Flying lessons

baby birds

“I’ll call when I get back in town.” The tinny timbre of her voice amplified the distance between them. “The conference ends today, but my flight home puts me back at Hartsfield around 3 a.m. tomorrow.”

“I can meet you, that way you won’t need a taxi.” He hoped he didn’t sound too needy.

“Don’t bother, I’ll be exhausted and terrible company.” The change in tone told him their conversation was off speaker. “I’ll call.”

Without a “good-bye,” his phone went dead, as cold as the stone in his stomach.

The screen on his cell immediately lit up. A text flashed with a name he didn’t recognize and plans that afternoon that didn’t include him. A tell that her conference was a sham.

His heart skipped a beat, fluttering like the broken wing of a dying bird. She had been so secretive and elusive lately. He knew she was cheating, that she was going to leave him. He wouldn’t let her go that easily.

He checked his watch, then looked at the text again. He had a couple of hours, that should be long enough.

On the short drive to her apartment, he worked out the details. Opening the door with his key, his fingerprints wouldn’t be out-of-place. In the kitchen he turned over chairs and swept dirty dishes off the breakfast bar. She was a terrible housekeeper. He smiled when he found an unwashed carving knife lying in the sink. Her prints would be all over the handle.

With gritted teeth, he made long slashes across his palms and forearms. Investigators would initially identify them as defensive wounds. He dialed 911 on his cell, then keyed in her name.

His last desperate act was to shove the blade of the knife as far into his gut as he could, his hands wrapped around the hilt, as if trying to pull it from the wound. He bled out as emergency vehicles raced toward his struggling plea for help.

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Lt. Schmidt watched the interrogation from the dark side of the observation glass, ignoring his rookie detective when he walked in with the medical examiner’s preliminary findings.

“Tell me again where you were between 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday.” Sgt. Voss pulled a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and handed it across the table to his suspect.

Dabbing at red-ringed eyes, she took a shuddering breath.

“Ryan and I have been together almost a year,” she said. “Our anniversary is the 15th. I was at Spencer Aviation in Norcross arranging flying lessons for him. I’ve been planning the surprise for months. I thought I spoiled it when I accidentally added him to the text when arranging the meeting with the instructor, but I thought I could cover for it.”

She began to cry again.

“He always wanted to learn how to fly.”

“She good for it, Lieu?” The young officer said, nodding toward the glass.

“No.” Schmidt closed the autopsy report and turned off the intercom. “Looks like it was a suicide. What I can’t figure out is why the vic tried to frame the girlfriend for murder.”

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Submitted to Weekly Writing Challenge. The theme was to, “begin a post with a scene that includes dialogue.”

This week’s Studio30 Plus prompt is “Flutter,” and/or “Gunsmoke.”

17 replies »

  1. Wham. When you decide to go dark, you don’t cut corners do you! Tara, this was not only a delicious read, but I think you may have found yourself a new niche. This wicked style suits you. So cool…

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  2. I liked it. I’m not usually a fan of twist endings, but I see the police seeing through his ruse at the end more as a subversion of the jilted-lover-framing trope rather than as a twist, so good job there. :-)

    What I have a problem as a reader with is his motivation for committing suicide: I feel like the I need more on his ‘status quo ante’ mental state to make it believable. A few lines about other obsessive, irrational behavior maybe? And she should sound like she was aware of those facets of his personality at the end…

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    • David, I know I should let Tara answer here, but I saw it as an accidental suicide. I can only guess he was hoping the ambulance would show up on time to save him, and still frame his girlfriend for it.

      At least that’s what was happening in my mental movie ;)

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