Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 263 - J.R. Lindermuth


Originally published in the November/December edition of Crime & Suspense

Schuyler waved away the smoke of her cigarette and stared across the table at his wife. Was there a more boring existence than this?

He couldn’t believe he’d once loved this woman—or at least, thought he did. No. In fact, he had. She’d been different then. Not this slovenly hag with her hair up in curlers and clad in a ratty bathrobe she must have had longer than they’d been married.

He’d been content for a while after his retirement. Time alone to devote to his hobby. Peace and contentment. Now she was retired and he had to put up with the sight of her, listen to her constant whining, inhale her disgusting smoke. He had no peace and was so bored. Early on they’d talked about traveling after retirement. Now she wouldn’t even travel as far as the mall.

All she wanted to do was sit around in this house in her ratty bathrobe, watching old movies on TV, smoking and annoying him. Schuyler hadn’t wanted this ugly box of a house. He’d bought it to please her. An ugly ranch house surrounded by a picket fence and with a rose bush by the front gate. And she didn’t even go outside. Too many bugs. Too hot in the sun. My allergies. But he had to be out there—painting the blasted fence, forever pruning the rose bush and cutting the grass. Allergies! Would she even have them if she didn’t smoke so much?

Schuyler smiled now. She didn’t notice. Too absorbed in herself. A sense of excitement coursed through his veins. He tingled all over, clenched and unclenched his hands. Things were going to change. Tonight. He’d thought it all out. Tonight was the night. Natalie would be gone from his life.

It was her own fault. Life with her was so boring. There was no alternative. He’d thought about an affair. But who'd have him? He was old, fat and bald. He’d considered divorce. It would be too costly. She’d take everything he had. Besides, he didn’t want another relationship. No entanglements. But he heard there were places in the world where pretty young girls didn’t care what a man looked like so long as he had enough money for a good time. That’s what he wanted. No entanglements. Just a good time now and again.

With Natalie out of the way, he’d collect the insurance, sell this house and his coin collection. It was a good collection. He’d bought only the best coins. They would bring a high price. He’d have enough money to travel and have a good time now and again.

Night seemed a long time in coming. But he was resolute. He was patient. It was worth the wait. He’d spent weeks planning it. Once a month—this night of the month, in fact—he went to a meeting of his coin club. While he was gone, Natalie would commit suicide. Of course, it wouldn’t be a suicide. He would accomplish the deed before leaving for his meeting.

Schuyler had it all planned. He’d composed a note that was hidden on the computer. No need for a signature. No need to even print it out. It would be found later, detailing how she’d become bored with their life and decided to end it all. He had a pistol, one he’d bought years before and kept in his desk drawer. A single shot to the temple. The gun in her hand. Who’d question it? He’d find her when he returned from his meeting, play the devastated husband for a time, then escape to a new, revitalized life. Peace and freedom.

It was nearly time now. Natalie was curled up on the sofa, watching one of her stupid reality shows. He poked his head around the corner and into the room. “I’m going to my meeting soon,” he told her.

She waved a hand at him. “So, go.”

Yes. He wouldn’t miss her. Not a bit.

Schuyler went to his den. He crossed the room to his desk and pulled open the drawer. The gun. It wasn’t there.

He heard a noise behind him and turned.

Natalie leaned in the doorway, smoking one of her infernal cigarettes. “This what you’re looking for?” She held the gun in her hand, pointed at him. “I found the note. Suicide? I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“What? You misunderstood. I didn’t mean.”

“You bore me. Bore me to death. So, I decided you’re going to have an accident.”

“Natalie.” He took a step toward her, one hand raised before him. “We can talk about this.”

She smiled. “I thought you’d gone to your meeting. I heard a noise and came to investigate. I thought someone had broke in and was trying to steal your precious coin collection. I got your gun and I shot you. Of course, I didn’t know it was you. You were supposed to be at your meeting. It was dark in the den. I saw a movement and I fired, thinking it must be a thief.”

“You can’t.”

“Oh, but I can. I’ll be the devastated widow for a while. But I’ll get over it.”

Schuyler took a step toward her. He heard the click of the hammer. She smiled as she pulled the trigger.

BIO: J.R. Lindermuth is the author of seven novels, including three in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series. He has published short stories and articles in a variety of magazines, both print and online. Check out Jack’s Place for reviews and sample chapters.

1 comment:

Joyce said...

Ooops! Great suspenseful build-up and twist at the end. Loved it.