After a long break, for various reasons (busyness, tennis elbow, attempts at novel writing), I am back to writing and sharing short stories. As with my other stories, the idea for this one comes from a Flash Fiction Friday prompt:
Prompt: Write a story about someone finding bones in a mundane place and their investigation of why they were there
Word Limit: 1,200
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Sci-Fi
I hope you enjoy the story - let me know what you think.
It was the gold tooth that disturbed me most. Don’t get me wrong; it was upsetting on many levels, but it was the gold tooth, a lower incisor shining prominently in the light of the exposed globe overhead, that sent a chill down my spine.We were sorting through our recently deceased grandmother’s possessions, my cousin Madge and I. Being the only relatives living close by who didn’t have a household full of children with multiple weekend commitments, we got the job. It was our third weekend at it and we were about half done. Two single women in their mid-thirties both saddened and a little relieved by the death of the family matriarch.
‘What’ve you found? Any family skeletons?’ Madge, a journalist always on the lookout for a story, was standing in the doorway behind me.Silently and without turning, I held the jaw bone up so that she could see that I had literally found a family skeleton, or at least part of one, in the closet I was clearing out.
‘But… Uncle Maurie had a tooth like that.’ After a long pause, during which I had time to stand up and face her, Madge finally spoke aloud my thought. The way his gold tooth caught the light when he leered was one of my strongest memories of my uncle.I nodded silently, looking at the bone in my fist. Uncle Maurie was the family black sheep and following too many drunken incidents, he had packed up and moved overseas; at least that is what Grandma told the family. It was years ago, I was eighteen. Maurie was never heard from again, which hadn’t really surprised anyone. It was in character. My father sometimes speculated about what it had cost Grandma to get rid of him.
‘Is there any more…?’ Madge asked hesitantly. I couldn’t tell whether she was trying to supress excitement or fear.I shrugged and reached for my pocket with my free hand. ‘I suppose we’d better call the police.’
She mirrored me by shrugging, before nodding in agreement.A few hours later, we were caught up in a murder investigation. I could see that Madge was enjoying the experience, no doubt because it would help her career to see the case unfold from the inside. I thought that it was sad for her that it would never end up in court with the obvious suspect already dead.
The forensic team soon found more pieces of bone in the cupboard and elsewhere in the room. While they didn’t find everything, they found enough to later confirm our initial identification and to determine a cause of death. A hole about a centimetre wide with cracks radiating out, on one side of the skull, and a slightly larger hole on the other, made it easy for the pathologist.‘So you reckon it was about 15 years ago that anyone in the family last saw him.’ The homicide detective asked us both.
‘Yeah, Grandma said he’d left the country.’ I was letting Madge do most of the talking.‘What sort of a man was he?’
‘”A drunken wastrel.” To quote the old lady.’ Madge would never have called Grandma “old lady” to her face.‘So where would he have gotten money to go overseas?’
‘We thought Grandma had paid him off.’ I noticed that Madge was trying not to reveal too much family gossip, like concern that Grandma had spent all of her fortune keeping Maurie out of the country. I thought they should have known her better than that.‘What was your Grandmother like? What sort of person?’
‘She was tough… and a bit posh.’ Madge summed her up perfectly.‘So she could take care of herself?’
‘Grandpa left her with five young kids and she managed fine. Maurie was the only one who went bad….’ Madge trailed off, looking thoughtful.
‘Your grandfather disappeared? …like your uncle? Hmm… give me a moment.’ The detective leapt up, leaving the lounge room where we were being questioned.Meanwhile, Madge was staring at me, eyes wide in shock. I think my expression was more subdued.
‘Do you think there’s another skeleton here? How did we not find them sooner?’ I could see Grandma quickly becoming a double murderer in Madge’s mind.I shrugged. It was becoming my response to everything. My own thoughts were in a jumble. I wasn’t sure what to make of the situation.
‘Maybe we should call Dad and Uncle Jack?’ I broke the silence. ‘They are the executor’s and they might want to come straight away. It’s a long drive.’Madge nodded, her turn for silence. I wondered if she was composing an article in her head. Our grandmother had been a prominent figure in the local community, so this would probably make the newspaper where Madge worked.
We moved to opposite ends of the room and called our respective fathers. As I expected, both men decided to set out for town immediately and we each would have a guest for the night.The detective returned and we told him of our impending visitors.
‘Good, they might know more about what happened. I would guess you lovely ladies were too young at the time.’ He smiled and I think we both blushed. Then he turned serious again. ‘I’ve asked the forensic team to search the other rooms, at least the ones you haven’t cleared out yet. Just in case there is anything else to find…’This surprised neither of us. I look up at the detective and met his eyes for a moment, before looking away. I wondered what he thought of our family and its secrets.
Two days later, at dinner, my father and Uncle Jack were both looking grim. I think both of them had somehow imagined that they would one day see their father and brother again. Instead, they were arranging a belated double funeral. Our extend families were all coming.Madge and I had discovered a lot of family history in the last few days. While Madge was busy recording it all for posterity, or an exposé, in a rather detached manner, I was more subdued, remembering Uncle Maurie. I think I had more contact with him than Madge ever did.
‘I can’t believe she killed them both.’ My father said yet again.‘And kept the bodies... hidden.’ Uncle Jack responded as he always did.
‘Well, at least the police are wrapping up the case pretty quickly, with the only suspect dead.’ Madge was again impersonal.My father gave me an odd look, as if he was about to ask a question, but then he shook his head and returned to his meal.
I pondered Madge’s comment as I remembered my uncle. The last time I’d seen him, I was staying with my Grandmother. Maurie was drunk when he stumbled past the guest room.
‘So… you’re all grown up... and so pretty.’ He leered at me, entering the room, his gold tooth glinting in the lamp light.‘Don’t you dare!’ Grandma’s ice cold voice came from the hallway.
He ignored her and continued into the room. Bang! I had found her gun earlier that day.Silently, we cleaned up the mess. The matter was never spoken of again.