Round 2 of NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest Result: 12th place
Genre: Suspense Location: A horse stable Object: A tarp
No amount of alcohol could get me to the numbness I needed, rendering my half glass of whiskey useless.
Sitting on the edge of the water fountain, the massive lily pads and bright blooms made it impossible to see my own reflection, but I knew how awful I looked. Puffy, aching eyes and a raw, red nose were inevitable when you were to cry for nearly twelve hours.
Police officers had clomped through my home, leaving trails of mud and wet grass on the marble and hardwood floors. I had watched silently as they took over, separating everyone for questioning.
I had sat on the velvet chair by the window and watched the sun rise over the pointy pine trees which eventually blanketed the racetrack in a warm glow. The peonies that ran along the track’s fence were near their end, more petals tumbling to the ground every day.
The first time Frank brought me to see the manicured gardens and century-old brick house, I told him I felt as though we had stepped into a romantic piece of art that hung in a museum.
He had led me through a maze of hedges to an English garden. He had every breed of rose planted after he learned that Alice in Wonderland was my favourite novel.
My husband’s talent for painting the perfect picture was one of his best qualities.
But also, his worst, and perhaps the reason I was left a widow.
I poured the contents of my glass into the fountain, wondering how long I had blacked-out for last night.
“I want to thank you for your cooperation.” A detective approached and stood in front of me. “But could you tell me how well you know everyone here?”
I twisted in my seat to look at the lineup of Mercedes, Jaguars, and latest Tesla models.
“Not well enough, apparently.” Other than my close friends who helped me empty half a dozen champagne bottles, I could barely remember anyone’s name, let alone how they knew Frank or why they were invited. “When can I see him?”
The detective followed my gaze to the patio set on the hill where the officers had covered Frank with a tarp to preserve evidence. “Soon.”
“Can I please have my phone so I can call my mother?”
Shaking his head apologetically, he replied, “It’s protocol. But I can have one of my officer’s call her for you.”
Silence fell between us for a moment, and I picked at my chipped nail polish as I stared at the horse stable.
Never wanting to pry into his racehorse business, my curiosity got the best of me two months ago. Detailed notes and payments filled an accounting book I had never seen before. Wins and losses were recorded going back the entire five years we’ve been married.
Once confronted, Frank apologized and promised to be transparent from then on.
Our farmhand, Vince, arrived in his truck; the brand-new model that Frank insisted on gifting him.
“Who is that?” the detective asked.
“Vince has worked for us since we moved here.”
He followed me to the stable and we met Vince at the main door, quickly ordering him, “You can’t go in there; we haven’t searched it yet.”
“The horses need to be fed,” I said firmly.
“So, it’s true?” Vince asked, wide-eyed. “I thought it was click-bait or something.”
“Pardon?” I looked to him and back to the detective who lagged behind.
“It’s all-over social media. Had to fight to get past the news vans at the front gate.”
“Some protocol,” I spat. “Someone obviously has their phone because this whole stupid town knows what happened.”
A young officer approached and broke the news that a couple camera operators were caught on the grounds.
“I am so sorry about this, ma’am. I honestly thought we had this locked down,” the detective apologized.
“How about you worry less about me feeding my horses and more on your incompetent force.” Anger rose, heating my cheeks.
“Let me get her a coffee or water and I’ll feed the horses quickly. Nothing more. Promise,” Vince offered in a calm, neutral tone.
The detective seemed to struggle with his decision, exhaling deeply as he shifted from foot to foot. His radio continued to go off, static voices calling for back up and requesting that he get to the house right away. “Watch this door,” he ordered the officer. “Keep them here until I get back and don’t let anyone in.”
Unlike the house, the stable was brand new and had an office for Frank, a private changing room and full bathroom for me to use after riding, a living room with leather recliners and fully stocked bar, and a full kitchen with a dining room overlooking our private lake.
After handing me a cold glass of water, Vince went about his chores, and I went in the opposite direction of the horse stalls.
The door to Frank’s office was wide open and I discovered it was ransacked. Loose paper littered the floor, and the drawers of Frank’s desk been rummaged through. The Tiffany lamp was smashed by the window and polished trophies knocked from their shelves.
Rushing to my private room, I gasped when I saw the small safe that I kept hidden in a bookcase was left ajar and empty.
In flashes, memories of last night’s drunken arguments turned my stomach. But I remembered it was when Frank stupidly admitted to paying one million dollars on a stallion that brought the party to a halt.
Shook, I sprinted to the back door and along the stone walkway that led up to where Frank had been found. Only feet away from the investigators was a white-washed teak bench. Nestled by a back leg was the Colt .38 that had intricate engraving and a Mother of Pearl inlaid grip.
It was the only gun I had ever shot and was the sole person who knew the safe’s combination.