A Rumor, Gossip, and a Murder

Submitted into Contest #37 in response to: Write a story about a rumor making its way through the grapevine.... view prompt



“My God, did you hear? Violet Randall died. Last night, as a matter of fact.”

Gossip was circling its way around the breakfast customers at Marie’s Diner. The queen of rumors, Anastasia Prewett, was sitting with Janie Lewis. Anastasia's attire was rather gaudy, especially for breakfast. Janie was the opposite, plain in appearance. Janie and Anastasia were happily munching on scones and the latest news. 

“How’d it happen?” Janie demanded. 

“Stabbing,” said Anastasia with an air of delight about the mystery of it all. 

“You don’t suppose-” 

“That’s exactly what I do suppose. Theo and his wife had a big fight last night. Wendy Mason told me, and she’s their next-door neighbor.” 

“And they have a daughter! To think …” Janie trailed off. Theodore Randall and his daughter had walked into Marie’s. Theo was a tall black man. He usually blended into the background. Theodore's daughter could only be described as "cool", although the busybodies all knew she was unpopular. Everyone facing the door was looking at Theo and his daughter.

Anastasia swiveled around. Her eyes went wide and she slowly turned to Janie again. 

“I’d have thought the police would be all over his house by now! I mean, if she was murdered.”

“Maybe she wasn’t,” Janie said, rather reasonably for a gossip. 

Anastasia chewed on her scone thoughtfully. “Stabbing? No, she was murdered. I’m sure of it.”

Theo Randall turned to his daughter, Maddie Randall. The staring had stopped. “I’m going to get some donuts. Do you want your usual?” 

“I don’t care.” She glared at the tiled floor. 

“I’ll be back in a minute. Why don’t you go sit with Lisa?”

Maddie trudged over to Lisa. Lisa had been Maddie's friend for years, but right now, Maddie did not want to talk to her.

“Hi, Maddie,” Lisa said tentatively.

“Hi,” Maddie replied.

Lisa hesitated. “Are you okay?” 

“No. I mean, she was my mom. Even if…” 

Lisa knew what Maddie was saying, and also knew that she didn’t want to talk in the diner. 

“Gossip alert,” Lisa said, not-so-subtly looking at Anastasia and Janie. In spite of herself, Maddie let out a giggle. 

Then her father came and the pair returned to their home. The pair that used to be three.

The phone rang. Alessa Manchester pulled her slippers on, set down her tea, and went to the living room. Alessa might have been the only person in the whole neighborhood who still used a landline. She was a stubborn old woman, a person whose pains of getting old seemed to be delayed by sheer force of will.

“Hello?” she called into the phone.

“Alessa, I know that you never liked me all that-”

“What is it?” she snapped into the phone. Alessa knew this voice better than she would have liked.

“Violet is dead.” 

“No …” Alessa said. 

“Yes,” said Theodore. “I-” 

“You can't say that you’re sorry.” Alessa was straightforward. She knew about Violet’s outings, and she'd heard about that fight. She had no idea about her daughter dying, though.

“I- You’re right. But I did not have a hand in her death.”

“Theodore, how do I know that you are not a murderer?” Alessa hung up. 

Lena Wilson twirled her pen.

“This needs an epic headline. Hmmm … ‘Prarie Hills Death, Suspected Murder’. No.” She leaned back in her chair and crossed her long legs. “‘Suspected Murder in Prarie Hills.’ Yes, that’s it!”

Lena pulled an old laptop out of her desk. She typed for the next few hours, sometimes glancing at an interview notebook, until her article was finally written to perfection. The town newspaper went out tomorrow, and she needed to have her last article done today. Finally, Lena began reading what was on her screen. 

Suspected Murder in Prarie Hills

By Lena Wilson

Violet Randall was found dead on Wednesday morning. She appeared to have died of a knife wound to the stomach. This could be a suicide, but many suspect foul play. 

“Mrs. Randall and her husband had a loud fight late Tuesday evening. The household seemed tense to me. You know, it appears that way a lot. And the Randalls’ daughter always looks scared,” Wendy Mason, next-door neighbor to the Randalls, said. Wendy has lived next to the Randalls for years. Ever since she lived there, she’s been saying outright that the Randalls are suspicious.

Perhaps Mr. Randall took part in the death of Mrs. Randall. Others refuse to acknowledge the rumor. Mayor Westward said this afternoon that “an investigation might be necessary, due to questionable circumstances” but she is “unwilling to make any conclusions”. Some people say that Mayor Westward is just unwilling to face the truth of a murder in her town. 

Either way, there is something shifty about the Randall household. Prairie Hills Paper will keep you updated. 

Maybe the journaling program at the U would see this and reconsider her decision. She had reported a real murder. Even if it was only the backseat feature.

Lena sent in her article, then picked up her phone and called Anastasia Prewett. Lena was sure that Anastasia would give her publicity. Besides, Lena liked a good gossip every now and then. For the first time in years, this town had given her something exciting to talk about. 

Soon, the Chief of Police in Prairie Hills knew everything about the Randalls. It only took some digging. 

Theodore Randall was an accountant in the nearby town of Washington. He earned 70,000 dollars a year. His work hours were from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. Theo's parents were the late Mr. and Mrs. Randall. 

The late Violet Randall did not have a job outside the home. She did have a bachelor’s degree in business, though. Her parents were Ms. Manchester, who lived nearby, and the late Mr. Manchester. 

Maddie Randall went to school at Prairie Hills Middle School. She had mostly A’s and B’s in the last quarter, with a C in Social Studies. Every other Friday, she went to a counseling service with a Ms. Lionel. The counseling was paid for by Mr. Randall. 

The family seemed fairly normal so far. Chief Sutton thought the counseling was interesting. She definitely planned to look into that during her talk with the Randalls. 

This talk with the Randalls.

“Where were you when Mrs. Randall was found dead?” Chief Sutton asked professionally.

“I woke up early, and she wasn’t there,” said Mr. Randall. So I looked upstairs for her, but she wasn’t there. In the living room, I finally saw her…” he trailed off. 

“I was sleeping,” Maddie said. “I didn’t wake up until later, and Dad told me…” She too stopped talking. 

“We think Mrs. Randall died about 1:00 a.m. Where were you at that time?”

“At 1 a.m? In bed,” said Mr. Randall. 

“She died at 1?” asked Maddie, looking horrified. “I woke up at about 12:30, and when I couldn’t fall back asleep, I read.” 

“So you were reading at 1?” 

Maddie nodded, still appearing upset.

“Now, I’d like to speak to both of you alone. Mr. Randall first,” Chief Sutton said. When Maddie had left, she asked the question bluntly. 

“What was your relationship with Violet Randall like?” 

“Well … Isn’t this question a little personal?” 

“Mr. Randall, I need to know for the investigation,” she said.

“We were in love, once,” he began. “The night of her death, I saw … I saw her with Dean Langstaff. That was what we fought about. I was very high-tempered, but I would have never killed her.” 

Chief Sutton was quite surprised. Dean Langstaff! He was the owner of Prairie Hills Bank and one of the richest people in town. However, the chief tried to hide her surprise as she thanked Mr. Randall and asked him to leave the room. Maddie came back in. The chief was less blunt this time. 

“How were … things with your mother?” 

Maddie scowled. “Horrible. She’d been meeting that guy forever, and I caught her once. Ever since I did, we barely talked to each other. I didn’t want her to die, though.” 

“I know you go to counseling every other week,” Chief Sutton prompted.

“Yes,” Maddie said. She did not continue. 

“Why do you go?”

“We-ell, Dad saw that Mom and I were always kind of tense with each other, so he signed me up for some sessions.” 

“Thank you,” Chief Sutton said. One item checked off on the To-Do list. But there was still Talk To Ms. Lionel, Interview Mr. Randall’s Coworkers, and Interrogate Mrs. Randall’s Mother. And now Talk To Dean Langstaff.

Sigh. This was going to be one long investigation. 

Dean headed out to the Town Square. He had a haircut appointment. After what had happened, he didn’t really want to go, but he thought he should still maintain a normal routine. After all, Dean was very respected. He shouldn’t let on that anything out of the normal had happened. 

The bell over Twin Scissors Barbers rang out in the small space. 

“Langstaff, appointments closed right now!” someone shouted. 

“Why?” Dean called. 

John, the barber, walked into the main area. “The mayor is making a speech. The whole town’s listening. We’ll do appointments after.” 

Dean nodded. He better go home. If the whole town was listening, then he might run into some people he did not want to see. Like-

The rest of the Randalls. 

“Hello, Dean,” said Theodore Randall cooly. Maddie Randall just glowered at him. 

“I was just, er, heading home,” Dean said. 

“Why don’t you stay?” Theo asked. “It looks like the mayor is making an important speech.” 

Dean was trapped. He had no idea why Theodore wanted him to stay. To embarrass Dean? Whatever the case, Theo would not back down.

So Dean stayed for the mayor’s speech about Violet.  

He didn’t listen to a word of it. 

Wendy Mason, the middle-aged neighbor of the Randalls, was very proud of herself for the fact that she had overheard the fight between Mr. Randall and Mrs. Randall. She told everyone, and soon the word spread. Almost all of Prairie Hills believed that Mrs. Randall was murdered by her husband. 

Whether or not this was true, Wendy didn’t care. It really seemed like the obvious truth to her, so she was more than happy to support the rumor. 

Wendy had the shock of her life when Dean Langstaff was announced as a suspect. But the shock turned to easy gossip material when she found out that Mrs. Randall had an affair with Dean. Wendy instantly called Anastasia Prewett. 

“Oooh, Stasey. You won’t believe what I heard.” 

“Is it about the murder?” Anastasia asked. 

“What else?” Wendy replied. 

“Tell me, Wendy!”

“Mrs. Randall was having an affair with Dean Langstaff before she died! All the more reason for Theodore Randall to murder her!” Wendy could tell that Anastasia would be green-eyed with envy because, for the second time in a week, Wendy was the one with the juicy gossip.

“I don’t believe it,” Anastasia said. “I’m going to call Janie! Talk to you later, Wendy!”

Anastasia hung up. Whether or not the police had evidence, Wendy just knew Theodore Randall was the murderer of Violet Randall. 

Theodore Randall was not a murderer. He had not killed Violet, nor anyone else. He wished he hadn’t fought with her. 

He also wished that Violet had not given him a reason to fight with her. He had agreed with Alessa, saying that he was not sorry for Violet to be dead. Now he was sorry, and he just wanted to prove that he was not a murderer. That was why he was going to the police station.

“Hi, Chief Sutton. I came to see if there are any new developments regarding the death of my wife.” 

“Mr. Randall, we will keep you updated as soon as we find out more. Right now we are attempting to obtain search warrants, so soon we’ll have more information," Chief Sutton said.

“Obtain search warrants for what?” Mr. Randall demanded. 

Chief Sutton cleared her throat. “The search of your home." She paused. "And we just sent some people over to search the home of Dean Langstaff.”

Theodore was surprised she was telling him that. She probably wanted to show him he wasn't alone in the search of his home.

That did not make him feel better. 

An officer rushed in. “Chief, we’ve found incriminating evidence in Mr. Langstaff’s backyard!” 

Chief Sutton nodded towards Mr. Randall, and the officer stopped in his tracks. The chief and the officer went to a private room. Mr. Randall sat on a bench in the station. He still had a few minutes before he should go back to Maddie. 

Chief Sutton and the officer came out. They realized that Theodore was still there, and stopped. 

“Can you tell me what was found?” Theodore asked. 

“No, I’m afraid we can’t,” Chief Sutton said. 

Theodore thanked her anyway and went back to his home. When would the murderer be found?


Sophia Loughty was sitting in a private room, and she was about to give the vote that might sentence a man to life in jail. 

She didn’t feel any guilt about this. After all, the man was on trial for murder. Sophia was a responsible woman. She had carefully thought about the case. There was more than enough evidence to send this man to jail. But- that alone was not Sophia’s determination to vote guilty. She thought about every single piece of information given and decided that this man was guilty. He had no alibi for the time of the murder. He had a probable motive: Killing the victim to prevent knowledge of his affair with the victim. A knife was found buried in the backyard of the man’s home, and the victim's cause of death was stabbing. Many interrogations transpired, most of them supporting the conviction of this man.

When the time came to give her vote, Sophia voted that the man was guilty. 

So had everyone else in the room. That meant that Dean Langstaff was going to go to jail. 

Prairie Hills may be small, but that wouldn’t stop Janie and Anastasia. There was always something to gossip about. 

April 18, 2020 01:13

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