Any Other Day
by Mark F. Geatches
It was the last week of my wife Marge’s life. No, there was no terminal illness, no degenerative disease, no premonition, not even the threat of suicide. It was the last week of her life because I was going to kill her. I had been driven to this point by years of crushing humiliation, degradation, and callous disregard for my feelings. I had no set plan or detailed timeline, I just knew what needed to happen. I simply couldn’t take it anymore.
We were happy once. Very. We bar-hopped on Friday nights, took in at least one movie a week, and caught as many local pro and college football games as we could afford. And yes, the sex was great as well. We even raised two beautiful children together. They graduated college within one year of each other and both became moderately successful in their chosen professions. Interestingly, neither Paul Jr. nor Lisa ever married. I sometimes wonder if that is a reflection on my marriage. Did they see something in my life that steered them away from commitment? I suppose I’ll never know. They don’t drop in often and our relationship is such that I doubt they’ll bother to visit me in prison. I’m not a bad father really. I just devoted too much of my energy to work in their early years, or to Marge more recently.
It was Marge’s sizable inheritance that changed everything. That’s when she became unbearable. Her personality changed overnight, not from loss or depression as one might imagine, but from instant financial abundance. Our modest home was soon transformed into a veritable palace. During this lengthy process my input was never asked for nor offered. I was merely a tolerated voyeur in her new opulent existence. My biggest mistake was agreeing to take early retirement from work. This placed us in close proximity much of the day and I soon became expected to satisfy her daily needs. I’m not sure why I allowed it. I was always my own man, now I was nothing more than an unpaid servant.
I’m the reason you have this lifestyle, she would remind me incessantly. The least you can do is appreciate it and I do as I ask.
Yes, dear, I routinely acquiesced. It was easier that way. On those rare occasions that I complained about my bondage I was treated to a display of utter repugnance. The ‘new’ outraged Marge would begin a red-faced tirade that would only end with my sincere apology. Not just any apology mind you, only a sincere one would suffice. After several such outbursts I knew I had grown to hate her. Not a quick, easily gotten over, disgust of passion, but a deep seated, seething, all consuming hatred.
Her true essence revealed itself in those days. I no longer saw the slightly built, sweet-faced, well-tempered woman I fell in love with, but a hideous, scaly skinned, grotesquely deformed red devil. I knew this was pure fantasy but that is exactly how I saw her. During her many harangues her red hue would turn a shimmering pallor with heat refraction raising from her exposed flesh. It’s no wonder it’s taken me years to gain the courage to dispatch her. It is truly an intimidating sight.
Soon after this revelation (that she had become a hate and rage filled demon) Marge asked me to perform some mundane task she could have easily accomplished herself. I replied, Yes, devil. Thankfully she was out of earshot and my slip went unnoticed. I knew however, that any affection I once had for her was gone and dead, as she would soon be.
As I stated earlier I had no fixed plan or pattern in mind to bring about her demise, and though it was something I anticipated with glee, I also had no desire for escape other than from her. She had ruined my life and I felt she must forfeit hers. I was fully prepared to do the time if you will. Since Minnesota doesn’t impose the death penalty, I would spend the remainder of my days confined to a cell, yet happier for it. For wasn’t I confined already, and that of a worse sort? Her death would be my deliverance, my salvation so to speak. I realize the contradiction. Let me clarify. My worldly salvation.
The day finally came. As anticipated, I didn’t realize it was imminent until it was forced upon me. I was cooking dinner for a small party we would soon host. The aroma of flank steak, cheesy-garlic mashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli filled the house. I thoroughly enjoyed cooking and there was a smile on my face when Marge flipped my long-primed switch.
“You’re not done yet?” she barked as she entered the kitchen. “They’ll be here in fifteen minutes.”
“Not to worry, dear. It will be ready in time and delicious as usual,” I replied cheerfully. The image of a crowded funeral home with Marge’s frigid body lying in an open coffin filled my consciousness. Interestingly, there wasn’t a wet eye in the building. As for me, I stood next to the coffin smiling broadly as if I were about to receive some commendation or award.
“You haven’t even set the table yet. You know they’re always earl―”
“Why don’t you set the table,” I interrupted spinning toward her.
Her face flushed and she yelled, “How dare you speak to me that way.” Her eyes grew larger as I approached but she continued undeterred. “If it wasn’t for me―”
That’s when I sent the blade careening off her skull. My head tilted to one side and a puzzled look came over my face. In the movies the knife always penetrates the skull seating itself deeply into the gray matter. I now saw that was mere fantasy. The human skull was obviously designed to withstand all but the most damaging injuries. While contemplating this I pummeled her face and upper body with multiple stabs and lacerations. Her face contorted and she whined unintelligible, guttural sounds. I was also intrigued when the blade slid across her windpipe. There was no noise at all.
When her body buckled to the floor I dropped the knife and turned back to my chore. The relief was immediate and life affirming. I wiped a happy tear from my cheek with one hand as I sank a spoon into my homemade steak sauce with the other. It tasted delectable. I sauntered through the house with an uncharacteristic smile on my face. Without conscious thought I entered our bedroom and began disheveling drawers. I suppose the instinct for self-preservation is inbred. As I earlier stated, I had no intention of hiding my crime. This brought another smile to my face. Wouldn’t it be fascinating if I could enjoy this new emotional freedom, Marge’s vast fortune, and retain my physical freedom as well?
Ten minutes later, and only mere moments before our guests were expected to arrive, I scrutinized my handiwork. It was a masterpiece. Drapes were torn and strewn about, furniture was toppled, walls were riddled with holes, and areas of carpet were lifted and ripped as if someone were looking for hidden treasure. And all of this without leaving a single suspicious finger print or DNA sample. The utter ferocity of the display was breathtaking.
I calmly walked back into the kitchen regaining my breath from the impulsive exertion. Marge was already cold to the touch. I was learning a great deal about human emotion, my own, and human physiology, Marge’s. I never would have believed a lifeless body capable of such rapid heat loss. Her facial expression in death was much like the one I grew to despise in life.
“One thing left to accomplish,” I said happily.
I retrieved the knife from the floor and wiped it clean of prints. I then proceeded to handle it as if I were cooking. Then, with a towel wrapped around it, I turned the instrument of my freedom upon my person attempting to produce the same offensive and defensive wounds my wife endured save the final killing blow to the neck. Satisfied that I would certainly survive the ordeal (after all our friends were due any minute and 911 responded rather quickly in my neighborhood) I steadied myself for my final attempt at subterfuge. I chuckled audibly remembering how Marge had been duped into an excessive price for the countertop upgrade to granite. I took a deep breath and with as much force as I could muster, slammed my face, slightly askew to the left, into the cold stone.
“You’ve been through quite an ordeal,” a stranger said to my left.
“What happened? Where am I?” I asked genuinely concerned.
“You’re in the hospital. You’ve been here for three days.”
“What? What happened to me? Why am I here?” I asked clutching my throbbing face, though already I was regaining my memory.
“There was an incident at your house, Mr. Elliott. Do you remember anything?”
“I wass cooking dinner for friendss,” I said purposely slurring my words for effect. “We were expecting them sshortly. That’ss all I remember.” I looked around the room anxiously and cleverly added, “Where iss my wife? Where iss Marge?”
“You were attacked and I’m afraid I have bad news for you, Mr. Elliott―”
“What? What has happened to my Marge?” I yelled attempting to raise myself from the stiff mattress. The pain was excruciating. I was sure it added useful effect to my urgent plea.
“I’m sorry, but your wife didn’t survive the attack.”
“What? NO! Oh God no! This can’t be possible,” I screamed throwing myself back down on the mattress. I wailed and cried tears of utter joy. My last-minute plan had worked. Marge was dead and perhaps already buried, this detective had no clue what I had done, and Marge’s fortune would soon be mine. It was too good to be true.
“Paul,” the detective said after clearing his throat. “I’ll give you some time alone. My name is Detective Salazar. I’ll come back tomorrow morning and we can talk about this when you’ve calmed down.”
I waved him away and shoved my face into the pillow. My smile was so broad it began to burn my cheeks.
A crashing sound shattered my childlike sleep. My eyes popped open but there was no change in my vision for the blackness of the room. Movement to my left caught my attention. Turning my head, the pale light from a slowly opening doorway revealed demonic forms entering my room. I was yelling for a nurse when the lights flashed on blinding me for an instant. When I regained my composure I was surrounded by six burly policemen. Salazar stood at the foot of my bed with a sinister smile plastered on his undersized face.
“You’ve been found guilty of murder, Mr. Elliott,” he said without emotion. “You’re being transported to Stafford Creek Corrections Center for immediate execution.”
My mind seemed to float. Had they drugged me? I screamed as the brutes folded me into the mattress and hoisted me up. This can’t be happening.
“There are no executions in Minnesota!” I screamed finally coming to my senses.
Seconds later I was unceremoniously thrown into the black hole of a large van and we sped toward our destination. I tried to reason with Salazar from my traveling cell but he remained mute.
I had never been treated so roughly. The same animals that threw me into the van carried me to the death chamber. As I was being fastened into the wooden chair that would end my life, an old man shaved my skull without cream, lotion, or compassion. A trickle of blood stung my eyes and then I felt a cold wet sponge being placed on my head by a man who laughed hysterically. I screamed and flailed as the electric jolt entered my body waking me from my nightmare.
I was covered with sweat and hyperventilating as I took inventory of my situation. All seemed well. I was safely ensconced in my temporary clinical home; not much different in size and configuration than the death chamber in my unconscious ordeal. I resisted a shiver and I soon calmed down. With some difficulty I was able to sleep again.
The next dream was wonderful. I relived the entire murder scene in vivid detail. It was even better than reality since I didn’t experience any of the physical pain associated with my brilliant deception. I dreamt it as an onlooker might view it, from a slightly raised point of view, panning in and out for effect. How happy I looked as I rioted and destroyed. Did I really dance through the house like that?
The next morning came quickly. I had slept the remainder of the night away like a distant cousin of Rip Van Winkle’s. I stretched my arms out above my head and pushed my hands against the headboard. Letting out a long sigh I turned my head toward the door and noticed the detective sitting beside me. There was a smile on his face.
I immediately acted as if I were in pain and mumbled, “Good morning, Mr. Salazar.”
“It’s Detective Salazar, Paul. Good morning. It looks like you’re feeling better.”
“Yes. Yes I suppose I am,” I said without enthusiasm. “Physically that is. I still can’t believe my Marge is gone. Please tell me she didn’t suffer?”
“Actually, I think she did suffer, Paul. In fact she suffered greatly.”
“You’re being cruel. Couldn’t you lie to spare my suffering?” I whimpered. That really worked, I thought.
“I could lie but under the circumstances I don’t think it’s necessary,” he replied with a piercing stare that made me swallow.
“What are you talking about?” I stated angrily. “You’re being insensitive and rude.”
“Well, Mr. Elliott. I’ve been sitting here for some time now.” He lifted his cell phone and tilted it from side to side making a show of it. “I managed to video your entire dream sequence this morning. Your vocal projection in dream-state is fabulous. You couldn’t have given a better description of the murder had you spent a week writing a confession,” he concluded. This he followed with prolonged laughter.
This must be another dream, I thought pinching my thigh under the sheets.
“Certainly that’s not admissible. Do you think I’m stupid?” I countered when I confirmed that I was indeed awake.
“I realize that, Paul. I won’t use the recording in court. I’ll simply use it to break you. It will be fun. You and I know what happened, now I’ll just wait until you confess your crime to the world.”
Why does he keep laughing? I thought before saying, “Well, Detective Salazar, you’ll be waiting a very long while. I can hire a psychologist who will explain to the jury that a person under extreme stress can dream of the ordeal in question, placing him or herself inside the delusion, in a way that is very different from reality. An innocent person, like myself, may imagine he is the guilty party, revealing a very real regret stemming from the fact that he was unable to save his loved one. It may even prove to secure his or her freedom.”
“That’s very good, Paul. I would imagine you could produce such a witness with your newly acquired bounty. Shoot, it might even work. But I doubt even that elaborate scheme will help you in this case.”
“Why do you continue to laugh? Don’t you realize how annoying that is?”
“I can’t help it, Paul. I just keep seeing this vision of you in my head.”
“If I don’t have a halo over my head you’re a false prophet.”
“No, Paul, I don’t think so. I can see it plain as day.” His voice took on an excited character. “The husband is cooking dinner facing the stove. Wife comes into the kitchen bitching about something. Does any of that ring a bell, Paul?”
I swallowed involuntarily. “You knew I was cooking. I already told you that. That’s not much of a vision. Maybe you should have your eyes checked.”
Salazar laughed again. Shaking his head he proceeded. “Well how about this. The husband turns to face his wife with a butcher knife in his hand. He then proceeds to stab and slice at his wife until she falls into a pool of her own blood. Is my vision improving, Paul? Is it approaching 20/20?”
I turned my head away from Salazar forcing bile back into my stomach. After a moment’s pause I said, “This is ridiculous. You’ve been watching too many episodes of CSI. You know, believing someone’s dreams may get you a demotion. I loved my wife. We just had our thirtieth anniversary for God’s sake.”
“Wait, Paul. Wait,” Salazar said waving his hands in front of his face like a blind man uncertain of his surroundings. “Now I see the husband running through the house destroying and staging things to make it look like a robbery-gone-bad. He’s actually smiling. He may even be laughing. Wait! It can’t be. The man that just killed his wife is dancing.”
My face flushed. Sweat stung my eyes. What am I going to do? I thought? He knows everything. Stop this. It was just a dream. There’s nothing he can use. Calm yourself before you do something stupid and confess.
“This is very entertaining, Detective. You―”
“Hang on,” the detective interrupted. “Now the husband’s back in the kitchen abusing himself with the knife. Is he still smiling? Oh wow! He did not! Did he just slam his face into the granite countertop? Magnificent! Truly a work of art. What do you have to say now, Paul? Am I a veritable old testament prophet or what?”
Impossible! My body was shivering but my voice came out strong. “Very good, Detective. I must admit, it all sounds plausible. But it’s not true. It is pure fantasy, sprung out of a horrific and emotional ordeal, and you know it.”
“Are you sure?” Salazar cautioned with an odd inflexion of voice.
“You have nothing on me and you know it. Isn’t there a ‘good’ cop in the hall you want to send in about now?” I said sarcastically making quotation signs with my fingers.
“No, nothing so cliché, Paul. But I haven’t been entirely forthcoming,” he said in a softer tone. “I feel that I should confide in you now. Would that be alright?”
“By all means confide, detective Salazar. Confide your complete lack of evidence.”
“I must confess, in reality your dream this morning sounded like gibberish to me, and I’m not much of a prophet. I did however, see a vision of you murdering your wife. But it was by means of something a bit more substantial than dreams or prophesies.”
“What’s with that infernal laughing?” I screamed. “You’re a goddamn madman. This has gone on long enough. I want to see my lawyer.”
“You’ll only waste your wife’s money, Mr. Elliott. No lawyer can help you.”
“I’m sick of this nonsense. I’m innocent and you know it. Leave me now. I’m grieving the loss of my beloved wife,” I said rolling over to face away from the mortal threat.
“Wouldn’t you like to know how I know, in such precise detail, how you killed your wife? Aren’t you a little curious?”
“Sure, Pacco or whatever your first name is,” I said rolling back over to face him. “Why not.”
Salazar laughed loudly. “That was funny, Paul. Very humorous. First, a couple of simple questions to help set the stage. Did you help your wife redecorate after she received her inheritance?”
“No. She found utter enjoyment in it.”
“I thought maybe that was the case. How about the Jaguar. Did you help research the safest car perhaps, or advise her which car gave the most bang for the buck?”
“No again, Felipe. Marge had always wanted a Jaguar. That was the first thing she purchased when the money became available.”
“Ah, I see,” Salazar said rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Did you at least happen to help her pick out the new alarm system?”
“No, Diego. That was my loving wife’s pleasure as well.”
“Yes, well you may be interested to know that she had a state-of-the-art system installed.”
“I’m not surprised, Jose. She inherited a great deal of money. But I will sleep in comfort when I get home, knowing I’m protected by the best technology money can buy. Is there anything else? I’m exhausted,” I said faking a yawn.
“Someone will no doubt enjoy it, Mr. Elliott. Not you though. You see, that wonderful system your wife purchased, has fifteen miniature video cameras set up to record the entire interior of the house. It’s set on an eight hour loop.”
My face went blank and my mouth dangled open like the entrance to Mammoth Cave. It can’t be!
“Any other day,” Salazar continued with a smile. “Your plan may have worked any other day. But for your guests arrival not two minutes after your final, and may I say ultra-impressive act of resolve, you may have gotten away with it. Are you okay Mr. Elliott? Why are you smiling?”
“Well, Detective Salazar,” I said while carefully straightening the sheets over my lap. “You may find this hard to believe, but no matter what happens to me now, I’m still free.”
* * * * THE END * * * *
Copyright Mark F. Geatches 2017