Monday, March 8, 2010

Weekly Short-Story Contest: Envy


This week’s short-story contest winner is Stacy Grow! Her name was drawn from a hat amongst the other followers listed on this blog and inserted as the hero/heroine’s name in this week’s story. Continuing on my seven deadly sins theme for 40 days of short-stories during Lent, I’ve written this week’s tale on the topic of envy. You may also notice that my character does not use quotations when speaking, sometimes mixing first and third person narration. This is part of my ongoing interest in a form of writing known as free indirect speech (and other variants), which I have decided to experiment with in this latest endeavor. I will also have lots more exciting updates appearing in posts later this week. Enjoy the read and let me know your thoughts!




Envy

Murder in the opera house, Stacy thought to herself. How cliché. She bent down beside the deceased actress, frozen in the last moments of her death swoon. Stacy had spent nine years as a private consultant for the city’s police department. A funny sort of job for a librarian by trade. But her love of books was the reason the police chief always called her in on homicides like this one. Romantic cases, the chief termed such incidents. Well, Stacy was the expert on those.

   Kneeling on the stage before an empty house, she looked at the bloodstains. A knife lay in the corpse’s hands. Stabbed herself in front of a live audience in the middle of a performance. The actress had had a great voice. Pity, Stacy thought. Looked like suicide. Except for one tiny detail, a blow to the back of the head that had actually killed her. But who would bother to assassinate someone already in the act of suicide? And how had none of the twelve-hundred onlookers in their chairs not seen the killer?

   The police had yet to determine what kind of weapon had produced the death wound at the base of the skull. Probably a projectile, the sergeant onsite suggested. Hmm, Stacy frowned.

   She unfolded a pamphlet from that evening’s performance. The lead actress had starred in everything from Verdi to Mozart to Rousseau, and all by her mid-thirties. Two male leads in the show, each vying for her character’s love in the story, also turned out to be her real life lovers. One of whom, rumor said, she had stolen already from another woman. A common occurrence for her, often seducing a man just to spite another lady. Both men had only found out tonight of the dual treachery of their shared mistress. The police had the entire cast in custody backstage. A few other notable additions included a minor supporting role of the maid, played by the actress’ best friend and confidant from voice school, whose star had risen somewhat, but remained shadowed by her more talented soprano leading lady. Also the casting director and even the orchestra conductor loathed the former prima-donna whose love affairs and bossiness had led many of the cast to quit, costing them both valuable time and money. In short, a crowd rife with motive and opportunity.

   Stacy rose and paced the stage lights. Every suspect had been onstage or adjacent it during the murder. She had faced the audience. Two things puzzled Stacy. The timing of the murder and the nature of the actress’ wounds.

   Glancing at the program again Stacy’s eyes narrowed on the title of that evening’s opera. Il Travitori. Of course, she thought to herself. That’s it, all so simple. Il Travitori.

   Who played the gypsy queen? Stacy asked the sergeant on hand.

   Ms? He replied with wrinkled brows.

   In the opera tonight, she continued. Who portrayed the character of the gypsy mother in Il Travitori?

   The policeman shrugged.

   You don’t read much do you? She inquired.

   The sergeant shifted his hands in his pockets with a quiet frown.

   Notice something odd about the actress playing the gypsy’s part? She asked, holding up the program. The last name.

   The same, he said with surprise.

   That’s right, Stacy replied. Her mother. Guess being upstaged runs in the family.

   But how then? He began.

   Check her dressing room, Stacy explained. I believe her character has many piercing instruments in the story: dirk, dagger, pick possibly. Would’ve stood right behind her daughter during the particular scene involved.

   But the suicide…

   It’s a stage knife, actually blunt. She had no intent of committing suicide. Tapped in the head from behind, she probably fell on the knife, blunt though it looks, it still must have cut skin. But it didn’t matter; the death blow had already been struck. In truth, just a little sharp tap to the back of the head, a wound that bled on the inside.

   Why would her own mother do it? The Sergeant asked.

   Stacy turned and smiled.

   Watch the opera, sergeant, she replied, slowly turning to walk away.

   She hummed a few bars in Italian as she strode offstage, a tune of two women that share the same lover.