Flash Fiction – Murder By Poison

This is my second entry into a writing contest.  It just so happens that this is an entry for the Sleuth Ink writing club, which is a group of writers who write murder mysteries and “who-done-its.

The photo was a small pop up soft-sided trailer parked in the woods and the topic had to be a murder by poison.  The word count had to be a minimum of 750 and the maximum was 1000.  My story was 988, at last count, I think.  I hope you like my entry.  Wish me luck.


Murder By Poison


“Do you think he’s dead, Sheriff?”

I strained to study the interior of the pop-up trailer.  The haze and grime left by years of neglect made the windowpane difficult to see through.  Between that and the fly spots deposited, I struggled to study the old man sitting in the chair.

“Well, Sheriff, he’s dead isn’t he?  What killed him?”

“Melvin, he looks dead to me and I’d say carbon monoxide gas.”

“Then I did good, right?  I mean, about calling you.  I did the right thing?”

I turned and looked at the farmer standing beside me.  His face was hazelnut brown with creases eroded into it.  The sun and the wind had taken their tolls.  The eyes, though, were of a child seeking affirmation.  I smiled.

“Yeah, Melvin, you did real good.”  He grinned.

We stepped away from the window and I pointed to the garden hose running the distance between the trailer and a beat up 1988 Chevrolet Bel Air.

“Careful, Melvin, don’t trip on that,” I cautioned and pointed toward the end inserted into the tailpipe, and secured by rags.  The other end was duct taped through a modified window in the trailer.

“Suicide, Sheriff?”

I stopped at the door along the side of the box-like structure and turned back to the farmer.

“No, didn’t you notice his wrists and ankles were taped to the chair he’s sitting in?  He appears to be an old man, but even on his best day, I don’t think he could tape up all four appendages.”

Melvin’s eyes, normally a squint, opened wide and he hurried back to take another peek through the window.  He returned shaking his head.

“I didn’t notice that.  I was trying to see his face and didn’t notice that at all.”

“It’s okay,” I grinned, “I’m a professional and paid to notice things like that.  It’s called a clue.”

His embarrassment dissolved; he grinned back, “And that is why I vote for you every four years.”

On the side of the trailer, next to the entryway, was a pane of four louvered windows.  Each about four by eight inches and the lowest one was removed.  In its place, a cut piece of stiff cardboard was in the opening.  In the center of the cardboard, a hole carved and the end of a garden hose inserted.  Like the man, it too was held in place by duct tape.

I dug into my back pocket and shook out my red Osh Kosh handkerchief.  I reached for the door, then stopped, and looked at Melvin.

“You haven’t been in here, have you?  I need to know if your fingerprints are going to be in there.”

Again, his eyes widened, he shook his head, “No, no Sheriff, I swear.  My Mama gave me good advice when I was fourteen or so, and I live by it today.”

I scratched my eyebrow, and wondered how advice from his mother some forty years earlier applied to this.

“Alright,” I asked, “What did she say?”

“She told me if I didn’t want to get my face slapped, I should never put my hands where they don’t belong.”

“Melvin,” I reminded him, “Wasn’t that dating advice?”

“Yes, Sheriff, it was, but think about it, it applies to much more than just interacting with the opposite sex.”

I studied him, he had me, and he knew it.  I covered the handle with my handkerchief and opened the door.

A rush of fowl air slapped me in the face.  The stench was a mix of stale hot air enclosed too long, human feces, urine, and moldy food.  Hundreds of flies made the break for freedom, as if they too were tired of the stink.  Several of them hit me.  I was glad I skipped lunch.

I held the handkerchief over my nose and stepped inside.  I tried to keep my breathing shallow.  I don’t think it helped.

The man was old, maybe in his nineties.  He had long ago lost all muscle and was held together with bones, crinkled skin, and joints too big for the connections.  He was mostly bald, but what hair remained was long and unkept.  He sat upright in the kitchen style chair made of shiny tubular steel with the seat and back made of some type of vinyl plastic.  His bowed head looked as if he was studying what was on the table before him.  He wore a sleeveless undershirt and boxers, which had been white, at one time, but now, were a dirty grey.  His wrists and ankles were duct taped to the sides of the chair and several laps of tape around his chest held him in the sitting position.

On the small table were three rows of pictures.  Each row consisted of three copies of photographs.  The farthest from him showed a young man in a military uniform, Nazi was my guess.  The center row had three images of death camps, one of them showing a trench filled with hundreds, if not thousands of naked bodies, most of them women and children.  The last row, the one closest to him, displayed a copy of a passport, a visa, and a driver’s license.  The dead man had a name.

I could take no more and I stepped free of the trailer.  I coughed and gagged.  I spit trying to get the residue of stench from my throat.  Alternating the closing of one nostril, I blew trying to dislodge the film of death and accompanying smells from my nasal passages.  None of it really worked.

“What did you see,” Melvin asked.

From a distance of ten feet, I looked back at the trailer.

“I saw a prosecution, not much of a defense, and an execution.”

“I don’t understand,” he was confused, “What’s that mean?”

“It means, I think the Israelis were here.”

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