You Can Do The Math: Mystery Short Story

Aug 4, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Kaye George

This mystery short story was previously published in the anthology All Things Dark and Dastardly.

You can do the math. After all, you’re an accountant. Forty-five minutes ago, your husband said he’d be home in an hour. He should be home soon. Dinner’s almost ready, just pop the enchiladas into the oven when he gets here.

He’s been giving someone outrageously expensive jewelry and renting opulent hotel rooms. You’ve seen the credit card line items. The idiot hasn’t taken into account that you pay all the bills. He’s such a tech-ignoramus he probably doesn’t realize you can look at everything he does with that damn card through the online account.

That someone is probably Angie, his new secretary. You even told her you were planning something special for him tonight, for his birthday. Their story is usually that he’s working late. Oh well. He’s here now, early, and it’s time for action.

Dinner isn’t quite ready, but the margaritas are. They’re shaken just the way he likes them. The ingredients measured with precision, just the right amount of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice. His rim salted evenly. He can’t complain about clumps tonight. You don’t like your rim salted, so it’s obvious which glass is his.

You hear his car drive up. It’s pretty blatant that he leaves it on the driveway so he can get back to his mistress’s place after you feed him. The front door bangs open and he slams it shut. He comes up from behind and gives your rump a hard pinch, the bastard, then swaggers to the sink and pours a glass of water. He takes a swig. You sprinkle a little more cheese on the enchiladas and start the oven.

He wipes his mouth on the back of his hand. Has he always been this big a slob? Angie complains about it, too. It might even bother her more than it bothers you.

Angie started three months ago and it took him exactly one month to start with the gifts. You’re sure he’s banging her, just like he’s banged every secretary he’s had. After all, you were his first one, before you worked your way up in the company and became his wife.

If he were a more careful person, he might have discovered that, while you’ve been keeping the books for his trucking business, you’ve been skimming quite a bit off into a private account for yourself. He and the IRS know about one set of books. Only you know of the other set.

He pours the margarita into his glass and sniffs it.

“Mm, good. You know how to make these, darlin’.”

You turn and give him a smile. You try to make sure it’s not a smirk.

You hold your breath while he licks the salt from the rim.

“Happy birthday, darling,” you say.

“The years are adding up, aren’t they?” he says. He hasn’t tasted the drink yet.

You’re almost home free. Tonight he can go into the mulch pile and later, when you’ve dug up the ground for the new bushes, he’ll go there. Then toss the margarita fixings into the lake. And call the cops after the bushes are planted, saying he never came home from his mistress’s place.

He lifts the glass, takes a sip. You half turn away and you’re looking out of the corner of your eye. His glass slips to the floor where the carpet cushions it. But, damn, all that liquor spilling on that nice Oriental rug. Does potassium cyanide stain? Whether it does or not, it’s seeping into the rug, which means you’ll have to dispose of that, too.

His last glance conveys his disbelief. He knows you’ve poisoned him. Now you smile broadly.

You lean over him and whisper, “Bye, bye, lover.”

He can’t hear you, he’s already dead. It worked so fast. You wanted to say more. You wanted to tell him everything had added up. The affairs, the neglect. As well as the money into your off-shore account. You double check. There’s no breath, no heart beat. He’s completely gone.

In a stroke of brilliance, you wrap him in the soaked carpet. He’s much easier to transport that way. You just drag the whole thing out the back door, shove it deep into the mulch pile. Then cover him up, nice and tidy. No one will ever know he’s beneath the ground after you transfer him and plant over him. You won’t tell the cops that you know Angie is his mistress. You’ll act like you don’t know who he’s been seeing. You’ll have no idea where he could have disappeared to.

The next morning, you wake up with a happy sigh. He’s gone. You’ll have a leisurely breakfast, then start digging for the oleander bushes. Later you can ditch the rest of the poison.

Sipping a second cup of coffee, gazing into the back yard where the bushes will soon be, you’re horrified to see that damn neighbor dog, digging in the mulch pile.

When you rush out with a broom to shoo him away, the dog’s owner is watching from his yard. Does he see the arm the mangy mutt uncovered? He takes his cell phone from his pocket, turns his back, and walks away with his dog.

You’re still shoveling frantically two hours later when two uniformed police officers appear.

You’re shocked to see Angie behind them. In fact, your mouth drops open as the shovel falls to the ground. Angie has a slight smile on her face, not a friendly one.

“Angie killed him,” you scream. “She’s been sleeping with him, threatening to tell…” Tell what?

Angie shows you a shiny badge. You squint and see the words ‘Department of the Treasury’. You read the big letters aloud, “Special Agent?”

“Yep,” says Angie. “I’m an undercover IRS agent. Your husband leaves work early with the receptionist, not with me.”

“What are you doing working at his office?”

“Looking into some accounting records that don’t add up. Not sleeping with your husband.”

She steps back and lets the police take over. Angie’s pretty good at math herself, you figure.

Everything would have been fine if only that damn neighbor dog hadn’t dug up the body and the neighbor hadn’t called the cops.

When you receive your prison sentence, you can do the math. You’ll be an old woman by the time you get out.

Check out other short stories by Kaye George in KRL’s Terrific Tales section.

Kaye George, twice nominated for Agatha Awards, is the author of Choke: An Imogene Duckworthy Mystery, as well as numerous short stories which appear in various online and print magazines and anthologies. She reviews for Suspense Magazine, writes for several newsletters and blogs, and has given workshops on short story writing and promotion.


  1. Terrific story, Kaye. Absolutely loved it.

  2. Great story, Kaye! Love the photos, too. (And great job to Lorie, too).

    bobbi c.

  3. tee hee, what a fun story. Hubby and wife deserved one another.

  4. Most excellent K, Made me chuckle when she wanted to chew him out more before he died.

  5. Thanks for coming by and commenting, Marilyn and Don!

  6. Thanks, Kathleen! I’m glad this story was successful. I don’t have to do second person present tense again. 🙂

  7. I’d like to mention that, when this was published in our short story anthology, Ramona DeFelice Long did some valuable editing to make this story work.

  8. Love the POV, Kaye. It’s a compact story, but it’s fully developed. Loved Smoked too!

  9. Loved this. Neat little twist.

  10. Thanks, E. B. and Larry! It’s so cool to get this feedback.


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