The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Life Stories
Resident of The Month 2 - This time it's Murder!
“He murdered his wife, you know.”
The speaker was Ezra Finch, intercepting me as I was on my way to interview his neighbor Horace Cooper for a Resident of the Month story.
Ezra was well-known in our California retirement community as a loon. He roamed our streets looking for cars parked illegally and weeds growing in front yards, which he’d then report to our Board. No one had been inside his house for years and I’d hate to imagine what it looked like.
“Thanks for the information, Ezra,” I said, continuing on my way.
“I suppose you’re interviewing him about his great garden. He may have a nice back yard but he’s still a murderer.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Let me explain. Our retirement community’s newsletter had a feature called “Resident of the Month,” and it was my job to write this. Horace had come to our attention because he’d planted a beautiful garden, which was going to be written up in a regional magazine. As to Ezra Finch’s accusation, Horace’s first wife Millie had disappeared several years ago and had never been found. The local police of course investigated and naturally Horace was a suspect. They’d dug up his back yard to make sure no body was buried there and had found nothing. Horace had remarried, to a nice lady named Helen, already a resident, who had unfortunately fallen victim to dementia, common enough in our community, and he’d been caring for her the past year.
I rang Horace’s bell. He answered and led me out to the back patio, where I’d be able to view his garden, which in fact he’d started after the police had dug up his yard and to which he’d been devoted to ever since. If Horace was indeed a murderer he was an unlikely-looking one. He was short with a mild face and blue eyes behind round glasses. His former wife, as I recalled, was a large woman, and they’d been one of those unlikely couples that you wonder about.
The garden, as I saw, was beautiful with roses and other flowers I’d have to ask him to identify, a variety of colors artfully arranged. Horace had prepared a table with cold drinks on it. We sat down and I asked my usual first question: where was he born and brought up, then I led him up to the time when he’d moved to our community and then to the planting of his garden, tactfully avoiding any mention of his first wife. Midway through the interview, his present wife Helen came out on the patio, looking as if she’d just awakened from a nap. She had a pretty face but also the blank eyes of someone with dementia. Horace introduced me and explained why I was there. She said, “That’s nice”, sat down on a lawn chair and began to softly hum to herself.
We continued with the interview and I learned more than I ever thought possible about flowers and creating a garden. Suddenly Helen said, “I’d like some ice cream, please.”
Horace looked at me. “She loves ice cream,” he said. “Excuse me for a minute and I’ll get her some. It’s one of the few pleasures she has left.”
“Sure,” I said.
When he went inside the house, Helen looked at me and said, “He murdered his wife, you know. He hid the body and then, after the police dug up the yard, he buried her there. He’s very clever.” Then she resumed her humming.
In a few minutes Horace came out with the ice cream. We ended the interview. I thanked him and he thanked me for coming. I walked back to my house, looked at my notes and considered. Ezra Finch said Horace was a murderer but Ezra was a loon. Helen had told me the same thing and she had dementia. If I went to the police they’d dig up that beautiful garden. There’d be no article in the regional magazine, an article that would reflect well on our community. And what would be the point? Even if Horace had killed his first wife, he’d certainly never harm anyone again. Above all, if Horace was gone, who would take care of Helen? No, I was all for justice being done, but in this case it was best to lie sleeping bodies, if there was one, lie. I went to my computer and started writing my usual “Resident of the Month” story.
© Martin Green August 2012
Uncle Warren & Aunt Edie
Resident of the Month 1
I was having another drink, trying to relax. I don’t know why I was nervous; it was just something for our little retirement community newspaper.
“I’ll have a second helping of that,” said my Uncle Warren.
My mother put another pile of beef stroganoff on his plate. She knew this was his favorite and that’s why she’d made it.
More life stories in Dreamscapes