by Rhett Shepard
Check out this never before published mystery short story from Rhett Shepard.
Detective Max Huntington moved to another part of the victim’s living room, as he considered the crime from a new angle.
Bethany Sharples made a beautiful corpse, if the sight of a woman dead well before what should have been her time could be called beautiful. Her long, light blonde hair draped like a shimmering waterfall over the back of the sofa. Her face, in repose, was artfully made up, as though she’d prepared for a special date and her clothes, despite the violence that had ensued when someone had struck her head from behind and killed her, were neat, still looking freshly pressed and understatedly elegant – again as if she’d been awaiting a special event.
When the detectives had first arrived on the scene, the victim’s boyfriend, Kirk Leggett, had explained that Ms. Sharples had been supposed to meet him at a restaurant that evening. When she hadn’t shown up, she hadn’t answered his phone calls and she hadn’t answered her doorbell, he’d used his key to her townhouse and let himself in, only to find her already dead. That’s when he’d called the authorities. They could confirm or disprove his timeline later.
Huntington’s partner, Detective Mindy Smith, entered the room, stood close to him and murmured, “Hard to imagine why her significant other doesn’t seem more broken up over her loss, eh?”
“Maybe he’s just not a very emotional type of guy.” Huntington shrugged. “Plenty of guys are that way.”
“Would you mind interviewing him?” Smith asked. “Perhaps you’re right – but, then again, perhaps he’d open up better to another guy than he would to a woman. While you do that, I could study the scene of death with a fresh set of eyes.”
As Huntington walked into the kitchen of the townhouse, he saw the late Ms. Sharples’ boyfriend standing on the threshold of the backdoor, embracing a weeping woman who appeared far more upset than he did. Leggett pulled back from the woman in his arms. Keeping his hands on her shoulders, he turned toward Huntington. “Detective Huntington,” he said, his voice calm and bland, “may I introduce Bethany’s sister, Brittany Sharples?”
When Brittany Sharples turned her tear-stained face to him, Huntington was first struck by her physical resemblance to her gorgeous sister, but then he noticed a web of fine wrinkles at the sides of her eyes and in the center of her forehead, which suggested that she was likely the older sister by several years. “Kirk called me as soon as he called the police. This is the soonest I could get here.”
Smith joined them in the kitchen and Huntington introduced the two women.
“Could we talk?” Smith asked the victim’s sister.
Brittany Sharples smoothed perfectly manicured hands over a cashmere skirt and then tugged at her satin blazer. “I suppose so.” She fingered the thick gold chain necklace she wore and readjusted the way it fell over her blouse collar. “If I could take a few minutes to freshen up first?”
When Brittany Sharples emerged from the powder room mere minutes later, it was obvious to all that she’d not only splashed some cool water over her tear-stained face but that she’d also reapplied full makeup. She grabbed Kirk Leggett by the wrist, thereby forcing him to sit beside her at the kitchen table. She turned to him and fussed over his jacket and tie, neatening them with the affection of a close friend or family member.
He, on the other hand, looked distracted and disinterested.
“All right,” Brittany said at last, “I’m ready. Can you detectives tell me what in the world happened here? How could Bethany possibly have died at such a young age and in the peak of health?”
“I think you should be the one to tell us that,” Smith smoothly replied.
Huntington stared at his partner. They’d been paired up for work only a few weeks before. She was new to the rank of detective. Prior to that, he’d heard a few rumors from colleagues who seemed bemused by Mindy Smith’s so-called sixth sense – probably envious, he’d thought, because they hadn’t been able to solve certain cases over the course of several months that she’d managed to close within weeks.
Smith ignored his stare, but continued to hold Brittany’s gaze until the older woman’s skin began to flush and she began an elaborate grooming process of running her hands through her hair, squirming in her chair and readjusting her skirt and smoothing down her jacket.
“How would I know?” the bottle-blonde finally snapped.
The boyfriend turned to her then, clearly startled by her outburst. Leggett’s face suddenly looked drawn and vulnerable, Huntington thought. Maybe the guy had a heart after all.
Brittany turned to Leggett, her concentration clearly completely shattered by the look on his face.
“You’re in love with Kirk Leggett, aren’t you?” Smith softly asked her.
“Of course I am,” the older woman whispered, still watching her late sister’s beau with open devotion. “I love Kirk with all my heart.”
“You couldn’t stand that he belonged to your sister,” Smith gently pushed.
Brittany turned away from her beloved and, her gaze searing with passion, pounded the kitchen table with her fists and cried, “It wasn’t fair – not fair at all – that Bethie should get all the youth and all the beauty, and him!”
“You were jealous.”
“Of course I was jealous! She didn’t deserve him and I needed him!”
“You decided to do something about it.”
Huntington couldn’t tell if Smith had guessed something or if she was simply bluffing when she’d made that last comment. But, whatever, it made the dam burst.
“You know what I did about it! I killed the two-timing slut and then I set it up so I’d frame him, since he never had the sense to see me for the gift I was willing to be to him.” She burst into tears then, murmuring, “I killed her. I killed Bethie. I killed her, killed her, killed her!”
Leggett shrank back from Brittany and moved as if to rise.
“No one’s going anywhere other than the police station,” said Huntington. “Understand?”
Leggett nodded wearily while Brittany continued weeping and holding her head and mumbling her litany of confessions. Huntington signaled to Smith. They’d need to call this one in to the department, but first he had a question for her. “How’d you know?” he asked once they were standing in a quieter corner of the kitchen.
“I thought it was obvious,” she replied. “Brittany Sharples is one of those women for whom everything in life is all about appearances – and the perfect way this crime was set up was . . . well, it was just too beautiful to believe.”
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