by Elaine Faber
He stood in the dark hallway. The thrill of anticipation plunged down his spine. He’d carefully planned every detail. Kill her, run down the back stairs, drive to the motel and pretend disbelief when he heard of his wife’s unfortunate demise.
He opened Myrtle’s bedroom door, rushed across the room, swung the flashlight, to her temple. Myrtle’s blood splashed across the sheets and pooled beneath her stringy hair. He stood over her as the crimson liquid oozed down her wrinkled cheek and dripped from the bed to the floor, drip…drip…drip…
Herbert stifled a yawn and opened his eyes. His bedroom furniture looked ghostly in the breaking dawn. His stomach seized at the memory of Myrtle’s blood-soaked head. My God, this time I really did it. I killed her! I need to get out of here before—
“Herbert! Herbert! Didn’t you hear me? I’m calling you.”
His heart plummeted. He sat up, and rubbed his eyes. Fingers of sweat crept along his back at the sound of her voice.
“Come and help me into the bathroom.”
Still alive! He sighed and staggered from his warm bed. When would he have the courage to kill her? He stumbled to Myrtle’s room and threw back the covers.
Too late. She lay in a puddle of wet sheets.
“Now, see what you made me do,” she snapped. “Why can’t you come when I call? Bring me dry clothes and run my bath. You can change the sheets while I bathe.”
Herbert shooed Bubbles away and pulled off Myrtle’s wet gown. Flabby layers of fat bulged beneath her sagging breasts. He shuddered as the blotchy skin on her skinny legs reminded him of chicken legs draining in the sink.
“I’ll run your bath, all right,” he muttered, turning on the spigot. “Then maybe I’ll hold your ugly head under water until you turn blue. Folks will think you slipped in the tub.” His mouth twisted in a smirk.
Meow. Bubbles waddled into the bathroom.
“Hey, Bubbles.” Herbert buried his face in her long dark fur. He drew a ragged breath and swallowed a lump in his throat. “I can’t go on like this much longer.”
The cat wiggled from his grasp.
Herbert sighed and returned to help Myrtle into the tub.
While Myrtle napped later that morning, Herbert drove to Pet Club. He placed bags of Friskies and kitty litter into his basket. He pushed his cart to the display of animal collars and glanced up and down the aisle. No one was watching. Just what he needed—a pink cat collar covered with clear rhinestones.
Perspiration beaded his brow as he hurried through the checkout stand.
On the way home, he had a firm talk with himself. This time, he wouldn’t chicken out. This time, he’d go through with the plan. While Myrtle slept, he’d open the safe and remove her father’s inheritance—diamonds! She had hidden the safe’s combination between the pages of D.H. Lawrence’s erotic novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, indeed! Now wasn’t that a joke?
How often they quarreled about those damn diamonds. How often had he begged in vain for her to sell them? He was just a slave, that’s what he was, but not for long.
At last! She slept. He tip-toed past her bed and retrieved the combination from the book. Then he opened the safe and grabbed the diamonds. He crept to the kitchen and with jeweler’s pliers, replaced the rhinestones in the cat collar with Myrtle’s diamonds, and clamped down the prongs.
A perfect fit.
He placed the rhinestones in the safe, spun the dial, and then slipped the combination back into the book on the shelf.
Next, he called and made reservations at a motel in downtown Sacramento.
His blood ran cold. His stomach roiled. Oh, how he hated her. “Myrtle!”
He slipped the rat poison into Myrtle’s coffee. It swirled in delightful designs as it sank through the amber liquid and settled in the bottom of the cup. He crept up the stairs. “Here’s your coffee, sweetheart. Drink it down like a good girl.”
Myrtle drank and within minutes, she grew deathly pale and writhed in pain. Her skinny fingers clutched at her throat as she gagged, shuddered, and died in hideous agony. He stood over her body as the blood trickled from her twisted mouth and dripped onto the sheets, drip…drip…drip…
“Herbert? Did you hear me? I’m waiting!”
Herbert jerked back from his reverie. He popped the coffee into the microwave and set the dial. Maybe it would burn her ugly mouth when she drank it.
What fun to imagine new ways to commit murder! But now that he’d decided on a plan at last, it was time to put it into motion. The handle on the coffee cup felt hot enough to burn his hand as he carried it up the stairs.
When she finally fell asleep that night, Herbert slipped out the front door and drove to the neighborhood pub where he started a conversation with Chuck, the local drunk. After three beers and several trips to the boy’s room, the Beer and Wine neon lights in the window started to slither. Now, it was time to pretend to be drunk, and with little effort he made a convincing argument. “I could have me a little shop, but no, the old lady won’t sell her blasted diamonds. What good are they, stuck away in the safe?” He covered his eyes and peeked through his fingers. Was Chuck buying it? Indeed, he looked interested.
“In the safe, ya’ say?” Chuck slugged back his drink. “Diamonds don’t do nobody much good in a library safe.”
“Nah! Not the library.” Herbert picked at a scab on his chin. “The safe is in the bedroom, over the stereo.” He sighed. “She wouldn’t give me the combination, but I figured out where she hid it. 36-24-36. Now, who does she think she’s kidding?”
Herbert gazed toward the bartender, watching with narrowed eyes. He’d remember this conversation, all right. Chuck was the perfect patsy for Myrtle’s murder.
Herbert choked back a sob. “I’m gonna’ leave her, that’s what I’m gonna’ do. This Friday night, when she goes to sleep…at eight o’clock.” Maybe a little over the top? Nah!
Chuck’s face was the picture of sorrow. “Friday night at eight o’clock, huh? Here, pal, have another drink. You’ll feel better.”
Herbert drove away from the bar, satisfied with his performance.
He tiptoed up the stairs to Myrtle’s bed. His fingers twitched as he clutched her scrawny throat and squeezed until his fingers ached and her face turned a ripe purple. She gasped. Her thrashing knocked her water glass off the nightstand. He stood over her still body as water gushed across the nightstand and onto the floor, drip…drip…drip…
“Herbert? Is that you? Where have you been? You’ve been gone for hours. I needed you, as if you cared. Bring my medicine this minute before I perish with pain. And, be quick about it.”
Myrtle! Still awake!
Herbert no sooner entered her bedroom, than Bubbles jumped on the bed and pushed her head under his hand. He stroked her back. His fingers paused over the diamonds on her collar. Not long now. “Come on, Bubbles. Myrtle needs her pain medicine.”
On Friday afternoon, Herbert sat in the library, reading the newspaper. His heart pounded. He glanced at his watch. 3
p.m.. Any minute now, she’d be yowling for her—
“Herbert! Bring me some coffee. You know I like my afternoon coffee. If you weren’t so lazy, you’d bring it to me before I have to ask, but you don’t care if I die of thirst, do you?”
Herbert stood and grinned at Bubbles. Showtime! He carried his packed suitcase into Myrtle’s room.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Oddly, unassisted, she had scooted up against the headboard. She hadn’t been able to sit up without his help for the past three months.
“I’m leaving you.” Herbert smirked. “Get yourself another coffee boy. I’m outta’ here.”
“What do you mean?” Myrtle’s eyes grew wide. “Who will take care of me?”
“As Clark Gable famously said, ‘I don’t give a flying fig.’” Herbert turned toward the door.
“He didn’t say that, you fool,” Myrtle screamed. “He said, ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’”
Herbert turned. “And frankly, my dear, neither do I.” Herbert hurried into the hallway where he whispered to Bubbles.
“Don’t worry. I’ll see you real soon.” He scampered down the stairs, grinning like a schoolboy let out of school for summer recess. “Bye-bye!”
Herbert drove to a busy shopping center nearby where he paid cash for a thin pair of gloves and a large flashlight, then on to the Starlight Motel. He registered, paid the clerk with a credit card and asked for the receipt. “Where can I find the nearest movie house?” His face was the picture of innocence.
The clerk handed Herbert a brochure from the Crest Theater. “Just down the street. They’re playing Hitchcock movies all month. Tonight’s movie is, The Birds.”
Having seen The Birds a dozen times, he knew the story line well. “Sounds like fun. Thanks.” He went out the door waving the brochure.
At 8 p.m., he drove to the theater, bought a ticket and sat in a dark corner. At 8:50 p.m., placing his coat and hat in the seat, he slipped out the back door, leaving it slightly ajar. He drove back to his own neighborhood, stopped one block over from his house, tiptoed through their backyard and climbed the fence into his yard. He crept across the patio and used a screwdriver to break the lock on his patio door. This time I’m doing it! His mouth felt dry as a cardboard hatbox.
9:13 p.m. She should be asleep. The plan was so clear, just as he’d imagined a hundred times. He tiptoed across the room toward the lump in the bed and swung the flashlight down onto her forehead. He heard the crunch as the bones of her forehead gave way beneath her wrinkled brow. He stood over her body, as the blood poured from her temple, and then dripped off the end of her ugly nose—drip…drip…drip…
Open the safe, take the envelope with the rhinestones and hurry back to the theater. He should arrive about the time the birds attacked Bodega Bay. After the movie, he’d tell the motel clerk all about the show. Between the credit card receipts, the movie ticket and the motel clerk’s story, his alibi would perfectly align with Myrtle’s estimated time of death.
Tomorrow, pretending to have lost his key, he’d ask his neighbor to bring over the spare. They would discover the tragedy together. The bartender’s testimony should convict Chuck of Myrtle’s murder and the diamond theft. Before long, Herbert would file a claim for Myrtle’s life insurance and the ‘stolen’ diamonds. In six months, he’d be rich.
Satisfied with his plan, Herbert crept up the stairs and stood outside her bedroom door, his heart pounding so loud he was sure he’d wake her, the flashlight clutched in his sweaty hand. He put his ear to the door and listened.
His forehead pricked with moisture. She’s asleep. He reached a shaking hand toward the door handle, turned it, and then charged through the door, his flashlight raised.
The picture over the stereo drooped at a 45 degree angle–the safe door hung askew.
He crossed the room and peeked inside. Empty except for an envelope with his name scrawled across the front.
He dropped the flashlight on the bed, ripped open the envelope and held the letter in the beam of light.
You were such a fool to wait on me hand and foot. You think I didn’t know you were leaving me? You can’t leave me, because I’m leaving you. I’ll live like a queen with Daddy’s diamonds. Good-luck, sucker. Myrtle
Herbert stared at Myrtle’s empty bed. Bubbles stretched and the light from the flashlight glinted off her diamond-studded collar, casting a rainbow across the far wall.
She’s gone. I’m free!
Herbert fell onto the bed, reached for the cat and hugged her. He laughed until tears rolled down his cheeks. No more fetching coffee. No more wet sheets. No more dragging Myrtle’s flabby body across the bathroom into the tub. “We’re free, Bubbles. We can do anything we want.”
He lay there for a minute, as his heartbeat began to quiet. He stared at the empty safe for a moment. Okay, now that he had Myrtle’s diamonds, and she was gone, what did he want to do for the rest of his life?
He had no friends, no hobbies. His only pleasure was daydreaming and plotting Myrtle’s murder. Now even that fantasy was gone. He clutched Bubbles to his chest, tears pricking his eyes. Panic gripped his throat. “What am I going to do now?”
Reality hit him like a bucket of ice water. Nausea swept through his stomach. “Wait! As soon as she figures out I’ve replaced her diamonds with rhinestones, she’ll come back!”
Everything would be just like before. She’d shriek incessantly for coffee. She’d have him fetch and carry like a pack mule. She’d criticize and berate him. Life would be even more unbearable than before now that she knew what he had done. She’ll never forgive me! His throat clamped in terror.
And then as clear as words on a giant billboard at a Kings’ basketball game, he knew. I’ll have to kill her! A warm tingle flowed from his toes to his fingertips. He shivered in anticipation.
She’d have to be sleeping. He’d take a knife from the kitchen drawer and sneak up the stairs. He’d creep barefoot across the room, and then he’d plunge the knife again and again into her heart. Blood would squirt up and across the duvet and splash onto the nightstand where it would seep into the crocheted doily, then drip over the edge—drip…drip…drip…
He smiled. He had no choice. This time, by golly, he’d just have to do it.
Read more of Elaine Faber’s stories in her latest book of 21 short stories, All Things Cat – Stories To Warm The Cat Lover’s Heart. Amazon e-book $2.99
You can use this link to purchase the paperback of this book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories (including more Halloween ones) in our mystery section.
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases.