Long legs, wicked smile: “I need your help.”

Me, balding, skin ruined from too much whiskey and too many nights eating dinner out of a styrofoam container in the passenger seat of a midsize sedan: “Fair enough.”

Scene: the library of her father’s house. Blood stains on the floor complement the rug nicely.

Six people there: her, her mother (paste pearls), her brother (sour twist to his mouth), her fiancee (short hair, large breasts held back inside man’s suit), her step-mother (quiet, mousy, beautiful skin), Detective Sergeant McRae (sardonic), Lieutenant Halloway (proficient).

Me: “Details?”

McRae: “Brained last night, 10 to midnight, something heavy and solid. Figures to be a brass candlestick, bookend, something like that. Haven’t found it yet, but we’re looking.”


Halloway, laughing: “You’re looking at ’em.”

“All family?”

“No one else on scene. No forced entry, no visitors. Doors, windows, all locked.”


“Don’t be goofy. Doesn’t match with the wound.”

“Fair enough. Motives?”

Her: “We’ve all got one or another. He was a hateful man, and, and… violent. Abusive.”

Stepmother: “That’s unfair.”

Fiancee: “You shut it. You weren’t around, were you? Maybe he wasn’t now, I’ll maybe give you that, but he sure as hell was then.”

Stepmother subsides but it costs her something. You can read it in her face.

Mother: “He was unfaithful, too.” (Bitter laughter from the progeny at this.) “And jealous.”

Me, to the Brother: “You’re awfully quiet, Chuckles.”

Wide grin, but twisted. Opens his mouth, points inside, where the tongue has been cut away, years ago.

Her: “We’ve all got our reasons.”