Story 4 – Under The Influence of Agatha Christie

A diner is a terrible place for a murder. Cramped. Dirty. The air is already positively saturated with the smells of thin coffee and old grease so that when a quantity of blood is added to that mixture, it becomes very difficult indeed to breathe easily.

  I would not have chosen the diner, no, I would not have. But it turned out to be the best place for it. He adhered to such a rigid schedule, you know. At his office there was always security, at his home, the dogs. I suppose I could have dealt with the dogs but I have always been fond of animals, and while I admit to the charge of murder, I should not like to add cruelty to my list of sins. It seems much heavier, somehow.

  Because of course, he did need to be killed. I think you can all see that. You might hem and haw and turn to page ten in your bibles, look at me reproachfully and say, “Thou shalt not kill, Miss Dorsey.” And you’re very right to say so. Normally, one should not kill. But there are times, you see, when an antibiotic is required. Anti-life. It sounds dreadful, and it is dreadful to think of oneself as being an agent of anti-life. But it’s no good weeping and carrying on about killing the weeds in your garden, or the worms in your puppy, or the virus in your lungs, because death is required in order for life to flourish. It’s a hard thing to think about, especially now when we are all so distant from the farmyard and the deathbed. But if you will set aside for a moment your dreadful pink and blue nursery school morality, you will see that I am quite right.

  So, it had to be the diner. He takes that huge beastly car there on his way to work every morning, taking up quite three spots on Wafer St. (which is as thin as its name) It was there that I waited, with my chipped mug of coffee, both weak and bitter. Quite good eggs, though, and decent toast. Not really good, not like it used to be, but acceptable.

  I sat in the far corner from the door, facing the counter, my profile towards him when he came in. He was a rather stupid man, not very observant. Not one to remark profiles. Even though mine is very like my son’s. 

  Well, of course, he sat at the counter, where he always sits. He was very rude to the beautiful dark young man cooking because he didn’t drop his spatula and grovel immediately. He’s been going there for years and just doesn’t care to notice that the cooks don’t take orders from customers. He was just starting to yell when the nice red-haired waiter with the round face came up and poured a lot of soothing talk in his ear. He let himself be gradually soothed but you could tell he was enjoying making everyone around him nervous of his temper. A power play. He was truly vile. Yes, ma’am, you in the back. You’ve worked in service? Myself as well, we know the kind.

  So the waiter took his order and was fiddling with something at the drink dispenser, the cook was over the grill with his shoulders hunched like he was expecting to be hit. I have never worked a grill but I should not like to have my back to so many strangers all day.

  He spread his paper out and planted his elbows practically in the plates of the people beside him. And I just pushed my chair out, folded up my napkin and tucked some money under my plate, walked up behind him and cut his throat with Joe’s old straight razor.

  And it was actually rather good planning, you see, because the paper kept the blood from flying everywhere. I worry a bit about the nice boys who were working, especially the cook. It’s not good for sensitive people to see great quantities of blood. But the representative who came to visit me said they’d be getting therapy, so I hope they’ll be alright.

  He died quickly, but there was so much blood! I suppose it’s good they have tile floor there rather than wood, because it would have stained wood, but it pooled in a nasty way on the tile.

  After I was quite sure that he was dead, I walked out the door and sat down on the bench by the picture window. I just sat and looked at the clouds until the police came and arrested me, and booked me, or whatever you call it. They sent me a pubic defender but I can’t imagine he would have done a very good job. He would have lied to you, I’m afraid. He would have had to if he had any sense of duty in his work. He would have tried for an insanity plea, told you that I was out of my mind with grief and didn’t know what I was doing, which is nonsense. Or he might have tried for a guilty plea with extenuating circumstances, that it was revenge for my dear Joe, my beloved boy, and a mother avenging her child was almost akin to self defense. Which is also nonsense. Of course, I miss Joe terribly, and I should not have embarked on this path if he remained in this world. But more than anything, Joe’s death drew my attention to a wrinkle where the world should be smooth. I have endeavored to smooth it. I know that that is not what you’re supposed to say, and that telling the truth when you’re not supposed to is it’s own kind of insanity, but I was raised in an old fashioned way, and I have not forgotten what my dear mother used to tell me, even if the rest of the world has. It’s a sin to tell a lie.

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Story 4 – Under The Influence of Agatha Christie

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