Murderville: The End Of- Episode 3

To Complicate Things

Josh and his partner Vince sat on the couch in the living room of Stella James’s sister, Brandy Everly.  Her husband, and Stella’s brother-in-law, Lance sat in a chair opposite them.  Mrs. Everly was in the other room, finishing up a phone call.

The search of Starla James’s luxurious apartment quickly revealed that it wasn’t the site of her death, but also revealed little in the way of clues as to who the culprit might be.  Everything was neat, tidy, orderly, and there was no sign of any of the men that Starla James might be connected with, either currently or in the past.  The most Josh and Vince were able to recover was the name of the victim’s next of kin.

The Everly’s living room was done up tastefully enough in dark wood and white, which let Josh know that this couple didn’t have any children or pets.  The white couch he and Vince sat on was spotless.  Lance Everly sat nervously on the edge of his chair, waiting for his wife so the couple could receive the bad news that Josh and Vince had brought them.  Not that they knew at the moment they’d be receiving bad news, but what good news do two plain clothes detectives ever bring?  Mr. Everly was a thin man, young with an older cast, like he worked too hard for too little.  Josh watched him fidget as he waited, his hands unable to remain still, the only attempt at small talk to fill the time unsuccessful.  Josh wanted to keep this serious and direct.

“I’m sorry about that,” Mrs. Everly said as she entered the room.  “I’m trying to organize a girls’ night out for next weekend and you would not believe how involved it is.”

She smiled at the two detectives as she perched herself on the arm of her husband’s chair, putting an arm around his anxious shoulders.  Brandy Everly didn’t quite have the exotic, sexy beauty that her sister had, but she wasn’t unattractive.  Instead of black hair, hers was red, and kept about shoulder length in an easy, flattering style.  She was thinner, less-curvy than her sister, and whatever bosom she might have had was discreetly concealed beneath a modest dark purple blouse that matched her light purple capris.

“Now, what’s this all about?” Mrs. Everly asked.

Josh felt Vince shift beside him.  This was a tough part of the job, informing someone that their loved one had died and not in a natural manner.  The reactions to such news varied from person to person and there was no clear predictor of what to expect.

“Mrs. Everly, I’m sorry to inform you that your sister was found deceased early this afternoon,” Josh said.

He waited while the words found their meaning for the couple.  Mr. Everly looked up at his wife, reaching back to grasp her hand that rested on his shoulder.  Mrs. Everly stared at the two detectives for a moment, her face somewhat neutral, as though the full weight of her sister’s death hadn’t quite hit yet.

“What happened?” she asked softly.

“Your sister was found hanging from a tree at End Of,” Josh said.

“She killed herself?” Mrs. Everly asked.

“Right now we can’t say,” Josh said, watching as Mr. Everly squeezed his wife’s hand hard.  Lu called it a homicide, but Josh wanted to be careful with that information for now.  It hadn’t been confirmed.  “We have to wait for the autopsy results before a cause of death can be conclusively stated.  But as an unattended, suspicious death, we have to investigate it.  Are you up for answering a few questions?”

Mrs. Everly nodded.

“Do you know of any reason why your sister might have wanted to take her own life?” Josh asked.

Mr. Everly looked down at the white-carpeted floor, considering.  Mrs. Everly sighed and looked at Josh.

“Maybe she was finally tired of being a whore.”


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Murderville: The End of- Episode 2

A Little Bit Suspicious

Lu Jones looked up at her brother-in-law as he gaped down at her.

“You look like a fish,” she said.

Detective Josh Carpenter’s mouth snapped shut.

“How can you tell she was murdered?” Josh asked, narrowing his eyes at her.

“It’s kind of the whole point of my job to be able to do that,” Lu said.

“Lu.”  It was a warning and Lu shrugged it off as easily as if it had come from one of her siblings.  The curse of the two of them working together for almost as long as Josh had been with Nico.

“Well, it’s nothing so obvious as the rope done wrong,” Lu said, walking towards the body.  Josh followed her.  “But, there’s antemortem bruising under the rope inconsistent with hanging.  And her face is the wrong color.  It’s a little too red.  That implies force.”

“So, she wasn’t hung?”

Lu shook her head.  “Not by this rope and this tree.  Though, if I had to guess, I’d say she was strangled.  Dr. Pascal will make the final call on that.”

“What do you mean about the rope being done wrong?” Josh asked, peering as closely at the noose as he could bear to get.

Lu grinned.  “The movie The Black Cat?  Remember?”

Josh frowned.  Lu and Nico were big horror film fans, a fitting favorite genre for their lines of work.  They’d often get together to watch them and many of their conversations featured references to them.  Lu was a little disappointed that more of this hadn’t rubbed off on Josh.

“Isn’t that the one where Bela Lugosi skins Boris Karloff alive?” Josh asked, squinting the way he did when he was trying to remember something.

Lu heard Vince mutter something under his breath and she was pretty sure it was in response to the mention of skinning, not the overall topic.  Vince was green, but he’d been on enough death scenes with Lu and Josh to know how they operated.

“No, this one has Bela Lugosi, but he plays a gardener that gets shot as a scapegoat.”

“I don’t remember that one.”

“That’s a shame,” Lu said with a shrug and went back to business.  “I’ll bag the vic’s hands and we’ll see if we can get anything off of her clothes, but she looks pretty clean.  There are a couple of smaller bruises on her forearms that could be defensive marks and most people who are strangled put up a fight unless they can’t.  I’m not seeing much evidence of a fight around here, though.”

Everyone standing in the little clearing at the end of the path looked at the ground.

“So, this is a dump scene, not a crime scene,” Josh concluded and Lu nodded.  “Well, give me whatever you can get as quickly as you can.  If this is a homicide, then we’re on the clock.”

Josh walked over to Detective Carthos, the other two uniforms, and the forensic team to hatch a game plan while Lu went on with her work.  She picked up her clipboard from the gurney and started making notes about the case.  Murderville was living up to its reputation this time.  A homicide at the local suicide spot.  Dr. Pascal was going to love this twist.


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Murderville: The End Of- Episode 1

Hanging at the End Of

It was a typical day in Munsterville, the industrial city of 70,000 (give or take), with people on lunch break or hurrying to start second shift somewhere or running errands, the general business of a typical city running at its typical hum.  The sky was blue and the day was warm without being oppressively hot like late summer had a tendency to be.  And since this was a typical day in Munsterville, that meant that the city was living up to its jaunty nickname: Murderville.  Weird deaths abound in Munsterville.  And weird deaths require creative clean-ups, which was why the family business of Jones Cleaners had steady work.

Lu Jones sat in her parents’ office, eating a roast beef sandwich.  Lu had agreed to “mind the store” during her lunch hour while her parents picked up some cleaning supplies.  Her older siblings, Dru and Nico, were cleaning up the death scene of an elderly gentleman who’d died in his home and had gone undiscovered for over a week.  Her younger siblings, twins Dash and Tag, were cleaning up the scene of a suicide by shotgun in an apartment.  So, Lu was left to sit in the office and answer the phones as she ate her lunch while everyone else was out.  It was purely as a favor; Lu was the only one in the family that didn’t work the family business, a bone of contention picked at every family gathering in which there were more than two Joneses, which happened multiple times a week, so that bone was cleaned of meat years ago.  Instead of cleaning up death scenes, Lu investigated them.  She worked as a death investigator out of the city’s coroner’s office.  Same general area of the family business, but different line of work.  Horseshoes and hand grenades, her family said.

Kicked back at the reception desk in the tiny front area of the office, feet up, sandwich in the process of being devoured, Lu nearly choked in her scramble to right herself when the door opened.  They didn’t get many walk-in customers (she was really just there to answer the phone), but people did come in to pay their bills and Lu didn’t want to hear it from her mother that she was being unprofessional when someone did.

In strolled her brother-in-law, Detective Josh Carpenter, looking dashing and handsome as always.  Truly, the man looked like he should be playing the lead in some big budget Hollywood action movie that called for a good looking, tough, but charming and sensitive African-American man instead of investigating curious deaths in a no-name city like Munsterville.  How her goofy-looking white boy brother Nico ever landed him, Lu would never know, but the couple had been together for fifteen years, married for close to six of them.

“What are you doing here, Lu?” Josh asked with a grin as the door swung shut behind him.

There was no sense in Lu trying to recover her cool now.  She picked up her discarded sandwich.

“Watching the phones for Mom and Dad while I eat,” Lu said, sitting back and kicking her feet up on the desk again.  She took another bite of her sandwich and asked her question around it.  “What are you doing here?”

“Hoping to catch Nico while I had a minute,” Josh said with a bit of a wistful sigh.

He sat down in one of the chairs on the opposite side of the desk.

“He’s cleaning an undiscovered scene.”

Josh made a disgusted face.  Lu didn’t need to give him any details.

“Been busy?” Lu asked him, this time without a mouthful of sandwich.

“After that whole thing with the Harmon case, I feel like I’ve been on garbage detail.”

Winchester Harmon was a rich guy with a warped sense of humor who decided when he received a terminal cancer diagnosis to kill himself, make it look like a murder, and send a whole bunch of poor people on a wild goose chase.  Josh had been lead detective on that case and took the whole thing very personally.  Lu couldn’t quite blame him; she would have clocked Harmon for what he’d done if he hadn’t already been dead.

“You’re imagining things,” Lu said.  “Your ego is bruised because that big murder case turned out to be a weird suicide practical joke thing.  You really think the chief is going to hold that bizzaro twist against you?”

Josh looked at Lu like she must have been out of her mind.

“Have you met this woman?” he asked.  “She does not take failure lightly and to her, this looked like a huge, public failure because we didn’t immediately conclude it was a suicide, not a homicide.”

“Oh, please,” Lu said with a roll of her eyes.  She sat up, leaning on the desk with one elbow.  “It was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.  The gun was found half a block away under some bushes.  It was staged to look like a murder and it was pretty convincing.  It took an anonymous tip to sort it out.  That’s how convincing it was.”

“That’s not how the chief sees it.”

“Well, she needs glasses.  You did good work, you did it by the book, and anyone would say so.  It was a weird case to crack.”

Lu ate the last bite of her sandwich and chewed it in a determined fashion.  Josh shook his head, entirely unconvinced.

The tone of a pipe organ, mournful and funeral-like, emanated from Lu’s back pocket.  She pulled out her cell phone.  Before she could look at it, Josh’s cell chirped from the depths of his suit jacket.  He fished around for it.

“Dead body at End Of,” Lu said, reading her text.


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Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 7

To Find a Crime Scene

Drew tried to find Chester R. Ewins.  He searched the name after work for three nights.  Pam was unable to help in the investigation.  She was swamped with bookkeeping work, spending most of her time hunched over rows and rows of numbers laid out on the kitchen table, muttering to herself about the values of basic math and calculators.  Drew left her alone for the most part, only bugging her to make sure that she ate the dinner that he usually found in the crock pot when he got home and to pull her away from the table at night when it was time for bed.  As soon as he got his wife away from her work, Drew did his best to get her to relax and unknot her brain, staying up later than he really should to make love to her and make sure she was going to sleep and not sneaking back out to the kitchen to work because she would.  When Pam was dealing with a bookkeeping mess like this, that’s what she was prone to do; Drew had to rescue her from herself before.

Add to this the impending family dinner that they were forced into hosting and Pam was teetering dangerously close to overload.  Drew was dragging ass himself, but he’d run himself into the ground to make sure his wife was well away from the edge of that cliff.

As a result, Drew hadn’t mentioned anything about his fruitless search.  There was really no reason to add to the weight she was already carrying, even if it was the light weight of finding nothing.

Because that’s what Drew had.  Nothing.

It seemed that Chester R. Ewins didn’t exist.  Despite being a city of 70,000, there wasn’t one person in any directory that Drew could find that had that name.  Not even close.  If he widened the search to the state or the country, he came close, but never exact.  By the second night, Drew began to believe that whoever pawned the watch used a fake name, but Drew just had to be sure.  He spent one more night of searching before he gave up.  Chester R. Ewins as an actual person was a dead end.  He had to be made up.  But who did it?

Drew came home from work to find the kitchen table free of the bookkeeping mess and a full dinner going on the stove and in the oven.  Pam, the beautiful, happy, carefree woman he’d married ten-plus years ago, was singing in the kitchen as she stirred whatever was in the pot on the stove.

“Who are you and what have you done with my surly wife?” Drew asked with a grin.  He walked over and kissed her on the neck, feeling her shiver beneath his lips.

“Your wife has been freed of her torment,” Pam said, smiling at him as she turned and kissed him on the lips.  “I finally got that mess straightened out, they paid me extra for all of the hard work, and I didn’t have any other work to do today.  So to celebrate the end of my torture, I cleaned the house for that stupid family dinner next week.  And I made you a wonderful dinner because I appreciate the way you put up with me when I’m at my worst.”

“Food is a great way to show me that you appreciate me,” Drew said, going in for another kiss.  “Among other things.”

They would have gotten carried away and perhaps carried down to the bedroom had Pam not pulled away and said, “The cheese sauce is going to burn and you smell like dirty socks.”

Drew laughed, gave her one last kiss, and hurried down to the bathroom to hose off the day’s grime.  When he returned, he found that dinner was ready and he had a plate waiting for him on the coffee table in the living room; Pam sat on the couch with her own plate in her lap.

“I’m tired of looking at the kitchen table,” she said, patting the spot on the couch next to her.  “Besides, this way we can cuddle and eat.”

“My two favorite things,” Drew said sitting down next to his wife.  He kissed her again and then picked up his plate, balancing it in his lap.

Pam had gone all out: baked chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, green beans, and rolls.  She usually saved this sort of cooking for Sundays when she had the time and the energy to use that time.  This was a true mid-week treat.

“So, tell me,” Pam said as Drew shoveled mac and cheese into his mouth, “did you find out anything about Chester R. Ewins?”

Drew shrugged as he chewed.  As soon as he swallowed, he spoke.

“Yes and no.”

“How definitive.”

“I found out that nobody with that name exists, at least not in Murderville,” Drew said, taking a drink of iced tea.  He cleared his throat.  “Somebody pawned that watch, we know that, but he gave a fake name to do it.”

“So, who do you think did it?” Pam asked, tearing apart her roll.

“I still think it was one of his business buddies,” Drew said with a shrug.  “Doing that revenge joke thing, giving a fake name so he wouldn’t be caught.  But I don’t know which one of them did it.  I guess I’d have to go back to the pawn shop to get a description from that employee.  Of course, that probably wouldn’t help me much.  Most of the business guys that I saw at the funeral looked like Winchester Harmon.  They’re practically interchangeable.  My only hope would be that it was the young guy that did it.  Or one of Harmon’s sons.”

“It’s probably a dead end anyway,” Pam said.  “You said that the pawn shop guy said something about it being a joke.”

“Yeah, that’s what it feels like this whole thing is,” Drew said with a chuckle.  “One big joke.”


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Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 6

Finding Chester R. Ewins

For Pam, the crock pot might have been the greatest cooking invention of all time.  She could throw dinner in it in the morning when she was fresh and her mood was shiny.  That way, when she was sitting at the kitchen table glowering at the work she was forced to bring home with her because some of her bookkeeping clients’ attention to detail was similar to that of a tornado, Drew could still come home to a good meal despite the fact that Pam was in no mood for anything but flipping the kitchen table in frustration.

Today’s mood was further aggravated by the fact that she’d been fielding phone calls all day from her family and Drew’s family about having their monthly “big family dinner” at Pam and Drew’s house.  Pam knew that they were long overdue for their turn to host that nightmare, but she felt like they should be exempt from it until they at least made their last car payment.  It wasn’t that they didn’t have the money to feed everyone -these dinners were always potluck- it was that no one else in their immediate family had been hit hard by the sudden downshift in the economy.  Everyone else had cruised right along without so much as a blip on their financial screens.  And the support they gave came in the form of the most unhelpful advice imaginable.  Pam loved her family, of course, and she felt very grateful to have Drew’s family as her in-laws because they were wonderful people (all except Drew’s sister-in-law Daisy, who decided that Pam should be her rival for some weird reason that Pam didn’t understand or care about), but damn could they be tone deaf.

If we could just get that reward money…

But that wasn’t going to happen.  At least, not before the family dinner.  Not with Drew only able to check pawn shops on his lunch hour and Pam unable to do much of anything except crunch numbers.  Not with all of these little bits of information that didn’t seem to go together or make sense.

Pam heard Drew barrel into the house, front door slamming shut, and her mood darkened at the noise.  She was nowhere near finished with this mess of books and now her husband was home.

“Hey, Pam,” Drew said, coming in to the kitchen.  Pam could feel his energy, bouncing waves of it, and it made the black cloud over her head rumble.  At this very moment, she had no idea how anyone could be happy after a day of work without alcohol nor did she understand how grown adults didn’t know how subtraction worked.

Drew kissed her on the temple and then looked over her shoulder at the spread of papers and numbers.

“Rough day at the office?”

Pam glared at him, but sighed at the sight of his dirty face, the little hint of a sweet smile under the grime.  She shook her head and went back to her numbers.

“It is a wonder how high schools unleash people on society without the basic knowledge to add, subtract, or a work a damn calculator,” she said.

“If they did, you wouldn’t have a job.”

“Ha ha.”

Drew made his way to the counter and checked the contents of the crockpot.

“Smells good,” he said, replacing the lid.

“It’ll be ready in about half an hour,” Pam said.

“Are you ready for a break?” he asked.

Pam sighed irritably.

“My day has been filled with breaks.  I haven’t been able to complete a thought without my phone ringing because our families insist that we have the family potluck here this month.  Your mother has been driving me crazy and she’s had help from the consummate pro that is my mother.  And on top of all of that, your dingbat of a sister-in-law has been bugging me about what I’m going to make for the potluck so we don’t make the same thing.”

Pam didn’t have to look at Drew to know he was rolling his eyes.  Daisy did this every family dinner, trying to figure out what Pam was making so she could make the same thing and make Pam look bad.  Pam started telling her she was making one thing and then would make another because it was an easy way to make Daisy mad enough she wouldn’t talk to Pam and Pam would get something she wanted to eat, but didn’t want to make at the potluck.

“I finally told her that I was making pulled chicken so she’d stop calling me with suggestions and questions.  I’ll make pulled pork.”

“So, we’re really having this thing at our house?” Drew asked, pulling out the chair next to her and sitting down.

“Unless one of us dies or the house burns down, neither of our mothers are accepting any excuses,” Pam said bitterly.  “If I’m feeling generous, I’ll clean before they come over.  But right now, I’m not feeling too hospitable.”

“Well, listen, I need you to stop and listen for a second,” Drew said.

“I really can’t right now, Drew,” Pam said.  She’d been looking for the source of this major number mess and she was sure she was getting close.  She didn’t want to stop now.

“Please, Pam.  It’s really important.”

Pam knew that tone of voice.  Drew wouldn’t relent until she paid attention to him.  With an irritated sigh, she put her finger on the column to mark her place and then looked at her husband.

“Guess what I found out?”

“That your wife doesn’t like to be stopped in the middle of her work to play guessing games?”

“Close!” Drew said cheerfully and Pam rolled her eyes, smiling in spite of herself.  “I found Winchester’s watch.”

Pam’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped.  Her shitty mood completely disappeared in favor of total shock.


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Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 5

Puzzle Piece Pawn

The brain tumor information was both intriguing and possibly important, but neither Drew nor Pam could figure out where the information fit into Winchester Harmon’s murder, if it fit at all.  Pam wasn’t sure that it did, but Drew thought it must.  To Pam, it looked like it was a puzzle piece from a completely different puzzle, but it had the same color scheme of the puzzle they were working.

And then came the Sunday paper.

Since Winchester Harmon turned up dead on Pam and Drew’s front step, the police had been very mum about the investigation other than saying it was on going, they were doing everything in their power to solve the case quickly, and, of course, offering the reward for any information leading to an arrest.  But when Pam retrieved the Sunday paper from her corpse-free stoop (she didn’t want to admit that she kept expecting a fresh body to be delivered with the paper every time she opened her front door in the morning, but she did), she settled back in bed next to her lightly snoring husband, opened it up, and found a whole bunch of investigation information splashed all over the front page.

Anonymous sources, the only kind you would expect in an information leak like this, were quoted as saying that though police didn’t think robbery was a motive since Harmon was found with all of his cash, although his very expensive watch was missing.  The motive was still unknown, though the police had questioned the family and the mistresses.  The Frenchman wasn’t mentioned specifically, but there was something about Harmon owing money to a “golf buddy”, though it was said that the family were aware of this debt and didn’t consider it noteworthy, but police were looking for the unidentified buddy anyway.

And then there was the will.

Winchester Harmon’s will seemed to be a source of contention with his family after a reading with the lawyer.  According to the anonymous source, everything apparently went as expected until the end when the lawyer said that there was still a portion of the will remaining but that couldn’t be read.  The family reportedly became indignant about this little secret and boy, was it secret.  None of them had expected it.

Be careful of that money, Pam thought as she sipped her coffee.  No shit, Revolution Dude.

Pretty salacious for the front page, but Murderville did love a good, rich mystery surrounding a death and Winchester Harmon’s certainly played into that.

Pam was on her second read of the article (she didn’t want to miss any potential information) when Drew woke up.  He rolled over and snuggled into her side.  Pam stroked his hair absently.

“Morning,” she said, her eyes glued to the article.  She was almost finished.  “You want some coffee?”

“Do you come with it?”


“Yes, please.”

“Okay,” Pam said.  She finished the last lines of the article and then sat the paper on her husband’s hip.  “Read that while I get you a cup.”

Pam returned to the bedroom with Drew’s cup of coffee to find him sitting up in bed, hunched over the paper, reading intently.  She put the cup on her nightstand next to her own and then climbed gingerly into bed, not wanting to disturb Drew.  Pam sipped her cup of coffee and waited for her husband to finish the article.

“What do you suppose was in the will?” Drew asked, looking up at her.


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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.”


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


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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.


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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.”


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