Murder by Letters


Adam’s mother no longer allowed her son to watch the news. Adam fell somewhere along The Spectrum. That’s what they were calling it these days. Kids with various autistic-like behaviors were spread along a virtual rainbow of colorful disorders. Regardless of where he fell, Adam may have misled the police in a local murder case.


Blonde, five-foot-seven, skin like a Hummel figurine. He saw a picture of Caroline on the six o’clock news. Later he dreamed of her body: bare middle, white skirt to match the gauzy band of fabric barely covering her boobs. Adam was almost eighteen, his mother scolded him for using derogatory language, but he couldn’t stop. The way a word like boobs bounced off his lips; it was one of the few things that could make him laugh.


Carpet fibers from Caroline’s apartment turned up inside the boyfriend’s fishing boat. Adam gave this tip to the police, right after he told them about the glowing woman sinking in the bluest of waters.


Death, especially by murder, was a topic Adam’s mother preferred he didn’t discuss at the dinner table.


Evidence mounted against Tony. That strange kid who sometimes lurked outside the station, flapping his hands, had led the police to the carpet fibers and the dried blood. They’d impounded Tony’s boat. Caroline’s boyfriend of almost five years would be skipping his annual muskie fishing trip with the boys.


Fours held meaning. Since Adam was little, he’d fixated on locating four-leaf clovers. He insisted on wearing one of only four plaid shirts. A week prior to Tony’s arraignment, Adam had another vision: gloved hands holding four black and white photographs.


“Genetics is a strong component that may trigger autism,” Adam’s mother had read. In Caroline’s murder, genetics was a strong component that triggered an arrest. “God bless her for putting up a fight,” one of the detectives said when they’d heard Tony’s DNA had wound up beneath Caroline’s fingernails.


Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.


Interrogating Tony had provided no new insights. He admitted he’d shoved Caroline, but only because she’d admitted cheating. Still, what the police didn’t know could hurt them. Caroline had threatened to expose her uncle Frank six weeks before she vanished.


Justice would be swift, and while it wouldn’t bring Caroline back, justice would give her family closure. Closure is a foolish word, Adam’s mother thought. Sure, Adam could push her, but she couldn’t imagine surrendering to a world without her son.


Keep Out. (This Means You, Mom.) Adam scribbled these words in crayon and taped the sign to his bedroom door as if he had something to hide. The police did question him. Had he known Caroline? Could he pinpoint the location of the water from his dream? Had he simply watched too much CSI?


Love can make anybody snap. Tony loved Caroline. Though she’d only slept with him twice, Caroline loved Jake, the owner of the bar where she waited tables. Jake loved waitresses. Patsy, Tony’s dental hygienist, loved Tony, despite him dumping her to work things out with Caroline.


Motivational speakers motivated Tony. He bought three copies of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. If he lived and breathed the seven habits, Tony thought he’d win both Caroline’s heart and the respect of his General Sales Manager at Kool Chevrolet.


Nobody doubted the sexual harassment claim. Jake said he’d fired the waitress for no-showing three of her shifts. The waitress said she’d been canned for refusing to let Jake cop a feel.


Omniscient narrators make perfect suspects.


Patsy mastered print contrast in her “Traditional Black and White Photography” class.


Quixotic scores three-hundred and six. Tony’s vocabulary was sub subpar, but the reckless way Caroline smiled whenever she schooled him in Scrabble made him want her that much more.


Redrum has its own entry on Wikipedia. Adam’s mother shouldn’t have left the TV on. While she slept, her seven-year-old son peered at The Shining from behind his fingers. Neither of them got any sleep for two weeks straight after that.


Still life photography had first attracted her because Patsy appreciated having control over something in her life.


Torch Lake, rated one of the world’s most beautiful lakes by National Geographic, is where they found Caroline’s body. Adam wasn’t kidding, the water was so blue the police could have been wading off the Caymans.


Uncle Frank and aunt Agnes had once seemed happy. They took long drives in their convertible on Sundays. Agnes wrapped her hair in a scarf, and filled a picnic basket with leftover chicken and two generous slices of her homemade rhubarb pie.


Veritas, the virgin goddess dressed in white, hid in the bottom of a holy well. For too long Caroline had buried the truth, how Frank touched her all those years ago, when her parents thought it would be a treat for their suburban daughter to stay summers with her aunt and uncle in the country.


Who done it? Everybody needs somebody to blame.


Xavier trained young mutants for the betterment of humanity. Adam identified with the X-Men, believing his power of seeing would reveal Caroline’s killer.


“Yurts have come a long way,” Caroline said. Jake had mocked her suggestion of shacking up together in some kind of glorified tent in northern Michigan. Even if it meant running away alone, Caroline wouldn’t abandon her dreams of escape.


Zinnias overcrowded her gardens with their brilliant pompom heads. Frank cut Agnes a bouquet, then picked out four old photographs. When they were newlyweds, Agnes had been such a ham, sticking out her tongue, crossing her eyes, pressing her hands against her cheeks in false alarm. Now she acted like a lump of clay in that nursing home. She wouldn’t speak to him, and Frank wouldn’t risk upsetting her further. Instead of telling her their niece had gone missing, he’d cheer his wife with reminders of what they used to be, could still be.   

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