Cheating at a Funeral.
Read the Episode:
It’s Tuesday night, about eight o’clock and I’m in front of my computer at home. I’m online finding out what people thought of the charity spelling bee at the New Moon Church, which happened the night before. I visit a Mysterious Bluffs forum, and see a discussion posted about the event, and it already has thirty-five entries. Browsing through them, I’m quite surprised how brutally honest of the reviews are.
One entree by username 67catlickjody strikes me as particularly nasty:
What pompous buffoon thought up such a humiliating contest? The only fools that entered were lousy spellers – except for that kindergarten teacher, who rattled off every word in the contest like a pro. That’s really good, except that the Russian guy who thought up the word list must have been smoking pot at a funeral parlour. Who wants to spell colostomy and amputation at a charity event? The kindergarten teacher was the only one that did. I’d rather adopt a twenty year old than put a toddler in her class.
Another attendee, who goes by the username Stella44, said she felt woozy after eating a few biscuits at the event, but then said she that she had finished them just before hearing the word Beelzebub.
Oh no it’s that word again. I swear the light in my computer room dims a notch. I feel the same dark presence from the night before. It reminds me that I met the man who stole Bill’s Rolex watch. And when I mentioned he was the culprit, nobody believed he did it, because Constable Randy said the man was the spiritual leader of the church. So that was that.
Oh, did I mention that Bill the blind ex fireman smelt the man’s aftershave, and said that it wasn’t the kind the thief was wearing.
Case Closed. The spiritual leader was beyond any recognition of his guilt.
The dark feeling thickens inside me while I read through the thread.
Oh my god, a good review. What a nice surprise from username pipeline27, cause I feel like I’m hovering over a bottomless pit.
Here’s what it reads:
The Spelling Bee only had four contestants, but their hearts were the size of hot air balloons. They were honourable, courageous, and willing to stand up for the most deserving man.
I have never met the organist personally, but enjoyed him performing at a friend’s wedding. He played beautiful hymns and acted gracious and respectful. I can’t think of a human being more deserving of a beautiful casket.
The only strange part of this charity event, was that Constable Randy was wearing a pair of my old slacks. I mean they were in perfectly good condition when I donated them to a clothing drive, so they didn’t look bad on him or anything. But I never thought I’d see them again.
What a coincidence. The dark presence sinks deeper inside me, and I feel recklessly anxious remembering that Constable Randy was wearing my old Bomber Jacket at the event, so he must be connected to the clothing drive somehow.
I mean, there is a second hand clothing store on Kingston Rd, where he could have bought clothes from drive – but what are the odds that he picked his outfit for the Charity Spelling Bee from the old clothes of two audience members?
And why? Is this just a coincidence. I asked Constable Randy about the bomber jacket, and he brushed off my question as though it meant nothing. So maybe it did mean nothing – except my gut feeling tells me otherwise.
Wet snow starts to splatter against the window of my computer room. The glass flexes from a gust of wind. It’s a arctic storm that’s determined to keep winter on my mind in the middle of spring.
I try to remember who was behind the clothing drive, and the flyer about it comes to mind. I found it in my mailbox about a week before the event, read it through, thought it was a good cause – so I emptied my closet of items that had served me well, but it was time to say good-bye.
Hmmm… I recall now, a local Recreation Center was hosting the event to support a wheelchair basketball league. No, that’s not it, and I have no idea why I’d think of wheelchair basketball either. But some kind of sports center was involved.
How about I leave a reply for pipeline27, and tell them about the Constable wearing my old leather jacket, then ask if they can remember the group that hosted the clothing drive.
(sound of keyboard clicking)
All right, all done. I’ll get to the bottom of this mystery.
(the sound of a cheesy tone cell phone ringing)
Who would call on a stormy Tuesday night?
Hello, Oh hi Ebba, how are you? Not well? Why? You’re kidding – just down the road from us. Do they know who it is? You must be horrified.
Is Swen home? Oh no, he’s still at the furniture store. Well, I’ll come talk to you then. See you in a minute.
Hmm, apparently an older woman has been found dead at the bus stop a block away from us. I hustle over to an empty bedroom at the front of my house to look out the window, and spot a couple police cars, and a fire truck. Some firemen are speaking with couple guys in suits. A cop who looks to be Constable Randy, is cordoning off the area with yellow crime scene tape.
I go to my own bedroom, put on a pullover, go to the front door and add boots and a wool cashmere trench coat, then make the short trip my neighbours house.
A tearful Ebba invites me into her living room, and we sit down on the couch. On the coffee table in front of us are two bottles of rose, one already empty and the other missing glass or two.
Ebba picks up her glass, and takes a long and smooth sip. She gets a large mouthful without appearing to gulp.
“I hope the dead woman isn’t driving you to drink.” I say.
She nods her head to say no, then explains that she had gone to the corner store to buy some chocolate, and seen the woman lying at the bus stop. She lost her appetite on the spot, and returned home.
“Did you call the police when you saw her?” I ask.
She says no, and explains that Constable Randy was already there and asked her to move on.
“How about Swen – have you told him the news?”
Again she nods for no, and she says they haven’t been talking since the night before, and she doesn’t feel comfortable about calling him.
“Was it that little spat you guys had about having a baby?” I ask.
Ebba laughs eerily, and her face reddens deeper than the booze has coloured it. She says it wasn’t a little spat. Swen gave her an ultimatum that if he didn’t have a son within a year, he would sell the furniture business and move back to Sweden.
“I thought you guys were satisfied with your marriage,” I say. “Didn’t the meditation camp in Quebec help? Who could argue about having a baby after experiencing cosmic laughter? You guys have reached a higher state of being that makes babies less interesting than lube in a test tube.”
Ebba agrees with a passionate smile. She says that Swen and her are still children themselves, compared to the zillion years since the universe was born.
“Don’t get me wrong, though,” I say, “If you ever have a baby, I won’t hold it against you. Their cute.”
At one time, I myself was searching for the right women to have kids with, so I couldn’t encourage Ebba not to have them – even though my ex wife had run off with her fitness instructor while we were married. But enough of the mushy stuff.
“So who do you think killed the old lady at the bus stop?” I ask Ebba.
She says that she has no idea, then asks why I think it’s foul play.
“Cause I saw Constable Randy wrap crime scene tape around the area. He wouldn’t do that if the old lady was napping after jujitsu class.” (old car honking)
At that moment someone knocks on the door. Ebba goes and answers it, and I hear some fast chatter. She calls me to come see the person, because they have a important message. I ask her how important? Is it as important as a heating duct sales man with free tickets to Disney on Ice. Is it as important as a jehovah’s witness dressed like Mary Poppins at a public hanging.
Ebba says it’s really important, and if I don’t come she’ll invite him in.
I go to the door and it’s that strange man who went on stage at the spelling bee and whispered in the ear of Boris Yaktuvavitch.
Now I have a better look at him. His face has slavic features, notably high cheek bones and slightly inclined eyes, and he’s about my height, around six feet tall, but heavier set.
He’s also holding a leather attache case in one hand and a note pad in the other.
“What’s going on tonight?” I ask.
“I saw you come here from your house, sir,” he says.
“You’re watching me?” I ask.
“No,” he says. I saw you from across the street by chance. I have your name on my list from the spelling bee, and you’ve been invited to attend the funeral for the church organist tomorrow night.”
Ebba blurts out that she can’t make it, but the man says she isn’t on the list.
My neck stiffens with annoyance. It has been only one day since I wrote my info on the donation list at the spelling bee, and the church is already using it to contact me.
Why can’t I be as uninteresting to the church as Ebba?
“I can’t make it either,” I say. “And really, I didn’t know the organist. I met him once, and we didn’t even ask each other’s names.”
“We’ve been channeling the organist through Boris Yaktuvavich, and he insists you attend his funeral.”
“Boris Yaktuvavich,” I say. “I thought he was the church janitor. How can you trust he’s channeling the right message? I didn’t even like him as the host of the spelling bee. He didn’t pick appropriate words for a community event.”
“He picked words that were appropriate for his battle with alcohol,” the man says. “It’s a vice that effects the community. His words were an emotional release for him, and helped to heal his struggle.”
“So he doesn’t feel like vodka after polluting the spelling bee with words like amputation and necrophilia?” I ask.
The man frowns and says it’s kind of insulting to hear that vodka is the first drink that comes to my mind. “Russians are fully capable of swigging champagne,” he declares.
“That man wasn’t even a Russian,” I say. “So he was the first to do the insulting. He insulted our intelligence with that terrible accent.”
“He is one-hundred percent Russian,” the man says. “Come to the funeral and I will prove it to you.”
Hmmm…I think to myself. Another night in the New Moon church and I’ll need vodka to clear the ravens out of my eyes.
I feel the dark presence again, and strangely, it gives me the desire to see the organist one more time, as though he’s a long lost brother.
“Are you guys serving snacks?” I ask.
“We had so many donations from the spelling bee,” the man says, “that we’re having a buffet dinner in the eduction center, before the service.”
Ebba’s face brightens up with interest.
“How about I join you, Micheal,” she says “I’ll tell my husband that I’ve gone to visit a friend and he’ll never know we went to a funeral together.”
I ask why she wouldn’t want to bring Swen along.
She says that Swen assured her that he’d never enter the church again, which means that she has to go without him knowing or risk getting him upset.
“But you don’t want to go anyway,” I say.
Ebba gives me a wry smirk and says that dinner at a funeral would be a brand new experience for her, so she can’t resist.
“Well, can I bring her along?” I ask the man.
“You two better be just friends,” he says. “Cause we don’t want any kind of trouble.”
“Do you think any trouble we’d cause would stand out in the New Moon church?”
The man grunts distrustfully and says that if somehow Ebba’s husband finds out what she’s really done, he might crash the funeral and cause a scene.
Ebba says please in a cutely polite squeak, and the man gives in with a resentful nod.
“There better not be any trouble,” he threatens.
After he gives us the funeral details, the man leaves, but before Ebba can close the door, Constable Randy approaches.
He seems stiffer in uniform than the night before, when he was wearing casual clothes. And his face is coldly serious, as though the pressure is on to get answers about the body at the bus stop.
“Micheal, you must have a thing for dead people,” the Constable says. “I suppose it’s a coincidence we just found a body near your house and you were the one who spoke to the church organist right before he died. I’d say you’ve had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time lately, that is, unless you’re meddling with witchcraft.”
“Witchcraft, Constable?” I say. “Did you find any broomstick bruises on either of them?”
“No, we haven’t found any bruises,” he answers. “But you could have made a rubber hose dance like a snake.”
There’s a dead body at our bus stop,” Ebba says. “Is this the time for lousy jokes that don’t make sense?”
The Constable explains that he’s come by because the old woman’s death is suspicious, and he’d like to know if we’d seen any kind of suspicious vehicle in the area.
“That’s an awfully vague question, Constable,” I say. “But I’ll guess anyway – a white van without windows and markings on the sides.”
“Hey, that’s the right vehicle,” the Constable says. “How do you know.”
“A white van is the number one choice of cautious criminals ,” I say. “Anyone less serious might as well drive a Ferrari.”
“That’s ridiculous,” the Constable says. “Anyone who can afford a Ferrari wouldn’t leave a stiff at a bus stop. They’d buy their own cremator and a lake to throw the ashes in.”
I got to admit, the Constable’s comment was a little perturbing, but it didn’t catch my attention as much as the tenseness in his voice. His eery tone gave me a sense of injustice about the women’s death. The Constable has a case to solve, and time is of the essence.
“Honestly,” I say. “I might have seen two or three white vans today, and they remind me of the one I own, so I’d rather try to name all eight of the seven dwarves.
“You own a white van?” The Constable says.
“Yeah, it’s the company vehicle for Midas Antiques, but I park it in behind my store, so it’s never in this area.
And it has a logo on both sides of it, so I wouldn’t use it to drop off a dead person at a bus stop, let alone the bus stop right by my house.”
“You may have nothing to do with the body,” the Constable says, “but we might have to check your van – and Ebba, we might have to speak with you as well – so I need your phone number.”
While she’s giving her number to Constable Randy, I ponder why he would joke about witchcraft at such a serious time.
Has he found room in his brain for supernatural ways to kill the organist and the old women?
In history, witches were persecuted by religious fanatics because they were considered evil. But the speculation they were harming anyone was mistaken as proof. Nowadays, Constable Randy would be unworldly to believe that witchcraft is the cause of anyone’s misfortune, since old world evil has been more or less, rationally explained by modern science.
Even if I’d taken up witchcraft as a bizarre hobby, Constable Randy has no way to prove I used it to cause these deaths. He might as well blame me for a thunder storm that knocked out a power station.
After Constable puts away his note pad, I tell him my own joke about witchcraft:
“Hey Constable,” I say. “Do you think witchcraft can make the right DNA evidence appear?”
“No,” the Constable says,” but it can make me wonder why you’re answering the door with Ebba. Is Swen inside?”
Ebba reminds him that we’re neighbours, then asks what business does he have knowing where her husband is?
“Sorry, I’m kidding, Ebba,” he says. “Just like the jokes about witchcraft – funny, funny, you know. It helps take the heat off a suspicious death.”
Ebba and I nervously stare at the Constable. The word witchcraft echoes in our heads.
“Well, I have to get on with this case,” the Constable says. ” So I’ll see you two at the funeral.”
“How did you know we were going?” Ebba asks.
“The man who just visited you guys,” the Constable says, “he’s from the church, and he looks pleased. You guys must have agreed to be at the organist’s funeral.”
“So you’re going to be there as well, Constable?” I ask.
“Of course. It’s an important community event. Are you guys going to the burial ceremony too?”
“No, and the man never mentioned it,” I say. “So we’ll leave it at that.”
“Maybe he forgot,” the Constable says, “with all the excitement about the dead woman at the bus stop?”
“You call her mysterious death exciting officer?”
“Well, not exciting like a roller coaster,” he says. “There’s a killer on the loose, so everyone will be on their toes until we get him. It’s just like TV.”
“And you’ll be the star, Constable?” I say.
“I wouldn’t be more famous for writing speeding tickets,” he says.
End of Part 7
Hey there mystery buffs, stay tuned for Part eight when the spiritual leader of the new moon church gives a bizarre speech at the organist’s funeral.
Constable Randy was wearing my old pants. – Micheal Midas leather jacket.