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RAT TRAP
by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

The dead body didn’t disturb Albert.  After all,
he was a coroner by trade, having defaulted
to the profession when he tired of the politics
of medical school.  This one was rather
unique, however.  He usually saw corpses
without any clothing on, unless toe tags were
to be counted as apparel.  Albert was also
accustomed to them being laid out on an
examining table rather than his living room
rug.  And it was uncommon for him to view
death-inflicting wounds when they were still
this fresh.

The fact that Norene was dead came as no
surprise to him, for she had been resolved to
kill herself.  Albert protested at first, but only
at first, and with hope that his insincerity was
effectively masked.  Her death was simply
speeding up the inevitable results of his well
laid plan.  It would save him the expense of a
lawyer and a long battle for palimony.  And
even if it had been to Albert’s advantage that
his wife remain amongst the living, he
doubted his considerable powers of
persuasion would have been up to the task.  
Norene was a woman who held fast to her
convictions, no matter where they led her.  So
Albert had accepted her final, fatal intention
as he did all of its predecessors, and did his
best not to appear as grateful as he was.

She selected her birthday as the date, fond
as she was of irony.  This meant waiting a
couple of months.  Norene hated to
procrastinate once she’d made a decision,
but she could also exercise tremendous
patience if the passage of time was
necessary to make a grand gesture.  Albert
accepted the task of matching her patience.

He had been told to go out at 3:00 in the
afternoon and not return for at least an hour.  
Albert dutifully spent the time in his favorite
café, sketching people as they laid out glossy
magazines and sipped overpriced coffee
concoctions with exotic, polysyllabic Italian
names.  He was proud to be artistically
skilled along with being fiercely intelligent
and irresistibly handsome.  With his many
gifts, Albert saw himself as deserving of the
very best.  He had always been certain that in
time he would receive his due.  Now that time
had arrived.

Upon his return home, he found Norene
laying spread eagle, as if she had died in
mid-air while executing a cheerleader
maneuver and came neatly down without
changing position.  A single bullet hole had
pierced her silk Dolce Gabbana blouse
directly where her heart now stood still.  
There was no gun to be found near her.  It
was immediately obvious that despite her
resolve, Norene had not committed suicide.  
She had been murdered.

Norene may have had no true friends to
speak of, merely acquaintances that chose to
remain in her good graces, but she had no
enemies to speak of either.  It was quite
natural for Albert to wonder who could have
done this, and for what purpose.

He tapped his fingers on one of the
numerous sculptures his deceased wife had
purchased.  Albert couldn’t wait to unload the
monstrosities, which would fetch hefty profits
despite their lack of elegance or grace.  The
existence of non-beautiful things had always
been a mystery to Albert, one that was not
adequately unraveled by crediting God’s
sense of humor.  He also intended to rid their
home, his home, of the ostentatious
chandelier in the dining room and the garish
paintings in the parlor done by some Polish
artist with an unpronounceable name.  What
Norene possessed in wealth she countered
with tremendous lack of taste.  Albert’s efforts
to refine her sensibilities had been wasted,
and abandoned years ago.  The allowance
she kept him on had not been sufficient
enough for him to introduce more
sophisticated artistry into the home’s décor.  
But from this day forward, Albert could spend
to his heart’s content.  No longer would he be
made to feel like a mere guest in the home
he had connived himself into.  

Norene was an extremely stubborn woman.  
In all matters, it was either her way or no
way.  A perfect example of this was when she
learned that she had inoperable brain
cancer, that within six months she would be
reduced to a dribbling fool wasting away on a
hospital bed in unimaginable pain.  She
decided immediately and without
sentimentality to circumvent the process.  
Norene would die on her own terms.  She
would go out when wanted, how she wanted,
on her cherished plush four-poster bed.  

But instead of lying serenely beneath the
covers, her bloodstream poisoned and an
explanatory note to all concerned by her side,
Norene’s body was scandalously spread out
on her Persian rug.  The crimson stain may
not have rendered the rug beyond salvaging,
for Sergio could work wonders with cleaning
fluid, but Norene’s favorite blouse was most
certainly ruined.

Albert went to call the police, as he had been
planning to do anyway, only now he would be
reporting a murder rather than a suicide.  
Either way, he knew he was supposed to
sound upset, so he took a deep breath and
mentally rehearsed his spiel.  It was then that
the doorbell rang.  Visitors were certainly not
expected at such a time.  Albert opened the
front door and found four police officers
waiting to be let in.  An anonymous neighbor
had reported a noise that sounded
suspiciously like a gunshot.  The officers had
come to investigate the matter.

Three months later, it took a jury of twelve no
more than an hour of deliberation to convict
Albert of murder.  The videotape found in a
camcorder on its cleverly placed tripod,
strategically hidden behind the rubber tree
plant that mocked Albert daily by reminding
him of the idiotic song, had been a most
damning piece of evidence for the
prosecution.  The grainy oft used tape
showed a man with the same build as Albert,
wearing identical clothing to that donned by
him on the day of Norene’s death,
responding to her salutation by calmly
shooting her in the chest.  The shooter’s face
was obscured, so perhaps the tape on its
own would have failed to convince a gallery of
informed peers.  But it wasn’t on its own.  It
came accompanied by a letter from Norene
to be read by whomever found it in the event
of her death, which she claimed to fear was
imminent and would be at the hands of her
scheming, money hungry husband.  The
letter explained that she would be secretly
filming herself at various times, just in case
she fell in harm’s way.  Added to the tape and
the letter was a parade of witnesses from
Albert’s past, each of whom attested to his
shady character and long record of frauds
and cons.  Finally, there was the last will and
testament that left Albert as the sole heir to
Norene’s considerable fortune and provided
a plausible motive for him to kill her.  

What the jury didn’t know was that sixty
thousand dollars of this fortune had recently
been withdrawn by Norene.  Fifty thousand
was spent to procure the services of her
executioner.  Vincent ordinarily charged
twenty grand for such a service.  The extra
thirty this time around was for dressing up
like Norene’s husband, and the risk he took
in killing the woman in view of a video
camera.  True, he did have the comfort of
knowing that the camera was set up so that
his face wouldn’t be visible, a fact that he
confirmed by watching the tape before
replacing it and leaving the bizarre scene.  
Vincent was used to killing people for money,
but the person who did the hiring was usually
not the person to be killed, and he had never
before performed his duties face to face with
a volunteer victim.  Fortunately for Vincent’s
bank account, he excelled at adjusting to new
circumstances.

As for the remaining ten thousand dollars,
that had been paid weeks earlier to the
private investigator who unearthed the
numerous skeletons in Albert’s closet.  This
was how Norene learned that in her passion
induced haste, she had married a man who
was known for a series of get rich quick
schemes, and she was but the latest.

Those in the courtroom were surprised to
see the defendant chuckle as the verdict
against him was pronounced.  This was
because they didn’t share his appreciation of
a good hustle, even one that was at his own
expense.  They also didn’t know what Albert,
or for that matter, what any coroner worth his
or her salt understood each time a drawer
containing a new “client” was shut tight.  
Sooner or later, and always for the worse
rather than the better, everyone’s case is
closed.

Roy L. Pickering Jr.  ©2005  Rat Trap
Roy Pickering is a freelance writer living in
Maplewood, New Jersey. In addition to
increasing exposure for my prose through
the appearance of short stories in print and
web journals, I am also seeking publication
for my debut novel, Patches of Grey, as well
as a novella I have penned. I maintain a
website (www.roypickering.net) to showcase
my fiction, and my monthly column entitled
Sports Issues can be found at Suite101.com.
My epublished short story anthology,
Enigmas of Desire, is featured at
Free-Fiction.com. Short stories of mine
appeared in two anthologies in 2003 -
Proverbs for the People, which was
published by Kensington Books, and The
Game...Short Stories About the Life, which
was put out by Triple Crown Publications. At
pres
ent, I am hard at work on a second
novel.


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