Pam and Drew exchanged information that night while sitting together on the couch, eating a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of homemade salsa for dinner.  They picked every little scrap of conversation apart looking for any clues as to who might have killed Winchester Harmon.  Drew insisted that the Frenchman was out as a suspect since he was too keen on collecting his debt, but it did open up the idea that someone else could have killed Harmon for a debt owed.  Pam couldn’t rule out any of the mistresses, really, and neither did Drew, but they both agreed that of the three, the sexy one would have been the least likely murderer.  Her affair with Winchester Harmon was almost as much of a business deal as she claimed Winchester Harmon’s marriage to his wife was.  Murder is bad business when you work in affairs.

By the time they went to sleep that night, all they really had was a suspect list, a couple of possible motives, no evidence, and no hint as to why a very wealthy man would be in such a questionable neighborhood at such an ungodly hour.

And then their little investigation was once again relegated to the back burner by the demands of life.  The lunch Drew’s bosses made him and the rest of the crew go to demanded overtime to make up for it; meanwhile, Pam found herself suddenly inundated with her freelance bookkeeping clients having one number emergency after another requiring her to work much longer hours to untangle their various messes.

When Pam woke up on Saturday afternoon, she rolled over and looked at her husband and realized it had been two days since she’d last actually spoken to him.  All they’d done was sleep in the same bed for a few hours at the same time and though Pam occasionally talked in her sleep, she wouldn’t count that as an actual conversation.

She wanted to wake up Drew and get as much time as she could with him before some sort of emergency cropped up in life that took either her or him away, but instead, she let him sleep, knowing he was exhausted from the past two days of work.  It was a miracle that the foreman wasn’t making the crew work on a weekend, but the trade-off was starting an hour earlier and then working two hours later.  There was the illusion that the money would be worth it, but Pam did books for a living.  She knew that money was already spent long before Drew brought home the paycheck.

Pam double-checked the weekend schedule (she didn’t work weekends and Drew had no birthday parties requiring his magical skills scheduled) and decided to let Drew sleep as late as he wanted while she cleaned the house as quietly as she could.

By noon, the house was clean, Drew was up, and lunch/breakfast was had.

By two, Pam and Drew were cuddled up contentedly on the couch, each of them reading their own book.  When someone knocked on the front door, Pam almost considered not answering it.  By the way Drew tightened his arm around her, she knew he was thinking the same thing.

Pam answered the door anyway.

She was greeted by a huge floral arrangement, an array of puffy yellow, white, and orange flowers in a huge vase.  Pam stared at it for a second in startled confusion.

“Hello,” came a voice from the other side of the flowers.  “Is this the Bendixen residence?”

“Yes,” Pam said, straining to see around the flowers.

The flowers moved to one side, revealing two handsome young men, both of them blond, bearing a striking resemblance to each other as well as someone else that Pam couldn’t quite name.

“I’m Alexander Harmon,” said the man holding the flowers.  “This is my brother Nathaniel.”

Pings of recognition went off in Pam’s brain.

“Oh, yes!  Winchester Harmon’s sons,” she said.

“That’s right,” Alexander Harmon said with a well-practiced, professional smile.

“Our mother wanted us to come by,” Nathaniel said.  He projected a much stiffer persona.  Pam figured him to be older.  “She wanted to thank you for being so kind in sending the sympathy card and coming to the funeral.”

“Oh, that’s not necessary,” Pam said, remembering how Carolyn Harmon initially confused her for one of her husband’s mistresses.

“It’s the least we could do,” Alexander said and there was something about the tone of his voice that made Pam think that the least was still too much for the likes of them.

“That’s very kind.”

Alexander offered her the flowers and Pam took them, not surprised at how heavy the huge arrangement was.  She shifted the arrangement to her hip like it was a toddler.

“Our mother told us that you were the one that found our father,” Nathaniel said.  He showed no emotion, but Alexander suddenly looked very solemn, if not a little uncomfortable.

“That’s right.”

“Where?”

Pam hesitated a second.  “Right where you’re standing.”

###

Wanna read more? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 3

The Mistresses and The Frenchman

Pam sat alone at the bar in the Green Light, doing the books there on this Wednesday afternoon like she usually did because Wednesdays were dead (she and Rusher the bartender were the only ones in the place) and the office felt too isolated.  The bar had the typical warm ambiance of a dive.  There were TVs mounted on the wall at each end of the bar as well as in the corners across the room.  The bar top and tables only looked as clean as the generations of glass rings staining the wood would allow, which most people didn’t notice because the peanut shells and bits of pretzel salt from the ever present bowls were a nice distraction.  There was a jukebox to one side of the room, an updated digital kind that the boss had recently splurged on.

The door of the bar opening startled Pam and she watched the woman who came in stroll to the bar and sit down at the opposite end of it.  Rusher the bartender, who looked like he’d come out of the womb with a martini shaker in one hand and the knowledge of a perfect draft pour in his head, moved down the bar to serve her at a pace that matched his last name.  She was a traditionally attractive woman with long dark hair and a figure with just the right amount of curve to it.  Her low cut blouse accentuated her breasts in a way that made Pam envious.  Sure, she was well-endowed herself, but even in a bra her breasts lacked the perkiness required to pull off that look.  The woman made Pam think of Carolyn Harmon accusing Pam of being one of her husband’s mistresses.  If Pam had to pick out what she thought his ideal mistress would be, it would be the woman sitting down at the end of the bar.

The woman ordered a vodka tonic and then turned away from the bar to watch the door.

Rusher served her and then moseyed at his usual pace back down the bar to where Pam sat so he could lean against it and resume their conversation.

“Don’t think I’ve ever seen you move so fast to serve someone,” Pam said with a smirk.

The friendly jab didn’t faze Rusher.

“Don’t think I’ve seen a prettier woman in here on a Wednesday afternoon.”

“I like how you say that like I can’t rec to the boss that you should take a pay cut for the greater good of the business.”

Rusher laughed.  “Jealousy isn’t a good look on you, Pam.”

“Who said I was jealous?”

“If you’re not jealous, then why are you squinting at her like that?”

Pam checked the configuration of her face.

“I’m not squinting.”

“You’re looking hard at her.”

“That’s because she’s the prettiest woman I’ve ever seen in this dive on a Wednesday afternoon.”

Rusher laughed again.

“And I’m wondering who she’s waiting for.”

“How do you know she’s waiting for someone?”

“She’s watching the door.”

Rusher lightly slapped Pam’s arm with his bar towel.  Pam was happy it was dry for a change.

“Curiosity will get you in the end, Bendixen,” he said.

“So I’ve been told.  But being curious at a distance is pretty safe.”

“Uh huh.”

The front door opened, spilling a shaft of almost too-bright daylight into the bar, cutting the cool dimness with all the harshness of a semi-sharp knife.  A blob of shadows morphed into two women, who blinked almost in unison as the door closed behind them, their eyes struggling to adjust as they looked around.  One was tall, blonde, and, like Pam, overly voluptuous.  She wore a brightly colored dress that matched her equally bright lipstick.  She was pretty in a youthful sort of way, the kind of pretty that would linger as she aged before one day giving it up in a rush.  The other was an athletic black woman dressed like she was either coming from or going to the gym, yoga pants and a t-shirt, her natural hair in a poof held away from her face with a headband.  She was a strikingly good looking woman.  One look at her told Pam that if the woman wore a little black dress, a touch of mascara, and the slightest hint of lipstick, there wouldn’t be a man in her presence not in love.

The black woman caught sight of the woman at the bar first and elbowed her companion.  The two made their way over to her.

Pam watched as they sat down next to the woman already at the bar and Rusher hurried down the bar much in the same way he’d done before to take their orders.  The athletic woman got a screwdriver; the blonde ordered a Cosmo.

Rusher set their drinks in front of them and then shuffled back down the bar.

The three women sat together, but didn’t speak, a thread of tension stretching between them.  This wasn’t three girlfriends meeting in a dive bar on a whim to begin a fun little girls’ afternoon.  This was some kind of meeting with an uncomfortable agenda that no one really wanted to approach.

“Hey,” Rusher said, jerking Pam out of her thoughts.  She looked over at him.  He smirked at her, like he caught her daydreaming.  “I need a break.  Can you cover for me?”

“Yeah, sure,” Pam said, forcing the fog of speculation out of her brain.  She gathered up her work.  “I can’t believe that you’d dare take a break with three pretty women sitting at your bar.”

Rusher laughed.

“They’re nursers.  I’ll have plenty of time to observe and serve.”

“Right.  Let me just put this in the office.”

Pam walked out of the bar and hurried to the office, ditching her paperwork on the desk, stopping long enough to lock the office door before hurrying back to the bar.  She was afraid she might miss some development in the live action soap opera happening.  Pam forced herself to slow down just before hitting the bar area, strolling casually back behind the bar.

“Okay, you’re good,” Pam told Rusher.

“Thanks, Pam,” Rusher said and he produced a pack of cigarettes from under the bar.  “I’ll be back in fifteen or twenty.”

“Okay,” Pam said and Rusher disappeared down the hallway, no doubt to go out the backdoor to smoke since the boss frowned on employees smoking out front.  Pam didn’t know how it could possibly ruin the look of a dive bar, but apparently it did.

The three women still sat the bar, nursing their drinks, not looking at each other, not speaking.  The tension, though, had changed somewhat, like it was about to break.  Someone was going to say something and they were going to say it soon and for whatever reason, Pam wanted to hear it.  Bookkeeping for a bar was surprisingly boring.  This looked like it could be interesting.

Pam moved down to the middle of the bar, looking like she was trying to get a better view of the TV mounted on the wall at the end of the bar where the three women were sitting, but really it was so she could catch any snippets of conversation that might come floating her way.

She didn’t have to wait long.  It seemed that Rusher’s absence uncorked whatever was shaking up in the bottle they all held.

“So, now what do we do?” the blonde asked.

###

Wanna read more? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 2

Eavesdropping at a Funeral

Thursday, three days after finding Winchester Harmon dead on their front stoop, Pam and Drew arrived home from their respective jobs at the same time, an unusual occurrence.  Bear honked as he drove away, Drew shambling up the front walk to meet Pam on the stoop.  He gave her a tired kiss and she pulled the mail from the mailbox before unlocking the door, the two of them going in the house.

“What do you want for dinner?” Pam asked as she sifted through the mail in her hand.  She dumped her bag on the nearest chair she passed.

Drew collapsed on the couch.

“I don’t care,” he said.  “I’m not sure I have enough energy to chew it.  I hate sheetrock.  Hate it.”

“I know, baby,” Pam said automatically, but not without sincerity.  She stopped suddenly in the kitchen doorway and Drew heard her mutter, “Oh shit.”

Drew’s dead muscles surged with a new life.  The only reason that he could think that Pam would be muttering any swears while looking at the mail would be a bill that they didn’t need and couldn’t pay.  Adrenaline got him to his feet before he even knew he was moving.  Fight or flight in response to a bill.  Seemed perfectly reasonable and not at all the result of continued stress.

“What?” he asked, crossing the living room in several large steps.  “What is it?  What now?  Who wants money now?”

Pam turned and looked up at him, holding up a card.

“We’ve been invited to Winchester Harmon’s funeral,” she said faintly, in total disbelief.

“His funeral?” Drew asked, confused.  He took the card away from Pam and looked at it.  “Who sends invitations to a funeral?”

“Rich people, apparently,” Pam said.  “Just another way to extort status.  A guest list for a wake.”

Drew looked over the invitation.  It was addressed to both of them and indeed asked that they come to the funeral service that was going to be held on Sunday.  They’d found Winchester Harmon dead on their doorstep on Monday.

“Why would they invite us?” Drew asked, looking the card over and over again.  He couldn’t believe it.  It didn’t make sense.  “How did she even know we found her husband?”

“Well, I did send Mrs. Harmon a condolence card,” Pam said.  Drew looked up at her and she ducked her head a little, sheepish.  “I told you I was going to.  It only seemed like the nice thing to do.  I guess she decided to invite us to the funeral because of it.”

“That must have been a carefully worded condolence card,” Drew said.  “We found your husband dead on our lawn.  Sorry for your loss.”

Pam smacked his arm.  “Good gravy, Drew, I have more sense than that.  I was very tactful about explaining who we were and why we were sending a card.  I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just some weirdos that like to send sympathy cards to rich widows.”

“You say that like it happens all of the time,” Drew said with a smirk.

“It could,” Pam said and she smiled sly at him.  “I wouldn’t know.  I’m not a rich widow.”

“And I am happy for that,” Drew said, kissing her.

Drew felt his weariness return and mingle with mild desire.  His wife had that effect on him still.

“So, what do you think?” Pam asked.

“I think I want to skip dinner and take you to bed while I’m still awake,” Drew said, kissing her again.

Pam giggled and pulled away a little.

“I mean about going to Winchester Harmon’s funeral.  Do we go?”

Drew thought about it for a minute, rubbing his wife’s back while he considered it.

“Sure,” he said.  “Who knows what kind of information we might get by mingling with family and friends and acquaintances.”

###

Wanna read more? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.

 

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 1

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.

 

Patreon Project! Murderville

MurdervilleAs I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the past couple of months and as I’ve been plotting for the last several, I’m putting my Patreon to better use and that better use starts in January.

Murderville was originally conceived as a short-season TV series. I don’t know why, since I don’t know the first thing about writing TV shows, but that’s how it came into my head and that’s how I outlined it and how I was going to write it. I’m all for learning and practicing different writing mediums. I never got around to writing it as an actual TV show, but the outline remained and the idea of it never really left me. Particularly the characters featured in the first “season”.

You know me. I don’t get rid of anything. Writing hoarder to the end. So, when I decided that I really needed to do something productive with my Patreon instead of just letting it sit there collecting dust and no money, I came back to Murderville.

I wrote the first “season” as a novella called Murderville: The Last Joke and then broke the novella into eight “episodes”. One episode will be posted each month starting in January. At the end of the year, I’ll put out the novella as an ebook.

Nifty, yes?

So….What is Murderville?

“Murderville” is the affectionate (or not-so-affectionate) nickname given to the industrial city of Munsterville. Because even though there’s not a whole lot of violent crime in the city, it seems that people have a tendency to die in really strange ways. Can’t just have a plain old shooting or stabbing, not in Murderville. There’s always a twist.

The Last Joke features Pam and Drew Bendixen, a couple hit hard by the economy and struggling to rebound. To add to their woes, Pam finds a dead man on the doorstep one morning. The one positive about this is that the deceased was a successful business man and there’s now a $25,000 reward for information that leads to his killer. That money could really help Pam and Drew out and since they did find him on their doorstep, surely they could work in a little detective work between their  multiple jobs and family demands. After all, what do they have to lose? Oh, and they could also help a family get closure and obtain justice and all that.

If you sign up to read Murderville through Patreon, you pledge either $1 or $2 per episode and you can read the episodes right there. You also get the novella at the end of the year. $2 patrons also get sneak peeks at the other projects I’m working on. Gotta sweeten that pot somehow.

Don’t want to be a patron? No problem. For the low, low price of $8 (the minimum amount the $1 patrons will pay) paid through PayPal, you get the password that will allow you to read all eight episodes here on the blog.

The episodes will also be readable on Google Docs.

So don’t miss out.

The fun officially starts on January 10th.