Crime Drama Fiction

"It was supposed to be a stupid April Fools' Day joke. That's it," I told the two cops in the fortieth minute or so of what they called an 'interview'.

"Two people are dead," Detective Hughes said, scratching behind his ear. We'd just left the house and walked out onto the deck, and he seemed to be taking in the view of the Pacific behind me. The waves crashing on the rocks below the decking forced us to speak up. "Not my kind of joke," he said.

"Yeah, well, it didn't go as planned," I replied, and knocked back the rest of my whiskey, clacking the tumbler down on the glass coffee table in front of me. I sat back on the outdoor sofa, watching Hughes scan the horizon. I make it my business to know people. I knew Hughes wasn't admiring the view. He was thinking and planning.

My phone, face down on the coffee table next to the empty glass, buzzed. I grabbed it and read the text.

Henry, my lawyer, was replying an hour late. He'd forced me to make a decision by his absence. So I decided to talk to the cops because I knew exactly what I would and would not say. I'd rehearsed it.

I looked at Hughes and said, "My Harvard-trained hand-holder has finally remembered he works for me. Give me a second."

Hughes said, "no problem." His partner, Burrows, who was pacing around the deck stopped and watched me, probably hoping Henry wouldn't make it.

"Sorry. On my way. Do not talk."

"Too late. I got this."

"WTF? Stop now!"

"Go home. We'll talk tomorrow."

"Fuck that. Be there in twenty. Stop talking!"

"Whatever. Almost done."

I silenced the notifications - Henry wasn't going to give up - and put the phone back down. "Why do I get the feeling," I said, "that I've become a suspect."

Detective Burrows, suppressing a smile, let go of the chair back she was propped on and rubbed her hands together, away from her fit torso. She'd been standing the entire time, even inside. Out on the deck, I don't think she wanted the beach dust on her pants suit. She walked over to join her partner.

"Mr. Younger," she said, "can you understand how an April Fools' Day joke that ends with a murder and an apparent suicide can appear a little--"

"Suspicious?" I stood up and walked around the couch to the railing. The sun would sink past the horizon soon. I placed myself between the detectives and the view.

Burrows nodded. "That's the word." she said.

"I hate this saying," I replied and shrugged, "but it is what it is." I smiled at Burrows. She's just doing her job.

Burrows didn't smile back, though. Unlike Hughes who was still looking past me towards the impending sunset, she held my gaze with poise and confidence. I held it right back until she broke to speak with her partner.

"I'd like to through it again," she said to Hughes.

I groaned and rolled my head a bit, but Hughes nodded.

"Yep. Good idea," he said, turning his attention to me. "Mr. Younger, it's in your best interest. Who knows, you might remember something that gets you off the hook." He gave me a tight smile and motioned to the couches. "May I?"

I nodded but stayed standing. Hughes sat, notebook and pencil in hand. Burrows didn't even consider sitting. I told the story from the top.

"Judith was screwing her tennis coach. I suspected them months ago, so I tasked my guys to check it out--I have some high resolution pictures. I can get them for you if..."

Hughes held up a hand and shook his head sideways, "Thanks. We'll let you know."

Burrows crossed her arms and shifted her weight to the opposite foot. She didn't like that.

"My guys also suspected that Judith had multiple affairs.They started a file. I guess she wasn't happy in our bedroom." I looked at my empty glass on the table. 

"I couldn't divorce Judith right away because I needed time to build the case. Without a prenup, half of my estate was at risk. So, my guys continued to detail her misbehavior and Henry worked on my exit strategy."

"Why no prenup?" Burrows asked.

"I married Judith twenty-eight years ago. I had nothing to protect at the time."

Burrows pushed, "Why not write up an agreement once you...?" She swept her arm around, as if presenting the beach house as exhibit A.

"Because," I replied. "Judith was an adulterer but not stupid."

Hughes gave Burrows a 'let it go' nod, and gestured for me to continue.

"Eventually I met Margaret who was with me the afternoon we found Judith and her tennis coach dead at the Sequoia Motel."

"How did you meet Ms. Trumble?" Burrows asked. She smirked...like she wanted to hear me embarrass myself.

"We met at a benefit dinner in Vegas," I replied, watching Burrows. "Margaret was unaccompanied and sat at our table. We danced and hit it off."

Burrows picked her notebook out of the inside of her jacket and flipped, finding what she was looking for. "Who was she representing at the event?" There's that smirk again.

Ahhh. I get it. She knows about Margaret's past. "She is Vice President for Philanthropy for the casino hosting the event. And, yes, I know she started as a dancer." I smiled. Burrows held her smirk and looked at Hughes.

Hughes circled something in his notes, ignoring his partner's gaze. "Can you run us through the whole joke idea? Who came up with it? Why did you think it was appropriate or funny?"

This was the hardest part of the story to tell because it was stupid and made me look bad. "Mind if I pour myself another?" I asked.

Hughes said, "It's your home, Mr. Younger." Burrows moved over closer to Hughes but continued to watch me.

I returned with two-fingers of whiskey, took a sip, and remained on my feet. Hughes and Burrows stared at me until I continued.

"Judith liked to play these elaborate April Fools jokes on me every year. Stuff like replacing my normal driver with a stunt man who sped around like a maniac.

It was her signature Spring event."

Burrows tried not to grin, and failed.

"She got my staff involved. I hated it but she wouldn't stop. So, once I had enough evidence to drive an acceptable agreement in court, we set up an April 1st service date. Irony. I thought it would be funny."

"And?" Hughes prompted.

"And, I decided to be there when we served the papers while she was screwing her tennis instructor." How could anyone believe that story. So stupid.

Burrows followed up, "Ms. Trumble was the process server?" She seemed to be enjoying this.

"Henry was supposed to do it" I said. "But he was late, so I let Margaret do it."

"That's not legal, Mr. Younger," Hughes pointed out.

"I know that now," was all I could say.

"So, describe how that all went down," Hughes said, eyes drifting back out across the railing towards the setting sun.

I sighed. "I knew Judith had a 1:00 p.m. tennis lesson at the country club. I also knew that after the lesson they would go to the Sequoia Motel. They always used the same place."

"Henry texted that he was still in trial, so Margaret said she would serve the papers. We waited, let them get comfortable in the room after they arrived, then Margaret knocked. I hid. When Judith cracked the door open, Margaret shoved the divorce paperwork and pictures into the top of her robe. I stepped out and said, 'April Fools'. Like an idiot."

I had to pause, embarrassed. I had told the story a few times now and it felt less believable with each telling.

"What was Mrs. Younger's response?" Hughes asked after giving me a few seconds.

"She started to yell," I sighed, "saying she had her own photos, that she knew who Margaret was, that she had proof. She and I got into it. Tennis guy had a gun in his bag and he pulled on me when the yelling got bad. He told me I had to leave. I left.

"I walked about fifteen minutes down the road to cool off, and I heard two gunshots. I jogged back to the motel, and the cops arrived at the same time. They didn't let us in the room, so I don't know what happened."

Hughes stood up at this point. He reviewed his little book and made some notes. Then he approached me. He stood close, holding eye contact. "Remind us again where Ms. Trumble was during all of this?"

"I'm not sure because I was focused on Judith and then the gun. But I think Margaret stayed outside the room, then ran down the highway to where she parked her car. I didn't see her again until I returned to the motel after hearing the shots."

"You didn't drive together?" Hughes asked.


"Was she staying here, at the beach house?" Burrows asked.


"Mr. Younger," Hughes said, taking one more step towards me. I took a casual step to the side, just to keep some distance. "I know you weren't able to see the crime scene, but tell us what you think happened after you and Ms. Trumble ran away."

"My best guess is that Judith was lying - she didn't have evidence. She wasn't that kind of smart. I think she realized she would be ruined in the divorce. Judith had never worked a day in her life. She was a high powered socialite. On boards. A-listed. She was used to fine things, expensive things. But she had no way to earn those things herself. She probably visualized a Honda Pilot and rack clothes from Target, you know, life in the suburbs. She couldn't handle that. She snapped. She wrestled the gun away from the tennis guy--"

"His name," Burrows said, an edge to her voice, "was Ben Gerbach."

"Right," I said. "She must've gotten the gun away from him and finished it. But I have no idea why she would shoot Gerbach. Maybe there was a struggle?"

It was quiet for a few beats. I was looking at my whiskey, trying to determine if I'd stayed consistent with my story. I was pretty sure I had.

"Did you know Ben Gerbach personally, Mr. Younger?" Burrows asked, the edge still there.

"No," I said. "Just by reputation. He was a country club gigolo. My guys say he'd made his way through at least two other wives before Judith."

"Would it surprise you," she continued, "that Mr. Gerbach was a decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran?"

That froze me up for a second. I had not known that.

"Makes it hard to believe," she continued, pacing a bit now, "that Mrs. Younger would come out on top in a physical struggle with him."

Hughes, still looking offshore, chimed in. "Let's say Gerbach was clumsy and set the gun down. What was Mrs. Younger's experience with handguns?" He turned to watch my answer.

I hadn't considered it. She knew nothing about guns. I tried to take her shooting with me, but she hated guns out of principle. 

"I don't know," I lied. I didn't want to make my own situation worse.

"Give us your opinion," Burrows said flatly, arms across her chest, "does it make sense that a 110 pound, forty six year-old socialite disarmed and gunned down an experienced, fit thirty one year-old ex-Marine?"

"No, it doesn't" I admitted and drained my whiskey. My face was tingling and I noticed my ears ringing. I felt like I was already on the stand, and I wasn't doing well.

Burrows leveled her eyes directly at me and asked, "But you're an expert marksman, aren't you, Mr. Younger?"

I could feel the switch flip, the rush of blood to my head. I walked to the railing and hurled the whiskey glass as far as I could. I watched it tumble in an arc.

"I did not kill my wife," I said through my teeth, still facing the ocean. "I did not kill her lover." I turned and faced Burrows. "And you have nothing that says I did." 

Hughes walked over and stood next to me at the railing, placed his hand on my shoulder, and leaned to watch the surf crash hard onto the rocks thirty feet below.

He turned to me, tilted his head sideways, and continued. "We've spoken to Margaret Trumble, and her story matches yours in even the smallest details. That's unusual, Mr. Younger."

I started to feel colder. Goddammit.

Hughes barely paused, "But there is a complication."

Without missing a beat, Burrows took her turn, "If you two weren't together when the shots were fired," she said, arms crossed, taking two steps forward to getcloser to Hughes and I, "then both of you had opportunity to kill Mrs. Younger and Mr. Gerbach."

Nobody said anything, but the two detectives were looking right at me from both sides. I could feel my heart in my neck and jaw.

"All I know," I said, my hands folded on top of my head, barely controlling the volume of my voice, "is I heard shots, ran back to the motel, and Margaret was there. We walked up to the cops together. And we left in separate cars. I did not kill my wife or Gerbach."

Hughes and Burrows locked eyes but said nothing.

"I want to believe you," Hughes offered, breaking the pause.

Burrows just turned to look at me, noncommittal.

"But?" I asked a little too loud after a moment.

"Take a look at this," Hughes replied, handing me a photocopy of a receipt for the purchase of a Glock 9mm, a silencer modification, and some range time. It was in my wife's name.

Finally. Something that doesn't point at me. "This proves it, right?" I asked. "Judith bought the gun and learned how to shoot."

"It appears so," Burrows said. "The ballistics report confirms the Glock as the murder weapon."

I was breathing easier for a moment. Thank God.

"But..." Burrows said, looking at me with her head low. "That's not your wife's signature. Is it." And she handed me two more pieces of paper, which turned out to be thank you notes, in Judith's handwriting, for comparison.

Fuck. Studying it in front of them, it was obvious that someone had practiced and almost gotten it right. But they flubbed the capital J and Y. It was not Judith's writing.

I got light headed. My ears were ringing. My eyes felt heavy. They think I did it. They're going to arrest me.

Hughes seemed concerned, "Mr. Younger?"

And then, suddenly, I knew. Before I understood why or how, I knew the answer. I plopped against the railing and slide down to sit on the deck. I stared up at Hughes, and breathed deeply. Then I told him.

The loopy, overly ornate J and Y gave it all away. I'd seen those before, many times. In fifty or so handwritten, explicit love notes. On casino house stationary.

From Margaret.

Everything clicked. She had been so eager to play the April Fools joke with me, insisting on keeping the plan moving when Henry hadn't shown up.

She had been pissed when she found out I didn't have a prenup, constantly asking about Henry, was he making progress, how would he keep Judith from getting half?

Frustrated at the idea of Judith possibly winning in court, Margaret bought a silenced 9mm and planned to kill Judith and make it look like suicide. If there were no Judith before the divorce, then there would be no chance of asset splitting. The April Fools' Day joke turned out to be her opportunity.

That's why she had insisted on helping, and taking her own car. It all fit.


We went back inside. I got another whiskey. I gave Hughes and Burrows some of the handwritten notes, the lewdest ones. Fuck Burrows.

I showed them the likenesses.

They told me not to leave town. 


Harvard Henry finally arrived, late, sprinting up the stairs as Hughes and Burrows departed. I fired him. Too unreliable.

During Margaret's next interview with Hughes and Burrows the rest of the story came out.

Turns out Margaret was a dancer-turned-high-price-escort that the casino paid to keep rich old men happy. Hughes and Burrows had already known that. She fooled me, though.

Margaret focused her attention on landing me once she learned I was becoming available. When Judith yelled that she knew who Margaret really was, she unknowingly signed her own death warrant.

Once Gerbach pulled the gun at the motel, Margaret's criminal instincts took over. She waited for me to get out of sight, returned to the motel, killed Gerbach and Judith, removed the silencer and placed it in Judith's purse, then put the Glock in Judith's hand to stage the suicide. When she was far enough away from the motel, she fired two rounds from Gerbach's pistol into the air, called the noise in, waited, then joined the cops at the motel. The police found a box of surgical gloves in Margaret's car.

Margaret wasn't just a hooker after all. She was a stone-cold killer.

My own trial date for the document-serving bullshit is in late March. I won't do time. My new Stanford-trained hand-holder will see to that. She is punctual.

I think about Judith. She turned out to be a bad wife. But she didn't deserve to die just because I was a bad husband. I miss her. Sometimes. Never in early April, though.

I've got a new girl, Lilliana. She's Ukranian. And half my age. I'm pretty sure she loves me.

Still, I've had my team check her out.

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice?

April 13, 2024 23:16

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Alexza Rivas
22:45 Apr 29, 2024

Engaging… great job!


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Juan Farris
23:43 Apr 24, 2024

The story reads well. The plot twist was like a roller coaster ride. I enjoyed reading this. A couple of things come to mind. I think of the Lincoln Lawyer where the defendant's mother was so protective of him. You could not tell she was a stone-cold killer and he was too. I kind of wonder, beyond her past, if Margaret was really in love. I wonder if she had changed. That is what signals great characters. At least in my opinion, it does.


Jeff Macloud
04:47 Apr 25, 2024

Thanks very much!


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Alexis Araneta
15:00 Apr 24, 2024

Jeff, this was a gripping one. Good flow, lovely use of detail. Lovely job !


Jeff Macloud
04:48 Apr 25, 2024

Thanks Stella!


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Rabab Zaidi
01:29 Apr 21, 2024

Interesting. Well worked out plot.


Jeff Macloud
04:48 Apr 25, 2024



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Isabel Jewell
18:33 Apr 14, 2024

Wow, interesting story! Very dramatic -- I loved the first line!


Jeff Macloud
04:48 Apr 25, 2024



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