Eden Baylee and I have not (so far) discussed writing any of our 800 word stories in a specific genre. Thanks to the prompt, however, this one seemed destined to be just that… But it didn’t (necessarily) turn out that way.
The prompt: “I like hats.” That’s what Donald said the day before he killed Sally.
Parts 1 and 3 were from Eden and 2 and 4 were mine.
Getting Away with Nonsense?
I gave a statement at the station a week after it happened.
“What did he say again?” The officer flipped through his notepad.
“‘I like hats.’ That’s what Donald said the day before he killed Sally. Strange thing to say, don’t you think?”
Last Sunday morning, a police cruiser roared up my street and three more stopped in front of the house. I heard banging, shouting, and then nothing. By the time I jumped out of bed to press my face to the window, the cops had made their way inside Sally’s bungalow across the street. There was no forced entry, so she must have let them in, I thought.
Not more than fifteen minutes later, Donald came out—in handcuffs, flanked by two police officers. He looked dishevelled, even more so than usual. I didn’t like Sally’s good-for-nothing son. He was divorced, a deadbeat dad, and he moved back in with his mother a year ago. Sally was a widow, already retired from nursing—the quintessential sweet, little old lady. Neighbours loved her, but now she was dead, and it appeared Donald killed her.
Only thing was, nobody could figure out why he did it.
Then again, figuring out Donald had been something of a pastime for most folk around here over the years. He was never one of those kids who were cute just because they were little and kids. He left school early, didn’t bother to get a job, was into drugs, did jail time for causing bodily harm to some of his contemporaries – male and female. Basically, he’s an anti-social, very unpleasant individual. Had very few friends because local parents warned their own offspring to steer clear of him. Anyway, his temper alienated even the toughest of those who joined in some of his escapades. So, in nearly all respects – despite the fact that sweet, caring Sally was his mother and deserved better from life – the outrage, sorrow, and hand-wringing over her murder was muted.
Being such a close neighbour, I’d either seen or heard about – and deplored – most of his misdemeanours but I’d also had a few chats with him. He actually seemed to put up with me. Perhaps it was my age. I wasn’t a threat or anything. In his eyes, I was probably just a harmless old git. The chat we had the day before it happened was typical.
I was at my son Jonathan’s for dinner. He and his wife wanted the scoop on my neighbour.
“He said what?” Martha topped up my glass of wine.
“I like hats—didn’t specify anything else. Not sure if he meant baseball caps, cowboy hats, fedoras, or what?”
“And you told this to the police?”
“Of course, thought it might be a clue for why he killed his mother. Donald always said strange things. One time he told me cats will rule the world.”
Jonathan chuckled. “They might! So he’s an eccentric, but why get rid of the one person who cared about him?”
Both he and Martha looked at me like I had some special insight. I didn’t. “Doesn’t make sense, but who else could’ve done it? It was just the two of them in the house.”
“Why hasn’t he been charged then?”
“Martha’s right, Dad,” Jonathan handed his plate to his wife for a second helping of roast beef. “The papers say it was Donald who called 911, and there was no sign of trauma on his mother’s body.”
I leaned back in my chair, satiated from dinner but more confused than ever about what happened to poor Sally.
The confusion lasted through the days that followed. The police were trying to gather evidence but finding none. Day after day we saw the same ones, but privately, they confessed that this was a tricky one. They said Donald spent almost all of the time in his cell crying for Sally.
Losing her was devastating and the officer who’d taken my statement told me that the prisoner was as angry about her dying as the rest of us.
‘That’s a bloody joke,’ I said. ‘Who else could have done it?’
‘Maybe, but we’re not getting much sense out of him,’ said the officer. ‘I just hope it’ll come out at the trial.’
‘The slimy bugger…’ I said.
‘Hang on a minute,’ he said. ‘Remember, he was the one who rang for us.’
‘Well, it’s a strange thing for a killer to do. Especially with just the two of them there.’
‘He’s a nutter,’ I said.
After a pause, he asked, ‘That hats business. What was it really about, d’you reckon?’
‘No idea. I never really listened to him properly. He was always talking crap. I never trusted him. Waste of space.’
‘Guilty then?’ asked the officer.
‘Definitely,’ I said.