By Richard Ciciarelli

"I tell you I can't live with Janet much longer," Lou Fairfax complained. "Between her crazy hobbies and constant babbling of trivia she's driving me out of my mind."

"Then divorce her," Sandra Deming cooed. "And we can be together all the time and not have to sneak around like this."

"You know I can't divorce her," Fairfax grumbled. "She has all the money, thanks to that inheritance of hers. I'd end up without a dime to my name."

"But when you sell your novel and become famous..." Sandra began.

"Oh, who are we kidding? I can't even sell a short story or article. And that so-called epic of mine is a piece of garbage. No editor would ever consider buying it. No, Sandy, the sad fact is I need Janet's money. Badly."

"Well, can't you get her to divorce you? At least that way you could get something in the way of a settlement."

"Are you kidding? I'm Janet's little showpiece. Whenever we're at a party she introduces me as her husband the author. She gets some kind of thrill out of it. Makes her feel important. Then I have to answer all the embarrassing questions about what I've written and what I've sold."

There was a long silence as the two lovers stared at the floor.

"There is another way out, you know," Sandra murmured.

Lou's head snapped up and he stared at the pretty blonde who sat beside him.

"You aren't considering..." He let the sentence hang.

"Well, you've always said your wife is accident prone. All her friends know it. She keeps telling them of how she spills things and drops things and bumps into things. Maybe she could have an accident that would be fatal."

"You aren't serious are you?" Lou asked incredulously.

Sandra shrugged. "Do you want to get rid of Janet or not?"

"Well, sure, but..."

"You're a writer. Come up with a plot for poor Janet to have an accident. That will take care of both problems."

"But that's not as easy as it sounds," Lou protested.

"Sure it is. Maybe her hair dryer can drop into the bathtub while she's bathing."

"She doesn't use a hair dryer. She has one of those short hairdos that doesn't need blow-drying. And she takes showers."

"Oh. Then maybe the brakes on her car can be made to fail when she's in the middle of rush hour traffic."

"She doesn't drive. She takes a taxi everywhere or else I drive."

Sandra made a face. "Well, you said she was into electronics real big. Maybe she could get a shock fixing the TV set or fooling with her computer."

Nope." Lou shook his head. "She knows too much about that stuff to make a fatal mistake. Look, Sandy, forget the accident stuff. It'll never work."

"Yes it will," Sandra insisted. "We just have to find the right ingredients for an accident. That's all. Keep your eyes open for the next few days. We'll come up with something."

* * *

"Lou, did you know that actor Robert Cummings' godfather was Orville Wright? The Orville Wright who flew at Kitty Hawk?"

"No, Janet, I didn't," Lou sighed, "Why is your hand bandaged?"

"I was taking the back off an old radio to fix it when the screwdriver slipped. You know how accident prone I am."

"Yes, well you really should be more careful. Some day you're going to hurt yourself seriously."

"Don't be silly." Janet waved a hand. "Oh, do you know where I went today?"

"No. Where?"

"There was an exhibition downtown of all kinds of miniaturized electronic gadgets: televisions that you can wear on your wrist like Dick Tracy, cameras that fit into a tie clip, those poddy things, whatever they're called — all sorts of fun things."

"Is that going to be your newest hobby?" Lou asked. "How much money are you going to throw away on that stuff before you get bored with it and turn to something else?"

"Who cares?" Janet sang. "It's my money and I'm going to enjoy it. Speaking of money, did you know that the back of a dollar bill shows a pyramid with thirteen steps, the motto annuity coeptis with thirteen letters, e pluribus unum with thirteen letters, thirteen stars over the eagle's head, thirteen stripes on its shield, thirteen arrows in its left talon and thirteen leaves on the olive branch in its right talon?"

"No, dear, I didn't know all that."

"Really, Lou, how have you survived all this time knowing as little as you do?"

"Just lucky, I guess."

"I should say so."

A low purring noise to his right made Lou jump.

"What is that?" he asked, pointing to a four-legged fur ball.

"Our cat."

"Cat? Since when do we own a cat?"

"Since today. I heard on TV that millions of cats and dogs are put to sleep every year because their owners don't take care of them."


"So I went to the pound and adopted a cat. It was going to be destroyed."

"Wonderful." Lou's voice dripped with sarcasm. "He'll probably chase every female cat in town."

"Don't be silly. This is a calico cat. There's no such thing as a male calico. They're sort of like mules and ligers."

"Liger? What's a liger?"

"The offspring of a male lion and a female tiger. Your ignorance is showing again, Lou."

Lou Fairfax grunted.

"I'm going out for a while," he mumbled.

"You've been going out an awful lot lately," Janet said. "Are you up to something?"

"No, I am not up to anything. To tell the truth, I can stand just so much of your barrage of facts and trivia. Then I have to leave. Does that answer your question?"

Janet looked hurt.

"Yes. I guess it does. I'll get your coat."

* * *

"A cat?" Sandra Deming's eyes lit up. "That's perfect."

"Perfect? What are you talking about?" Lou griped. "That dumb animal will be all over the house shedding, scratching the furniture, making its smelly messes everywhere."

"And getting underfoot," Sandra added, eyes aglow.

"That, too," Lou agreed. "I'm liable to trip over it and break my neck."

"Or Janet will."

Lou looked at the blonde.

"Don't you see?" Sandra explained. "This is the perfect accident we've been looking for. Your wife will trip over the cat and fall down the cellar stairs."

Lou thought a moment.

"You know, Sandy, when you suggested this accident thing before, I thought you were crazy, but that woman with her trivia is about to drive me mad. I'm willing to try anything now. Even this."

"Good. Then you and I can get married and enjoy Janet's money."

"But won't it be difficult to get Janet to trip over that cat at just the right time?"

"Lou, don't be stupid. She doesn't really trip over the cat. You just make it look that way."

"Yeh." The light finally dawned on Lou. "I can get her to bend over to pick something up and I can hit her with the fireplace poker. Then I can drop her body down the stairs. That will provide the bumps and bruises needed to make everything look realistic."

"Right," Sandra agreed. "Then make sure you put some cat hairs on her stockings to make it look as though she tripped over the animal."

Lou smiled. "And with Janet's history of accidents, no one could doubt for a moment that's what happened."

"Then you'll do it?" Sandra asked.

"I have to. I can't stand that woman any longer."

* * *

"Lou, where do you go when you go out?" Janet asked.

"Just out. Nowhere special. What do you care?"

"I just wondered. What do you do?"

"I drive up and down the streets. Why?"

"No reason. Did you know the longest street in the United States is Figueroa Street in Los Angeles? It's thirty miles long."

Lou clapped his hands to his ears.

"I can't stand much more of this," he gasped between clenched teeth as he jumped from his chair.

"Oh, now see what you've done," Janet cried. "I've dropped my ring on the floor."

"Quit your moaning," Lou said, bending to pick it up. "It's right here."

That's when Janet brought the rolling pin down hard on the back of his skull.

* * *

"From the cat hairs on his pants leg, I'd say he tripped over your pet there and fell down the cellar stairs, Mrs. Fairfax," the investigating officer said.

"Oh," Janet sobbed. "How terrible. You know, officer, I'm the accident prone one in this house. How ironic that Lou should die this way."

"Yeh, well, things happen like that sometime."

In her slacks pocket Janet clasped tightly the miniature transmitter she had slipped into Lou's coat earlier that day.

"Did you know, officer, that radio waves travel at 186,000 miles per second, so a broadcast voice could be heard thirteen thousand miles away from here before it reached the back of this room?"

Richard Ciciarelli is a member of Mystery Writers of America and since 1982 has published numerous short stories in some of the country's top magazines and on-line mystery sites. The author has published over 80 short stories.

Mr. Ciciarelli is the author of the popular Charles Blake III series of short stories first introduced to omdb! readers in "A Private Murder" followed by "Ghost of a Chance" and "Scent of Murder." He also writes two other popular series; the Sheriff Sam Hartnet series... "Murder in the Crystal Palace" and "Sheriff Sam's Triumph" and the Mildred Bagshaw series..."In Vino Veritas", "Mildred Bagshaw and the Jewelry Store Murder", and "Cookie Jar Murder". "A Rose by Any Other Name," is a non-series short story also previously published on omdb!.

Copyright 2012 Richard Ciciarelli. 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!

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