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The Drop: A Mystery Short Story

IN THE November 30 ISSUE

FROM THE 2013 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by Claire Murray

Enjoy this never before published mystery short story from Claire Murray.

“C’mon. You’ll really love it. The view is fantastic.”

“I don’t know, Doug. It sounds kind of scary. Why do you call it “The Drop”?

“Oh, it’s amazing. You’re walking along and there’s all sorts of trees and scenery and then… Boom! You’re at a drop-off. Go too fast and you could drop right off the edge.”

“It’s a long fall to the bottom?”

“Oh, yeah, a long fall.”

“You’ll warn me, right?”

“Oh, yeah, I’ll warn you. Don’t worry, honey. The view is worth it.”

Doug didn’t know that she came here frequently as a child and had been to the Drop many times. Why spoil his fun? She let Doug convince her over dinner in their cabin, playing doubtful and finally giving in, before he got angry. She’d come along on this weekend to see if she could find any remnants of their early years; in her gut, she knew she’d fail.

She had brought him here one holiday weekend several years ago, saying she’d read about it in a travel journal, but by then, she didn’t trust him and managed to keep them close to the cabin. After he began making solo camping trips, she suspected he was coming here. His knowledge of the Drop confirmed her suspicions.

So far, they’d followed the same patterns, doing what Doug wanted, him pouting if he didn’t get his way. He hadn’t hit her yet, but if she resisted too much she knew what to expect. I wonder if I should confront him about the affair?

Hmmm…maybe not. This isn’t the best place to get medical help if he hauls off and belts me around again. I don’t know if he knows I know, but then again, I’m not sure he evens cares. What is his fascination with the Drop this weekend? Is he going to get rid of me and then say it was an accident? I wouldn’t put it past him. He did force me to increase my life insurance policy last year. Has he been planning this all along, knowing I’d have to come along? How has my life come to this?

Their storybook relationship throughout high school and college seemed destined for “happily ever after,”
the football star and head cheerleader. Then she became ill and wasn’t as physically active as before. He reacted as if the diagnosis was intentional and all in her head. Lately, he flaunted his strength and power, demanding physical activities that were difficult for her even when she had lots of preparation and rest. Rheumatoid arthritis saps your energy even as it destroys your body.

Secretly, she joined a gym with a pool, exercising and swimming more than ever so she could keep up. She was strong, but that would only take her so far. If he knew she could keep up with his hiking, climbing and other challenges, he’d just add more. It was a game he played–wear her down, then berate her for being weak. The pattern had emerged not long into their marriage, shortly after her diagnosis. The past five years had been a constant physical and emotional struggle. The physical bruises faded, but the emotional ones were constantly refreshed.

They set out before dawn, grass wet with dew, birds and squirrels just starting their day. The well-marked trail narrowed after several miles, showing fewer signs of travel. They stopped to eat the bacon, biscuits and hard-boiled eggs she’d packed for breakfast, with hot coffee in a metal thermos she brought.

“Why’d you have to bring that heavy pot, honey? We could skip the coffee for once.”

“Oh, I thought you’d like a hot cup before resuming the hike. I want the weekend to be special. I added cinnamon, just the way you like it.” Smiling sweetly, she handed him the metal cup. Everything was calm. He wasn’t gruff or snarling.
In fact, he seemed to be extra considerate of her today. It’s as if he’s made a decision.

Doug led the way off the main trail to a steep path. She could feel the burn in her legs, but she had prepared for this at the gym. She could keep up, but lagged behind intentionally, not wanting Doug to know how fit she really was. If he knows I can keep up, he’ll add more difficult challenges tomorrow, when I need to rest. If tomorrow ever comes. I do believe he intends to push me off that cliff today; that’s why he’s so calm.

They’d spoken little since breakfast, each wrapped in their own thoughts.
They’d been alone for hours. From the sun’s angle, she figured it was about ten o’clock and they were near the Drop.

Pine, Maple, Ash, and Poplar trees blocked much of the sun, so the trail was cooler than if they’d hiked the more open trails to the east. She couldn’t identify most of the plants she passed, but chose her steps carefully to stay on the path and preserve the forest’s ecosystem. She was munching on a wild apple from the batch they’d picked in the clearing where they’d eaten breakfast. Doug’s backpack held more apples. Hers had the wrappings from breakfast tucked safely inside, with the thermos snugged to the outside of her pack.

The trail leveled off before reaching the tree line. I’d better be alert, let him lead. We’re close.

“Honey, we’re almost there. Watch your step.” Doug stepped aside and motioned for her to pass.

“Oh, no, Doug, you lead. I can keep up.” She bent forward, panting a little, as if winded. Even though the trail was level, they’d been hiking for hours and her energy levels fluctuated, so this would appear normal.

“OK, honey, if you say so, but I want to see the look on your face when you catch this view.” She had seen a hint of the open vista as they’d turned with the trail, but didn’t let on. Don’t let him know I’ve seen it. It’s supposed to be a surprise.”

Doug disappeared around the turn of the path, his back to her, then reached back, extending his hand to pull her forward, as he’d done on the more difficult parts of the climb.

She straightened quickly, snapping the heavy thermos off its catch, and rushed forward. With one swing, the heavy thermos connected with his skull, shock registering on his face.

The Drop was aptly named. His body was hidden from view and she hadn’t even heard it hit the ground below. The last sound was his voice, fading away. “Whyyyyyy?”

“Poor Doug. Don’t you remember that when we increased my life insurance, you increased yours? I never trusted you since the first time you hit me, long before I showed you the lovely cabins I said I’d read about. I’ve waited a long time, but now I get something for my pain and suffering all these years and you, well…you know what they say in all those westerns you made me suffer through–’I’ve got the drop on you.'”

Consider clicking through this ad and purchasing some fun Thanksgiving mystery short stories from Untreed Reads–it helps them, the authors, and KRL:

Check out more Thanksgiving short stories in our Terrific Tales section.

Claire Murray has two published short e-stories: “Tug-of-War,” a psychological murder mystery, and “Mother’s Mountain,” a blend of sword and sorceress with a mystery and a strong psychological element, both available from Smashwords.com and other online retailers.
She is a member of Sisters in Crime (SinC), the chapter SinC Guppies (great unpublished), and SinC New England. By day, she’s a community advocate but she rises early in the morning to write mysteries and fantasy. Learn more about Claire on her website.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachel November 30, 2013 at 4:01pm

:shudder:
Nice twist at the end!

Reply

2 Lynn Demsky December 1, 2013 at 2:32am

Sounds really interesting, will have to add it to my “too buy” list! Thanks!

Reply

3 Polly Iyer December 1, 2013 at 11:16am

Terrific story, Claire. Good for her!

Reply

4 kaye george
Twitter: @KGeorgeMystery
December 1, 2013 at 12:49pm

Nice job! Thanks for the Thanksgiving gift.

Reply

5 Claire (Clamo88 online)
Twitter: @Clamo88
December 1, 2013 at 2:39pm

Thank you, Rachel and Lynn. It’s great to hear from readers that they have enjoyed the story.

Reply

6 Gloria Alden December 1, 2013 at 2:45pm

Loved it. It’s always good to read where an abused spouse gets revenge in the end.

Reply

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