This is Auntie Carol, and Lord me, It is such a distress to get out little detective agency going. One does just not simply say I am a detective and can solve the crime, one must convince the client and there’s the rub. Why can’t they just believe it: we do not lack in sincerity nor deign I say it, “talent”. A sharp mind, a crime unwinds. Oh, heavens, the rhyming, again. It must be the stress. Oh, Lord, the cupboard is bare and I’m living on chocolate cherries. I do not dare tell Lady Lynda of she’d just spend a fortune on me and never ask for repayment. I’d have truffles, and canembert and cognac, all my favorite things. I have my pride. Yes, Indeed, I do. I am no fallacious floozy living off the charity of my beloved friends. And The Black Orchid, would be all wroth that I did not reveal my desperate and ignoble position. She would be sure to stock my cabinets to the grandest extent. And Wanda Lust would be over here right now cooking us a mess of grits, greens, and ham. Now, my mouth is watering and I’m looking at my cat, named Black Bastard, with avaricious eyes. No, damnit, I shall not resort to cooking my pets. He is so named for his predilection of sneaking out of the house and impregnating all the female cats in this blessed neighborhood. Such a scoundrel! Just like a man. Herman is away in Europe on a book tour, for his book entitled , Who Am I, Really. It is a smash success. I don’t want him to know I am not a success as well.
Oh, what do I hear the silvery sound of sleigh bells ringing. Oh, Ye Gads, It’s just the phone. Well, my friends ‘Tis the Season To Be Jolly’ . I am beside myself with joy. We have a case. It was Inspector, SlimyGut, from the police station. I feel I should inform you there’s an umlaut over the “u”. It’s the notorious “Cereal Killer” case, and he feels we are ideal for the job for we are both elderly ladies, gentile, and educated with a strong and viable knowledge of the late Emily Post’s Rules of Proper Etiquette. He believes we could more readily get into the mind of this horrid ne’er do well as he believes her to be an elderly woman. She is called the “Cereal Killer” because at the scene of each crime she leaves a box of Raison Bran with a butcher knife plunged into the box. It’s apparent to me that she must be a lady, as she cleans the entire house and tucks them neatly into bed with a copy of Emily Dickinson’s poems by the bed side before she departs. At least, she’s not low class like that horrible demon, Freddie Kruger. One wonders why he doesn’t get his teeth fixed. Alors, and heavens, no.
I called Lady Lynda, and she was having a contretemps with Seymour Toze, and being a lady, I did not as the reason why. A lady never pries, my Dears. Lynda came right over so I could explain the facts of the case and we could develop a profile for the perpetrator, or more simply, the murderess. I explained she was an educated woman of quality except for that one regrettable character flaw. These were the facts as we understood them. She was the “Cereal Killer” AKA “Serial Killer” and all twenty of the victims were prosperous, distinguished titans of industry awash in luxury and wealth.
“Oh my, a Fortune 500 party,” quipped Lady Lynda.
“Funny, but in poor taste, My Girl. In case they didn’t get any respect when they were alive: they should be respected in their untimely deaths.”
“Oh, my yes,” intoned Lady Lynda. “We are not jackals at the site of a kill.”
“No, we are most certainly not,” I affirmed.
I told her the mode of death was poison of an unknown variety and under the newly changed sheets and comforters, they were all in flagrante delecto” or as they say in the South, “nude as Jaybirds.” I told her I thought that it was evident that the murderess knew and cared for the men. The question is why would she do it. They were all of an age to play cards with death a la “The Seventh Seal.” Why kill men at deaths door, for heavens sake! Just wait it out. That would be the sensible thing to do. Lynda evinced the theory that it was a “crime passionale” and that the murderess was certainly not a sensible woman but a woman enraged. Furthermore, Lynda, with her brilliant criminal mind, contended that we had no proof it was a woman. Well, I countered that the lingering scent of Tea Rose and the gentile selection of literature, and the cleaning of the house sort of portended a woman. And they were all widowers. So they could not be homosexual.
“Have you never seen “Madame Butterfly” with Jeremy Irons. He didn’t even know his lover, Madame, was really a man. Let’s go through the credit card bills and see what they spent their money on and find out who their friends were and if all of them knew just one person. We’ll get all that from the police. That’s what we need from them,” replied Lady Lynda.
“We have all that, dear. And the police have pointed out that at various times throughout the men’s career’s they had all drawn out the sum of $5000 cash particularly around the holiday season, yet, at other times also, at one and three month intervals throughout their lives. This seems like visits from one very expensive call girl, to me,” I said.
“One woman shared by all of them. Hmmm. How about a selective, exclusive men’s club, and all of them were members. How about a brothel of high class call girls.?” posited Lynda.
“I’m feeling that all this is the work of one woman. You know, Dear, I’m psychic,” I replied. “And the police are dropping off all the photos this afternoon.”
“Someday our prints will come. A little witticism for you, Dear,” replied Lynda drily. “What type of health were these men in?”
“Poor to horrible,” said the police. “The richest, Baron Von Schiele had a wasting disease of the spine, while others had emphesema, cancer, and Alzheimers, “ I answered. “They were in their late seventies and eighties, mostly confined to their beds with round the clock nurses,” I remarked.
“Life is a banquet and most poor bastards are starving,” replied Lynda wryly.
“Are you going to start with the quotes, damnit, Lynda. This is serious business. You make me ‘mad, but north, northwest,”.
“Oh, you,” said Lynda flipping her hand at which point the police arrived with all the photos.
We noticed one rather statuesque, striking woman with raven colored hair in all the photos. Yet her face was always in the dark or otherwise obscured and she was never photographed being actually with any of the men. Very clever. Devious, even. And sometimes she was even talking with the wives with her back to the camera, naturally. Surely, the nurses knew who this mysterious woman was. But as we later came to find out none had ever seen her face as she was always veiled or had a mask on. But they were all sure she was a ravishing beauty, and a real “lady”. They did say she was a good forty years younger than the men and very devoted to them in their old age. She always wore long black gloves with diamond tennis bracelets. In fact, she practically dripped with diamonds and always wore black velvet in the winter, and crisp sundresses in the summer and the highest of boots and stillettos. She stood a full six feet tall in her stockings, and she smelled of Tea Rose or Shalimar. It lingered in the still air when she departed. That we learned from the maids.
With no DNA evidence and no photo of her face and no clue as to which poison she used we were quite stumped and somewhat depressed. It’s hard to be a failure. Then we caught a break. One of the maids, aged and ill, named Esmeralda, called us and said,
“I know what you’re doing. And I wish to tell you it’s my daughter, Pantera, you seek. She did it but she’s not guilty. At first, when she was just fourteen, they took her and set her up in a palace. They educated her, made her a lady, paid for her lovers, paid for all her expenses. At first, I thought they were using her because of her youth and beauty, but it was more than that. They loved her and she took to whoredom like a fish to water. There was no other thing she could have been nor wanted to be. Come quick, for I shall not last the night. She did it to save them from their suffering and they requested she do it as a last favor.”
We got there and pleaded with her to call an ambulance but she refused saying she was waiting for Pantera. Then the room became clear and light and warm and Pantera stood before us and then moved to her mother’s bedside putting a cool ivory hand to her mother’s forehead. Her eyes, cornflower, blue took us in and she understood all immediately. Obsidian hair tumbled down her back and she was so ethereal she could have been one of Degas’s ballerinas. Her face, like a calla lily under glass, looked tenderly down at her dying mother, and her full pouty mouth trembled as she bit back the sobs. Her scent of Tea Rose infused the room. Botticelli’s Venus would have paled next to her.
We turned her in but it was a heresay statement which we had heard, and we asked her not to tell the poison she used. We knew The Black Orchid could get her off with her barrage of high priced lawyers. Sometimes it’s tough to be on the side of Might and Right. Pantera’s blue eyes drift over me now like a fresh summer sky.
Written By CAROL ANN, Author of Poems of Thunder @Amazon & BN.com