Exotic: A Mystery Short Story

Jul 4, 2015 | 2015 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Debra H. Goldstein

Enjoy this never before published mystery short story.

Harvey Johnson glanced around his cell. Affixed to the cement block walls were a bunk bed, mini-toilet, sink and two small shelves. At least, he was the cell’s only occupant. He stretched himself across the top bunk to stake out possession of it. His feet hung off the end of the cot-sized mattress, but he figured that wouldn’t be a problem for long.

Sleeping in a fetal position tonight would make him fit the bed better and would protect more of him if he got a roommate during the night. With a silver-tongued argument by his longtime partner, Jerry, at tomorrow morning’s arraignment hearing, Harvey figured he should be out on bail by lunchtime.

Lying on his bunk, he thought about how the hearing would go. The case would be called by one of the bailiffs. Jerry and he would stand silently in front of old man Hamilton, the magistrate who heard all preliminary criminal matters. After being formally advised of the charges against him and his constitutional rights, Harvey would nod his understanding while Jerry spoke on Harvey’s behalf.gavel

From the fourteen years Harvey, Harvey’s wife, Bella, and Jerry had practiced law as Johnson, Johnson and Williams, Harvey could visualize the next few minutes. Jerry would puff his chest out as he pointed toward Harvey. “Your honor, the bar has lost a well respected member and I, a treasured colleague, but my client mourns his partner and best friend. He is consumed with guilt, but he didn’t intentionally kill his beloved wife, Bella.”

Holding up the two pictures Harvey, ever the backroom lawyer, had provided Jerry to demonstrate how similar in appearance the poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms were, Jerry would continue. “Bella’s death from ingestion of poisonous mushrooms was a tragedy, not a deliberate act. Based upon Harvey Johnson’s stature in this community and that he merely was attempting to please his wife by preparing an organic salad using fixings from their garden, this court cannot possibly find him to be a danger to the community or a flight risk. We ask that he be released on his own recognizance.”mushrooms

Yes, Harvey thought as he dozed off, Jerry would take care of everything. His slumber was interrupted by a guard opening the cell door, “Johnson, come along now, you’ve got a visitor.” Confused and disheveled, Harvey followed the guard to a small room that barely held a gunmetal-grey table, two chairs, and a kid in a suit peering at a computer screen.

“Mr. Johnson, I’m your court appointed lawyer. Judge Hamilton will be arraigning you in a few minutes but I doubt bail will be granted.” Harvey stared at him. “Look, between Jerry Williams’ sworn statement that you’ve been embezzling funds from your firm and the ticket to Rio in your name he gave the cops, I don’t have much to work with.”

Harvey cursed. He could still remember the look on Jerry’s face when, making their plans to go to Rio, the travel agent promised them it would be exotic.

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Judge Debra H. Goldstein’s debut novel, Maze in Blue, received a 2012 Independent Book Publisher Award (IPPY) and was reissued by Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries as a May 2014 selection. Her short stories and non-fiction essays include “Thanksgiving in Moderation”, “Who Dat? Dat the Indian Chief!”, “Legal Magic”, “Malicious Mischief”, “Grandma’s Garden”, “The Rabbi’s Wife Stayed Home”, and “Maybe I Should Hug You.” She lives in Alabama with her husband, whose blood runs crimson. Learn more on her website.


  1. Great story! Would not want to be Harvey…

  2. Clever story. I enjoyed it.

    Recent spoof by Gail: Voters to Choose Face for Front of $10 Bill” thespoof.com/4ICm


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