By Steve Shrott
I watched as Roger headed toward Wilson Hays’ office, his face red, his hands closed into fists like a prizefighter looking to knock out his opponent. It wasn’t unusual. Roger had a quick temper and often disagreed about the way the campaigns should go here at Stanton Advertising.
Not that Roger and I were buddy-buddy, either. Yesterday, I won the office pool and so far, I hadn’t been able to get him to hand over my two hundred bucks. We’d had a few other run-ins as well.
I did, however, have one good friend in the company—the boss, Wilson Hays.
Most Wednesdays after work, we’d go out for a drinking session at The Bentley. We’d been doing it since I started as assistant copy writer two months ago.
The Bentley was a watering hole down the street from the office. The place was dark and had music from the sixties playing in the background. Wilson liked it because they employed Irish cocktail waitresses. It reminded him of his youth in Dublin.
The two of us would talk about everything under the sun, from past jobs to our secrets. I told him how nervous I was because I’d lost one of the initialed cufflinks that my girlfriend gave me for my birthday. He told me how he had keyed his cousin’s car when he got drunk at his house warming party.
At the end of each drink-fest, we would shake each other’s hands and Wilson would give me some Irish proverb like, “May good luck be your friend in whatever you do.” Nice.
On the day that Roger created such a fuss, Wilson seemed particularly driven to go out for a few pints. He ordered his usual Irish whiskey. I went for a Heineken.
“What happened with Roger?” I asked, sipping some of my drink.
“You saw that, eh?”
“Yeah. He looked pretty busted up about something.”
“The Danbury Campaign. He was screaming, saying I should have chosen a more colorful picture for the magazine ad and that the slogan was too wordy.”
“What’s with that guy?”
Wilson shook his head. “Don’t know, my boy. This time though he went over the line, called me all kinds of names—dictator, Nazi. I’m getting tired of his outbursts.” Wilson slurped some of his drink. “I’ve been thinking of letting him go.”
I thought it best not to say anything. While we were friends, he was also my boss. So I did have to watch myself a little.
“I’ve been thinking about something, Tim,” he said.
“Why don’t you and I make a deal.”
“Yeah. If you’re ever in any kind of jam I’ll be your alibi, and if I’m ever in any kind of jam you’ll be my alibi. What do you say?”
I really didn’t know what to say. “What kind of jam are we talking about?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps you have an argument with your wife.”
“I’m not married, remember? Lianne and I are—”
“Oh, right. Miss Hastings is your girlfriend. ”
I smiled. “Yeah.”
“Anyway, you’re shooting the shit with Lianne and suddenly you start arguing. It gets kind of heated and you end up killing her.”
My eyes snapped open. “I kill Lianne?”
“Yeah. But you leave real fast and no one sees you. Later the police say, ‘We found Lianne’s body. We know you had words with her, and we want to know where you were when she got killed.’ You say, ‘Well I was with my boss, Wilson Hays, at a movie.’ Then they come to me and I say, ‘Yeah that’s where we were.’”
I smiled. “I don’t know if I’d ever be in that kind of position, Wilson. I’m not planning on killing Lianne, or anyone else, anytime soon.”
He let out a bit of a laugh. “No, no, I get that. The thing is that even if you don’t do anything wrong, it can sometimes look like you did. The cops are very suspicious. Even the simplest thing could set them off. Say the police come to my house and find my wife with a knife in her chest.”
I crinkled my brow. “You’re not married either.”
“Just saying.” He spread out his long arms. “They find out that I was home at the time. The cops might very well think I had something to do with the murder.”
“I’m sure they would.”
“But in reality things may have been quite different. Perhaps my wife went to bed early and I stayed downstairs. I had put in ear buds to listen to some music, and because of that I wouldn’t hear the window open and a man enter our bedroom. I wouldn’t know that he stole money from my wife’s wallet and stabbed her when she started to get up. The cops would probably think I’m guilty, even though I was completely in the dark.”
I couldn’t disagree with his logic, even though his words were starting to slur.
“So rather than tell the truth and say I was home at the time, which would probably give me a prison sentence, it would be simpler for me to just say that I was out with you at the boat show. The cops would come to you and you’d say, ‘yeah, we were at the boat show together.’ See how it works?”
“Yeah, I do but—”
“Let’s drink to it.”
He had already begun ‘drinking to it’ before I could decide what to do. So I followed suit. It didn’t matter much if I agreed or not. He was pretty fried, and I doubted he would remember much of this conversation.
Everything went well at work for the next few weeks. Wilson gave me a promotion to head copy writer, and my relationship with Lianne seemed to thrive. I introduced her to Wilson and the two really hit it off.
Then one day I came in and felt a somber mood permeating the entire office. Even our usually perky receptionist had lost her smile. I didn’t know what to make of it, so I went over to June in accounting. She’s kind of a gossip genius; she knows everything that’s going on.
“You didn’t hear?”
I shook my head.
“Roger is dead.”
I felt like a piano had fallen on my head.
She wiped her eyes with a tissue. “He was murdered.”
“Oh, no. Do they know who did it?”
June shook her head, her blonde-highlighted hair bouncing from side to side. “No idea.”
I saw Wilson at the water cooler and marched over to him. “Sorry to hear about Roger.”
He looked sadder than I’d ever seen him. Grief-stricken, even. I could certainly understand that—even if he planned on firing Roger. Wilson put his arm on my shoulder. “Thanks, my boy. Yes, it’s awful.”
I went back to my desk not thinking any more of it until three in the afternoon, when a police officer marched into the office.
I assumed it was about Roger’s death. He talked to Wilson for about half an hour and then I was called in to join them. Wilson was seated at his enormous desk as usual, the officer in a chair in front.
“Tim, this is Officer Jenkins. I figure you could clear everything up for him.”
I stared at Wilson, wondering what I could clear up.
The officer turned to me. “I’d like to ask you some questions, Mr. Donahue.”
Wilson gave me a bit of a wink and a slight smile. “Don’t be worried, Tim, they just want to confirm that we were together on Wednesday. That’s all.” He turned to the officer. “He’s a bit of a nervous Nelly.”
The officer nodded. “Could we be alone for a moment, Mr. Hays?”
Wilson left and I sat down at his desk, my shoulders tightening.
“How long have you been working here, Mr. Donahue?”
“A couple of months.”
“Would you say that you and Mr. Hays are friends?”
“Well, we do get together sometimes for drinks.”
“He says that the two of you went out on Wednesday. Is that true?”
I was about to say, yes, because we usually did. However, this last time, Wilson had something to do on Wednesday and we had actually gone out on Thursday instead.
Our alibi deal came into my mind, and though I’m an honest person, I realized, looking at the officer’s darting eyes, that Wilson was right. Police are naturally suspicious and simple is the best way to go. Besides, it was only a little white lie and wouldn’t matter in the long run.
“Yes, we were together on Wednesday night.”
“Where were you?”
“At the Bentley. It’s a bar up the road.”
“Any special reason?”
I shrugged. “Just chatting, drinking, nothing special.”
“How long did you stay?”
“From a bit after five to six-thirty or so.”
The officer nodded. “Okay, that’s all I need right now.”
He left and the tightness in my shoulders seemed to fade. I was about to leave the office when Wilson returned, his tie loosened, beads of sweat on his forehead.
“How did it go, Tim?”
“Fine. The only thing was that…“
Wilson leaned forward. “Yes.”
“You told the officer we were together on Wednesday, but actually it was Thursday.”
“Remember you said you had something to do so we got together the next night?”
Wilson nodded. “Oh, right. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I remembered our deal about covering each other’s asses, so I told him we were together on Wednesday. Simpler, as you said.”
Wilson blew out air and a big smile flooded his face. “Good job, Tim. I’m glad I didn’t have to tell him I’d gone to an illegal betting parlor on Wednesday. You saved my bacon. I appreciate it.”
I was about to leave, but then something occurred to me. “Listen, Wilson, if the officer talks to the bartender he’s going to find out that we weren’t there on Wednesday.”
He didn’t flinch. “No problem. Sam will help us.”
“The bartender. I made the same alibi deal with him. Remember this, Tim—you can never have too many alibis.”
* * *
I had cleaned off my desk and was about to leave when the officer stepped into my office.
“Mr. Donahue, we checked with the bartender at The Bentley, and he remembers Mr. Hays being there on Wednesday night.”
“As I said.”
“So he’s cleared.”
“However, the bartender doesn’t remember you.”
I froze. Why would he say that? Then I figured out that Sam must not have realized he was supposed to alibi me too.
The officer continued. “And the thing is we asked around and it seems as if you also had some issues with Roger.”
“Just a few small inci—”
“Apparently, he didn’t pay you the money he owed you.”
“And a short time later, he was killed.”
“That had nothing to do with me.”
Just then the officer’s phone rang.
“Excuse me.” He took out his phone. “Yes…I see…describe it…right, thanks.” The officer’s eyes took on intensity as he stared at me. “It looks like Roger was in a fight with someone and he ended up with a cufflink in his hand. A cufflink that has the initials TD. Your initials—Tim Donahue.”
A jolt of electricity flew through my body. What was happening? I hadn’t done anything wrong and now I was stuck in the middle of this. What was I going to do?
A moment later, I calmed down. After all, I had given Wilson an alibi, so he owed me one. I just had to come up with something that explained everything. “Officer, there are many people who have initials similar to mine. Some, were probably enemies of Roger. I heard he had a ton of them. The other thing is that after Wilson left the bar, he came to my apartment. I had left my phone here, and he dropped it off.
“Mr. Hays never mentioned that.”
“He probably forgot. The thing is I don’t like to speak badly about Wilson, he’s a great guy, but sometimes he forgets things. He does drink a lot.”
“I see. So you weren’t at the bar that night.”
“No, I made a mistake. I guess I mixed up my days. I’m sure Wilson will confirm all this.”
A few moments later, we were in Wilson’s office. I stood, the cop sat down. Wilson seemed as though he were a million miles away.
Wilson eyes suddenly became alert.
“…Mr Donahue tells me that you came to his apartment after being at The Bentley on Wednesday. Is that right?”
I smiled at Wilson and winked so the cop wouldn’t see.
“No, I went to a restaurant.”
My heart started beating as if on steroids. “No, no you came over…remember you brought me my phone. I had left it in my office.”
He glared at me. “I wouldn’t have done that because I had a date that night.”
“I’m sure my girlfriend will verify that for you, officer. He brought out his phone and a moment later, I heard a woman’s voice. “Hello?”
“Hey honey, listen, a policeman wants to make certain that I was at Franklins with you on Wednesday night.” He turned the phone so it faced the officer.
“Yes, of course, sweetie. You had the filet mignon and I had the trout. ”
The officer took the phone. “Miss, can I ask your name?”
As the cops arrested me, I realized that I had been out alibi-ed.
Steve Shrott's mystery fiction has appeared online and in print magazines such as 5minutemystery.com, Futures Mystery Magazine, and The Taj Mahal Review. His stories have also been published in various anthologies including 'The Killer Wore Cranberry. A Second Helping,' and 'The Whole She-Bang.'
He has crafted material for well-known comedians, and written a 'how to' book on humor writing. Some of his jokes are in The Smithsonian Institute.
His short story, “The Good Book,” was published in omdb! in December, 2012.
Copyright © 2016 Steve Shrott. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!
Return to Over My Dead Body! Online.