I’ve been absent from my blog for a couple of weeks and unfortunately missed last week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt. Life does get in the way sometimes. I’m back, at least for this week’s photo prompt.
I would like to thank Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for always being the gracious and diplomatic host to well over 100 creative (and sometimes temperamental) writers. Her job is not easy. I want to say that I appreciate all the effort and time she puts into the prompt, her weekly story, and the many, many comments and “Likes” to all. She is a generous person.
And now, on to my story. Some of you may remember Detectives Leale and Archer, a murder mystery serial that I started a few weeks ago. I continue it this week with Part 4, but just in case you need a refresher, below are Parts 1-3, as well. You don’t have to read the entire series, as I hope Part 4 stands alone, but you won’t be disappointed if you read them. At least, I hope. I make up each story after I see Rochelle’s photo prompt, and I try to keep them connected. Just as you, I never know what will happen from week to week. Enjoy!
He searches his face in the mirror and smirks at his 58 years of hard-earned wrinkles. They are reminders. Stuart often relives his ingenious triumphs, but lately, one in particular feeds his ego; that defining moment his brother Charlie died.
Charlie was their favorite, their golden boy, their reason to live. After he was born, Stuart was forgotten. His resentment festered.
“Charlie’s so smart, much smarter than Stuart,” his mother always said.
“Finally, a perfect child,” his father always replied.
Climbing onto the shack roof was mostly Charlie’s idea. Stuart never touched him. He merely jiggled the plank and watched as Charlie lay broken on the ground. “An accident,” they said. For Stuart, there have been 34 accidents since.
The door to the restroom squeaks open. “Detective, there’s been another murder that fits the pattern,” says his captain.
Stuart washes his hands and replies, “I know. I’ll be right there.”
The police presence briefly spoils the Everglades’ natural beauty, but in the face of death, nature lives on. Alligator eyes watch. A heron perches nearby. Detectives Stuart Leale and Henri Archer linger over the man’s body, speculating.
“Looks like the work of the Everglades Butcher,” Detective Archer says. “No I.D. without the fingers or teeth.”
Detective Leale squats beside the man, attempting to regain his composure. Furious, he says, “Trust me. This is a copycat.” He nervously scans the boardwalk, troubled by the fact that the woman’s body he dumped here last night is gone, replaced with her husband’s.
Forty-eight years since Stuart’s first accident, as he calls them. With Charlie, he’d been inexperienced. His parents suspected him, feared him. Their solution – boarding school – the very place Stuart learned the art of precision, patience.
At 18, he returned home to demonstrate his expertise on his parents. Local police said the elevator malfunctioned, another tragic accident for the Leale family.
Now, he stares at the evidence bag in disbelief. His partner Archer asks, “Leale, why’d the victim have your business card in his mouth?”
Stuart hears the accusation in Archer’s words, just like his parents’, so long ago.
Part 4: Copycat
The copycat killer watches Detective Leale nervously pace the crime scene. Leale’s clearly shocked to see his own victim is gone, his lovely Diana, whom he spent days torturing and grooming for this moment. The clever detective relishes in constructing a flawless crime, then playing the hero chasing monsters, but this isn’t the limelight he anticipated.
“Worked perfectly!” Copycat whispers, thrilled by how the body swap and Leale’s business card created mistrust on both sides. Suspicion hangs in the air.
Copycat catches Leale’s eyes, a fleeting look that triggers disappointment. No connection yet, but soon the detective will learn to appreciate.
Click on the badge to read the other stories: