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Mother’s Bad Day: A Mother’s Day Mystery Short Story

IN THE May 11 ISSUE

FROM THE 2017 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by Alan Cook

Enjoy this never before published Mother’s Day mystery short story!

When George pulled his beat-up Toyota into his mother’s driveway, there was a shiny new car already parked there he didn’t recognize. Then he saw the “T” logo and realized it must be a Tesla. His twin sister, Georgia, had to be here already. Teslas weren’t big in this town. She must have rented it when she flew in from the East Coast. Could you even rent a Tesla in Nowheresville?

George gritted his teeth as he walked to the front door. He had to face her sooner or later. He saw that the door was ajar. He pushed it open and walked into the wood-frame house that had been in the family for fifty years. He heard low voices coming from the living room. He entered it and saw his mother and Georgia sitting on the sofa with the blanket covering its back to hide a bare spot.flowers house

Georgia was holding Mother’s hands and his mother was crying. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen her cry. He rushed to the sofa.

“Mom, what’s the matter?”

Had Georgia made her cry? That was like her. He bent over to give his mother a kiss and then plunked himself down beside her.

“Well, hello to you, too.”

Georgia, on the other side of their mother, stared at him, reproach in her eyes. He only saw his sister once a year for Mother’s Day weekend. That was enough. Both of them felt that way.

“Sis. Hey. Uh, did you have a good flight?”

“Flights. I had a two-hour layover in Chicago.”airplane

Not wanting to get roped into hearing a recital of her travel problems, George turned back to the lady with the perfectly groomed gray hair who still looked beautiful to his eyes. She struggled to speak.

“Letitia’s dead.”

Letitia is Mother’s best friend and next-door neighbor. George was shocked. The last time he’d seen Letitia she’d looked remarkably healthy.

“What happened?”

Her voice wavered. “The deputy accused me of murdering her.”

More shock. George looked at Georgia who was bursting to speak.

“If you’d gotten here earlier, you could have helped.”

“Unlike you, I don’t have a rich husband, and I have to work for a living. I can’t leave the school whenever I like. I teach an English class last period.”

Mother put a hand on each of their knees.

“Children, please don’t fight. You used to get along so well.”

She was right. What had happened to them during the eight years since they had graduated from high school? Mother was in no shape to talk. George looked at his sister, hoping she could make sense out of this mess. Georgia took a deep breath before she spoke.

“I hadn’t been here ten minutes when there was a loud knock on the door. I thought someone was going to break it down like they’re always doing on TV. I yelled I was coming and opened the door. There stood this big burly cop with a huge head—“

“Sheriff’s deputy, Dear.”

Georgia stared at her mother. “Whatever. Anyway, he said, ‘Where’s Anna Patterson?’ loud enough to wake the dead. Then, without waiting for an answer, he pushes past me and races into the kitchen where Mom is making cookies.”cookies

Mother found her voice. “He scared me half to death. I dropped the cookie sheet I was taking out of the oven upside down on the floor, so I couldn’t even offer him a chocolate chip cookie to try to calm him down.”

Georgia took up the tale. “The sheriff’s deputy marched Mom in here, sat her down, and started firing questions at her. He asked her where she’d been between ten a.m. and noon this morning. I told her not to answer until we knew what this was all about, but she didn’t listen to me.”

Georgia’s husband was a high-powered Washington attorney. Mother looked aggrieved.

“I just told the truth. I said I was here cleaning up the house for you two because you were coming for Mother’s Day weekend.”

Georgia said, “The cop says, ‘Were you at Mrs. Shoch’s house at all this morning’ and Mom says no, and I said, ‘Isn’t it about time you told us what’s going on?’ The cop turns to me and says, ‘Someone shoved a carving knife in her back this morning and there’s a label on the handle with your mother’s name on it.’ ”

George said, “Mom, did you lend Letitia a knife?”

“No, of course not. She has her own knives. She doesn’t have to borrow one of mine.”knife

“Then how—?”

Georgia cut in. “Before you fly off the knife handle, let me tell you the rest of the story. I asked about fingerprints on the handle. The cop admitted it had been wiped clean. Mom said she didn’t put her name on her knives. He asked if he could look in her kitchen. I told her not to let him without a warrant, but she said to go ahead, she had nothing to hide. He found her other carving knives in a rack. One knife was missing. The others had her name on the handles printed with a label maker.”

Mother was crying again. “I don’t even own a label maker.”

Georgia relentlessly continued. “The cop started looking in her kitchen drawers. Guess what he pulled out of one?”

Before George could say anything, Mother said, “He found a label maker, but I didn’t put it there.”

“Fingerprints?” That’s all George could think of to say.

Georgia shrugged. “We don’t know. He popped it into a plastic bag and took it with him.”

Mother said, “Before he left he told me not to leave town. I thought they only did that in British murder mysteries.”

***

“Mom, we need to make a list of who’s been in the house recently.”

George had obtained a piece of paper to make notes on. The three had baked the second batch of cookies together in an attempt to calm Mother down, and were nibbling on them as they drank tea. They needed to try to figure out what had happened before the deputy came back and arrested her. Mother appeared to be able to concentrate now. She thought for a minute.tea

“Emily came over for coffee a couple of days ago. The gardener was here yesterday, but he only works outside. I can’t remember anybody else who’s been in the house.”

Emily was less harmless than a fly. George paid for the gardener because Mother’s arthritis kept her from mowing the lawn and doing some of the other garden chores she loved. He was sure the man wasn’t a murderer. This wasn’t getting them anywhere.

“Someone had to have gained entry to your kitchen for a few minutes when you weren’t here in order to take one knife, stick the labels on the other knives and put the label maker in the drawer. Although he—or she—would of course have made the labels in advance, so it wouldn’t have taken very long. This person is trying to frame you for Letitia’s murder.”

“But how could someone get in the kitchen without me knowing it?”

“You didn’t notice the labels on the knives?”

“I haven’t used those knives for years. Why would I cook a roast just for me? When you come over for dinner I make something simple so I won’t be eating leftovers for a week.”

“I was checking the weather here before I came, and you’ve had some warm days recently.” Georgia put down her teacup. “Have you been sitting out in the side yard like we used to do in the summer when we played croquet?”

“Well, yes. A couple of days last week. It was so sunny and beautiful. I’m glad spring is finally here, and I can get out.”blossoms

“Did anybody see you?”

Mother thought about that. “Letitia has a handyman who comes over and does chores for her. I waved to him one of the days I was outside.”

George said, “He could have circled around the front of the house, using your bushes as a cover, and gone in the back door. You didn’t lock it, did you?”

Mother looked stunned “No, of course not. I was just around the corner. Why would I lock the door?”

Georgia asked, “Do you know his name?”

Mother thought. “My memory for names is shot. But his face looks familiar…I think he was in your class at school.”

George and Georgia looked at each other.

Georgia said, “Do you have a copy of our high school yearbook?”

“There may be one in my old room.”

George took the stairs two at a time and entered his room, which was more of a shrine since he hadn’t slept there for years. Several yearbooks were lined up on a bookshelf. George grabbed their senior yearbook and raced back downstairs. He sat between Mother and Georgia and went through the individual class pictures one page at a time.

Mother stabbed her finger at one of the pictures. “That’s him.”

“Are you sure?” Georgia scowled.

“Yes. I may forget names, but I never forget faces. And bodies. He’s still big, just like he used to be.”

“Snot-nosed Randy. He was a jerk and a half. Always asking me for dates. As if…”

Georgia jumped up. “I’m going to confront him.”

George jumped up too. His sister had always been impulsive, and he had protected her from some of her worst impulses. He hadn’t liked Randy either, and had hardly seen him since high school, but what he’d heard about him wasn’t good.

“I’m going with you. You don’t know where he lives.”

***

Georgia steered the Tesla down the long and curving dirt driveway. Randy lived in a shack and apparently did some farming, in addition to working odd jobs. A smell of animal manure permeated the air. An old car was parked in the lane with the trunk open. George saw several large silver bowls and plates sitting in the trunk. He had seen them at Letitia’s house, and remembered hearing her talk about their value. They were antiques and worth a lot of money. He pointed them out to Georgia.road

She smiled grimly. “We’ve got the bastard.”

Randy’s car partially blocked George’s view of the building beyond, but he heard what sounded like a screen door slam. Suddenly, he realized they could be in a dangerous situation, since they were looking directly at evidence of the crime.

“We’ve got to get out of here.”

Georgia had a better view from her side of the car.

“He’s coming this way. He’s got a suitcase—and a rifle. He’s doing a runner.”

“Turn the car around. We’ll go get the sheriff.”

“Too late for that. The trees are too close to the driveway.” Georgia grabbed George’s arm. “Quick, get on the floor of the backseat before he sees you.”

George hesitated. “What are you—?”

“Go! If he sees you he’ll shoot. I can handle him.”

Georgia reached past him to open his door, and pushed his shoulder.

Georgia was an irresistible force when she was worked up. George quickly got out, dove into the backseat, and they shut both doors softly. He lowered himself to the floor. She got out of the car and raised her voice.

“Hi, Randy. Do you remember me?”

George held his breath waiting for the answer. He heard Randy speak in a surprised voice.

“Georgia Patterson? Rat fink George’s sister. I thought you took off for the big city. What are you doing here?”

“I’m on my way to my mother’s house for Mother’s Day. But I decided to take a drive around the area first for old time’s sake, and I saw the name Fenster on your mailbox. I knew it must be you. I decided to say hello.”

Georgia leaned on the window of the car and spoke softly to George. “He’s putting the rifle and the suitcase in the trunk of his car. Now he’s closing the trunk.”

“Good. Now let’s get out of here.”

“By the time we talk to the cops he’ll be gone.”

“We can call them on my cellphone.”

“It’ll take too long to explain.”

Before George could reply to this, Georgia had taken her head away from the window and was speaking to Randy again. She wasn’t talking as loudly as she had before. He must be approaching the Tesla.

“I…well, I owe you an apology for how we treated you in high school.”

George heard Randy say, “What kind of car is that?”

“It’s a Tesla. All electric. Get in and I’ll take you for a drive.”

“I’m kinda busy right now.”

“Just for a few minutes. I…I had a secret crush on you in high school, but I couldn’t admit it to my friends. You know how things are in school. Maybe I can make it up to you now.”

George couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He wanted to burst out of the car and grab Randy, but that could be dangerous. Randy had played center on the high school football team, and Mother had noted his current size. Randy spoke; he was right beside the car.

“You cheerleaders went with other guys on the football team, but you wouldn’t give me a whistle.”football

“Get in, that’s not completely true. I’ve got a story to tell you.”

“This is quite a car. You must have married into money.”

Both of the front doors closed. George got a whiff of Randy’s clothes. He must have done some farm chores today when he wasn’t killing Letitia. Georgia carefully turned the Tesla around, avoiding the trees, and drove along the lane. George wondered what she was up to. He hoped she had a plan. Once she got to the road she asked Randy what he had been doing since high school. They chatted for a few minutes, and then Randy sounded a bit uptight and said he had to get back to his place.

Georgia kept driving. “Before I take you back I want to tell you that story I promised you. As you know, there was a connecting wall between the boys’ and girls’ shower rooms at the school. Someone managed to put a hard-to-detect hole in the wall—”

“I don’t know anything about that.”

“Sure you don’t. Anyway, it was found after a while and covered. But then you guys won the league football championship. After the game the cheerleaders were showering on one side of the wall and the football team on the other. Everybody was sky high, and someone on our side removed the plug. And you had a note taped to your locker right after the game saying that would happen, so you were the only player who knew. You had the view all to yourself. Did you enjoy it?”

George had never heard this story before. He had been a basketball player. He could barely contain himself.

Randy was silent for a few seconds. Then he spoke in a tone of disbelief. “Are you telling me you…? Hey, where are we going?”

Georgia was making a turn into what felt like a driveway. The Tesla’s panic alarm went off as the car came to a stop. Randy yelled something over the strident sound. George rose up like a spirit from the grave and saw they were at the sheriff’s station. Randy had the door open and was preparing to exit the car when George reached over the seat back and grabbed him in a choke hold. Georgia scrambled out her side. A couple of deputies came running from the station.

***

“Nobody told me about the hole in the wall.”

They were on the way back to Mother’s house. Randy was in custody.

“Sure, the guys are just about to tell the brother of a cheerleader.”

“But you knew about it.”

“Almost from the beginning. We used it for our own purposes.”

And all through high school George had thought he was protecting his sister.

“But the story you told Randy about the championship football game couldn’t be true.”

“He wanted it to be true. Enough of it was so his mind filled in the blanks. I had to keep his attention so he didn’t figure out where we were going. There’s the florist. Let’s stop and get Mom a Mother’s Day bouquet from both of us like we used to do.”flowers

***

Mother was crying again, but this time it was tears of joy. She had an arm around each of her children.

“I’m so sorry about Letitia, but this turned out to be a happy Mother’s Day weekend after all. I’m thankful for you and proud of you both. You’re working together again. It’s too bad we can’t meet more than once a year.”

George looked at his sister. They had discussed this on the way here. He let her talk.

“But we can. I want both of you to come to Washington after school’s out. I’ll give you the grand tour. I can get us into the White House. Roger has enough frequent-flyer miles from all his world travel to go to the moon and back, so that won’t be a problem. You can stay at our house. We have extra bedrooms.”

George reached across Mother and squeezed Georgia’s hand. It was good to have a sister again.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

Alan Cook is a writer of mystery/suspense novels. His Carol Golden novels feature Carol, who gives herself this name when she gets amnesia from a blow to her head, and then has to work to get her life back. His website is alancook.50megs.com.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ellen CreaneNo Gravatar May 12, 2017 at 10:50am

Wow! What a great read, Alan. I enjoy your books very much. The dialogue is realistic, the plot believable and original. Well done!

Reply

2 kathyNo Gravatar May 13, 2017 at 11:07am

Good story, characters and a nice twist. Enjoyed it. Thanks.

Reply

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