Death of Freedom
by Christopher W Gamsby
A white sedan pulled up outside of Harry Winterman's row house, and the engine died. Joe stepped out of the passenger side door. A uniformed officer stepped out of the driver's side door, and another officer exited a rear door. The officers wore black uniforms with a light blue circle covering the middle of their left biceps. Two parallel white lines ran length-wise up their arms and intersected with a perpendicular black line creating a symbol that resembled connecting T's ( TT ). The black line represented equality amongst all people, and the two white bars represented the police, propping up that equality. The patrolmen joined Joe on the sidewalk.
"Ok, so you two are going to join me in the house, but I want you to blend into the background. If either Harry or Mary speaks to you, don't say anything. I'll answer whatever question, and if I'm wrong, don't bother to correct me. Do you understand?"
The officers nodded, and Joe lead them to the Winterman's front door. Joe knocked, and Harry answered.
"Right on time, Detective. Mary and I are still home... Who are these two?"
"They are rookie officers who I'm showing the ropes tonight. Please don't pay them any attention, but since I don't drive and all, I thought it would be best if they just drove me here. You don't mind, do you?"
"Uh, no that's fine. So what are your names?"
"That one's name is Jim, and her name is Susan."
His name was Chester, and her name was Blake. The four people walked into the Winterman's kitchen, and Mary flinched at seeing the officers. Chester and Blake stood quietly near the door. Joe approached Mary at a small food prep island that the couple used as a dinner table.
"Good evening ma'am, I have some news that I believe you'll want to hear."
Harry smiled and nodded; Mary inched herself forward onto the edge of her seat.
"The tragic death of Miss Gregory was just an unfortunate accident."
Mary slouched and let go of her breath.
"She suffocated as a result of a gas leak in the room."
Mary furled her brow and cocked her head.
"There won't be any further investigation, and the investigation will be sealed as per the Fairness to Citizens Act!"
"That's wonderful news! Isn't it? Now we can just move on with our lives."
"Yes, of course, that's wonderful..."
"I think we should celebrate? Don't you? How about a glass of wine?"
Harry thought for a moment.
"That sounds like a wonderful idea! Which wine do you suggest?"
"How about the 21-year-old Cranston Brothers?”
"Well, Detective, I never would have imagined you have such refined tastes. Try to enjoy it; this is probably the only bottle in the entire city."
Joe grabbed three long stem glasses dangling from a wooden holder over the sink. He returned to the island's counter and positioned himself between Harry and Mary. Joe took the sealed bottle from Harry and popped the cork. He poured wine into each of the three glasses.
"Before we have a drink, I'd like to propose a toast! Sometimes with complex mistakes, we forget ourselves and become hopelessly lost. Rarely we find redemption and our old relationships not only survive but grow much stronger after reconciliation. Cheers to those who found love again and may it last until fate pry you apart."
Harry raised his glass to celebrate and. Joe downed his entire glass. Harry and Mary watched dumbfounded. Harry laughed.
“You're one of a kind, Detective.”
Harry raised his cup to his lips, and Joe slapped the cup from his hands. It flew across the room and smashed into the kitchen wall. Crimson sprayed the steel back-splash when the glass shattered on the far wall. Joe grabbed the counter to stop himself from falling.
“What are you....”
Joe parted his raincoat, and one of the lead plates on his belt melted and seared into his body.
"Well, Mary, why didn't you try to drink your wine? You're the one who likes wine, right?"
“What? No, that's not...”
"Why were you so surprised when I told you how Chastity died? You obviously knew the wine is poisoned."
Harry's face dropped.
“Mary, what is he talking about? What did you do?”
"Damn it, Harry. SHUT UP! This isn't how my life was supposed to be! You were supposed to become the next CEO of Trent Coats! I was supposed to be your wife, and we were going to be rich and important! Then that slut came along, and you were just going to throw me aside! Just like that! After all these years!"
“You... you knew? How?”
"Of course I knew, you can't keep a secret for your life, for my life either. You think it's clever? Going into work early or leaving work late to have an affair? The weather here never changes, Harry! It never changes! Men! Don't get me started. They are incapable of having an affair for that long without falling in love. Believe me, I've had seven men beg me to leave you after the affair was already stale."
“Did... did you poison Chas?”
Mary crossed her arms and bit her lip.
Come on! She's so close! What now?”
A painful realization struck Harry.
“How did you know that Chas was going to drink the wine and I wasn't?”
“She didn't. This wasn't supposed to be the murder of Chastity Gregory. This was supposed to be the accidental death of Chastity Gregory and Harry Trent. You were supposed to drink the wine with Chas and die. The investigation was supposed to show the wine was spoiled with botulism and we were supposed to rule the death an accident.”
Mary's face darkened.
"You were too clumsy even to die! The police would have never looked into the deaths, except you disappeared! You disappointed me AGAIN!"
Joe laughed. The poison made his limbs jerk, and he steadied himself with the counter.
"No, you were going to jail either way. There was too much botulism in the wine bottle; it couldn't have possibly happened naturally. The main difference is that you would have been arrested this morning instead of now."
“Hmph... once I got word that he was dead, I would have dumped those bottles down the sink, but he told you about the wine! Even though he knew he was a suspect!"
"All you criminals, you're all the same! I knew about the bottle, so what? If you dumped it down the sink and ditched the evidence, you'd probably be free now. YOU are responsible for the crime AND your arrest."
Joe motioned for the guards at the door to arrest Mary. They stepped into the kitchen. Mary jumped forward and grabbed her glass of wine from the counter. Joe tried to clasp her wrist, but his motions were jerky from the poison, and she stepped away unimpeded.
Mary drank the whole glass before the officers or Joe could reach her. Mary smashed the glass on the counter and threatened the officers. Joe motioned for the guards to stay away. At first, she stood unaffected by the poison, but after a minute, she stumbled back and hit the ground. Her breathing became shallower as Joe, Harry, Blake, and Chester stood by helpless. She choked out a dying statement.
“Looks like I'll be the one that gets to see Chastity first.”
If you liked this short story, you should consider reading the Shift World novel.
Please do not reproduce this short story without my explicit permission.