Content Warning: this story alludes to spousal abuse and the assumed death/suicide of a distraught woman.
I’ve been working on a writing project idea for a murder mystery with lots of twists and turns. Just what everyone needs, right? I love murder mysteries that involve birds – I’ve been writing them since I was 8… though that one was terrible. It involved a frontier family being murdered and the daughter being brought back to life as a falcon who hunts down their murderer for revenge! He stole their family’s gold! Peck out your eyes because it’s a falcon with a gun! It got silly. I hope I’m better at writing murder mysteries now.
I fell in love with black swans while we were in New Zealand from December 2018 – January 2019. They behave differently than our North American sassy sociopaths that have a penchant for mauling small children along lakesides. Instead they are the more chill goth cousins that happen to be open about their homosexuality. That said, I would not put it past them to maul a child or two just for funsies on occasion.
How do black swans connect to this story? Well, that will be revealed in time. Let me know what you think of this brief preview in the comments.
The rain-soaked through Harriet’s trench coat as the mud swallowed her boots, belching with each step toward the fiery wreckage. Her umbrella braced against the torrential spring storm while the sergeant shouted over the pummeling drops. “Just spoke with the husband. Seems there’d been an argument and she’d taken off with the car a few hours ago. Someone in town says they saw her buying a bottle of vodka.” He paused and gazed at the flames spewing from the driver’s side window against the efforts of rescue workers. “A body is still inside, but it will be a few days before the official medical examiner’s report.”
Harriet’s heart sank. Another death on another stormy night. “How’s the husband?” She asked, shielding her eyes against a stinging attack of wind and infernal heat.
“Seems real broken up over it, but it sounds like a mate’s supporting him. Not much you can do here – you might as well go see him.” He ripped and folded a piece of paper, pressing it into her palm. “That’s the address.”
With a final glance at the war waging between emergency services as they continued to attack the blaze with billowing flame retardants, she slogged back to her car.
When Harriet arrived, the townhome glowed with two men visible through the front window. With her muddy boots in the back seat, she rummaged through her passenger seat finding only her gym bag for a pair of non-muddy sneakers to pull on over her damp wool socks. Taking a deep breath, she thanked God she was not tasked with delivering the bad news. Opening the car door, she scurried to the storm door, opening it and knocking as one of the silhouettes moved to greet her.
A familiar tall, slender man with grey temples answered. “Hello?”
“Sorry to disturb you so late, I’m Detective Dunn. Is John Morrisey available?” As she spoke, the recognition connected in her brain and her face reddened. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Rogers. No one informed me you were involved in this case.”
He opened the door with his face cast down, “The Morriseys are dear friends. Please come in, Detective.” Removing her wet sneakers in the foyer, she followed the man into the front room where a broken John Morrisey folded himself into the corner of the bay window. “John, there’s a detective here to see you.”
John lifted a head of dirty blond hair from his knees to reveal swollen grey-green eyes. “Is my wife really dead?”
Harriet swallowed. “I’m afraid the car appeared to have someone inside, yes.” Turning to look at the other man she motioned to a plush armchair and sat when he nodded. “It’s important that we ask questions as soon as possible to reduce lost information. Do you think you can help?”
John closed his eyes and nodded. “I can try.”
Harried pulled a notepad and pencil from her bag. “Mr. Rogers, were you also present?”
“Please, call me Dustin. I think it will help John feel easier.” Dustin sat next to John on the window seat, putting an arm around his shoulder. “I came over shortly after Libby and John fought.”
“What did you fight about?” Harriet jotted the date and time at the top of the page.
“I filed for divorce.” A tear escaped John’s eyes.
“And she did not agree?” Harriet pressed, a small point of graphite forming on the page where the pencil rested.
“Correct.” John nodded. “Our relationship had degraded since the birth of our daughter, Kedra.”
“How so?” Harriet scanned the two men as Dustin’s expression changed.
“There are police reports,” Dustin added. “Libby’s behavior had always been wild. But she started hurting both John and Kedra.” John nodded, his face red and breathing irregular.
“She’s just a baby! I had to protect her!” John sobbed. “When I told Libby we were moving out – that I was taking Kedra – she lost it. Fucking lost it. At first, she started hitting me until I said I was calling the police. Said I’d be sorry. Said I’d regret it.” John crumpled. “Then she drove off with our car and I called Dustin.” John wailed as an infant awoke somewhere in the house. “I never wanted her to die! She’s my wife! I loved her!”
Harriet watched John slide to the floor from the window seat, her hands gripping her notepad and pencil. “Do you know where she went after she left?”
John shook his head while Dustin’s shoulders slacked. “I called some of her friends, but no one had seen her.” Dustin stood up and walked from the room, returning moments later holding a crying child around a year old against his shoulder.
“About what time did she leave with the car?” Harriet frowned as John lifted his head and mumbled. “I’m so sorry, could you repeat that?”
“Five-thirty this evening.” John choked out through a sob.
Harriet wrote the time and stared at it. The accident report came in shortly after eleven leaving five and a half hours unaccounted for. She returned her gaze to John and softened her face, putting away her notebook and pencil. “John, I’m so sorry for you and your daughter’s loss.” Reaching into her wallet, she fished out two cards, passing one to each of the men. “If either of you thinks of anything or need anything, please do not hesitate to give me a call. I’m going to go ahead and get out of your hair for the night.”
Departing the house she called her partner from the car – he’d know what to do. “Hey – have you started the case file on the Morrisey death?”
“You know I have.” Her favorite partner’s melodic voice responded. “More details?”
“The wife left the house with the family car around five-thirty in the evening.” She read off her notes. “Be sure to pull up all domestics filed on Libby Morrisey. It sounds like she had a record from the past year. The husband filed for divorce. He told her this shortly before she left the house.”
“I’ll have it all pulled by the time you’re here, dog.” Her partner grinned through the phone. “Drive safe – bad weather out there.”
“I will.” Harriet fastened herself into the vehicle and looked back at the house where two silhouettes faded into the background of a backlit bay window with pulled curtains just before turning out the lights.
Thank you for taking the time to read this draft excerpt today! If you would like to follow this project or see updates, please like, comment, and/or share. This helps me know which stories and projects interest my readers the most.