Kelly brushed a damp strand of straight, black hair away from her face as she bent over the laundry bag. It was only eight o’clock in the morning, but it was already warm outside, and much worse inside. The heat was really the only thing she didn’t like about working at the laundry/dry cleaner. That and the customers who thought they could drop off a full bag of laundry and get it back within half an hour.
The blue nylon bag gapped open at the top as Kelly undid the drawstring. It was part of her job to count the items in each bag and make sure they tallied with the customer’s count. Slowly she started going through everything. When she’d finished the count, she noticed that there were still some crumpled-up clothes at the bottom of the bag. With an irritated sigh, she reached in to pull out the extras. Now she’d have to call and verify those other clothes, and that always took time. Not to mention customers almost never remembered exactly what they’d sent in (‘Don’t you check those things against the lists I give you? What’s on the list?’).
Kelly’s face paled as she drew out a pair of jeans with dark, ugly, rusty stains on them. She’d been in the business long enough to know that there was only one thing that made that kind of stain. She dropped the jeans on the floor and reached into the bag again. This time it was a long-sleeved mint-green blouse, with the same rusty patches and a ragged tear through the front of it. Gulping back an urge to retch, she hurried to the rear of the store to find her boss.
Shane was in the tiny office, getting a bank deposit ready. He glanced up when Kelly rushed in. He took a look at her white face and heard her ragged breathing.
‘What’s the matter, Kel?’
Her breath still came in short gasps. ‘I found – I found clothes at the bottom of the bag. All bloody!’
‘OK, breathe. Now, sit down here and start over. What happened?’ Shane got up and gestured towards his seat.
Kelly nodded, slumped gratefully into her boss’ chair and began again, this time in a slightly calmer voice. ‘I was sorting the drop-off laundry bags. One of them didn’t tally right, so I pulled out the extras. There was a pair of jeans and a blouse. They have blood all over them, and there’s a slash mark in the blouse. I think we need to tell somebody – like the police.’
‘Kelly, we don’t know what exactly happened to those clothes. There’s no sense calling anyone just because we found some things with blood on them. People have accidents. People tear their clothes. Doesn’t necessarily mean we need to call the cops.’
‘But shouldn’t we do something?’
‘You’re right, we should.’ Shane said firmly. ‘But let’s not panic. Whose bag was it?’
Kelly looked down at the customer tally sheet she was still holding. ‘Fredericks. Alan Fredericks. Oh!’ Her eyes widened and she looked up at her boss. ‘I know who that is! He’s flirted with me a couple of times. Even asked me out once. I wonder if those clothes are a girlfriend’s or something.’ For just a moment, Kelly was angry with herself for half-believing lines from a guy who probably had someone else. Then the reality of those stained clothes hit her again and she swallowed hard.
‘His private life is his business,’ Shane was saying. ‘Ours is getting clothes clean. But I agree this is weird. I’ll give him a call and ask him about the clothes.’
‘All right,’ Kelly said. Shane nodded and Kelly got his silent message to get back to work. She returned to the pile of laundry bags waiting for her and got ready to dig in again. She covered the jeans and blouse with an empty laundry bag so she wouldn’t have to look at them. Good thing she wasn’t going to have to ask about those clothes.
Later, when Kelly came back from her break, she noticed that the pile underneath the empty laundry bag was gone. She breathed a sigh of relief; Shane must have taken care of everything. He was a good boss that way – always noticed those details that other managers might not.
The next morning, Kelly listened to the news on her car’s radio as she headed towards the laundry. She almost drove through a red light when she heard the name ‘Alan Fredericks.’ She slammed on her brakes just in time and listened as she caught her breath.
‘…was arrested last evening on suspicion of murder. The victim, 29-year-old Lisa Turing, had been reported missing two days earlier by her employer. Her bloodstained clothes were found in a laundry bag belonging to Fredericks, and the alleged murder weapon was later found in a dumpster outside Fredericks’ apartment building. He is expected to be arraigned later today.’
So there had been something wrong about those clothes!
As Kelly parked her car at work, another thought came to her. Her eyebrows furrowed as she tried to make sense of it. She went inside, where Shane was already setting up for the day.
‘I heard the news about Alan Fredericks,’ she said after they’d greeted each other.
‘Yeah, pretty awful.’
She nodded and booted up the computer. Without telling Shane, she looked up Alan Fredericks’ account. She’d been right!
‘Hey, Shane,’ she asked.
‘I just looked up that guy’s account. Fredericks. Here’s the funny thing. His tallies were always exact. Never anything extra or missing. But this one time, it’s off. What if somebody’s trying to frame him? You know, stuff the clothes in there to make it look like he’s guilty.’
Shane looked at the account over her shoulder. ‘You watch too many cop shows, Kelly. They found the murder weapon and the clothes. They’ll find whatever else there is, and if he’s not guilty, they’ll find that out, too.’
‘But shouldn’t we tell them about this? About how the tallies were different just this one time?’
‘Don’t make drama, Kelly, OK? I gave the clothes to the police. They have the number here if they want to talk to either of us. They’ll call if they have questions.’
‘Yeah, you’re probably right,’ Kelly said. She closed out that screen and headed over towards that day’s heap of laundry bags, still puzzled by that tally sheet. She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t even hear Shane come up behind her. And by the time he drove the scissors in, it was too late.
Shane liked Kelly; it was a damned shame about her. But she was starting to ask too many questions for her own good. He cleaned up mechanically, putting her body in a garment bag for the moment. He’d move it later. The scissors could be bleach-cleaned, and that would take care of things.
In the meantime, he could at least be glad about that asshole Alan Fredericks. It served him right for screwing around with Lisa. And that lying whore got what she deserved, too. No-one cheated on Shane Marshall. And then to threaten to take him for everything in the divorce settlement? No! This was a much better way to clean up the mess he’d made by marrying her.