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by Joy
Rated: ASR · Short Story · Mystery · #504839
The investigator for defense has amorous hopes concerning the pretty defendant.
         I look at Marge, a pretty, young blonde, telling me her story vividly. As she talks I imagine her in a paint-smeared coverall with a spatter of titanium-white on her right cheek, standing in the doorway of her grandfather's room. Should she check on her grandfather? No need to make such a fuss. The sick old man needs his sleep. She says the street quieted down after a booming sound, which distracted her at 2:00 a.m. Since it is late already, she decides to go to bed.

         She says the Monroe County Art Exhibit is days away. She needs some fresh pieces and aims for first place. Her major competition is from Brandon Sunderland, a middle-aged painter. In order to compete, Marge has to paint at night. Between work and her ailing grandfather, she has little time during the day.

         Marge says she slept deeply that night until eight in the morning, an hour later than usual. Her boss will yell; she knows it. As she rushes out the door, she can barely greet the day-nurse just walking in.

         That afternoon, her boss calls Marge into his office.

         "Marge, someone wants to question you."

         Marge walks in, puzzled.

         "Miss Eckersley, where is your grandfather?"

         "Why, at home, of course. Is something the matter?" Marge asks the oversized policeman with the ruddy complexion.

         "Your grandfather's nurse told us she couldn't find him in his room. When was the last time you saw him?"

         "Last night."

         "You didn't check on him in the morning?"

         "I slept late, but the nurse was there."

         "The nurse informed us that your grandfather is missing, and your neighbor's dog has found a body in the woods not far from your residence. I need you to come with me immediately."

         Why do I take on jobs like this? Maybe it was Ronny's insistence. Ronny got the police to let Marge go free, provided she doesn't leave town. Ronny is Marge's lawyer. He believes the police will drop the case for lack of evidence, but with me as the defense's private investigator, Marge will have the upper hand. I think, more than anything, I took this case because of Marge's dreamy blue eyes and the sunlight flickering on her curls.

         I review Marge's predicament. Her grandfather is dead with a gunshot wound to his head. No weapon is recovered. A blue bandanna is found near the body. Marge blabs that she heard the gunshot and didn't check on the old man. The nurse and her boss tell the police that Marge was agitated that morning. To top it off, the grandfather makes Marge his only heir in his will, enough motive for the D.A.

         A neighbor says most everyone on their usually quiet street heard the gunshot that night. She admits in passing that Marge wasn't a very responsible caretaker. Meanwhile, I'm given the autopsy report.

         I go to the grandfather's doctor. He tells me the old man had pancreatic cancer and wouldn't live more than a few more months.

         Marge says she didn't pay much attention to this, hoping the doctor was wrong. While we talk, a young athletic man, Daryl, comes in. He's handsome and nervous. Marge introduces him as her boyfriend. Inside me, I curse my luck.

         I ask Daryl where he was that night. He says he came to see Marge at 10:00 p.m. after his late shift. Then, he went home to sleep. Marge hasn't told the police about his visit that night. She says she didn't want to get him involved in this.

         Daryl is uneasy about his relationship with Marge. "Women these days...a career and fame...that's all they care about," he says.

         In the meantime, Brandon Sunderland takes the first prize in the county's exhibit. Marge hasn't entered. I go talk to Brandon Sunderland. He lives in the next town. That night he was at a party that lasted until after 3:00 a.m. There were people with him at all times.

         The only other relative is grandfather's rich socialite sister. She says she was only too happy to have Marge take care of her brother. She doesn't seem to care how things turned out.

         Unannounced, I visit Daryl. His studio apartment has Remington prints on the wall. This guy has a thing for cowboys. By mistake, or rather faking a mistake, I open a closet to find a stack of red and blue bandannas on a shelf.

         Ronny wants to keep quiet about Daryl's bandannas since Marge can get in hot water, but I talk to the police if only to get Daryl out of my way.

         Buried in a lot behind Daryl's apartment, police dogs find the gun that killed Marge's grandfather.

         Daryl is called in for questioning with everyone present.

         "Yes, I shot him. He was in pain, and he didn't want to suffer any longer. That night Marge was working in her studio over the garage. When I was leaving, I told her not to waste time to see me to the door. I left the door open to come back later. Grandfather came out with me willingly. Marge never heard a thing," he confesses.

         I watch Marge swallow her breath. Her eyelashes flutter and blonde curls move with each motion of her head. No, not her...My heart has lost its music like a violin out of tune. Daryl looks at Marge.

         "Tell the truth, Daryl," the police detective says. "In the autopsy, they found a highly concentrated amount of barbiturates in the body. The doctor says he never prescribes barbiturates for the elderly, but a half-used bottle of Luminal was in Marge's wastebasket at work, the day after the murder. What do you know about that?"

         "Daryl and I did it together," Marge blurts out. "But out of love. I swear. He was in pain. He asked us to do it. We didn't want him to suffer."

         Suddenly, they are in each other's embrace, sobbing. I leave the room for a breath of fresh air.

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