Triple Cross

 

Dan not only writes novels, but he pens short stories as well. The one featured here, Triple Cross, was selected by the Florida Writers Association for inclusion in its anthology of best mystery short stories.

Triple Cross – Short Story

The stunning redhead in her late twenties pulled her Buick into the parking lot behind the roadside diner at the edge of town. Within minutes, a small sports car eased into the parking space besides hers and a handsome man of medium build got out and slid into her passenger seat.

“You sure you want to go through with this?”

She sighed and said “Jason, I can’t take being married to him any longer. He’s cut my allowance to almost nothing  . . . and the twenty-year difference in our ages is making me miserable. Have you given any thought to my proposition and how we can pull it off?”

“You guys have a cabin at the lake. Tell Harold you want to go there next weekend to rekindle your romance. You and I will get there first in separate cars. I’ll hide in a closet and knock him out when he arrives. After you take off, I’ll light the fireplace, turn the gas oven on and scram. When you see the smoke from the fire, drive to the gas station on the state highway and call the fire department. Tell them Harold must be inside because his car is there but he’s not around. The ME will find Harold’s charred bones and declare his death accidental.  We’ll continue to keep our distance to obviate suspicion. Did you check his life insurance policy?”

“Yes, when we got married he took out a contract with an accidental death benefit worth three million.”

“Good. We’ll get together after all the dust has settled.”

“I can hardly wait, lover,” she cooed, as they launched into some pre-forensic groping.

  ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Harold was well known which meant everyone in the small town showed up at the memorial service, but no one stayed any longer than necessary. Monique dutifully sobbed and thanked all the attendees. Everything had gone according to plan and the shapely widow looked forward to suntan lotion, piña coladas and non-stop sex.

After arriving home, she tossed her widow’s weeds on her bed and went downstairs in her bathrobe to mix a double scotch when the doorbell rang. She opened it and was greeted by a tall Adonis wearing jeans and a blue blazer.

“Mrs. Wellington?”

“Yes, what do you want?”

“I’m Dirk Phillips. I’m here to keep you out of the gas chamber. May I come in?”

The startled Monique stepped aside and Phillips entered and plopped down in the living room.

“Okay, Mr. Phillips, you have my attention. My question still stands ― what do you want?”

He smiled and crossed his legs. “You and Jason don’t have much experience in planning a murder, do you?”

“Come again?”

“The only thing you did right was bump the old man off in a backwoods county whose coroner has zilch homicide experience. Most of his business is heart attacks and strokes.”

“Is this fantasy of yours leading somewhere?”

“I know all about you and Jason luring the old lecher to the cabin, knocking him in the head and torching the place. I can’t say I blame you but I was, after all, hired to do a job.”

Monique started to squirm. “Hired? By whom?”

“Harold suspected you were cheating on him so he hired me to obtain evidence for a divorce petition.”

“Can you prove any of this or are you on a fishing expedition?”

“Oh, I have proof alright. I planted bugs in your cars and houses. The tapes are in a secure place.”

“Then why are you here busting’ my chops instead of ratting me out to the police?”

“I have nothing to gain by seeing you waste away behind bars. On the other hand, you’ll be receiving some insurance coin and I thought we could buy two tickets to paradise and enjoy a life of love and leisure. You’re easy on the eyes and I excel at being a regular ladies’ home companion.”

Monique’s fear was gradually overtaken by the merits of his proposal and the looks of the proposer. “Even if I could be persuaded to rush into this life of lust, there’s still one problem.”

“I assume you mean the eager and randy Jason.”

“You got it, lover boy. He won’t appreciate being pushed out of the saddle and replaced by another rider.”

“I’ve already taken care of that loose end.”

“What do you mean?”

“Jason had a boating accident last night. He’s anchored to the bottom of the lake in his cement swimsuit.”

Monique momentarily froze at this revelation. She visibly softened and flashed Dirk a sultry smile full of promising passion. “I’m an adaptable gal. Count me in. I’m going upstairs to change. Make yourself a drink.”

As soon as Phillips heard her bedroom door close, he walked to the French doors and opened them. An older man of distinction stepped in and shook his hand. “Did you hear everything, Harold?”

“I certainly did, Dirk. You handled that beautifully. As soon as she comes back down, kill her and drag her out to the garage and dump her in the trunk.” Harold handed a .38 Smith & Wesson equipped with a noise suppressor to Dirk. “Tonight, we’ll take her up to the lake and give Jason some company.”

“We played that kind of close. I barely got your drowsy body out of the cabin before it exploded.”

“We took some chances but the payoff is big. I got some help from the county coroner, a lifelong friend, who sifted the ashes and found the bones, wedding ring, watch and keys I’d planted. As a favor, he claimed a dental records match and issued a death certificate.”

“How about the insurance proceeds?”

Harold smiled. “I changed the bene from Monique to my accommodating niece, Cassie. I’ll give her a cut of the proceeds.”

“You did, great, lover,” Dirk said before the two men kissed.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Six hours later, the two men loaded Monique’s corpse onboard a lakeside boat. They trolled out to the middle of the lake and dropped her weighted body over the starboard side.

“I’m glad that’s done,” Dirk whispered as he approached Harold’s lips with his own. He stopped when he felt a hard object against his belly. He glanced down and saw the Smith & Wesson in Harold’s grip.

“What’s this?” Dirk asked in shock.

“It’s the part of the plan that I didn’t share with you. I’m afraid Jason and Monique will have some company. I’m sorry, Dirk. The truth is I’m not gay. I entered into our little liaison to gain your participation in our scheme. An eager lover is more easily trusted than a hired hit man.”

“I was nothing more to you than an unwitting tool?” Dirk asked in disbelief.

“I’ll grieve, but it’ll be short lived. Arrivederci, Dirk. ” After the shot, Dirk collapsed on the bow of the boat. Harold tied his feet to the cement blocks and slid him into the water.

“I hope my niece appreciates all I went through to prove my love for her. I’ll give her plenty of opportunity to reciprocate once we hit the grass shacks of Bora Bora.”

The End

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