by Gary Hoffman
Sadly Gary Hoffman passed away earlier this year, but his family asked if we would help them fulfill his goal of having 500 stories published so we will be publishing several of his stories over the next few months. This story has never before been published.
Half a dozen servers gathered around Vince’s table and sang a jazzed-up version of Happy Birthday to him. There was a lot of hand clapping and stomping of feet. He shot his wife an I-thought-we-agreed-to-not-do-this-kind-of-crap look, but smiled at the singers. He politely said, “Thank you,” when they finished.
One of them reminded him of his secretary, Alfreda. Al as she preferred to be called. She might have liked a masculine name, but she was all woman, something Vince discovered a month after she came to work for him. Since their first time two years ago, they managed to meet at least once a week. She was a fantastic lover—nothing even close to what Gloria had ever been.
Alfreda was only twenty-four years old, which meant she was born just two years before Vince and Gloria were married. Tonight Vince was celebrating his “big-five-0” as many of his friends called it. He had never been into huge birthday parties, and this one was even more reason not to throw a big bash. He didn’t figure anyone liked to be reminded they had lived for half a century. In the past, Gloria always wanted to do something really special for his birthday, even when he protested. He was elated, and rather amazed, when Gloria agreed to a simple evening—a nice dinner and a movie. The Bucket List was playing, and he really liked Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as actors. He felt with those two in the film, it had to be good.
He was also happy because he had finalized a plan to get rid of Gloria. When the two of them married, her father had insisted on a pre-nup that would ruin him financially if they got divorced. Her family had money, and her daddy didn’t want him marrying her for the wrong reasons. At the time, nothing could have been further from the truth.
He had run through a hundred scenarios during the past year, but this one would end his problem once and for all. After tonight, he would be free to be with Al all the time. He started putting his plan into motion a couple of days ago, as soon as Gloria agreed to a simple birthday for him. On his way home from the office, he stopped at a large discount store and bought a pair of work boots that were three sizes too big.
On his birthday, he left the office early knowing Gloria was at the beauty shop. He pulled his car by the side of the house that was blocked from outside view by tall hedges. He put on the large boots and walked through a flower bed to a basement window. He made certain he left plenty of tracks. He broke the glass, unlocked it with a gloved hand, and made sure it opened. That’s how the police would determine how the burglar got into the house. He then drove to a business district on the other side of town from his office and tossed the boots into a dumpster.
When they returned to the house later that evening, they would interrupt the robber. He would stab Gloria while making his get-a-way. At least that’s what his story would be to the police. It was a simple plan. It would not only get him Gloria’s money, but money from her life insurance. He and Al would be able to spend the rest of their lives on some island in the South Pacific.
As they were finishing their small dish of complimentary cake and ice cream, Gloria suddenly dropped her spoon and put her hands to her temples. “What’s wrong?” Vince asked.
She closed her eyes tightly. “Oh, crap! I’m getting a migraine!”
Vince stared at her. Well, this is different. We’re not even at home where she thinks I might try and talk her into having sex. “You gonna be ok?” he asked.
“No, I’m sorry. I don’t want to ruin your birthday, but I think you better take me home.”
While driving back to their house, Vince mentally reviewed his plan. He could feel his hunting knife and sheath strapped to his leg. His finger prints were on it, but that wouldn’t matter. It was his, and he had used it many times. It was just something the burglar stole. I’ll tell the police she opened the door, turned, said “Happy Birthday, Baby,” gave me a kiss, and then collapsed in my arms. I saw someone run by me in the dark, but I was too concerned about her to go after them. I immediately called 911.
“The porch light’s not on,” Gloria said as they pulled in the driveway.
“Huh. Guess I forgot to do that.”
Vince fumbled with his keys at the front door. “You still got the house key with the little flashlight on it?”
She took her set from her purse and pushed past him, just as he figured she would do. He glanced around to make sure none of his neighbors were out walking their dogs or doing something else where they might see him. As she put the key in the lock, he slid the weapon into his hand. The door opened, and he plunged the knife into her back. She fell forward, and he heard her make a small gurgling noise.
A second later, most of the lights in his living room came on and twenty-seven of his neighbors and friends jumped up and yelled, “Surprise!”
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