Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April
Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise
(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE
“This is what I can tell you, Detectives. First, she was poisoned. The effects were wearing off and are definitely older than the bludgeoning. The victim was stabbed next, twice in the abdomen, the softer tissue. From the blue tint of her lips, she was still alive when her pillow was finally used for suffocation. Someone wanted this woman dead.”
Detectives Dibny and Wayne, investigating Doris Bertram’s murder, looked at each other. Dibny wanted to say that this was just overkill, but the look on Wayne’s face held him back. They thanked the forensics doc and headed upstairs to their desks: Wayne to look over the notes he’d already gone over a close to a dozen times that day alone; Dibny to find out what his wife packed him for lunch.
The notes were the same each time Wayne looked: no forced entry; door found ajar; fire escape gate was unlocked and wide open; a variety of fingerprints from tenants and family here and there (not a compulsive cleaner, which Wayne cursed at: it only added to his headache); women’s footprints in the blood of the victim-same size as the victim, and about fifteen others in the building, as well as her youngest daughter; no blood splatter to be found on any clothing; no prints on either murder weapon used-wiped clean; no fibers found; etc. etc. etc….
…that all led to a great big pile of nada. The detective threw the folder together, dumped it on the corner of his desk, and went out for lunch.
This was one case he never got to close. Retired now, it bothered him occasionally, especially when he reminisced while visiting Dibny’s grave.
Doris Bertram, late of Swan Rise Apartments, ex-president of the Tenants Association, was mourned by her two grown children (the oldest more then the younger, truth be told) and an assortment of friends and neighbors. Two people in the building were glad she was gone; one of the two not happy about the method, but in the long run, happy nonetheless.
Patty smiled a lot in the days after Doris was found. Being reinstated as president only matched her glee. In the end, she just found this exciting, and wound up using it to push through a lot of “extras” for the building. Each change she sought and won was a victory for her, and Doris’ murder helped her achieve more than she had previously. When she went out (without Mrs. Beatty), which she did often, she’d offer a silent toast to Doris, not in good wishes at all.
Mrs. Beatty was saddened by the murder, and made more fearful. Since her husband had died, she grew more and more afraid, and this was the “straw that broke the cake” (she could never remember adages as they were supposed to be). She had thought someone had been in her apartment: some clothing was missing, as well as the embroidered handkerchief that David had made for her. Now she was sure of it, and after the meeting she needed extra fortification, visiting the Frolicking Lamb and then making arrangements to have heavy duty dead bolts put on her door and to replace the two door locks she already had.
Dragana had replaced her husbands keys exactly where he left them, exactly where he had left them every night since they had moved in and he took “this stinking job.” He was snoring away as usual, beer vapors expelled with each “sqoink” he made. She stood over him, the dim shine of the moon and street and parking lot lights illuminating him through the slats of the window blinds. The shadows sliced him into pieces, and Dragana wished she hated him more than she loved him or needed him.
In the morning, the building was abuzz with Mrs. Beatty’s finding a door ajar, and then finding the dead Doris. Andres was put off balance, and he glanced at his wife out of the corner of his eye throughout the day. She ordered him out of her hair, doing more odd jobs for her this day than normal, and he did it with tail between his legs. She batted the cigar out of his mouth, stomped on it, and for once he just turned and walked away.
“Sleep with MY husband? You bitch!” ran through Dragana’s mind, taking away the small satisfied smile that occasionally crept onto her face. Patty came out of the elevator at one point and saw the change in Dragana’s face. Their eyes locked, and Patty was the one to break contact this time. She also stayed out of Andre’s way after this, not really knowing why but knowing it was the smart thing to do.
Dragana sat in her overstuffed chair, watching the shopping network, ordering a few things she did not need. She waited the day to see if she had made any mistakes, but the detectives only questioned her about seeing anyone hanging around the building who should not be there and if she knew anyone who had a grudge against “the victim.” Dragana brought up the prostitute that had been seen in the lot that the police did nothing about, and that Patty hated her and Mrs. Beatty was her stooge in all things.
She had planned this for awhile, finding out about her bastard husband and “that bitch” by overhearing some of the gossip from the Laundry Room Mafia. They “shushed” when they did find her listening, but it had been too late.
She had gone on an out of state shopping trip, buying a skin tight full body cat suit (cash). On the same trip, she stopped at a surgical supply store and purchased a number of items that she did not need and three that she did: sterile gloves and covering for her head/hair and shoes. Later that night she saw Mrs. Beatty and Patty leave; she “borrowed” the building keys, went into Mrs. Beatty’s apartment, and since they were just about the same size, took shoes, a pair of pants, a blouse, and at the last minute, the embroidered handkerchief. Patty was larger than Dragana, and as much as she hoped to pin this on her, it would not have been smart.
Andres had come in, smelling of sex, but went and took a shower before she had a chance to accuse him. He drank three beers and went to sleep, dead to the world. Dragana put on the cat suit and then put Mrs. Beatty’s clothes on over that. Going up the stairway, she waited at the top landing until all the dog walkers were in for the night. She put the surgical items on, took out the master set of keys, and opened Doris’s door…for the second time that day.
Earlier in the day she had been inside, when Doris was “entertaining” her husband in his workshop. She had put some rat poison in some of the open beverage containers in the fridge. Enough to get her sick and woozy; not enough, she hoped, to kill her, yet.
Doris was staggering, hand on her stomach, and fell to her knees. She clutched herself, thinking she had food poisoning, and groaning so much she did not hear Dragana unlock the door, enter and close it behind her. She opened her eyes in time to see the Buddha being lifted, then swung towards her head.
Dragana had blood on her, but the energy she used to lift the heavy statue, and the jitters she felt, drained her from using it a second time. A second time she needed, obviously to her, as Doris was still alive. Dragana went into the kitchen and took a knife out of the teak block on the counter. Straddling over her, Dragana plunged the knife into her stomach twice. The blood spray sickened her, but still Doris would not die.
Reaching over to the couch, Dragana took one of the chintz pillows and put it over the pleading lips she hated so much. It didn’t take much pressure (Dragana was not doing well herself) to push the pillow down. Finally…finally, Doris was gone.
Dragana stood up, stepped in the blood, and walked over to the window in the living room that had the fire escape. She opened the window and the grate that Doris never locked, and climbed out. She almost cried out when she saw a figure below her: “that idiot Weather Man!” but she stood stock still. It was then she also noticed the bloody footprints. She took off the shoe covering and carefully reentered the apartment, leaving the window and gate wide open.
Making her way far around the body, Dragana opened the front door and crept out, leaving it ajar so as not to make any more noise then was needed. She went down the stairs to the basement and took off all of Mrs. Beatty’s clothes. Using her husband’s keys, she opened the elevator door (the elevator was on the 4th floor and had been for awhile) and went down the rungs to the shaft’s floor.
There was the black plastic bag she had left earlier. Using Mrs. Beatty’s handkerchief, she wiped off as much blood as she could, trying to make sure nothing would leak onto her when she undressed. All of the purloined materials went into the bag; the bag went underneath the oily trash her husband was supposed to clean up, but never did (and never would). She set fire to the surgical items, a rotten burning smell that just intermingled with the garbage, and scattered the melted pieces around the base.
Cat suited, she made her way quickly to her apartment, removed it and wadded it into a ball, tossing it to the back of her walk-in closet that was already brimming with clothing.
Naked, she sat on the edge of her bed and shook.