Flash Fiction By Sandra de Helen
What a night. After weeks of beautiful days, storm clouds covered every star, the moon, the treetops. The smell of petrichor filled the air. Rain hit the ground like bullets, ricocheting up my skirt, only to trickle down my bare legs. My shoes squished. I would have regretted the lack of an umbrella, except the wind would have turned it inside out.
The body lay in a puddle, covered with plastic the color of the sun. There was no sun. Remote-area lights shone on the victim from three angles. Wind blew the light beams, the liquid in the puddle, and my hair–forcing it into unnatural shapes, all of them straight up. I had to squint in order to view the woman on the ground. She was ninety if she was a day. In addition to wrinkles, her neck bore bruises, her eye was black, and her lips were split. Her navy blue silk dress matched her low-heeled shoes and the purse lying next to her body. Anyone might have killed her, but I couldn’t help wondering whether she’d been a battered wife before coming to this pitiful end. When women are killed by batterers, it’s usually after they say they’re leaving, or after they leave. Is that what happened here?
After ensuring all the photos had been taken, I slipped on my non-latex gloves, and bent to pick up the navy-blue purse. I stepped out of the light. An officer held a wind-proof umbrella over my head. I made a mental note. The bag was leather, and wet but not ruined. I unfastened it and sorted through the contents. A hankie, a coin purse, a wallet, a tube of lipstick and an old-fashioned compact. Did women still wear face powder? I’d stopped wearing makeup in college. I kept looking. Finally, I found a white envelope, and in the envelope was a restraining order against one Elmer Miller. It was time to start looking for Mr. Miller.
I went back and examined the area around the body. Either the killer had left no footprints, or they had been washed away. There was no sign of a struggle here, but it could have been obliterated by the downpour. The damage to her face had to have been done while she was alive, while her blood was still pumping. I tasted the bile rising in my throat as I imagined someone hurting this woman. She was old enough to be my grandmother. I couldn’t bring her back. All I could hope for was a bit of justice.
An enormous gust of wind blew over one of the remote-area lights, a police officer, and the tarp off a parked truck. An old man tried to jump from the truck and was caught by two of my fellow detectives.
“She had it coming!” yelled Elmer Miller, and right after we booked him, I slogged home to take a shower, and go online to order a wind-proof umbrella.
de Helen’s books are available online at all the usual sites, and through your local
bookstore. Samples of her works are at http://www.SandradeHelen.com. de Helen is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Dramatists Guild and International Centre for Women Playwrights.