by The Milkman
Come follow along as I weave this story through the pages of The Mystery Newsletter.
|The streetlight, the dim bulb of the night, was landing base for the tired moths. The street was empty of activity. There was only one light on in the houses surrounding this cul-de-sac. The light was a bare bulb of an electric candle; it burned in the front window of the house with the lonely widow.
Why did she leave this solitary light on when she has electric candles in every front window. Ceiling lights and table lamps in the other rooms, but she left one light burning in the emptiness of her house; her street; her city.
There is now a gray cat in the window looking out into the dark sea of night. Its green eyes glow next to the candle. The cat walks across the windowsill brushing up against the plastic base of the candle. The cat stops, arches his back, the candle slides closer to the edge. It teeters on the edge of its wooden world, the cat is obscuring its view of the outside darken world.
The cat continues on across the sill, turns around and retraces his steps back across. The candle falls on the carpeted floor. The illumination from the electric candle has changed the atmosphere of the room, the gentle warm glow turns into the color of death and its grip is the widow. The widow is dead, not from natural causes...it is more sinister than that.
The cat sits on the windowsill, he cleans himself, and he occasionally looks out the window. Is the cat waiting for something or someone or maybe does it know something about the death of this woman. Who thinks of cats as knowing anything other than the food they like, the toy they must have, or sleeping.
The sunrise on this town showed only a little more activity then the night before. A car or two and a delivery truck drove by the entrance of the cul-de-sac but no one enters. There is no children playing in the streets, no dogs barking, not even a phone ringing or an annoying loud radio.
The widow’s body is more clearly visible in the daylight, even though the electric candle still burns. She is wearing a housecoat; purple is the overall color. There is a lovely floral design on the chest. Her hair is mostly gray with dark patches of black and brown. She wore glasses because the frames with broken lenses lay at her side about an arm length away. There is one stocking foot and the other has a sock and a purple slipper. It looks like she was in the process of enjoying a cup of tea or coffee. There’s a cup; saucer and dark looking stain on the carpet.
The cat has since removed himself from the window, on the prowl for his daily ration of cat food and water.
* * * * *
Three days later, in a different town, in another empty cul-de-sac; there’s a house with a solitary electric candle burning in a front facing window. There’s an old woman clutching a newspaper to her chest. She’s wearing a velvet robe with embroidered flowers lying on the floor. Her eyes are open but are not seeing through her dust speckled glasses. She was also about to enjoy a hot beverage before falling dead.
This house, like the other, the contents was not spoiled. Nothing seemed out of place. There were no dirty dishes in the sink, no clothes in need of laundering, no drawers were open, but yet the emptiness of the house seemed wrong.
Why did these two ladies; ladies in the late stages of their lives have to die so suddenly and without even the slightest bit of remorse? This is where I, Samuel T. Newsome, come in, I’m the person that has been assigned to this case; the case that the newspapers have deemed important enough to call the “Teatime Murders”.
* * * * *
I thought long and hard about accepting this case. I didn’t have much of anything to go on except both woman lived alone, liked tea at night, had similar likes in bedtime attire, and those plastic electric candles. There were no signs of forcible entry and no struggle. In a neat house anything out of the ordinary should have screamed out, “Hey, I’m a clue. Bag and tag me.”
For suspects that is my biggest problem. I had none except for the obvious...the person who found them. In this case both ladies were both discovered by mailmen and could this lead me to my first clue. These women both were mailed their Social Security checks and their husbands pensions. It was a lead, which could have many different avenues to follow.
I went to my favorite tavern and ordered a rum and coke. The bartender and I both had a pre-arranged agreement since I don’t drink, but wanted the people I talked to think that I had a liquor soft spot. After all a private dick can’t have his clients or his suspects know he’s soft. It was a part of my image.
I sat at the bar, drinking my rum and coke, thinking about today’s events. There were people dying in the streets, a rally at the Capital Building over one issue or another, and then someone mentioned something about how the postal service was asking its employees to take a pay cut. This revelation didn’t make me happy because I had two dead ladies, with Social Security and pension checks still being mailed.
The rum-less coke and staring into crystal clear ice cubes gave me my first real direction...
* * * * *
I arrived at the Social Security office with the death certificates of one Mildred C. Petersen and Thelma L. Tomas. The rather large woman sat behind her desk, she wore a modest cut expensive blouse and skirt. There was a matching jacket hung up on the corrugated partioned wall. On her blouse was a brooch in the shape of a dollar sign.
I thought this pendant looked out of place in the office of a government-funded agency. In fact everything in this office space looked out of place, like money was only an object. The office smelled of fresh flowers and expensive coffee. Every desk had a brand new computer with 17” monitors. Some of the other employees wore imported shoes, silk ties or scarves, and tailored suits or designer dresses.
Another thing I found odd was the lack of a bulletin board with those colorful pages telling you of other government programs to apply for. Instead there were either good prints or original artwork adorning the walls. This was rather unsettling to me.