by Bridget Callahan
There is a body.
Over there, by the door to the veranda.
It existed before anyone found it. It came before the beginning of time. It was as real as the drapes in this drawing room were before this chapter started, and thousand of disembodied eyes gazed upon its gruesome visage.
God, it’s ugly.
The body, not the drapes.
The throat is cut.
There is poison in the blood.
The eyes bulged out, is how we know. And vomit, in the body’s throat.
Why would someone poison and then cut, is the question?
They used to refer to poison as a lady’s weapon of choice – they said this because women were regularly held captive in relationships to terrible men. Poison is the weapon of someone who feels powerless physically against their foe.
There are vines all over the body.
There are small, grubby things crawling on the pants of the body.
There is a small patch of mud on the back of the body’s head.
The lab will let us know on Monday.
We have suspects.
One is a woman. She is the daughter of the king and has a tattoo of a castle on her chest. She carries her home with her. Good thing she does, because nobody in this house likes her, even though she was born here.
There is another woman, whom everyone says they like. She is the prettiest of the sisters. Her husband lost a lot playing the markets. But then he married rich, or thought he did.
The wife is here. She is a suspect.
She is impeccably dressed, and those are not her real eyes.
One of the suspects is a man who wears a newsboy hat all the time, and talks about peonies and The War. He seems defensive. He belongs to Men’s Rights groups. He thinks he is saying what everyone is thinking, but the only people saying those things are other middle-aged men like him. No one really knows why he’s here.
One of the suspects is War. Who knows what spies there are around us? There could be enemies within the walls, hidden telephone calls, memo pads that reveal coded messages if you scratch over them lightly with a pencil. Half burned papers in the fireplace. The spies are maybe German, South African, Brazilian, Russian, Syrian, American, Chinese, Norwegian, and they are terribly good at it.
The maid. She could have been seduced by the spy. He could have told her he loved her and he loved her country. That this was for the greater good, so he could get some money and marry her.
The old lady next door is very suspicious of the maid’s expensive stockings.
The chauffeur is very handsome.
The gardener is Mexican, and has a degree in ethical conservation.
Fear. Could they expose them, or leave them?
Could they cut them out of the will?
Would they beat them again?
Anger. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. How dare they? How could they?
They must pay.
Jealousy. Castles are unholy, but intriguing.
Where are the other bodies that led to this body?
Money. Surely no one has that anymore.
Politics. He was a terrible man.
Oops, gave that away.
He hated trees, especially in winter.
Add a new suspect: the trees.
First we scan the bedrooms, looking for clues.
Who are these people, what particles of them were floating around before they were forced to assemble themselves into some facsimile of a whole person before strangers asking them questions?
Perhaps there is an octopus, hiding out in a human form. They can squeeze into all sorts of holes.
Or a feminist.
A White Russian.
A nervous nail biter, who has scars where they’ve picked away scabs, and memories about the last time someone kissed them. There are half moons of fingernails all over the floor.
There is a large gold lion in one room.
Secrets about family friends in another.
A closet full of red dresses.
Boots with leaves and mud on them.
Empty beer bottles that rolled under the bed, and cigarette ash by the window that opens onto the sprawling lawn, and down there over the cliff, the angry gray cold ocean.
Someone must have seen the ships come down in the middle of the night.
Was that why they were killed?
Outside there are footprints in the rose garden under that same window.
A lover watching?
A spy waiting for the signal?
Maybe the poison was just supposed to incapacitate, so the liberals and ninjas could do their job quietly.
Maybe they waited for the light to go out.
Who saw what, and if they did, does it matter?
Tell me, or we might all die here.
Next the kitchen. What do these people eat? Where did the poison come from?
The lab will let us know on Monday, but in the meantime, line up everything in the house that could poison a man on the big kitchen table. Evil looking bottles and mean smelling boxes, pill boxes full of dark, crumbly stuff. Wines left open overnight. Corn syrup drizzled on everything like honey. Hydrogenated oils rancid with kitchen smells. The whiskey decanter in his room that yielded no fingerprints but his, though there were two glasses. Who did he pour the other one for? Did they pour it out the window while they were smoking? The toothpaste.
Down at the pub, the old men think it was definitely the gardener. Shifty immigrant who stole the job from Old Mike here, just because Mike can’t stop drinking and hitting his wife, but is that his fault? He lost his job, so stop judging him for those things, even though those things are why he lost his job. Stop judging him and start judging the right person which is probably that Mexican, but maybe also that wife of his. She’s from someplace weird too, right? Slovenia, they think. Stunner of a lady sure, but they bet there’s gypsy blood in there, and gypsies like stabbing. Fuck everyone but us, they say, clinking their glasses. Hang someone.
Alibis are as follows:
The gardener would like to take credit for the murder, he is covering for someone or he thinks it will make him a national hero.But a witness places him far away that night, in a theater watching the Cremaster Cycle. Intellectual elitist.
The daughter with the castle tattoo also wants to take credit, she hated her father, but she is locked in her room from the outside every night by the maid, under instruction from her mother. The vagina police confirmed this.
The wife was fast asleep in her bedroom. The app she uses to monitor her sleep cycles shows her breathing did not change for 8 complete hours. It was regular and automatic, calm.
The eldest daughter and her husband have only their pure intentions to vouch for them.
War was busy fucking the man in the newsboy cap, in a secret underground bunker. War fucked him slowly, with affection, maybe even love.
The chauffeur has no alibi. But he’s very handsome.
The maid has no alibi, but she recapped last night’s episode of the Bachelor in such detail, it’s almost the same thing.
We meet in the dining room, since the drawing room is now a grave.They say, who are you? How dare you accuse me of this?
I am a detective. I have watched every episode of Mystery aired. 13 seasons of Midsomer Murders, and most of How to Get Away with Murder. I have read every novel by Conan Doyle and Christie, and watched all the CSIs, countless movies about police corruption, and I even listened to all those true crime podcasts, though I prefer fiction. I correctly guessed the end of Twin Peaks. I knew the emails were a distraction. I knew the campaign colluded. I know that one guy on Facebook likes me. I was certain when my roommate’s boyfriend was cheating on her. So, listen, I know what I’m doing. Bring me a pipe and some heroin, and I’ll show you what I mean.
There are five orange pips here, and here is a blue latex glove. This can of sardines has been tampered with. The sacrificial knife of Apollo is missing. There is a faint yellow residue on the glass. Someone or something has peed on the carpet.
The lab will let us know on Monday. No, wait, it’s Memorial Day in America.