Archive for June 30th, 2012

Feeling almost like a character in a bad cop show, Lt. Gibson studied the two women in front of him. They were as different as two creatures of the same sex, race and economic status could be. The widow small, dark and birdlike, but with an indefinable charm; the ex-mistress blonde and beautiful with a pulchritudinous charm of the kind that gave men wet dreams.

Tony Brayton had been loved by both. If he weren’t dead Gibson would have called him a lucky bastard.

On the table was the necklace, spread in solitary splendor and winking sullenly under the fluorescent lights. Lucinda stared at it as if mesmerized; Anne could barely look at it.

“The necklace is a fake,” the lieutenant said without preamble. “I took it to a jeweler just to be sure. It’s a good copy made by a good artist, but still a fake.”

Both women stared back at him. Gibson knew he had to be crazy to do this, but he had nothing else. He was pretty sure he knew who had killed Tony Brayton, but the one piece of hard evidence he had wasn’t really evidence at all, just an interesting tidbit of fact. The prosecutor would laugh him out of court even if the case got by the Grand Jury. If he couldn’t get the murderer to confess, she’d get away scot-free.

from The Breighton Emeralds








When I was a boy, the old Cavanaugh mansion was out at the end of Larkspur Road. It was invisible from the road, of course, having been built in the years when privacy was a privilege and the upper classes kept themselves from the prying eyes of the lower.

Now, of course, the old house is almost naked to the gaze of the world since the interstate went in, cutting through the parkland and exposing the back of the house to any who happened to glance that way.

For a while the Cavanaughs tried to maintain the old ways, even though their finances were badly shrunken. They planted tall bushes along the edge of their property, but none of them lived. Pollution, I guess. After a year or two the travelers, if they wanted to look, could be treated to the sight of old Miss Maudie hanging out the wash, or her brother Mr. Wilbur mowing the grass with an ancient pushmower.

Once it would have been unheard of for any Cavanaugh to do any kind of labor at all, but habits die hard in small towns. Even though they now had to work at keeping their lives going like the rest of us common folk, they were still called Miss Maudie and Mr. Wilbur.

Until they disappeared.

Strange how it happened, and the fact that it happened on Halloween didn’t make it any less so. That afternoon Jonas Hawke from the hardware store had gone out to drop off some nails Mr. Wilbur had ordered. Jonas didn’t make a habit of delivering, but Miss Maudie had never learned to drive and Mr. Wilbur had just had his license taken away by the judge after his fourth accident in three months, so the town sort of agreed that they’d become everyone’s responsibility. After all, these days the old place wasn’t more than half a mile out of town.

When Jonas got there everything was as it had always been. Mr. Wilbur was friendly but reserved like he always was and Miss Maudie offered lemonade and cookies. She always made real good cookies. Jonas got his lemonade and cookies (chocolate chip and sand tarts, he said) and his $4.73 for the nails and left, jokingly telling them to watch out for goblins.

The next day Mrs. Gimble and Mrs. Pierce, two ladies from the Methodist Church Sunshine Committee, took out a big box of groceries, one that contained a lot of baking supplies. They were, they said, kind of hoping that Miss Maudie would teach them some of her cookie baking secrets.

Except that Miss Maudie wasn’t there. Neither was Mr. Wilbur.

The front door was unlocked, so they went on in, calling all the time. They searched the house, but there was no sign of either of the old people. The beds were neatly made, the kitchen clean and tidy. Mr.Wilbur’s trademark straw hat hung on the hall tree by the front door; Miss Maudie’s purse sat beside her chair in the parlor. Everything was just as it was supposed to be, except that the two old people were nowhere to be found.

from The Cavanaugh Cellar


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