Gloria Crime Short Fiction By Marina Richards

Gloria: Crime Short Fiction By Marina Richards

Marina Richards, author of Gloria, has previously published fiction and poetry in Scalped, Blood Lotus, Greatest Uncommon Denominator Magazine, The Hawaii Pacific Review, The Legendary, Pear Noir, Up The Staircase, Six Sentences, Foliate Oak, and Writer’s Bloc (Rutgers University).

*****

On Wednesday at 5 a.m. Linda awoke to find Henry gone. She pressed her fingers against her temples, thoughts racing, and told herself not to call out to him. He was okay.

She found him in the kitchen after tracing his path to the bathroom and finding his remnants there. She called them remnants because if she called them anything else her evil chemicals would course through her veins and she would scream. She didn’t like herself that way.

He didn’t notice her as she came around the counter and kissed him on the cheek. “You need a shave.”

He mumbled something about 5 o’clock shadow and manliness, spreading dark berry jam over three slices of burnt toast with a potato peeler. He splattered the goo all over the white tiles, then smeared it with his fingers in effort to clean up.

Another slice of bread had sailed under the stove, another lay across his blue-veined feet.

“What are we doing today?” he asked, his mouth orbiting around the bread while he chewed.

Linda moved around him. It was strange, like he didn’t realized lately that he was in the way, always blocking her path. “Hen, did you forget already? You have your appointment with the physical therapist.”

“Felix.” He nodded, crumbs glued to his chin. “Good man, Felix.”

She turned and went to tidy the mess in the bathroom, then ordered him into the shower.

He gripped Gloria, his walker, wheeling away down the hall. He’d named it after his favorite actress, some husky-voiced broad from the 1940s.

Linda smoked a menthol cigarette while he was gone and played on her new cell phone with the huge keyboard. Justin bought one for her and one for Henry. She still preferred her landline, she decided, blowing out smoke rings.

She should be more appreciative, but phones were just things. Justin needed to visit more often instead of replacing himself with gifts. Not that she didn’t make good use of the phone’s internet capabilities and funny little camera.

The water was off.

Linda smoked a menthol cigarette while he was gone and played on her new cell phone with the huge keyboard.

Henry had dressed himself today. Not bad. Loose khaki shorts, white knee socks, Velcro sneakers, striped polo.

“You’re so dapper.”

He grabbed the keys. “I’m driving.”

“No, you don’t know where it is.”

“I do so.” He was feisty this morning.

“They moved. To a newer part of town.” She emphasized newer and held out her hand until he dropped the keys into her palm. She tucked them into her handbag and patted his shoulder, frowning at the sight of his phone. “Why are you taking that, my love? It’s an obstacle. Leave it on the table.”

“Look, woman, it’s from Justin and I want it with me. It’s all I got these days.” Tears welled in his eyes.

She brushed her hand against his cheek. “Are you alright? Is it the pain again?”

“If you must know, Lin, my entire body aches. My legs barely get me to the toilet in time and showering is an Olympic sport. I can’t even take enough medication to make myself pass out.”

She held up her hands. “Okay, okay, I’ll try to understand better. Take your phone, I won’t say another word. Promise.” She handed him his N95. “Now put on your mask.”

Leaning against Gloria, he informed her that he found it hard to breathe with a prosthesis over his face, then let her adjust it before they got into the car.

Linda wore her thick driving glasses as she backed the Subaru out of the garage. It was still dark but for a damp moon that hung over her neighborhood. With the exception of the eager beaver Dysons, religiously up at the crack of dawn and on the verge of endless family-time leaf blowing, basketball hoops, and horseshoes, no one else on her street was up this early.

She dabbed her brow, flush with heat and it was not yet six a.m.. Then again, this was central Florida. If they had only moved to the coast, at least she’d have the Gulf breeze, but with Henry’s salary at the carpet store they never could swing it. Now in retirement and with meager savings, they were scraping by with one car, and barely enough for Linda to purchase Hen’s medications and other items required for his care.

He jabbed at his phone as they drove, telling her how he was going to get a job soon.

“What kind of job, dear?” He was 82, but she loved the idea. They could certainly use the money, and she needed him out of her hair.

It has been a year since his illness. A year in which she’d become babysitter, caretaker, chauffeur, cleaning lady, prep cook, maid, and nurse. She couldn’t go anywhere without feeling suffocated and trapped.

“Men’s work. Loading dock or hardware at Home Depot.”

She patted his anemic arm. “Give you a chance to provide for us again.”

She turned at the end of their street, traversing a maze of faux Spanish villa homes, then hit a backroad in opposite direction of the highway. She studied her face in the mirror, scowling at her lip wrinkles. Henry’s liver spots. Gloria strapped into the back seat like a headless toddler.

“We going to lunch after this?”

“We’ll see.”

The city really needed to do something about all the ugly commercial businesses. Sign after sign advertised flooring, RV rentals, and moldy antiques.

She glanced at Henry, his chin bobbing in his mask. The last thing she needed was another antique.

He awoke at the next bump. “Hey, baby.” He aimed his phone at her, snapping a photo. “Even in a mask you’re still one good-lookin’ dame, Linda LaRue.”

“Stop. I look a mess.”

“C’mon, one more selfie.” He leaned toward her and snapped. “Look, half your face, half mine,” he said, showing her the shot.

The road forked and she veered left. Soon they were on a skinny dirt lane, weaving around wetlands thick with scrub pine and swamp palm.

Henry squinted at his giant phone. “GPS says this ain’t the way.”

“I’m taking a shortcut.”

“Shortcut? We’re in the marsh lands.”

She kept driving, the Subaru bumping along rocks and mud, dipping under scraggly Cypress and Spanish Moss, and then Gloria crashing into the car ceiling, leaving a nasty gouge in the blue material.

“Jesus. What the hell you doin’, Lin?”

“Relax. Maybe we’ll see some manatees.”

“Stop the car. Lemme drive for chrissakes.”

She gripped the wheel, her chemicals spitting. “Sure. I just need a safe place to park.”

He harrumphed. “I’ll get us outta this jungle.”

“A little farther,” she said.

He tugged on his mask. “Wut? I can barely understand you with that cup holder over your mouth.”

“Do not take yours off. We need to wear them.”

He drummed his arthritic fingers on the door. “We’re in our car. Not at the mall.”

“Oh, no.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I think I’ve lost power.”

“Stop now before you make things worse. I’ll take a look.”

She struggled to steer, jamming her sneakered foot on the brakes, while Henry pulled on the emergency in the center console. The Subaru choked to a dead stop two feet from a swamp.

Something swooped in front of the windshield, large winged, sharp beaked. It was still dark out and under the moon’s vacant glow Linda spied a field of tall reeds and muck. Around the car, mangroves and coiling vines wove together like a giant spider web.

“Henry, I’m scared. Should we call someone?”

He opened the door. “Not much chance of a signal out here. Help me up and get Gloria so I can stand.” He gripped his walker, rolling along the bog to the front of the car. “Pop the hood. Grab the flashlight, too.”

“I’m searching the glove compartment, darling.” They always kept the big silver one in the car for emergencies. “Okay, got it.” Emergencies just like these. She flicked on the light.

“Not much chance of a signal out here. Help me up and get Gloria so I can stand.”

“Everything looks good and tight,” said Henry, studying the engine. “Dang, woman, I can’t see nuthin wrong.”

“There by the driver’s side. You missed some rusty wires.”

“Huh? Where?”

“If you lean to the side you’ll see what I mean.”

“Still don’t see nuthin.”

“Hen, turn a bit more.”

He leaned against Gloria. “Think I see them.”

“Do you?”

“Of course I do. My eyes are still good.”

“That’s funny because you never see anything lately.”

“What are you babbling about? You’re not paying attention, Lin. You’re letting the light slip away.”

“Am I? Sorry.”

Henry turned his head. “Hold the flashlight toward me.”

“Like this, dear?”

“Whaa—?” White light shone into his rheumy eyes as Linda drove the metal cylinder into his forehead.

Red blood droplets spurted in different directions. “Lin, stop! Have you gone crazy?”

He raised his arms in self defense, his head crowned in vines of dark green ivy.

She brought the cold metal down on his skull twice more, unable to stop. Unable to let go of her plans.

Blood dribbled down both sides of Henry’s face into his mask, soaking the thick white cotton as he gurgled for air.

“I had no choice,” she said, breathless as she swung at him again. Finally, bent and broken, he crumpled into a bloody heap, landing beside his ever-faithful Gloria.

Gritting her teeth, Linda flung the rickety contraption into the brackish water. It released a throaty squeal. Then she curled her arms under Henry and dragged him toward the water. He already felt skeletal. Her glasses were splattered with blood and she rinsed them in the swamp.

Something made a sound. Linda edged back from the water and studied the black stringy shadows.

Calm down. No one’s here.

She gave Henry one more shove with her foot. His body rolled into a knot of mangroves at the edge of the swamp, his mask still clinging to his mouth, cutting off his airways as he lay with his head to the side, half in and out of the water. She turned away, unable to look at him, so pathetic and dead.

She raced to the car, stuffed the flashlight into a bag and hid it under the Subaru’s back seat.

Damnit. Hen’s phone on the dash. She shut it down, wiping the fingerprints like she’d seen on TV, then threw the phone as far as she could, listening for a splash. Very faint.

A few nights of subtropical Florida rain and the swamp waters would rise and swirl, creating a current, and Henry’s phone and body would wash away.

She knew. She’d looked up the swamp’s trajectory on her phone, memorizing every tributary connecting the swamp to dozens of rivers, springs and bays. Even a few lakes and the Gulf. There were so many places for him to go.

So many places for a body to disappear forever. Especially, a gator’s mouth.

In one last act of beneficence to Henry, Linda sprinkled some shiny black leaves around him. She found the courage to kiss his damp papery cheek, then sailed back to the Subaru and flicked on her favorite jazz station.

 

A mountain lifted off her shoulders as Linda drove home. She became a dancer on the wind, a butterfly free of its chrysalis, wings airy and fluid.

*****

“Henry won’t be coming in today,” she told Felix’s office later that morning. “Yes, it’s one of those dark periods. I’ll tell him. Thank you for understanding.”

Over the next two days, she repeated the same thing to his pharmacist, doctor, and masseuse, even to Justin who asked her to bring Hen around for a barbeque on Sunday.

“Honey, he’s so tired lately. You know he’d come if he could.” She loved her son, but he needed to butt out of her personal life.

She slathered on tanning lotion and went to the beach for the day, actually a crystalline spring.

Out here, she couldn’t help thinking of Henry. He’d always loved the water. A tiny smile creased her lips. Well, the man had gotten what he’d wanted, hadn’t he?

She took a slug of protein juice, trying not to giggle.

“Mrs. Bogle? I knew it was you under the hat. Small world.”

Linda cupped her hand over her eyes, trying to make out the tall blonde woman in front of her. “Uh, hello, dear, how are you?”

“It’s Darlene Dyson from across the street. How’s your husband doing?”

“Best can be expected. But my stress levels are off the charts, let me tell you.”

“You poor thing. You’re so devoted to him. It shows in everything you do.”

Linda sat up, awash with joy. “What a lovely thing to say. Why don’t you join me, honey?”

“I can’t stay, but I wanted to offer to send our boys over to mow, pull weeds, shop, whatever you need. They’re very responsible young men.”

“That’s so kind. But my son comes over often, and Henry’s home with a wonderful caretaker. He hasn’t left the house in a month.”

Darlene frowned. “That’s funny. I would swear I saw him in the car last Wednesday morning.”

“Must’ve been someone else, sweetie.”

“Really? The gentleman looked exactly like Mr. Bogle. He wore a hat and mask, oh and he was holding a huge cell phone.”

Linda dug her fingers into the hot sand.

Not only was the busybody persistent, she was observant.

“Well there you go, my Henry doesn’t have a cellular telephone. And, as I said, he hasn’t left our home in a long time.”

“Huh. I was so sure.”

“We drive a common car, dear. I can see why you got confused.”

Darlene nodded. “Well, it was foggy and dark out.”

That’s right. You didn’t see a thing, and if you did, there are many ways to address the situation.

 

After her nosy neighbor left, Linda sucked on her juice and tried to crush the panic disassembling her confidence. Now everything at this beautiful spring—the trees, sky, water, even the children’s laughter chiming in the air, felt painful.

She turned to see Darlene and her husband tossing a football to some teenage boys, a pair of golden gods cut from the same tawny cloth as their parents. Maybe having them come over wasn’t such a bad idea.

*****

That night, she sat on Henry’s bed, slugging a bourbon on the rocks and wondering what fresh hell she’d gotten herself into with that intolerable woman. Dorothy Parker’s witty observations had always made her see the ridiculous side of human interaction, and today had been one of those grizzled moments where nothing but a good bottle of bourbon could blot away the awkward silliness of it all.

She mentioned this to Henry out loud as she poured herself another shot. “Frankly, I miss you, you old fuck. I know you’re better off now. Not suffering, no longer hobbling and bumbling about, but if only I could talk to you one more time.

I’m sorry I disposed of you. But Hen you were a pain in the ass. You know that, right? I mean, I couldn’t do this forever. Your needs, demands, burdens were bleeding me dry. Suffocating me. Costing me a lot of money.”

The doorbell rang. Linda bolted upright, slamming her glass on the nightstand. She wobbled down the hallway. More aggressive ringing.

“I’m coming, I’m coming, keep your pants on for goodness sakes!”

Christ, her breath. What if it was the police with news about Henry? Maybe she shouldn’t open the door.

Through her peripheral vision she saw Gloria perched in the middle of the kitchen—

What the hell?!!

The door again. Beating, pounding, more maniacal ringing.

What the fuck was Henry’s walker doing here? How did it get back in the house?

Had she retrieved it and forgotten?

Riiiinnnngggggg

“Okay!” She finger-fluffed her hair, breathed into her hand to check her breath, then opened the door an inch.

And there she stood, Hayseed One in her flip flops and little puppy feet. All forty eight inches of her, runty, meth-user thin, brown spots on her legs and chest from over tanning and a blonde hair lip from birth.

Hayseed One’s real name was Roberta and she was in her sixties. She had a younger brother named Lockwood, both of whom Linda secretly referred to as Hayseed One and Two. They were Henry’s offspring from a previous marriage. Clearly, a dark period in his life.

“Sure took you a long time,” said Roberta. “Is everything okay?”

“Terrific.”

“I wanna see Daddy.”

“He’s sleeping.”

“I made him a bunt cake. Cinnamon.” She stuck out a brown blob of plastic wrap.

“You know we don’t eat that junk. My goodness.”

“It’s not junk, Linda. It’s low sugar with imported organic ingredients. He’ll love it, that is if you ever let me give it to him.”

“Come back next week.”

“Cake will be moldy.”

“Fine. Give it to me. I’ll serve it to him when he wakes up.”

Hayseed One peaked into the door. “Why’s Daddy’s walker covered in green vines?”

Linda glanced over her shoulder. “Er, I had it outside for a rinse and it toppled into some ivy.”

Roberta fingered her silver and turquoise necklace. “Want me to help you yank ’em out?”

“The vines?” Linda shook her head. “No, I can do it.” The smell from the orange-cinnamon frosting was making Linda’s eyes sting. “Give me your concoction, dear.”

“Yeah, okay.” Roberta handed her the pile of crumbling dough. “Least let me know how he likes it, and tell him I’ll call him in the morning—”

Linda shut the door before the woman could say another word.

She stalked into the kitchen, shoved that bitch Gloria out of her way, then dumped the cake into the trash.

*****

She was being watched. Gloria may be a creepy witch, but she was an inanimate object and didn’t return on her own. And Linda knew she didn’t bring that thing back with her. So who did?

Hayseed One?

No. She wasn’t bright enough to break out of a paper bag, never mind into a house. But she could see Lockwood doing it. Slightly sharper than his sister, he had street smarts and had done time for selling dope.

She checked the back door again, opening and closing it, giving the latch a forceful snap. Maybe she would look in on Henry. No. Bad idea. The police could be there, and returning to the scene of the crime wasn’t in her plans.

Crime.

God, she hated that word. She was no criminal. She was a good woman. A wife and mother. She’d helped Henry escape his prison of desiccated old age. From the burning growths on his head, to the crumbling bones in his body, and obvious decline of his once brilliant mind she—Linda LaRue Bogle—had given her husband a gift.

An Out. An Escape. Anyone with a heart would understand why she did what she did.

Someday she would write about it in a marital advice column.

*****

In the morning she lay in bed listening for strange sounds. A breath. A cough. The creaking of a floor board. She got up, looking for anything out of place, a wrinkled towel, recently eaten food in the garbage. Her paranoia surprised her. There had to be a simple explanation for Gloria. Maybe Darlene or another neighbor found the walker and returned it to her kitchen, which she could have left unlocked…

Wait.

Henry.

He had to be the one who’d left the backdoor open the day they went to the swamp. The man was such a scatterbrain and never remembered to lock anything.

Now because of him some do-gooder had broken into her home, making her think she was losing her mind.

She released a little fart, laughing at the ridiculousness of her situation. At pathetic Gloria with muddy plants strangling her legs. Whoever had returned her could have at least tidied her up.

She went to her bathroom and peed, popped her teeth into her mouth followed by fuchsia lipstick, and then entered Henry’s room.

“This is all your fault.” She wrenched his favorite pair of dress shoes from the closet, black leather monstrosities heavy as bricks. “Not only did your hayseed deposit a smelly cake into my arms, someone, probably that Dyson woman, found Gloria and had the nerve to enter my house without permission. God, Henry, couldn’t you ever consider my well-being? My sanity? My safety? Anyone, anyone could’ve stolen something from this house, or done something unspeakable to me.”

She slammed the door. “Also, I’ve changed my mind about things. I want the police to find your body ASAP. I plan to sell your possessions and collect your insurance, piddly as it is. I’ve been looking at the most adorable condos in North Miami, perfectly situated near Justin, and all with pools.

But the police are so slow, and I’m stuck. Stuck with your hayseeds, bills, and the Swiss Family Robinson across the street who insist on helping me.”

She entered the kitchen, told Gloria to fuck off, and opened the door to the garage. Then she flung his shoes into the air, each crashing on the cement in opposite direction.

Later that day, she tried calling Justin, but couldn’t get past the first page of her cell. It insisted on a code, which made no sense since she never used one. Was this something Justin had installed?

And then it hit her.

Another slap in the face.

She recalled how Henry had insisted on taking his phone the other morning. He must have taken hers accidentally, instead.

Or was it on purpose?

Had he suspected her all along?

Her heart pounded and stomach twisted. She reached for a glass and poured herself three fingers of bourbon. The liquid burned her throat. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

Dear god, the old jackal had tricked her, and she’d tossed her own phone into the swamp.

It had all her searches about fingerprints, DNA, and hiding a dead body in Florida waters, which Henry must have seen at some point.

Then why did he go with her that morning? Did he actually believe she wouldn’t go through with her plans? What a sap. How stupid. No balls, no nothing left in that man.

Sniffling, she lapped up her bourbon, then flung the glass at Henry’s picture on top of the TV, hitting her target perfectly. “You got what you deserved, Hen.”

She grabbed his phone, stuffing it down the kitchen drain, flipped on the garbage disposal, and watched the machine crush it to death.

“Hello?”

“Mrs. Bogle? Linda Bogle?”

“Yeah?” she slurred into the landline after passing out on the couch, condo brochures all over her chest.

“This is Detective Cody with the Sheriff’s department.”

Linda bolted upright. This was it! They’d found his body. “Yes, detective?”

“We need to speak with you about your husband.”

“Is something wrong?” Christ, she needed a shower. She stank like the inside of a Jim Beam bottle.

“Can we meet at the station?”

“I can’t leave Henry. He’s very sick.” She waded through the officer’s thick silence, her heart in her throat.

“We can come to you—”

“No! I mean wouldn’t it be better if you told me what this is about?”

She flipped through a glossy brochure with pictures of cabana boys and Miami nightlife, waiting for him to tell her Henry was dead.

But he only offered to bring a car around to pick her up.

“I’ll drive,” she said. “I know where you’re located.”

*****

Linda sat in a windowless room, at a beige plastic table, clutching her handbag primly on her lap. The place reeked of vinegar and sweat.

Detective Cody grabbed a chair, whirled it around, and leaned his chest into the back. “Water, coffee, soda?”

“Nothing for me. Thank you.”

He opened a bottle of water for himself. Shirt sleeves rolled up he had a strawberry blond ponytail, earring, and a flat stumpy nose. No gun she noticed.

“Mrs. Bogle, your husband is Henry Bogle, correct?”

“Yes. Has something happened?”

He flipped through a notebook. “When we spoke on the phone you told me your husband was home sick.”

“That’s right. With his caretaker. He’s been ill.” Linda gazed at him over ill-fitting bifocals she’d purchased at CVS purely for effect. “It’s been extremely difficult.”

“Name of the caretaker?”

“I don’t know. All sorts of nurses come in and out. Hispanic, coupla Asians.”

Cody narrowed his eyes on her. “Right.”

She heard the ticking of his watch. Vintage designer. Loud. The sound of ants marching. She clenched her teeth and knew she already despised this man. Despised him because he had power. And he wasn’t scared of her. Saw through her fibbery.

“Mrs. Bogle, we found your husband at Wolfe Swamp.”

“I don’t follow.”

“He was brutally attacked.”

“What?”

“He was in the water.”

“My god, poor Henry.” Linda dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief, determined not to touch anything. “We were married 56 years, detective.” She dropped her face to her hands. “Now you’re telling me I’m a widow?”

“How is it you didn’t know he was gone?”

She gave a half-sob. “Henry had dementia and would disappear sometimes. They do that, you know.” Linda paused, let out another great big cry, her own personal distress call that had always been effective with Henry, melting him every time.

And she truly was in distress. Because the thought of spending her days in a dank, smelly gray cell sent her into a whirlwind of panic. She’d wither and die like a flower in darkness.

“Detective, I know who beat Henry.”

“Oh?”

“I don’t mean to cast aspersions, but it was his daughter, Roberta. She wanted to ruin our marriage, and she hated me. She’s a very shady person. Her brother, too. A regular drug lord.”

Cody rubbed the back of his neck. “But how did you know your husband was beaten? I only said he was attacked.”

“I would think as an honest policeman, you would have told me if the perpetrator had used a deadly weapon. Now when may I see the body? I want to make proper arrangements and let my son know the tragic news.”

“Looks like you’ll have your chance right now.”

Linda spun around to see Justin and Roberta. “What’s going on? What are they doing here?”

Then an officer rolled a walker into the room.

Clack Squeak Clack Squeak

The thing was bent and dented and had grooves on the wheels and fade spots on the handles she recognized from Henry’s grip. Linda’s stomach dropped.

Gloria…

“That’s right, bitch, you recognize Daddy’s walker, don’t you?” Roberta stepped toward her. “I knew you lied straight up to my face. Knew Daddy wasn’t in the house the other night. That’s why I snuck that other walker in, to rattle you, see if you’d confess.”

“Confess?” Linda smirked. “Confess to what, dear?”

“To being a snake.”

“Everyone take a seat,” said Cody.

Roberta sat on the far side of the room. Justin stayed close.

“We sprayed that walker with Luminal,” said Cody, “but all trace evidence was too degraded. However, we retrieved your phone, Mrs. Bogle.”

Linda strangled her handkerchief.

“Forensics went through your searches and bookmarks. Fascinating history.”

“I know my rights. You can’t do that without a court order.”

“The phone was at a crime scene. It’s evidence.”

Roberta snorted. “Can’t weasel outta this one, Linda.”

Cody tossed a folder in front of her. “Then there’re these.”

Linda stared at the selfies Henry had taken of the two of them in the car that morning, enlarged for detail, including a sign for Wolfe Swamp.

“Time stamped and everything. That is you with your husband isn’t it, ma’am?”

She wanted to kill him again.

“We also have a witness who saw you leave together on the day he ended up in the water.”

“Jesus, Mom,” Justin paced the room. “What the hell did you do?”

Linda threw herself into her son’s arms. “You can’t possibly believe this garbage. Can’t you see they’re conspiring against me? I’d never do anything to hurt Henry.”

“You only bashed his head in,” drawled Roberta.

Linda whirled. “That was you! You did that!”

“Mom, shut up,” said Justin. “Just shut up, already.”

Linda grabbed her purse. “Lies. You’re all liars. I did not kill my husband. And I demand to see him right now. Detective point me to the morgue—”

“Morgue? Who’s in the morgue?”

Everyone turned. Clack, clack, metal bumping along the floor, footsteps shuffling.

Henry stood in the doorway, red welts, cuts, and bruises all over his face and head, bloody bandages around his arms.

Linda recoiled, her stomach fell to her knees.

“Gloria saved me,” he said, hobbling into the room with a cane. “Dragged myself outta the water by grabbing onto the old gal. Got up on the muck, saw the phone and punched numbers all day until I got Justin.”

Roberta hugged him. “You’re safe now, Daddy. Linda’s going to jail. You only hafta testify. Right, detective?”

Cody looked at Henry.

Henry who gave everything to Linda.

Henry who did what Linda wanted.

Who thought Linda LaRue Bogle was the most beautiful woman in the world.

His moon. Her sun. Orbiting.

“No.”

“But Daddy she tried to murder you,” cried Roberta.

“Sir,” said Cody, “in your statement you said your wife beat you with a flashlight and tried to drown you.”

“My Linda would never do that. It was some thug. A vagrant.”

Linda tilted her chin, smug.

“Take me home, Lin,” said Henry, looking at her for the first time tonight. “Take me home.”

 

As they walked out of the station Henry whispered, “I hope you learned your lesson.”

A siren went off in Linda’s head. A frightening noise in the forest of her mind that grew more persistent as an officer came running after them.

“You forgot this,” he said, delivering Gloria like she was a lost child.

Henry beamed. “Look, Lin, it’s our girl. The three of us are back together again.”

Linda froze. She saw a black curtain dropping, crashing to the ground. Her pretty condo awaited her in Miami. Her shiny new life. She would never go back to the way things were. She gazed through the black veil and sought light. Reached for it.

Reached for the cop’s gun, grabbed it, and fired. “I hope you learned yours, dear.”

*****

If you’ve enjoyed Gloria by Marina Richards, you can visit our free digital archive of flash fiction here. Additionally, premium short fiction published by Mystery Tribune on a quarterly basis is available digitally here.

For online archive of short fiction (longer pieces) on Mystery Tribune website, you can visit here.

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