Warren’s New Policy – My very first short story sale, back in the day …
Warren pushed the last of his shop rags into the space between the garage door and the cement floor. Perfect. There was no way any exhaust would escape.
He checked his watch – Yuppers – he was right on schedule. Lily would be in a very deep sleep by now, thanks to the little pills he’d included in her morning coffee. Man was she gullible. Like he’d really bring her breakfast in bed ‘cause he cared. With a short laugh, he hurried over to the lawn mower and guided it out the side door; time to play the hard working husband doing his weekend chores.
Starting the motor he began his usual brisk cutting tour of the side yard, watching for his neighbor Trevor. Right on schedule, Trevor barreled out of his garage with his own noisy lawn mower. Warren returned his wave and muttered under his breath, “What a loser.” But a loser who was going to come in very handy later today; a witness to Warren’s cheerful morning routine. He could just picture Trevor talking to the police – ‘There he was, happy as hell, with no idea what Lily was planning…’ Warren chuckled.
Emptying the rear bag of grass clippings, he started on the last part of the yard and continued daydreaming. With concerned family and friends by his side, he’d have to go through Lily’s personal papers, naturally, and discover the $500,000.00 life insurance policy they had both signed. Ah, shucks, say it ain’t so, Lily. You’ve gone and made me a very rich man.
Finished the lawn, he joined Trevor at the fence for their Saturday morning bitch session.
“So what’s the old lady got you doing today?” He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and offered one to Trevor.
Trevor first glanced at his house then accepted one, and a light. “Eaves troughs. Plugged full,” he said.
Warren nodded. “Mine too. First I have to check my car – it’s leaking oil all over the damned garage. Then I’m up on the roof cleaning out leaves. Borrow your ladder later today?”
“Sure.” Trevor sucked on the cigarette like it was oxygen. “What’s Lily up to today? Kathy’s talking Fall Fair, and I’m not interested.”
Warren couldn’t believe his good luck. Could he work it so Kathy found Lily? Pushing down his eagerness, he said, “I’m with ya’ there, buddy. How many jars of blue ribbon home canned peaches does it take to convince them it ain’t gonna happen at their house? Go ahead and tell Kathy to drop by around noon. Lily’s just dying to go.” More like going to die. “We’ll have a few brews here at home and fire up the barbecue.”
Trevor trampled his cigarette butt into the garden with a regretful expression, nudging it under some fallen pinecones. “Sounds good.”
Warming to his new plan, Warren expanded his generosity. “I’m headed over to the gym this morning. I’ll pick up some steaks at the Quickmart on my way home.”
Back in his garage, Warren could hardly keep his excitement in check. Having Kathy discover Lily’s body was going to work out so much better. He glanced at his watch and saw it was eleven o’clock. That gave him twenty minutes to get Lily downstairs and into the car, then get himself over to the gym. Forty minutes breathing in poisonous carbon monoxide and Lily would be dead, just in time for Kathy to find her. He’d either be at the gym, or at the Quickmart with an armload of steaks when they tracked him down to tell him the terrible news.
Using a tissue, he withdrew Lily’s car key from his breast pocket, inserted it into the ignition and started the car. He had to give those fumes a head start if he was going to pull off ‘Plan B’. From his toolbox he retrieved the neatly typed and folded suicide note he’d prepared and hurried back to the purring car.
Suddenly, he lost his footing and he was up in the air and slammed flat onto his back, cracking his head on the cement floor. Geez – he actually saw stars! He blinked, turned his head slowly, and watched a newly forming pool of his own blood rapidly mix with a pool of oil. Fear spiked though him. Then he saw the tailpipe, and remembered why he was in such a hurry. He had to shut off the engine. Coughing weakly, he rolled over and dragged himself toward the open car door. Blooded flooded his eyes and the car swam in and out of focus, and seemed so far away. He felt so strange……
“So, Mrs. Fielding.”
Lily knew it wasn’t the young man’s fault there was no money coming to her. She’d already looked into getting her old job back at the diner. They were pretty nice people to work for. “Please, call me Lily.”
The young insurance adjuster’s cheeks reddened and he pushed back unnecessarily on his glasses. “Lily. As I explained, this policy is null and void in cases of suicide, which was what the police had assessed to be the situation in your late husband’s death.”
Lily pressed her lips together and reminded herself not to speak ill of the dead. This was proving to be a challenge when she thought of her husband Warren.
“But with the discovery of the faked suicide note everything changes.”
Lily’s stomach did a nervous little flip. “Are you saying the policy could still be good?” They weren’t that nice down at the diner.
“Yes, Lily. It’s more than good.” He removed a check from inside his briefcase, slid it across the table toward her and smiled. “It’s very good. The coroner has now ruled Mr. Fielding’s death as accidental, and in the case of accidental death, your policy pays out double; one million dollars. The irony is, had Mr. Fielding succeeded in his murder attempt, passing it off as suicide, he wouldn’t have collected a dime.”
(Publish as a Mini-Mystery in Woman’s World Magazine)