Chapter 1 Scotch and No Water
Gregson had hung-up his past, like one of those hula shirts in his dingy closet. It was time to dust it off, and pack his travel bag. He got the reunion letter, in the regular mail.
“How did they get my address?” He grumbled.
Gregson remembered high school…
Morgan was going to be a nurse—and she married a rich husband. Jackie changed her name, because she could never be consistent at anything. Chad became an engineer, because his dad was an engineer.
There were others too…
He thought about Megan. She wanted to be a writer…
Megan wasn’t attractive, or popular—in fact, she was as unpopular as a student can get. She got a dictionary for her birthday and read it at lunchtime. Now, Gregson heard, Megan was a best-selling mystery writer. Who would’ve thought?
Gregson flipped through his yearbook. There he was… a mystery to everybody, and to himself. The summer after high school, Gregson decided to be a detective—his life had been one continuous crime.
He packed the essentials: extra-large swimming trunks, snorkel (he could get scuba tanks at the resort), strait-razor (in case he wanted to shave, or slit his wrists after talking to people from his past), t-shirts, cargo shorts, underwear, he thought about his silver pistol, but that was out of the question. Why did people go to reunions? Was it to prove they weren’t losers, anymore? Gregson got a free beach, free tan, and spa body rub, out of the deal. All he had to do was show up. The event coordinator was paying for everything. He was a rich banker now, who stole everybody’s money in 2008. Stephen was the ASB Treasurer. He wanted to be the president, but Joel got the job first. Joel’s life was one of consecutive wins, and he displayed his trophies in plain sight—his wife, his kids, his house, his car. It seemed to Gregson that many of his classmates were striving for an ideal. He worried that all he had was his memoirs—a lifetime of memories, he hadn’t written down.
Gregson lit a cigar, in his empty room. It felt good to be alive. He puffed clouds, into the atmosphere. The plane wouldn’t allow smoking, or excessive drinking, so he grabbed his sleeping pills, and two bottles of scotch, and rolled his suitcase out the door.
The driver was waiting. He was cheerful. It made Gregson sick that people enjoyed repetitive jobs, but he also knew this was only a projection of his values, onto the happy world. However, Gregson suspected, it was all a cover.
“To the airport,” he said. When he walked through the boarding lines, he thought it was a perfect metaphor for life. When he got onto the airplane, a four-year-old made faces at him. Gregson took his pills and smiled. Eight hours later, he woke-up to sandy beaches.
“Stewardess, I’d like a Scotch.”
“I’m a flight-attendant.”
“And I’m a son-of-a-bitch, so just give me a scotch.”
“Talk that way, and I’ll get the air marshal.”
“No need for that—just the scotch.”
“We will be descending, sir.”
It took them two hours to open the doors of the airplane— when that happened—fresh air smelled better than alcohol. Gregson took an Uber to the resort and made plans to sit on the beach as soon as possible. The waves were therapeutic. He would remain incognito, with his sunglasses, and extra layers of fat. In fact, Gregson thought it would be best, if nobody recognized him.
That changed, when he spied a blonde in a tasteful one-piece. Her skin was burned red, so that her complexion matched her suit.
“Megan? Is that you?”
Chapter 2 A Tasteful One-Piece
The woman turned around. She spied his round belly and sunglasses. Apparently, Megan was trying to figure-out who he was, in the reunion line-up. He was a criminal, as Megan scrutinized his Margarita, comparing him to younger, more-fit versions of his classmates.
“Gregson, is that you?”
“One in the same.”
“Is it true that you became a detective?”
“Yeah… I worked my way up the bureaucratic bilge pile, until I had enough, and then I went out, on my own. Would you like to swim to the dock?”
“Are you fit enough?”
“Baby—fat floats, and I ran a marathon last year.”
She smiled. Megan was kind, despite years of being socially shunned.
“You’ve aged well,” Gregson said.
“Thank you.” It was the kind of “thank you” that was indecipherable. It could mean anything. Gregson was hooked like a fish. Megan gave him a sly smile, and ran into the waves like a Baywatch girl. She swam gracefully, through the sparkling sun. Gregson followed, like a sea turtle. When he got to the dock, Megan was sunning herself, and smiling.
Gregson’s irritability was gone. Chasing mysterious females was the cure.
“So, tell me about your career,” Megan said.
“If I did that—I would bore you.”
“Oh—it can’t be that bad. You’re an interesting man, Gregson. I think Joel and Stephen are jealous of you. Rumor has it, you’ve had quite a life.”
“You talked to Joel and Stephen?”
“Yeah. After their wives took their kids on a picnic, they were given an allowance. I saw them playing ping-pong, earlier. It’s interesting—when you revisit the past, you become who you were. They grew up and put on suits, but they’re the same, inside.”
“That’s true,” Gregson said. “We’re just acting. Some of us, are really good at it, and then, there’s the real thing.”
“Like you,” Megan accused.
“I suppose so… You wanted to be a writer—and look— you’re doing it.”
“But to tell you the truth, Gregson—I always wanted to be a detective. Writing mysteries, is a way to do what I want, without getting hurt.”
It was an honest conversation.
Gregson felt like, he never got to know women well enough, and when he did, it was always disappointing. Megan was different.
“What’s the schedule like?” He asked.
“There’s a golf tournament planned for tomorrow. We have to pair-off in a best-ball tournament. Would you like to be my partner?”
“Would I!? Can you play?”
Megan laughed. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
Chapter 3 Pregnant with Embarrassment
Gregson thought about tailing her—there’s nothing sexier than an interesting woman, but they had a date set for tomorrow—so there was no sense in gambling with his good luck. With women, it’s better to dream. When contracts get involved, the romance is written-down, and the realities set in. Gregson didn’t like to do paperwork. He was a man of action, of seduction, of charm—and he was also a man of leisure, so he decided to enjoy the free spa, with some alcohol, and a large cup of tea.
“Sir, might I suggest a full massage, and a cucumber seaweed body wrap?” The Japanese secretary asked.
“If that’s what the doctor orders?” Gregson said.
“No—I’m not a doctor, but Brandy, is good.”
Gregson wondered what Brandy would look like… He waited.
“I’m ready for you now,” Brandy said.
She wore yoga pants that were two-sizes too small, showing off her sculpted anatomy. Her sports bra was custom built. She had a beautiful face. Gregson couldn’t believe she was going to be touching him.
“Did you travel far to get here?” Brandy asked. She wore a white lab coat, but Gregson assumed she got her education someplace else, besides medical school.
Her hands worked their way down his back. His towel almost slipped off.
Gregson was glad he was resting on his stomach. He wasn’t sure about the laws for indecent exposure.
When he got into bed that night, his trip was far away. A tongue was licking his ear…
“Brandy, is that you?”
“Roland!? Get off that naked man before you catch something!”
It was morning, already.
A scotty dog was licking the moisture out of Gregson’s ear. He looked past his belly at the old lady, staring at his junk in horror. Gregson was pregnant with embarrassment.
Chapter 4 Murder at the High School Reunion
She had a haircut like a boy, and her tips were bleached, with a few independent strands left-over from the 1970s.
Roland obeyed his mistress with two barks, and they were gone.
Gregson pressed the button on his Nespresso Machine—extra dark—triple shots. He felt good. It was the type of feeling caused from being touched by a beautiful woman, and then dreaming about her, all night long.
Gregson stretched, and looked into the closet. There they were—Mizuno irons. He requested them, from the golf shop. His tee-time was in 45 minutes, which gave him just enough time to cook eggs, dress in his kaki cargo shorts, and slip into his lucky green polo shirt.
He wanted to teach Joel a golf lesson—not in competition, but in style. The sun was shining, and the birds were making their own music.
Megan was wearing a low-cut mini skirt and a pink blouse.
“You look ready to play,” she said.
“There’s three groups in front of us, and I heard that Patrick is missing. He was supposed to join the first foursome,” Megan said
“Patrick?” Gregson asked.
“He was the one in our graduating class who snuck into the girl’s dorm on the senior retreat and dyed their hair gray.”
“Oh—his dad was the dean?”
“That’s right. He got away with murder.”
Gregson didn’t like how Megan said that—there was murder in her voice.
They walked across the parking lot to the practice green, but before they got there, a red Triumph tore through the bird songs, and parked in the handicapped zone. Stephen and Joel jumped out, grinning. They wore matching black sunglasses, like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, and they high-fived each other, like they had already won the golf tournament.
“Who are you guys?” Joel asked.
Stephen looked at them, as if he was analyzing stock-market ticker-tape. Then he noticed Gregson for the first time. “Man—you need to go on a diet.”
“I’m already on one.”
“It’s going to give you a heart-attack.”
“Actually, I’m going to live forever.”
“There’s only room for one immortal in our group—and that’s me,” Joel said. He looked at Megan. “You seem familiar… wait a second, are you moo moo Megan?”
She smiled. “That’s me.”
“You were so ugly in high school, they called you a cow—that, and, you had, well…” He stared at her chest.
Gregson hated high school. It must’ve been even worse for Megan.
They teed-off down a long par-four. Gregson hit each shot, hoping his ball wouldn’t land near Joel’s or Stephen’s, but it was as if gravity, or God, or some mischievous magnetism had other plans. On the second hole, Gregson hooked his shot into the sand trap.
“Tough luck, mate,” Joel said. He swung, and did the same thing. “Damn.”
Stephen teed-off and landed in the trap.
Megan was short.
When they walked-up to the pit, on the far-left-side of the fairway, Gregson saw the body. It was holding a bent golf club. Blood and brains were leaking into the sand.
“Nobody touch anything,” Gregson warned.
“What makes you qualified to say that?” Stephen asked.
“I’ve seen many a dead body in my day.”
Joel clammed up.
“Don’t worry. He’s a retired private investigator,” Megan assured him.
“I don’t know, Gregson. You don’t seem retired to me,” Stephen said.
Gregson shifted his position, looking for the cause of death—and there it was—a gaping hole in the skull. The end of the bent iron had blood on it.
“You know—that hair-cut looks like the one Patrick had when he was in high school,” Joel observed.
“That’s because it is Patrick,” Stephen said.
“Who would want to kill him?”
“I can’t believe you have to ask that—at least half of the high school.”
“Why didn’t any of the groups in front of us find the body?”
“Because, nobody is as bad at golf as we are,” Gregson suggested.
“Speak for yourself, mate,” Joel came back.
“What I can’t understand, is how he got himself murdered in less than 24 hours—and on the golf course, no less,” Stephen said. “This place is in plain sight. Somebody would’ve seen him.”
“Not if the murderer killed him at night,” Gregson suggested.
“You’re telling me, somebody lured him out onto the golf course at midnight, and clubbed him to death with a 5-iron?”
“Yes. Unless you can imagine another way?”
Stephen was hesitant to respond—being too creative after a crime, could implicate him.
Chapter 5 Tell Her, ‘No’.
“I’ll need to phone Detective Talbert,” Gregson said. “The nature of this crime suggests there will be others…”
“Others? Did you say, others?” Joel asked.
“Yes. Obviously, this was a crime of passion—and it was planned too. It is likely that our perpetrator has held a grudge for several years, and not just a grudge against Patrick.”
“Why not, only Patrick?” Megan asked.
“Because, a crime of passion can’t wait for a reunion—unless the reunion is significant. In this case, it is.”
“Do you mean to suggest that one of our graduating class plans to murder us all?” Stephen asked.
“It could be, but that might be too much killing to fit into one weekend. No—I suspect the killer wants to make a public display of their murders, and to do that, they’ll need to keep some of us alive.”
“You’re so nonchalant about it,” Joel complained.
“Oh—I’m sorry—it’s just my way. I’ve been doing this for a living. Murder is a grisly business, but after a while, it becomes a game.”
“Yes. The stakes are high enough—we’re playing for human lives.”
“No wonder no woman every married you,” Joel accused.
“We’ll need to set-up a perimeter around the body and schedule a time for questioning. I’ll call the medical examiner, so that we can get an autopsy done. Megan, would you drive ahead, and cancel the tournament? I want to question our graduating class. If I know Talbert, he won’t let any of us leave. We may be stuck here for a long time.”
“But this is only my first stop, on the way to the Great Wolf Lodge,” Joel complained. What am I going to say to my wife?”
“Tell her ‘No’. It’ll be good practice for you.”
Chapter 6 The Suspects
Gregson watched the golfers coming-in. The girls were crying—that was to be expected—and the men looked innocent.
“Patrick—I never really liked him. He was a preppy son-of-a-bitch,” Silas said.
Gregson knew Silas had spent a career in the military, climbing the ranks, until he didn’t get promoted. He was passed-over for saying sexist comments, while under the influence of alcohol. Since that time, alcohol was Silas’s best friend, and Gregson didn’t blame him—one mistake can cost a man everything he loves, especially when it happens with a woman.
Chad was the opposite of Silas—conservative, successful, and unable to be perfect, despite trying to be, for his wife. She didn’t give him sex anymore. It is every nerd’s nightmare, when he realizes marriage doesn’t guarantee sex—bad with women before marriage—bad with women after marriage. The difference is, he has to live with her, rather than suffering her scorn at a distance.
Jackie was an emotional wreck. She hated Patrick, for what he stood for, entitlement—but she also couldn’t stand the thought, that human beings were capable of murder. Her cognitive dissonance was so great, she actually believed world peace was possible, during three separate genocides, happening on three separate continents. She also protested big corporations while working for one. She had a good heart, but her mind was lost.
Gregson ruled-out Jackie. She didn’t have the planning capability or the strength to pull-off a grisly murder with a golf club. However, he long ago learned not to underestimate a woman. Chad was at the top of his list. The man could snap any day. His wife was probably having an affair behind his back, but Chad was working too hard to notice. Where was the motive for Chad? Silas could kill without a second thought, but why would he? He didn’t care about Patrick.
Candy was too confident to care about anything Patrick said to her in high school. She was a realtor, and a go-getter. She was beautiful, in a focused, determined sort of way.
Matthew was an odd duck. In high school, he thought he was Van Helsing, and he wore a trench coat during fall, winter, spring, and summer. Zach thought Matthew would blow him away, one day, when he failed an exam. It turned-out, Matthew was homosexual, so in a way, Zach was right, but that never happened because Matthew passed every exam. He came-out in college, when he dropped-out.
Zach was the class-clown, and totally useless. He was unable to make-it to the reunion, because he didn’t have any money.
Morgan married Drew. They were both wealthy. She married him for his wealth, and he married her, because every guy wanted to. Drew built custom homes, and Morgan was a nurse.
Then there was Jacob. He was a waiter. He was waiting for his life to happen, while he waited tables. He worked in a wine bar. The man was going nowhere.
Gregson looked at his mental list—it didn’t make sense, but murder wasn’t logical. It happens because of motive, and the motive happens because of emotions—primal fear, jealousy, and hatred.
The rest of the golfers were not with the reunion, and they might’ve killed Patrick, but Gregson didn’t think so. The list of suspects would shrink with the next murder, and he would be that much closer, to catching the killer.
Chapter 7 Waiting for the Killer to Kill
“I say—all of you—we’re going to gather in the lounge.”
“Is that Gregson?” Jackie asked.
Candy smiled. Her smile was sweet. Gregson had never tasted it before.
Morgan popped one of her migraine pills, and Drew drank his beer. He had a hazy, lazy, look in his eyes. He was bored. It didn’t matter that he might die—his whole life was about looking the part—being the part, until he wanted to scream. His wife was doing that, behind closed doors.
Matthew wasn’t wearing his trench coat. He was wearing tight, white, golfer pants. They were obscene. Gregson thought he spotted women’s undergarments—he quickly looked away, trying to shut-off his imagination.
Candy walked up to him, after he had taken a seat behind a mahogany desk. She put both of her hands down, leaning in, while looking in his eyes. Gregson noticed her black blouse was open—the bottom two buttons were undone. Was that a freckle or a hair? Definitely C cups.
“I know you can’t wait to question me,” Candy said. “Would you like to do it in the other room?”
“Do what, exactly?” Gregson asked.
Jackie was watching them. Gregson noticed. He glanced at Megan. She was watching Jackie, Candy, and him.
“Can somebody tell me what we’re doing here?” Silas demanded. He walked into the room, like he owned the place.
“I want to get your story, over the past 24 hours,” Gregson said. “If it checks out, you are free to go.”
“Who put you in charge?” Silas asked.
Gregson turned his cell phone over to the retired jarhead.
“Who is this?”
A stuffy voice bounced back. It sounded like it had a minor cold. “This is Detective Talbert. Gregson is in charge, until I get there. Do as he says. If not, you’ll have to answer to the authorities, and you don’t want to spend time in a Mexican prison. Many of the men are starved for sex and they would love to…
“Don’t tell me anymore,” Silas said.
Stephen and Joel, weren’t wearing their sunglasses. They looked like their birthdays had been canceled.
Jacob was waiting in the back. Chad was making-out his will. There was tension in the air. It was as if they were waiting for the killer to kill.
Chapter 8 Ruling-Out Suspects
“I’m sure it was just an accident,” Jacob said. “Let’s wait for the Detective… What was his name again?”
“Talbert,” Gregson said.
“Yes—we don’t even know that Patrick was murdered.”
“What do you think happened to him, then?” Chad demanded.
“A golf ball could’ve knocked him in the head and killed ’em.”
“I see, and how do you explain the gaping hole in his brain and the blood on the 5-iron?”
“We just won’t know what happened until we get an autopsy,” Gregson said.
“Have you called on it?” Candy asked.
“That’s next on my to-do list, thank you.” Gregson dialed Information. “Get me the medical examiner.”
“This is Doctor Graves.”
“I’ve got a dead body for you. It’s on hole number 2. We need to know the cause of death.”
“Has the body been moved?”
“Not that I know of.”
“What about the forensic guys?”
“You’ll be the first one on the scene, so bring somebody who won’t contaminate the crime.”
“Thank you, Mr…”
“Gregson’s the name.” He hung up. “Okay—now we just sit tight.”
Stephen and Joel were looser than geese. They looked like they might shit their pants.
“Heck with this—I can’t breathe in here,” Stephen said. “It reminds me too much of high school.”
“This was supposed to be my vacation,” Joel complained. “I’m getting out of here. You just don’t know what it’s like to have kids and a wife that constantly nags. I need freedom, while I can get it.”
They high-fived each other and ran towards the parking lot.
“I guess they want to spend time in a Mexican prison,” Gregson said.
“Come on—you put Talbert up to that,” Silas said. Gregson raised his eyebrows.
The Tom Cruises jumped into their red sportscar and turned the ignition.
“Give it some gas,” Joel complained.
“I’ve got to take this into the shop to get it worked on,” Stephen said. Then a bolt of electricity jumped out of the radio.
“That can’t be good.”
“Get out of there!” Gregson shouted.
The Tom Cruises jumped, and the Triumph blew-up like a rocket trying to reach the blue sky. It was a pillar of fire, and then the classic car came crashing down.
There were brown stains on the seats of their pants. They weren’t sitting on melted candy bars. Gregson ruled them out as suspects, then and there.
Chapter 9 Body Removal and Questioning
The PI looked at the scene. It was too much for him. “Talbert can deal with this,” Gregson said.
“You mean, you won’t be questioning me?” Candy asked.
“Later, perhaps.” Gregson walked to an easy chair and sat down. He quickly fell asleep. He made it look easy.
Gregson dreamed that Jackie was sitting on his lap. When he woke up, she was. “Gregson? Honey. Mathew has been murdered.”
Morgan found him asleep. There was a needle sticking out of his neck. It has tissue paper on the end of it.”
“Let me see the body,” Gregson said.
Sure enough, Matthew was dead. How could he have been murdered in plain sight?” Candy asked.
Gregson examined the needle. It was like a dart. “I figure, it could fit inside a drinking draw. What have you all been doing?”
“Silas convinced us to play quarters.”
Gregson looked at her knuckles. They were red. He was about to take charge, when another fat detective entered the room.
“Gregson, I thought I would find you in prison.”
“I like to visit, but I don’t stay long.”
Detective Talbert was from Maple Valley. They had worked on a couple cases together.
“You made good time,” Gregson said.
“Always happy to help you out—now show me the body.”
“There’s a new one. He just bought it.”
“His ticket to that other place.”
Talbert investigated. “Somebody in this room killed him. What’s that smell?”
“Joel and Stephen shit their pants. Their Triumph blew up.”
“Our list of suspects in dwindling, Gregson. I’ll need to question each of you, including you, but first, show me the body.”
They walked back onto the golf course. It was twilight, and a ladies’ golf tournament was in full swing.
“You’re blockin my shot,” said a woman with curly grey hair. She swung, and her ball nailed Talbert in the back. “I could arrest you!”
“Go ahead—you’ll be talkin to my lawyer before you eat your next meal.” She was staring at his stomach.
“Let’s keep moving,” Gregson advised. When they reached the sand trap, the body was gone. The golf club was missing. The sand was beautiful. There was no blood or brains on the beach.
“Are you sure this is the right trap?” Detective Talbert asked.
“Sure, I’m sure,” Gregson said. “How did that happen? We were all together.”
“This is bigger than I thought,” Talbert said. “We are looking at a conspiracy here, with multiple perpetrators.”
“Uh-huh. Wait a second…maybe the medical examiner retrieved the body and cleaned up,” Gregson said.
“Check on it, will you? Nobody leaves town!” Talbert shouted.
Back at the resort, the reunion was ready to disband forever. It came with knowing, they had spent four years together, and they didn’t know there were multiple serial killers in their graduating class.
“I’ll do the questioning, in the adjoining room,” Detective Talbert said. “Who wants to go first?”
“Jackie and I would like to go first,” Candy said.
After 15 minutes in private, Talbert returned. He looked drained, like the life-force was totally gone from his body.
It went on like this for two hours.
When Talbert was done, he motioned to Gregson. “My questions didn’t get us anywhere. The only way to catch the murderers, is to turn them loose. I’m afraid we have to risk another killing, to catch the killers.”
Chapter 10 Ride a Cowboy and Discover a Murderer
When Talbert and Gregson walked into the lounge, it was like traveling back in time—they were killing time in 6th period study hall again—like they never left.
“You can go back to your vacation,” Talbert said. “We’re done here.”
“But what about the murderer?” Chad asked.
“We don’t know there was a murder. Heck—we don’t even have a body,” Talbert said.
“I know what I saw,” Chad demanded. “And it wasn’t a guy who got hit by a golf ball. I’m going to my room, to bolt the door. I suggest you all, do the same.”
“He was always tight,” Jackie said. “His wife didn’t fix that. Not enough sex. Too bad he never gave me a chance.”
Candy pushed Jackie’s shoulder. “I didn’t know you liked nerds.”
“They’re my favorite candy.”
“I thought I was your favorite candy,” Candy said.
“Girls—do they ever grow up?” Gregson asked.
“No, but they grow old,” Talbert said.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Act normal, Gregson—for you, that might mean, entertaining a few females, and working on your suntan.”
“I’ll do what the detective orders,” Gregson said. “I feel like a drive.” He walked outside, under the Mexican sun and got into his Lotus Esprit convertible.
“We like your style Gregson,” Jackie said.
“Are you going for a drive, too?”
“Silas told us that hunting would grow hair on our chests. We decided to make it a scientific experiment. Candy unbuttoned her blouse and Jackie did the same. They got into their red Volkswagen Beetle.
Silas walked out of the hotel with two double-barrel shotguns slung over each shoulder.
“Jacob and Drew want to come, but the ladies will get my full attention,” he said.
“What about Joel and Stephen?” Gregson asked.
“They’re changing their underwear as we speak, and locking themselves in their rooms. I think they’ve had enough action for one day.”
“Drew and Jacob don’t get along.”
“Yeah—they’re taking separate cars. Drew has that elitist thing going on. He’s in his Land Rover, listening to country music. It doesn’t make him a cowboy—you need a cowboy hat for that.” Silas pulled it from behind his back, and put it on. “Have you ladies ever ridden a horse?”
“How about a cowboy?”
They giggled. “Get in the back, cowboy.”
“I’ll follow you,” Gregson said.
The road was chucked-full of rocks and sand. Gregson wondered how the rental car company made money. They probably billed for scratches and dings. Pretty soon, they formed a convoy, racing across the desert. Gregson neglected to ask what they were going to shoot. He hoped it was birds or reptiles, and not humans.
Drew past on the left, giving Gregson the finger, while Jacob picked-up the rear in his Honda Civic, stolen 12 times. There wasn’t a radio, or a cup holder, or a cigarette lighter, or the original car seats. Somebody had bolted a vinal chair in front of the steering wheel. It was the perfect anti-theft device.
Chapter 11 A Shotgun Marriage and Death in the Afternoon
Candy and Jackie parked their Beetle and got out. They were naked from the waste up, with no tan lines.
Jacob parked his Civic, and stepped onto Mexican soil.
Gregson looked at green fields, stretching for miles, over the next hill. There were irrigation paths, through the tall grass, like alien crop circles.
Drew parked his Land Rover.
Silas stretched his legs. “I guess this is it. Who wants to go pheasant hunting?”
Drew pulled a side-by-side from his trunk.
Jackie and Candy liked the pump-action.
“Here you go, Gregson.” Silas gave him double barrels. “Do you know how to use that thing?”
“It’s a woman’s gun,” Gregson said.
“Don’t worry—it won’t bite. You look like a man who knows how to use a woman.”
“I do—but there’s a nasty kick, afterwards.”
“Some men like ’em sweet, but you like a bitch that kicks, huh?”
“With high-heels,” Gregson smiled.
“Now, to do this competition, smartly—we’ll need to pair-off into twos. That way, if there’s a murderer amongst us, they won’t be able to kill, without killing their witness. No killer would be stupid enough to murder their partner.”
“Actually, many murders are committed by married couples,” Gregson said.
“Go figure—Gregson, you pair-off with Candy, and I’ll pair-off with Jackie. Drew—you can have Jacob.”
“Why do I get Jacob?” Drew asked.
“Because you’re married, and we know you don’t have homosexual tendencies—maybe, you’re a bit snooty, which is kinda like acting gay, but we know it’s just because you have money.”
Drew didn’t know how to take this. His white knuckles gripped the barrel, and his trigger finger itched, spasmodically.
“Now, we walk our separate ways for 15 minutes. I’ll blow the air horn. Then try to shoot as many birds as you can. Be sure to fire up. We don’t want any friendly fire.”
Drew was sweating bullets of hate, while he loaded his shotgun, staring at Silas.
“So, tell me Gregson… do you have a girlfriend?” Candy asked. She walked in front of him, like the leader she was, while he admired her Candy ass.
“Not at the moment.”
“Are you looking?”
Gregson looked up, for fear of being caught. “How long has it been?”
“Only five minutes.” Candy turned around and looked deep into his eyes. Then she kissed him, and unzipped him, and they lay in the grass, and later heard the airhorn, mixed with shotgun blasts. Birds flew above them, and they ignored the fowl. It was not worth killing, when love could be had on the ground.
More shotgun blasts… and a scream.
Gregson sat up, and Candy rolled off. “Cover my ass,” Gregson said. She gave him his cargo shorts.
“No—with your shotgun.”
“We’ve got to find Jacob and Drew.”
“What about Silas?”
“If I’m not mistaken—he’s already killed Jackie.”
“How do you know?”
“The sound of double barrels. I would recognize that gun, anywhere.
Candy started to cry.
More shotgun blasts. Then Gregson and she came to a clearing of blood.
Drew and Jacob were dead.
“Killed by an expert marksman,” Gregson said.
“Or a markswoman?”
“I don’t think so. We have to be careful now. Silas has years of military training.”
Another shotgun blast.
Jackie’s head was on the ground, half-missing.
Silas was pointing his barrels at Gregson. They faced off.
“Give it up,” Gregson said. “You can’t kill us both.”
“With a shotgun, I can. You killed Jackie!”
“What are you talking about? She was your partner!”
“You got her, only a moment ago.”
“No, I didn’t. I was with Candy.”
“You are both murderers!”
“Hold on!” Detective Talbert walked out of the tall grass, pointing his six shooters in both of their directions. “I’ll get to the bottom of this—you’re all under arrest!”
Silas lowered his shotgun, and Talbert put handcuffs on.
Gregson lowered his shotgun, but the detective didn’t arrest him. “You said I was guilty too.”
“I know I did, but are you kidding? I know you didn’t do it. I just wanted this guy to lower his weapon. Silas—you must’ve had a grudge. What was it? Your peers were too successful? Or, let me guess—you’re a misogynist?”
Silas rolled his eyes. “Just take me to my cell.”
“That’s what the detective orders,” Talbert said.
Gregson didn’t want to see people from his past. They reminded him, of what might’ve been. Now, they were dead, and he just wanted to leave, like a winter tree.
He packed his bags at the hotel. Murder always came close to him, but it never killed him.
“I heard what happened,” Megan said outside his door.
“Yeah—the alcohol didn’t work for Silas. When a man loses his career, he feels like a city has deserted him. He is in exile.”
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going into exile.”
“Where are you really going?”
“Back to my apartment to get drunk on 50-year-old Scotch.”
“Can I come?”
“I don’t see why not.”
They got on the airplane together. It felt strange, like they were strangers on a plane. Where was that from?
“Just think,” Gregson said. “You can write all of this down, and make serious money from the murders that happened at your high school reunion.”
“That’s a little too close to home,” Megan said. “It’s different when you knew the murderer.”
“Sure, it is—it’s more real.”
“What I mean is, the act of killing, is different than fantasy. It hurts too much to put the words into ink. I’m gonna freshen-up in the bathroom.” She left, and Gregson took some shuteye, like a much-needed prescription pill. Come to think of it, he got to the reunion, unconscious—and now, he was trying to do the same thing. We spend much of our lives asleep, he thought—then he drifted off—but something was nagging him, like a disgruntled housewife, at the corners of his subconscious mind.
What if Megan was the murderer? She had motive. What if Silas was telling the truth? Gregson looked at Megan’s briefcase. It was the kind that writers use, to carry their manuscripts. It might’ve been instinct, to look—that’s what detectives do—they look where they shouldn’t. Gregson saw something there, with a title:
Murder at the High School Reunion
“My God…” He flipped through the pages, outlining one murder, after another. He got to the end, and it wasn’t finished yet. Then Megan sat down with her Cosmopolitan Magazine.
“I thought you would figure this out,” she said.
“Ran-out of ideas, huh.”
“That’s right. I killed Patrick with a golf club, and let the truth run out of his skull.”
“But your novel isn’t finished yet…?”
“That’s right. I still have to kill you, quietly. You were drunk on the plane, when you got here, so it won’t be any surprise when the flight attendant finds your unconscious body. They will assume, you’ve had too much to drink.”
“I could call-out.”
“But you won’t, because I’m pointing a gun at you.”
“You smuggled a gun onto an airplane?”
“It’s a .22 caliber pen. Perfect, for writing the perfect murder. Now, name your poison—Scotch or Soda?”
Megan poured a cup of Scotch with no water, and opened the eraser cap, on her erasable pen.
“Cyanide—in case you’re wondering?”
“I wasn’t, but now that you ask, why cyanide?”
“It’s the most common poison in all murder novels—you should know that. If I used botulinum toxin, nobody would know what I was talking about. This way, my readers will understand the context of your death.”
Gregson got chills. He couldn’t feel his body. Maybe a bullet was better than drinking poison? He thought.
Megan seemed to be reading his mind, because her pen jabbed into his liver.
“Now, drink it,” she said.
A hand grabbed the glass from her, and swallowed.
Gregson looked-up. It was Detective Talbert holding his revolver. “Not to worry. I took the antidote, sodium nitrite. I suspected Megan was the killer from the very beginning. Her last novel was a bit too realistic.” He held-up a paperback.
“Murder in Suburbia?” Gregson asked.
“Yeah. The manner in which the suburbanite dies, was too similar to a death that happened two years ago. She’s been killing people to get creative ideas… However, every mystery writer should know—there’s no such thing as a perfect murder.”
“What about the plural?” Megan asked.
“Murders? —I never thought of that.”