I always lie more convincingly in a red dress. Good thing I was wearing one when the police arrived. And the bloodstains! They would have been positively lurid against the cream-colored Stella McCartney cocktail dress I was this close to putting on the night before. Well, I always have been lucky. If you met me in person, you’d hate me. You really would.
You’d admire my flawless good looks, expensive clothes, and frolicsome charm. You wouldn’t be the first to go weak in the knees for my Rolls-Royce Sweptail. Oh, you thought they only made one? Officially maybe, but the world I live in is a few steps higher than exclusive. The word “no” does not exist here. Not for me.
So, as I said, you would hate me on sight. I have that effect on people. It’s not anything I do precisely, although I have done some very unpleasant things. It’s more a function of who I am: blessed from birth, incalculably rich, and someone you will never be. Life is hard. For you, I mean.
Fate deals you cataclysmic events while tossing me nothing but minor inconveniences like the one sprawled at my feet in an embarrassingly awkward position on the second most expensive rug ever sold at Sotheby’s auction house. Cagey of me to kill him on that rug, don’t you think? Only a fool would commit premeditated murder and ruin a $30 million-plus rug in the process. And nobody’s ever taken me for a fool, I can assure you.
I suppose you’re wondering who the dearly disposable victim of my cold-blooded crime can be. One of the usual suspects? A cheating husband, a faithless lover, an abusive father who’s had it coming for far too long? Do you think someone like me would kill anyone so ordinary? Please, give me some credit. Everybody else does. I’ve got the Amex Centurion card to prove it.(Sorry, but I do have the most vulgar predilection for bad jokes!)
Anyone who knows their Hitchcock knows the best way to get away with murder is to kill somebody you have absolutely no reason to kill. Oh, yes. I know it didn’t go so well for those fellows in Strangers on a Train, but this is me about whom we’re speaking. Let’s remember that.
Motive, means, and opportunity: hit that trifecta, and you’re in trouble. If you’ve no good reason to kill a person, your odds of getting away with it increase exponentially. Every day we are each presented with the means and the opportunity for murder: A lone jogger and a palm-sized rock, a subway train and a well-timed push, a pedestrian, and a little confusion over which pedal stops the car. Means and opportunity abound, it’s a motive that pushes regular people like you over the edge. I don’t include myself because we’ve already established I don’t need one.
The curious thing is that everyone does have a motive, whether they know it or not. Your life might be better without a spendthrift spouse who’s dipped into the retirement account one too many times if there’s a substantial amount of life insurance on the line. The only thing standing between you and that promotion is Dave. Somebody cheated, so someone must pay. People have killed for so very much less.
But enough about you. I’ve got a murder weapon to dispose of, condolence letters to write, and a crime scene clean-up crew to engage. Of course, I have people to do those things for me, but I believe some things are best attended to by oneself. Tiresome though they may be.
You’re still wondering about my victim, aren’t you? Please don’t. He was a person of no importance, beneath your consideration, even in death. Why is it that when someone becomes a murder victim, suddenly they’re a big deal? All they do is stand there. It’s we murderers who do the heavy lifting.
Oh, dear. Someone’s coming. How unfortunate! I’ll be back in a jiffy. Just let me go put on my face.
“Ms. Timmons? You done with that breakfast tray? Hey! What happened to your tomato juice? Did you knock it over again?”
Brandy stands with her hands on her hips and surveys the scene muttering under her breath, “Clumsy old bat.”
She crouches down beside the bed. “Oh, no! Look what you’ve gone and done to your poor Mr. Cabbage Patch doll! This place looks like a crime scene. I don’t think the girls in the laundry room are going to be able to do a thing with that. I do not.”
Brandy scoops the juice-soaked doll in a cheap area rug and deposits the mess in the bin with the soiled linen. She turns back to the bed.
“Oh, now, Ms. Timmons, don’t fret. I’m sure it was an accident. I’ll talk to your caseworker and see if she can find you a new one. Maybe a little girl dolly this time or a nice cuddly stuffed animal, would you like that? Gotta have your little lovey, don’t you, sweetheart?”
Brandy doesn’t wait for a reaction, knowing there won’t be one. She pulls down the old-fashioned, rolled shade at the window. “You just try to get some rest now, Mrs. T. Forget this ever happened.” She leaves the room, closing the door behind her.
What’s going on in your minds, I wonder after witnessing that remarkably mundane scene? I can only imagine. You may even be just a tiny bit shocked.
Didn’t think I’d get away with it, did you?
Long, long ago in the village of Woofpit, so-called because it was ringed with holes to trap ravening wolves, a man named Richard was out walking one evening at harvest time. He was enjoying the pleasant weather before winter blew in to rattle his bones.
As Richard approached the river, he heard a strange, mournful keening, as if someone were weeping from a broken heart. Soon a second voice, weaker and more sorrowful than the first joined in, creating a captivating harmony. Richard looked around.
Ahead was the river, but the sound was much closer. Suddenly, Richard remembered the wolf pits. Villagers knew to avoid them, but perhaps some strangers had fallen in. He began checking each one. All were empty, save for the bones of the hapless wolves who had stumbled into them.
Suddenly, Richard heard the sound quite close. He looked into the nearest pit as the sunset cast a mystical glow on the scene before him. There they were. The keening stopped, and in the waning light, he could just make out the faces of a little girl and boy at the bottom of the hole.
He would need a ladder to get them out. “Hush, now. Don’t be frightened,” he told them. “I’ll get help.” But the children did not seem to understand and set to wailing once again.
Richard ran to the nearest farm and roused his friend William who was smoking a pipe in the yard. “Hurry! Two children fell in a pit,” he said. “Get your ladder!” By this time, William’s wife had heard the commotion and was already grabbing blankets from their bed. By the time Richard returned to the pit, half the village was tagging alongside.
It was dark now, but someone brought a lantern. William held it aloft as Richard descended into the pit. One by one, he lifted the children to safety, and William’s wife Martha quickly bundled them in blankets. They were no longer crying, but they were unable to communicate with the villagers. “Who are you? Where are your kinfolk?” The children just stared at them.
The elder of the two, the girl, tried to speak, but they couldn’t understand her. “Enough of this. They must be starving,” Martha told them. “Everyone, go home. I’ll feed the sweetlings and put them to bed.”
In the morning, Richard awoke and started towards William’s place to see how the children were doing. He was surprised to see William hurrying toward him. “How are our foundlings?” asked Richard. William looked at Richard uncertainly.
“You’d better see for yourself,” he said.
When Richard entered William’s cottage, there was a washtub filled with dirty water on the hearth. The children stood in the corner wearing grain sacks, while Martha stirred something over the fire. She didn’t acknowledge Richard’s greeting. “Is something the matter?” asked Richard.
William picked up the little boy and brought him outside into the morning sunshine. The girl trailed behind. “Richard,” he said. “Look at them. Look at their skin.”
Richard gazed upon the children in amazement. Their skin was green as a lettuce leaf, green all over. “Are you sure it’s not from some plant they rolled in? Maybe they fell in a dye bath before falling in the pit.”
William shook his head. “Martha scrubbed and scrubbed. They’re green everywhere, their eyelids, their armpits, even between their toes.”
“Could it be some kind of sickness?” asked Richard.
“I don’t know,” William replied. “And here’s another thing. They’re starving, but they won’t eat anything. Not stew, nor cheese, nor bread. Martha is right put out by it. She doesn’t want them in the house. If they do have some kind of sickness, we can’t have our little ones getting it. They’ve got to go, Richard. Today.”
“You can’t mean for me to take them,” Richard replied. “My wife and children are dead. I wouldn’t know what to do.”
“You found them,” said William. “They’re your responsibility.” He went back inside his cottage and slammed the door.
Richard looked at the children. Their solemn eyes blinked back at him.
“What am I going to do?” he asked. Shaking his head, he took one small hand and then the other, and started home.
Along the way, Richard stopped at the hut of Old Betty, the village wise woman thinking perhaps she could advise him. Old Betty examined the children and said, “Bad food has weakened their blood. Feed them fruit, vegetables, and bone broth. They’ll soon be fine. You owe me a chicken. Now get going.” Richard hesitated.
“Martha and William said they wouldn’t eat anything.”
“Ha!” Old Betty exclaimed. “I’m not surprised. Have you had Martha’s cooking? Just keep trying different things. They’re probably foreigners not used to our food. When they get hungry enough, they’ll eat. Now go! And remember to bring me that chicken.”
Richard took the pair home. He dressed them in his dead children’s clothing. He still didn’t know their names, so he called the girl Willow and the boy Bean.
At first, he had trouble getting them to eat, but then he had an idea. He set some flat green beans before them. Their eyes lit up, and they gobbled the beans greedily. He went to his neighbors, asking for any green food he could find. It worked. Lettuce, cabbage, green beans, and even green apples delighted the children, and they ate their fill. He put handfuls of spinach in bone broth, and that too they drank.
Willow thrived, and soon, her skin was like everyone else’s. She even began to speak a little English, but Bean, although his color too was fading, was still sickly. When the first cold blast of winter came, he fell feverish and died.
His sister laid a bunch of leeks on his grave. She looked up at Richard, and with great dignity, said, “His name was Zelen, Prince of the Fey. He withered in your world, but I will not. I am Rocha.”