Wrapping It All Up, Except One Or Two Plot Holes
Look, I tried. If I was a professional writer, I probably could have wrapped up this hydra-headed tale in 1000 words flat, and had it logical and believable as well. I just couldn't make it work. So, since this 6 chapter novella is 20% larger than Feisty's
usual 5 chapter novellas, I took poetic license and gave myself 20% more words for the last segment. So, it's a 1200 word segment. I'm sure you'll understand...
Here's the first five chapters:Chapter One by Bob: Bitter HerbsChapter Two by Christina: Heads UpChapter Three by Leslie: Shrink ThisChapter Four by Amelie: The Old NeighbourhoodChapter Five by CalTechGirl: Dead End?
And without further ado:
Chapter Six by El Capitan:Silver Bells And Cockleshells
Cahill glanced around the room. Aside from the bloody sheet on the floor, nothing looked out of place.
"Body's upstairs? What's with the sheet?"
"No idea," said Ryan. "Perp probably used it to drag the vic upstairs. There's blood on the sofa. Likely Schoedel was killed there, then moved later."
"Whole, or in pieces?"
"Probably whole. There's not enough blood spilled if she was chopped up downstairs. I’d have found trace spatters otherwise."
A tiny tag on the corner of the sheet caught Cahill's eye. Tattered and almost illegible, he could still see a name. Doniphan's
. The old department store over on 124th street. Place has been closed for 25 years. That far back, Monica Schoedel was in pigtails and saddle shoes. Very unlikely she'd purchased the sheet.
Cahill trudged upstairs. There was no effort made to hide Schoedel's body. A pentagram was crudely marked on the carpet in blood, with body parts arranged along the lines of the star. Cahill peered closely at the lacerations on a forearm. Contrary to what Ryan had said, this was not crude machete work. Someone had carefully removed the appendages at the joints, neatly as a boned chicken. Schoedel’s head was balanced carefully atop her gutted torso in the middle of the pentagram.
The coppery tang of blood was leaving a bad taste in Cahill’s mouth. He went back downstairs before it got any worse.
“Seen enough?” asked Ryan.
“The finger and toe arrangement was a nice touch,” replied Cahill. “Looked like a damn flower bouquet.”
“Yeah, got a real sicko working on this one.”
Cahill couldn’t get the taste of blood out of his mouth. He grimaced and headed for the door. “I’ve gotta get a drink. Call me if you find anything.”
“Gotcha, Mitch. Toss one back for me!”
Halfway to the nearest Starbucks, Cahill remembered Mrs. Romano and his mother griping about something… something about Doniphan’s… The sheets! That was it. Mrs. Romano still insisted on air-drying her sheets. She’d had half a dozen stolen off the clothesline some years back, and wanted him to investigate.
Pulling a U-turn at the next light, Cahill forgot about coffee and sped towards his old neighborhood. Starbucks could wait.
Cahill wondered about the connection. George doesn’t exist except to his mother and his shrink. The rest of the world sees ‘Lenny Markowitz’, Hasidic Jew by day, turban wearer by night. George gets killed and dismembered two days ago. His shrink talks to me two hours ago, now she’s dead and sliced up. This one made no sense…
The street was quiet as he eased his unmarked cruiser up to the curb by the old McFarland place. Crime scene tape was across the door, but he saw no sign of the lab techs.
Getting out of the car, he headed for Mrs. Romano’s. He was almost to the porch when he stopped, grimacing in frustration. Bingo night. The ladies wouldn’t be back for hours.
The sun was setting, and Cahill decided he’d check out George’s linen closet. Perhaps George liked to filch sheets. You could make a damn fine turban out of a cotton sheet.
The front door was locked, so he went around back. Passing through the gate into the back yard, he stopped and gazed in awe. The McFarland’s patch of dead grass and wilted shrubbery had been transformed into a showplace garden.
Cahill was amazed at the lushness and variety of the garden. All manner of herbs and flowers grew thick around the perimeter, and several large pots filled with huge round flowers dominated the center area, set in a long line. Dark purple, almost black blossoms. Odd color, he thought.
“Can I help you, Detective?” spoke a voice behind him. Cahill turned and saw Mrs. McCuddahey poking her head outside the garage apartment door.
“Mrs. McCuddahey. Sorry to disturb you. I was in the neighborhood and just had a few questions.”
“All right, Detective. I’ll help if I can.”
“First, whattya call those big purple flowers? Never seen anything like them.”
“Those are dahlias, Detective. I’ve been growing them since 1947. My pretty maids, all in a row!” Mrs. McCuddahey stepped outside the garage door.
“I see,” said Cahill. “Could we maybe talk inside?”
“Oh, where are my manners today? Please, step inside out of the heat, Detective. Would you like some coffee?”
Cahill grinned. Free Folger’s beat a $4 Starbucks cup anyday. “I’d like that very much, Ma’am.” He wasn’t supposed to accept gifts from civilians, but he was still tasting Schoedel’s blood.
Cahill perched on a tired old couch as Martha McCuddahey puttered about in the tiny kitchen. “Were you and George always New Yorkers?” he asked.
“Oh, my, no, Detective. We moved out from California some years back. Lived there all our lives. I even acted for Republic Pictures for a while.”
She came out bearing a tray with a pot and two mugs. Cahill took the nearest, and drank deeply. Not very hot, and he grimaced a bit. Bitter...
“I’m sorry, Detective. I just reheated some from this morning. Is it all right?”
Cahill nodded and held out his cup for a refill. Martha was talking again, but a high-pitched ringing in his ears distracted him from her words as he sipped some more. He looked up, aware that the room had suddenly gotten darker and fuzzy around the edges… he could swear he saw two Mrs. McCuddaheys!
“I see we have a guest, Martha.”
Cahill shook his head and looked again. There were
two Mrs. McCuddaheys…
“Oh, Mary, I’m so glad you’re awake.” said one of the Mrs. McCuddaheys. “This policeman came around again, and I didn’t know what to do…”
“How much has he drunk?” asked the left hand Mrs. McCuddahey.
“Almost two full cups!” replied the right hand Mrs. McCuddahey. Cahill began to sway slowly. His throat was tight, and he was having trouble breathing. He dropped the mug as his fingers lost their grip, and he was unable to move.
“How's the coffee, Detective? We brew this one for special guests. Some belladonna, a touch of aconite, just enough oleander to make things interesting.” He saw a hand raise his eyelid, but felt nothing.
“Wh… wh…whooo…” Cahill could barely breathe now.
“Martha’s my twin sister, Detective. Georgie was her little… mistake. Georgie was the sweetest boy, but he was, well, different. Liked to pretend so much he never really stopped. I kept him around as long as I could, but that latest phase? It was time for a change. Even Martha agreed he wasn’t bringing in the girls like he used to. Our garden just won’t grow without fertilizer, you know.
Cahill could only watch in terror as Martha came out of the kitchen carrying an electric carving knife and a stack of towels.
“Shame about Schoedel.” Mary continued, taking the knife from Martha. “She got too close to making Georgie crack. That pentagram ought to keep your department looking for Satanists, and away from old ladies.”
“Elizabeth Short was the first, Detective. You’ll be the 28th, and we’ve got all night to make you disappear.”
The last sound Mitch Cahill heard was the whirring of steel blades...