by Gary Hoffman
Enjoy this never before published mystery short story.
10 a.m., 2308 North Patton Ave, Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015:
“And what day is December 5th again?” his buddy Jake Kristen asked.
“National Bathtub Party Day.”
“And you want me to help you do what?”
“Tomorrow is the day when the city will pick up anything people put out in the trash. Anything, large or small. I figure somebody is goin’ to throw away old bathtubs. We go out late at night before the trash guys start working at dawn and pick up any old bathtubs we can find. Rattlesnake has a big flat bed trailer he said we can use to haul them, if I invite him to the party on Saturday.”
“And why do we need these old bathtubs?”
“Well, I have one in my apartment, but I figure the most people we could get in it is four. If we get a whole bunch more and line them up in my back yard, we can have a whole bunch more people for the party.”
“Are we gonna take baths?”
Ron laughed. “Not at first. I figure we state that dress for this party is swimming suits. Later, we’ll just have to see. Depends on how much everyone drinks. We’ll take one tub and make it full of bathtub gin.”
“You know how to make bathtub gin?”
“Not yet, but somebody on Google surely does.”
Meanwhile, at the same time across town at 1901 Onyx Street:
“Joan, it’s Susie.”
“What now, Susie?”
“Roger. My now ex-husband.”
“Define gone,” Joan said.
“Gone. Like out of my life forever. Out of everyone’s life forever.”
“Oh my God. You really killed him? What happened?”
“Well, he had just cleaned his favorite pistol and wanted to look at it to make sure he had done it right. It went off accidently.”
“Went off accidently? How many times?”
“Why five times accidently?”
“I ran out of bullets. He always left the chamber behind the firing pin empty. Said it was better that way. He was very particular about his guns.”
There was a long pause on the line. “So what do you want me to do, Susie?”
“I need you to help me move him out of the house.”
“Wonderful. So what do we do? Drive around until we find a sign that says Drop Your Dead Bodies Here?”
“Naw. Tomorrow is that day where the trash people pick up anything. I figure we can roll him up in that rug in my dining room and take him across town to some place where they have a lot of trash out and leave him there. He’s already rolled up in the rug, but I just need help getting him in the trunk of my car. I never did like that rug anyway. His mother gave it to us.”
“Won’t the police be able to identify him and trace this all back to you?”
“Well, he’s naked and I don’t think his fingerprints are on file anywhere. I don’t think he’s ever been to a dentist, so dental records are out. I should be free and clear. I’ll just tell people he decided to move to a foreign country like Canada or Arkansas.”
“I just don’t like the sound of all this, Susie.”
“What time do you want to leave?”
2 a.m., 210 East Mockingbird Hill Lane, December 3. 2015:
“There’s a place with a whole pile of trash. Even an old bathtub. This is perfect. We’ll just toss the rug on top and take off.” Joan wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Are you crying?” Susie asked.
“Kind of. This just brings back a lot of old memories.”
“No. This is number 210. That’s how many hours Cecil and I had in our wonderful relationship.”
Susie thought for a moment. “If I calculated right, that’s eight days and eighteen hours. You had a relationship? Most people don’t even get to know the other’s favorite color in that length of time.”
“Cecil was different.”
“Apparently. Come on. Let’s toss Roger on the pile and get out of here.”
Once Roger was deposited, they took off. Susie looked at Joan. “So what happened between you and Cecil to end this almost life-long romance?”
“Oh, he got called back to work. He’s a spy for the CIA.They sent him to some country that I couldn’t even pronounce. In fact, it must be a really new country because I can’t even find it on the map.” Joan got a dreamy look on her face. “He’ll come back. I just know it.”
“Better than ever, I’m sure.”
“That would be difficult for him to get any better.”
An hour later, same street and house. “There’s a tub,” Ron said. “Come on, Jake. Help me get it on the trailer.”
“Hey, man. Look at that rug. Looks almost new from what I can see of it. I need one for my new living room in my apartment. Let’s throw it on, too.”
“Okay, but let’s get going. I’m not sure if stealing trash is illegal, but with the crazy laws they’ve got today, it might be.”
“We can just drop it off at my apartment before we take the tubs to your place.”
“Make that one tub. I sure hope we can find more. It’s gonna be a small party. Maybe a bathroom sink full of gin.”
“Boy, this must be a really nice rug. It’s really heavy.”
“It’s Jake, man. We got a major problem.”
4560 West Main, Brookwater Police Station:
Detectives Neil Ruby and Jack Diamond caught the case. All they had to go on was a rather unbelievable story, a naked guy, and a rug with a small spot of blood on it.
The coroner, Dr. Harvey Glick, came in and hauled Roger away. The detectives rolled up the rug so they could take the evidence with them.
“The rug looks Persian,” Ruby said. “Maybe we can find out more about it by taking to one of the guys who sells them.”
“Know a guy. Omar Khayyam.”
“I thought he was a tent maker.”
“Well, that and rugs and kites.”
Omar unrolled the rug. “Shame someone spilled a little red wine on it.”
“Yeah, something like that,” Ruby said.
“This is one of those genuine fake Persian rugs. They’re made in China,” Omar said.
“How do you know that for sure?” Diamond said.
“See these three little funny marks woven into the fabric? They’re Chinese writing.”
“What’s it say?”
Omar put on his glasses and held the corner of the rug well away from him. “It says, ‘Woven in the Poon-Tang province of China by the skillful hands of Le Chow Johnson.’”
“It says all that in those three little things that look like dead spiders?” Ruby said.
“The Chinese language is a wonderful and mysterious thing,” Omar said. “But I think you’re right about one thing. One of them is a dead spider.”
“So who sells these things?” Diamond asked.
“Yeah. You’ve probably seen his ads on television, especially very late at night,” Omar said.
“Oh, yeah. That guy. It shows him sitting on a rug, and the rug is on a beach. After his gives a short spiel about selling everything that’s good from Florida, the rug takes off like a flying carpet. It flies around Miami and dips down to take close ups of women sunbathing in bikinis that are made of less material than in most women’s handkerchiefs.”
“That’s the guy.”
“Would he know who he sold this rug to?” Ruby asked.
“Maybe,” Omar answered. “He keeps a pretty extensive customer list so he can mail them fliers about more junk he’s selling.”
Ruby and Diamond were met at the entrance to Florida Freddie’s store. “Good morning, gentleman. Welcome to Florida Freddie’s emporium of fine merchandise. How may I help you? We have a sale going on right now and for the next three minutes and twenty-nine seconds that allows you to take two of anything in the store for the price of one.”
“We have a rug we need you to look at.”
“Hey, a problem with a rug at Florida Freddie’s is not a problem.”
“It’s not really a problem. We just need to know if you can tell us who you sold it to.”
“Now, that’s not a problem at all. Please bring the rug in through the back entrance to our fine establishment. We wouldn’t want anyone to see you bringing in a rug that might indicate we have a problem, now would we?”
Ruby said, “He sounds like a nurse in a hospital. They come bouncing into your room all smiley–faced and say, ‘How are we doing today?’ I tell them I’m doing crappy because I’m in this hospital bed. I got no idea how they are.”
“Please, please, gentlemen. Just drive to the rear of our building and I’ll examine your rug,” Freddie said, as he looked around frantically to make sure no one thought he was having a problem.
As soon as the rug was unrolled, Freddie looked at the Chinese writing. “Yep, this is one of mine. Made by Le Chow. He makes all my genuine Persian rugs.”
“If he’s Chinese, why’s his last name Johnson?”
“Lot of our fine service men used to take R and R in China at one time. Some of them left souvenirs.”
“You know who you sold this rug to?” Diamond asked.
“Let me check my records. Step into my office.” Freddie’s office doubled as a dressing room – because he sold some clothing – a rest room, and what could laughingly be called an office. There was a desk and file cabinet against one wall.
He pulled a file from the second drawer of the cabinet. “Says here this rug was sold to Peggy Norwegian. As I recall, she said she was going to give it to her son and daughter-in-law as a housewarming gift.”
Sunday morning, December 6, 2015, conference room, Brookwater Police station:
In attendance on one side of the table were Ron, Jake and Rattlesnake. On the other side were Peggy Norwegian and Susie’s friend Joan. Susie was seated at one end of the table. She was wearing an adorable orange jump-suit and lots of bling in the form of chains. Neil Ruby and Jack Diamond were standing at the head of the table. Omar Khayyam and Florida Freddie had chairs against the far wall.
“You’re probably not wondering why we called you all together this morning, so we’ll skip that part,” Neil Ruby said.
“Is it because Ron tried to have a stupid Bathtub party?” Jake said.
“Stupid is right,” Rattlesnake said. “Fifty-three dudes showed up and no chics.”
“And who leaked the information about the party?” Ron said as he glared at Rattlesnake.
“I’m hoping it’s about my now ex-daughter-in-law ruining my gift to her. First she soils it with blood and then throws that beautiful genuine Persian rug in the trash,” Peggy said.
Ruby and Diamond looked at each other. “You are aware, Mrs. Norwegian, that she shot your son and put his body in that rug?”
“Well, of course I know that, but to ruin such a fine piece of art…”
“I shot him accidentally,” Susie said.
“Five times?” Ruby said.
“When the gun first went off, I jumped. Scared me to death. My jumping caused me to pull the trigger again and again and again – and again. It was some kind of involuntary action caused by the loud noise. That thing sounded like a cannon going off in our dining room.”
“He was cleaning his guns in the dining room, taking a chance on spilling oil or something on that rug?” Peggy said.
Susie smiled. “Yes, I guess so.”
“No, but I can get some more.”
“Officers,” Joan blurted out. “I was there and saw the whole thing. She’s telling the truth.”
Ruby snickered. Diamond just curled his lip at her. “Perjury is a crime, Miss…err… whatever your name is. We will want to question all of you separately, so settle back and wait your turn,” he said.
Four hours later, the police were finished with the interviews.
“All of you can go except Mrs. Susie Norwegian. We are holding her and charging her with murder.”
“Chance she’ll get bail?” Peggy said.
There was a knock on the door. Dr. Glick came in. “Here’s my report on the Roger Norwegian case. He didn’t die from gunshot wounds. He had a heart attack probably immediately before he was shot. That’s why there was so little blood.
The only thing your perp did was shoot a dead guy.” He turned and left.
“Guess this is your lucky day, Mrs. Norwegian.”
“Why? Do I get a new rug?” Peggy said.
“Not you, Mrs. Norwegian. The other Mrs. Norwegian. Looks like your only crime is defacing a dead person. That’s a misdemeanor. Judge will probably fine you ten bucks and let you walk. We’ll turn you loose now, on your own recognizance.”
“Hey, I’m not into that kinky stuff.”
“Means you just promise to show up for your court date.” Ruby tossed his pen on the table. “Why’d you do it anyway?”
“Once in a while, Roger liked to use me to see if he still had strong boxing jab. I got tired of it. Never really planned to shoot him. Opportunity called when the dummy handed me a loaded gun.”
“Then I guess he got what he deserved,” Diamond said.
“Maybe there was a full moon,” Diamond said.
Ruby sighed. “As a wise old possum named Pogo would have once said, ‘Friday the thirteenth came on Sunday this month.’”
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