This little story is a response to a prompt from talented mystery writer and fellow bloger D.S. Nelson. Do go check out her blog and see the other responses to her prompt! Thanks for the inspiration, D.S.!
‘I told you, I’m not going,’ Aiden insisted.
Charlie took a swallow of beer and said, ‘Why not? You need to get out more. It’s been, what, three months since Jill left.’
Aiden glanced around to make sure nobody was listening. He needn’t have worried. Everyone was staring at the bar’s two TV screens. ‘We’re out now, aren’t we?’
‘You know what I mean.’
‘I hate going to parties. I always end up in the kitchen trying to look deeply interested in the bottles of beer and wine in the refrigerator.’
‘You don’t try hard enough. Last time, when we went to Jimmy’s, you barely talked to anyone, let alone try to meet a girl.’
‘You know I’m no good at pickup lines.’
Charlie looked down, then back up at Aiden. ‘Look, I promised Gavin you’d be there. Don’t make me look like a liar.’
Aiden ran a hand through his mop of dark curls. ‘All right, all right. But I’m only going to spend the whole time warming one of the kitchen chairs again.’
Charlie smiled. ‘You won’t regret it,’ he said. ‘Gavin’s invited some very hot friends of his.’ He finished the last of his beer, then said, ‘I gotta go. See you Saturday.’
Aiden nodded miserably. He was not looking forward to this party.
Three nights later, Charlie and Aiden pulled up in front of the building where Charlie’s business partner Gavin lived. It was a warm night and they could hear music drifting from Gavin’s second floor window. ‘You ready to party?’ Charlie asked.
‘I’m staying for exactly one hour. That’s all.’ Aiden snapped.
‘For you, that’ll set a record.’
The two of them got out of the car and went into the building.
It was as bad as Aiden had feared it would be. There were plenty of pretty girls, but not one of them said more than a cool ‘hello’ to him. He looked around the room and saw that both Gavin and Charlie were already deep in conversation with other people. No help there. And he didn’t really know anyone else. There was nothing to do but head for the kitchen like always.
When he got there, Aiden saw a few other people standing awkwardly around. At least he wasn’t alone. He nodded to the one or two who looked up at him and headed for the refrigerator. He pulled out a beer and turned around to look for a place to sit. That was when he noticed Rachel sitting at the table. Wavy copper hair, dark green eyes, and a warm smile. Curves, too. What was she doing in the kitchen? She saw him, smiled and patted the seat next to hers.
‘Come sit down, Aiden. I haven’t seen you lately.’
‘Hi,’ he said as he sat down. ‘Yeah, I’ve been busy with work.’ He glanced at her, then back at his beer.
‘Yeah?’ she asked teasingly. ‘Big drama in the world of market research?’
They chatted a few more minutes, and then Aiden said, ‘I hope – listen, do you mind if I ask you something?’
‘Why aren’t you out there dancing?’
‘I’m sick of being pawed at and treated like a piece of meat. Gavin always says he’ll watch out for me, I’m his little sister. But he doesn’t. I’m just tired of it.’
For a minute or two more, Aiden and Rachel sat at the table talking about nothing. He noticed that Rachel seemed to be relaxing a little. Now was his chance. If he didn’t say something, he never would.
‘You – you want to dance?’ Oh, God, how lame! And after she’d just told him she didn’t want to be groped.
‘I’d like that,’ she said.
As if in a dream, Aiden walked out of the kitchen with Rachel on his arm. No more warming kitchen chairs! They started to dance, and he reminded himself not to get too friendly.
They’d just finished a slow dance when everything went dark. ‘Who the hell turned off the light?’ he heard Gavin yell. Aiden could feel Rachel next to him, could feel her hand sliding into his pocket.
After a minute or two the light flicked back on. Everyone stared in horror at Charlie’s body, stretched out on the floor. A large, spreading patch of blood was staining the front of his shirt. Rachel held tight to Aiden’s arm, her mouth open. Everyone else stood as if frozen.
Gavin called the police, who arrived moments later. Before he knew it, Aiden was sitting across from one of the officers. They were using Gavin’s bedroom as a makeshift interview room. He’d just finished telling the officer what he knew when she noticed something.
‘Sir, could I ask what’s in your pocket, please?’
‘Yes, sir, your right pocket.’
Aiden looked down. There was an odd sort of stain on his jeans. He slid his hand into the pocket and pulled something out. Something sharp and slightly curved. He looked down at the bloody knife and back at the police officer. She said nothing, but she didn’t need to.
‘I – I didn’t – I don’t know where this came from!’ Aiden stammered.
The officer raised an eyebrow. ‘I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to stay here for the moment,’ she said. Then, never taking her eyes off Aiden, she called out, ‘Frank, can you come in here, please.’ A moment later another officer joined her. Everyone watched as the police led Aiden out to their car, his face dazed and drained.
Later, Gavin and Rachel left the apartment. He was staying the night with her, since the crime scene people wouldn’t be finished until at least late the next morning. As they got in Rachel’s car, Gavin said, ‘I can’t believe we pulled it off.’
Rachel smiled. ‘Easy as anything. I don’t think he had any idea I put that knife into his pocket.’
Gavin smiled, too. He was looking forward to spending Charlie’s half of the business.