Since September is Mystery Month, I decided to bring Short Story Sunday back for the time being. With edits being wrapped up on George Florence and the Perfect Alibi, I thought I’d share a short story featuring George and Lilah. Enjoy.
Accidents Happen (Part One)
“Tracey Young was about 52 years old. Died in her sleep.”
Lilah scanned the documents in the file folder George had handed to her. She glanced up quickly to see George pacing in front of the window behind his desk. His back was to her, so she turned her attention to the file and lifted the front page to take a peek at the next.
“So, what are we supposed to do about it? There’s little to no information here,” she said, putting the page down and closing the folder. Lilah tossed it back onto George’s desk. “It doesn’t seem like we have a case here.”
George turned around, putting his hands in his slack pockets. He smirked. “Well… Tracey’s brother, David Burke, seems to believe she was poisoned.”
Lilah grinned. “Now that would give us a case.”
“We’re not supposed to be happy someone has died, you know.”
“I never said I was happy about this woman’s untimely death,” Lilah said with a shrug. “But I can be happy about us having a case. It’s been three weeks.”
George sighed, pulling out his desk chair. He sat down. “Yeah, well, I don’t know if this will be the case for us either.”
Lilah frowned. “Why not?”
“Only the brother thinks she’s been poisoned. His word against everyone else’s.”
“So, there’s no proof. Did he say why he thinks she was poisoned?”
George pressed his lips together, almost as if trying to hide behind a smirk. “Well, he seems to think Tracy’s husband was the one who killed her.”
Lilah nodded, walking over and sitting down on the other side of the desk. She leaned back, crossing her legs. “So, the husband must have been pretty shady for the brother to think this.”
“Or,” George added, “the brother himself is a bit off his rocker.”
“No one says ‘off his rocker’ anymore.”
“Crazy seemed to be too harsh of a word.”
“Well, why don’t we go talk to him? Then we can see if he’s truly crazy or not.”
George nodded his agreement, but neither of them stood from their chairs. Instead, Lilah leaned forward, eying the detective.
“There’s something else you’re not telling me. What?” she asked.
George shrugged. “No, it’s not that I’m withholding information from you. It’s more than… I’m thinking. I went to the house this morning, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary, you know? The police don’t suspect foul play, and the husband was heartbroken when he discovered his wife’s body this morning….”
“You went to the crime scene without me?” Lilah asked.
“It’s Saturday, and you were still sleeping. So I didn’t want to disturb you,” George replied.
Lilah hummed to herself. Not that she was complaining, but she would never say no to going to a crime scene. She honestly thought George got this information, assuming the brother had reached out to him by phone or something.
“And it wasn’t a crime scene,” George continued. “As I said, the police don’t suspect foul play. She died in her sleep. There were no wounds, no signs of forced entry, nothing was taken, not a single struggle.”
“Regardless,” Lilah said, waving her hand dismissively. “The brother was there?”
“And he voiced his concerns about the husband possibly murdering his wife, and no one bats an eyelash?”
George nodded once more.
Lilah chuckled. “Except you?”
“Only because I knew you’d want to hear him out if you were there. Since you weren’t there, I thought it was only right for me to… you know,” George explained, leaning back in his seat.
Lilah, too leaned back and started laughing. “Oh, no. Could you not throw me under the bus? You think this woman was murdered, don’t you?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You believe the brother.”
“I didn’t say that, either. I merely believe we should hear him out in his concerns.”
Lilah paused for a moment, raising an eyebrow. “You didn’t say that.”
George rolled his eyes, standing up. “Whatever… are we going to investigate this case or not?”
“It’s technically not a case,” Lilah said, mocking him from before. “No one has hired us, and we don’t know if the woman died under suspicious circumstances….”
“Alright, alright,” George said, trying not to smirk at her. Instead, he brushed past her, picked up the file from his desk, and walked out of the office.
“Wait!” Lilah shouted, jumping out of her seat. “Let me get a coffee to go!”
“Hurry up,” George called back to her.
“You know, it might be faster if we stopped at the cafe on the way there.”
“Nice try,” George replied.
Lilah sighed. It was worth a shot.
“Does he even know we’re coming?” Lilah asked.
The car pulled up in front of the deceased’s brother’s house. Unfortunately, it was run-down on the outside, which caused Lilah to scrunch her face in disgust. She could only hope that the inside of the house didn’t look as bad as the outside.
The grass was overgrown with yellow patches, the front way walk missed a couple of bricks, and the gate was hanging off its hinges at the front of the property line. She noticed a rotted board was a makeshift ramp covering what used to be stairs leading up the front door that had no storm door. While the front door looked like it had a fresh coat of paint, the siding on the house was falling off. Not to mention that a part of the roof had a tarp over it. Either the owner was in the middle of getting a new roof, or the tarp was a makeshift solution for a cave-in.
“He gave me his address this morning and told me he’d be home all day,” George replied. “I told him I needed to confirm with you first about whether or not we’d pursue this.”
“Aw,” Lilah mocked, “Does this mean I officially get my name on the door?”
George chuckled, ignoring the question. “Before we go in there, I want to clarify that we’re not taking on this case yet. I don’t want him getting the wrong idea we’re here because we want to investigate. His sister might have died peacefully in her sleep under no criminal circumstances. We’re only here to hear him out.”
Lilah agreed with a nod of her head. Although, she had a feeling they would end up taking this case in one way or another. It was odd for someone to accuse their brother-in-law of murdering their sister in her sleep. Lilah knew the brother was grieving, but this was a strange way to go about it if he wasn’t telling the truth. Why else would he lie about something like this?
“Are you ready?” George asked.
Lilah nodded, breaking out of her thoughts. George always told her everyone was innocent until proven guilty. So that meant both the husband and the brother were clear as of right now. But Lilah’s gut told her the brother was more guilty than the husband.
She followed George out of the car, carefully stepping around the gated entrance. Both of them were afraid to touch it if the gate completely collapsed. Then they made their way down the walkway, carefully walking up the rotted ramp to the front door, where George knocked on it as loud as he could. As far as they could tell, there was no doorbell.
Luckily, they didn’t wait outside for too long. The door opened soon enough, revealing a young man. He cracked a small smile, opening the door wide and motioning for George and Lilah to enter.
“Oh, I’m so excited. I had hoped you’d come,” he greeted.
George motioned for Lilah to go in first with his arm, but she politely declined, taking a step back. This guy had creepy vibes all over him, and she wasn’t going to be the first to go down. George was the one with a license to carry, after all.
The detective immediately took the hint and entered, with Lilah following behind. Their host closed the front door behind Lilah as she made it through the threshold. She looked around, sighing. Sadly, the house was just as disheveled on the inside as on the outside.
Upon entering the front door, they were in the living room. There was a pine green couch and an armchair, but the chair was tipped on its side while the couch only had two clean-looking spots. One end was discolored a light brown, and Lilah didn’t want to try to guess what it was from.
And yet, her nose was attacked with floral and citrus scents. Lilah noticed every outlet in the room had an air freshener attached. Plus, a candle was lit on the coffee table. Ironically enough, the table was spotless and only held a candle. Despite all the other red flags, maybe their host was cautious about starting a fire.
“So, you’re going to arrest my sister’s husband, correct?” he asked.
George held up two hands. “Whoa, slow down there. I never said we were going to take on your case. We’re here to get more information about what you think happened.”
Lilah tried not to scoff. He was looking more and more guilty to her by the second.
“Before we start,” George said, pointing to Lilah, “this is my assistant, Lilah Williams. Lilah, this is David Burke, the deceased’s younger brother.”
Lilah nodded. “Nice to meet you.” It was not nice to meet him. “I’m sorry to hear about your loss.”
David eagerly reached forward, taking Lilah’s hands in his own, shaking them vigorously. “My pleasure is mine. It’s nice to meet you, for sure. Thank you so much for coming. And yes, it’s a tragedy my sister has been murdered.”
Lilah forcefully recoiled her hands from his tight grasp. She flexed her fingers, not knowing what to do with them. Her hands were sticky now, and it ultimately grossed her out.
David turned his back and headed out of the room without another sound. Before Lilah could think so much as look at George with a sharp glare in her eye, George pulled hand sanitizer out of his pocket and handed it to Lilah, who graciously took it.
“Before you say anything,” he whispered.
“We’re not taking this case,” Lilah interjected through gritted teeth.
“He wasn’t this sleazy at the victim’s house.”
“I don’t care. He’s crazy.”
“We don’t know that yet.”
“I’m pretty sure we do.”
David came back into the room, and the whispering argument halted. Lilah put the bottle of hand sanitizer into her pocket, rubbing her hands together.
“Mr. Burke,” George said, clearing his throat.
“David, please,” he corrected with a smile.
Lilah eyed him carefully. She didn’t know why he had left the room, but he didn’t come back with anything. She thought he was going to get them a drink or something. Not that she would have taken it, but it would have been a nice gesture. She looked around the room, wanting to open a window, only to notice that there wasn’t much natural light. The two windows in the room were covered with grime, blocking the sunlight. She was suddenly urged to ditch George and dash back out the front door. But she didn’t want to touch that, either.
“David, please tell us why you think your sister was murdered by her husband,” George stated.
David sat down on the arm of the chair tipped over its side. Lilah gave George a confused look, but he only pressed his lips together, attempting to hold a solid poker face.
“Well,” David said, taking in a sharp breath. “It all started about a week ago….”
Lilah suppressed a groan. They were going to be here for a while.
Rachel Poli is an indie author, podcaster, and content writer working on her debut cozy mystery novel.
Although she favors mystery, Rachel is a multi-genre author with too many ideas and characters in her head, often experimenting with short stories and flash fiction.
When she’s not writing, she’s reading, organizing something, or playing video games. She currently resides in New England with her zoo.