A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing, a Murder Mystery

Submitted into Contest #143 in response to: Start or end your story with a person buying a house plant. ... view prompt

13 comments

Fiction Mystery

“My name is Darren, 2 years sober. I bought this house plant today, and I am an alcoholic.” Darren smiled and gestured theatrically toward the lily plant on the table in front with him. Everyone in the room already had a good look at it. 


“I’ve let down many, many people in my relationships as my only real love was my drug of choice. With the advice from my new sponsor, I’m going to avoid a relationship for the next 12 months and learn how to take care of others by taking care of this plant.” 


He looked at the plant and then back at his audience. “And I can’t wait to take her home tonight.” 


The circle of people sitting around the table laughed and howled.


Investigator Gallego laughed along despite not finding the joke funny. Blending into a crowd was second nature, he had become used to it in undercover assignments. Feeling the bulge of the microphone under his jacket, he reassured himself that the only thing he needed to do today was to keep everyone talking. Someone would slip up.


Outside the windows of the church reception room, an evening rain pattered in the dark courtyard.


A tired looking young man spoke next.


“Lewis. 7 days sober. Taking it one day at a time and working to get back with the program.”


Lewis sat down and received loud applause. On the bulletin board in the front were banners cajoling readers to stay with the program one day at a time.


The members weren’t giving much away Gallego grumbled to himself. Well obviously that was the whole point of being anonymous. He recalled the pictures of the body found on Ridge Street with stab wounds. The deceased was found in his apartment with a 5 year AA sobriety token in his pocket. Brochures of past events held by this group were in a drawer of a desk. And high levels of narcotics were found in his bloodstream. It had been 13 days since the body was found and they haven’t identified a person of interest yet and this group was the best lead they had.


The case wouldn't be as easy as the others had been lately. AA members were the only group left that doesn’t post photos of everything onto social media.


“Anna. 209 days sober.” Anna looked nervous to be speaking in front of the group. “It’s great to hear today about Darren and his house plant. I’m also learning how to be a friend and have a real relationship. Looking back I’ve always viewed everyone as either above me or below me, but never at the same level.” Anna continued to talk about the topic of friendship for a slightly indulgent length of time before concluding.


Before the meeting, Gallego had overheard two members smoking discussing their opinions on the fact that Anna lying. She had been secretly drinking every weekend and had yet to come clean to the group.


A slightly frazzled middle aged man in an expensive looking sweater spoke next.


“Malcolm. 6 years. I’m stressed today as I’ve been meeting with investors this week. I’ve let the people from my finance career know that I’m no longer drinking and that they can trust me now. This will be my biggest project ever and I'll be doing it independently. I work the steps everyday to remind myself of the damage drinking caused to my life. Thanks for letting me share.“ 


Malcolm’s eyes danced around the room frantically showing signs of borderline schizophrenia. 


“My name is Jessica and I’m an alcoholic.” A woman in fashionable makeup and business clothes smiled at everyone calmly.. “Today, I would also like to welcome our visitor Marcus.” 


Half of the room lifted their faces and glanced at Gallego and clapped a few times.


Jessica continued, “I am a happy drinker. I love drinking! But my story is I was always the drunkest person at the party. The penny dropped the day I jumped off a ferry at an office party. People at the office didn't think that was as normal as I did. I just thought i was having a bit of fun, but the next week everyone was asking me if I was ok."


“It’s shocking what some of us experience. One of my girlfriends in my last group went for a night out and when she woke up, she was in a stranger's apartment. When she touched the man in bed next to her, the body was cold. She didn’t remember a single thing about how she got there or what happened. Without any evidence the police had to let her off. "


“I don’t want to think I could do that to someone someday, so I’m thankful to be here.”


The room was more hush after this story. Hardened drinkers they were contemplating what could have happened to them on a blackout episode.


A well groomed businessman in a suit spoke next. 


“Mike, alcoholic. Nothing as dramatic from me, I just ordered a cow milk latte in a vegan cafe,” he said. “I asked for regular milk and the barista kept repeating the choices of soy, almond and oat milk. Soy, almond or oat milk. Then I saw the name the sign behind the counter. Vegalicious. The embarrassment made me think about all the times I drank to forget, so I decided to come to a meeting. I never want to go down that rabbit hole again.”


He received muffled applause and when the room became still again, an agitated looking middle aged man glanced up and looked nervously to the left and right before saying, “I’ll pass”.


It was now Gallego’s turn to speak. Lying was easy. He never lost his conviction that he was serving a higher purpose, working toward a greater good.


“Marcus, visiting from the Downtown group. 7 years sober.”


“It is powerful to be here today in the home group of my friend Sage, who most of you must know. He was a good friend” Gallego thought of his grandmother’s passing which always brought tears to his eyes. “I’m still processing his death and have been afraid it would make my drink this week.”


When Gallego finished the last sentence, he carefully observed their reactions. They avoided his gaze and looked down to the right, a classic sign of avoidance. An escape from the negative emotion prefered not to process. They had known the victim or possibly even been his friend. When he scanned the room only one person diverted their gaze down to the left instead. 


He would send the name to the station immediately after the meeting.


“Thanks for letting me share my experience, strength and hope.”


Since Gallego was the last person to speak the honor of closing the meeting went to him.


**


“And now ladies, gentlemen and murderers, you may fill in the questionnaires under your dinner plates.” The host of the murder mystery party reappeared, “After filling out your questionnaire, please return your borrowed clothing to Rebecca at reception. After a ten minute break we will reveal all the answers you are dying to hear and begin our award ceremony.” 


Jack, the handsome suburban husband playing inspector Galego, wrote his answer on the thick piece of paper carefully so no one else could see. His wife had winked at him when no one else was looking. They were both in AA and instinctively knew no one, unless rebounding from a newly dug rock bottom, would buy a house plant 2 years after joining.

April 29, 2022 05:17

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13 comments

Mike Panasitti
03:16 May 10, 2022

Scott, the AA confessionals are spot-on accurate. The conclusion threw me off, but I've never been to a murder mystery party. Some more work on this one would have gotten more enthusiastic comments.

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04:00 May 10, 2022

Thanks for the feedback Mike, I was trying to write a story with a big twist (it spun out to hollywood & aliens in the first draft) But i'm not really happy with it and it didn't match the tone of the aa story. Let me know if there are any bits of the confessionals,etc that were interesting for you, I may rewrite this someday, For the ending, i think it could have stayed with the police detective, and had a few revelations from people in the group about the guy who died, or an argument or conflict in the room and then unexpected events deve...

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Chandler Wilson
19:55 May 03, 2022

Scott, I enjoyed the story, not sure if I'd change much, if anything. I really liked how you portrayed the characters, even if they were actors. As a reader, I didn't notice you the writer being there at all, which is every writer's goal, to get out the way of the reader. Well done. Your passion for story telling, however, does show through. Keep writing, keep learning.

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00:59 May 04, 2022

Thanks! I keep trying different styles to see what works, long term goal shifting away from caps-lock opinions on social media and personal memoirs to something more entertaining for readers I hope. been learning a lot about plot and characters from the reedsy youtube videos.

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Craig Westmore
00:34 May 03, 2022

Hey Scott, I really liked the setup of the story. I was intrigued and curious how it would end. You really set the scene nicely. The game twist was interesting, but the movie twist and the alien ending was disappointing. I felt cheated out of a good ending. I would go back and think of an ending to the original story. I believe you have something good with this. Just take your time and think how it would play out.

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00:42 May 03, 2022

Thanks, was worried about exactly that, disappointing the reader looking for an answer with getting overly creative about how many layers i could stack onto the ending. will brainstorm a revision to thread the main plot back into the game twist ending.

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Craig Westmore
00:54 May 03, 2022

I'd focus on the mystery at the AA meeting. How does Gallego figure out who murdered Sage?

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01:00 May 03, 2022

oh I see... maybe have Gallego figure it out.. and then have the murder party twist after that, that could make a more satisfying ending.

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Craig Westmore
01:07 May 04, 2022

The ending you choose should be the one with the higher stakes. Finding a murderer is high stakes. Winning a murder mystery party is low stakes.

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01:11 May 03, 2022

oh btw.. 'seoul origin', the one in the seoul airport, was rejected last week supposedly due to grammar mistakes.. reworking that one for this week's Photography prompt. I'll take out the YA transgender angle as well as it's not important to the story, and maybe add another new chapter in the future..

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Craig Westmore
01:09 May 04, 2022

Did you get feedback on why it was rejected? A rejection is disappointing but the feedback is useful.

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01:40 May 04, 2022

She left a quite positive comment, but said I had a few words missing in sentences.. and I should be more careful and read the stories out loud to check for errors. probably good advice. The murder mystery was just accepted thankfully.

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