Elizabeth Hahn and the Accident on Tupper Mountain (short story and opportunity)
Here is order number two for today in the I Will Kill you for $5 project. If you like the stories you read, don't hesitate to join them in the depths of the abyss. I mean, er, order a short story... yeah.
First up, the download link is available here (story is in PDF, epub, and mobi formats). So you can take them wherever you read things: computers, tablets, eReaders, phones, refrigerators. I won't judge. Harshly. It is also available below in this post.
Above is the real-deal Elizabeth Hahn, or so the Internet has told me. I first met Elizabeth on Google+ somehow, I can't recall how, maybe she can remind me in the comments. She turned into one of my few and lovely beta readers for my first book Sweet Sixteen Killer -- which she has been waiting for me to publish very patiently since reading the early version. When setting up her order, this was her answer regarding the genre, "SciFi, campy SciFi, Old school mystery a la Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle." I decided on a Christie/Doyle approach, since I had just written Cass's scifi death. I don't normally write in the old school mystery/Christie style stuff, but this makes my second attempt at it in this project. The first one was Polly's demise.
But enough about that, let's get to the story. That's what you're really here for, I bet. Be sure to leave a comment after reading and let me know how I'm doing.
Elizabeth Hahn and the Accident on Tupper Mountain
Elizabeth Hahn had received word of the murder from a neighbor and quickly sprang into action, nibbling on a cutie while driving through the blizzard-like conditions. The cause of death was a hunting accident, she’d heard. But too often the woods and mountains she’d come to call home were open doors to “accidents” that weren’t really accidents at all. And since she was a third cousin from Sherlock Holmes, twice removed, she was bound and determined to prove herself in the family.
She pulled up at the base of Tupper Mountain, where she found the sheriff’s car and several other vehicles.
She walked up to the group that had gathered around Sheriff Amos Bosley’s patrol car. “I would have been here sooner,” Elizabeth started, “But there were cows. And they looked so majestic against the snow that I had to stop and snap a few photographs.”
“What are you doing here, Miss Hahn?” Amos chided.
“Unless I’m mistaken,” she said, “Someone’s been shot.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Amos said, “But that is no concern of yours.”
Elizabeth pulled a pipe and cigar from her overcoat, “Well, I disagree with you there.” She lit the pipe and took a couple of puffs. “Who was it that solved the mystery of Mary Jo’s missing pies? She never would have taken first prize in the pie competition that year, had I not stepped in. And who can forget about the donkey basketball accident that wasn’t really an accident after all? How did you discover the perpetrator in that one again?” She took another puff.
Amos cleared his throat. “Look, nobody died in those cases.”
A young man stepped forward, “Officer, if it’s all the same, we’d appreciate all the help we can get to clear this up.”
Elizabeth squinted at the boyish figure when he said “clear this up”. He didn’t seem too upset about a friend having been killed. Seemed more concerned with getting out of Dodge.
“And who might you be?” She asked.
“I’m Brad,” he said as he pulled over two young men. “This is Rob and Chad. And our other companion, bless his soul, is Maxwell. He’s up the mountain.”
Elizabeth introduced herself and asked for a quick rundown off what had happened. Brad was happy to tell the story, the others kept quiet only agreeing every once and a while when prodded by Brad.
They had been hunting since dawn, but after a few hours they decided to split up. They were arguing over which route to take next. No one was having any luck in hunting it seemed. A few early beers may have led to the argument, he added. The story was that they all had seen the same albino deer at once, from different vantage points, and taken fire. There were four shots, but only one had hit a prize. The one that killed Maxwell Guthrie. They didn’t know it until after an hour or so had passed, and they were trying to regroup for lunch. Maxwell wasn’t responding to their walk-talkies and they began to search for him. An hour later, they found him face down in a pool of blood. After that they headed back to their hunting cabin, used a rotary and dialed the local authorities.
Doctor Wilson came down from the mountain and gave them the all clear to come up and look around. Wilson had wanted unfettered access to the body and crime scene before it was trampled underfoot. “Oh!” Wilson perked up when he saw Elizabeth, he mashed down his combover. “Didn’t know you were coming along, Miss Hahn.”
“Just in the neighborhood.” She said and took another puff of the pipe. She wrapped her scarf around her neck. “Shall we, gentlemen?”
After the treacherous hike up the mountain, they returned to the hunting cabin carrying the body of Maxwell Guthrie. They laid the body under the blankets of one of the cots. It was frozen to the bone. The blizzard had kicked back up, it was spitting snow and ice. For a moment Elizabeth wasn’t even sure they’d make it back to the warmth of the cabin fire. When they came in, they found Wilson stoking the fire for them. He had hot coffee on the stove.
The young men sat about the room, spread out but not far from their hunting rifles, she noted. She took a cup of coffee from Wilson, who served them all, and she drank it while she considered everything she’d witnessed at the scene of the crime. And everything about the body itself. But first, one thing was bothering her.
“Is this your first time hunting?” She asked the young men. They all denied it was their first time. Brad even told an anecdote about one of their hunting excursions. “No, I doubt that.” She said. She took her pipe out and lit it up again. She took a puff over her coffee. “You wear the clothes of a hunter, sure, but everything is new. Nothing is worn. No hunter would go out in all new clothes, much less every single one of you together. Furthermore, your placement of the rifles, it’s not very sportsman.” She took a sip of the coffee. “It’s just right, Dr. Wilson, thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Miss Hahn,” Wilson replied.
“Wilson, would you say the gunshot wound was sustained from a distance with a downward angle?” Elizabeth asked.
Wilson looked about nervously. “No, I would say it was up-close and at an upward angle.”
“That’s what I deduced as well.” Elizabeth said. “Amos, you no doubt noticed it odd that Maxwell ran uphill after being shot, instead of downhill for help?”
Amos cleared his throat. “Yes, I noticed that, sure.”
“Maybe Maxwell was in shock,” Brad argued. His comrades all agreed.
“Perhaps, perhaps.” Elizabeth said. She rose from her chair and went to the fireplace to defrost. There was a small step up onto some bricks around the fireplace. She placed her coffee on the mantle. She took a few small puffs from her pipe, and then sat it on the mantle as well. “But that doesn’t account for the uphill angle, and at close range. A story that is far different than the one you all told us early on.”
“How’s that?” Brad said.
“You each showed me your position during the firing.” Elizabeth said. “Everyone was shooting downhill towards poor Maxwell, not uphill.”
“Maybe Maxwell got all turned around after being shot,” Rob said.
“No, we would have seen that in his footprints in the snow,” Elizabeth explained, “He walked a straight line, uphill, to his resting place.”
“What are you saying?” Amos asked.
Elizabeth sighed at Amos’s ignorance. He was always miles behind her. “Amos,” she started, “Wasn’t there a bank robbery a few days ago in Pinewood?”
“Sure.” Amos said. Still not catching on.
Elizabeth emptied her pipe, knocking it against the mantle. She put it back in her pocket. She swept the remains of the pipe into her hand and cast it into the fire. During this ritual she watched as each young man was reaching for his rifle. Amos had his hands on his hips, which was typical, but he wasn’t preparing to pull his gun from the holster. Poor Wilson knew what was up, but the closest thing he had was a kitchen knife at the end of the counter. He’d have to jump for it, and then charge an already armed man. He’d likely meet the same fate as Amos. Too slow. Their best bet was that damned cup of coffee on the mantle.
Elizabeth slowly picked up the coffee and held it in both hands. Hot to the touch. Too hot, which was how Wilson liked it. Hot enough to burn someone’s face. “Everything we’ve seen and heard here today points to one thing. Betrayal… and murder.”
As soon as she said the word murder, the three men jumped up from their seats with their guns in hand. She threw the hot coffee in Rob’s face, he let go of the rifle and screeched in pain, holding his face in his hands. He fell to the floor in agony.
Elizabeth took the empty coffee mug like a baseball and pitched it directly into Brad’s left eyebrow. It bounced off and flew around the small cabin. His eyebrow burst open and immediately bled all over his eye. He fell over backwards, taken off-guard.
Chad fired on Amos, hitting him in the stomach. He doubled over forward and fell into a fetal position.
Wilson grabbed the knife and charged at Chad, but he was too slow. Chad fired a second shot. The shot caught Wilson in the shoulder and knocked him over a nearby cot. The kitchen knife flew through the air towards Elizabeth, and she snatched it with her hand. She followed through with Wilson’s charge and stabbed Chad in the stomach. She grabbed his rifle from his hands and kicked him back with her boot. He let slip his grip and stumbled back a few feet. She spun the rifle about and held it just high enough to shoot Chad point-blank in the chest. His whole body flew directly out the front door and into the snow.
During the commotion she hadn’t seen that Brad had reached his rifle on the floor. He spun on his back and aimed up at her. He shot her clean in the chest. She fell over against one of the cots. He stood up and came over to her. He towered over her; his left eye completely covered in blood with more on the way. “You’re gonna pay for that.” He held his rifle up to take one last shot on her, but someone fired on him first. The bullet went in one side of the head and out the other. His body fell over sideways, limp.
She was having trouble breathing and heard movement to the right of her. Perhaps it was Amos. Maybe he’d finally found that gun of his.
But she watched as Wilson walked in front of her and stood over Rob. He looked down on poor Rob, still writhing in pain from the coffee burn. Wilson coldheartedly shot him with one of the rifles. He turned about and saw Elizabeth was still alive.
“Miss Hahn,” Wilson said. “You always were my nemesis.”
She watched Wilson as he walked over to the kitchen, he opened one of the bottom cabinets and pulled out two large bags. He opened one, it was full of cash. He closed it. He carried the bags to the front door and laid them there. He thought for a moment and returned to her. He knelt close to her. She could smell his notoriously bad breath. He mashed his combover again. “We could have made a good team, you know?” He said. “Both of our brains working together. We could have been criminal masterminds.” He paused for a moment, but she didn’t reply. “Ah well.”
Elizabeth pulled the pipe from its pocket; she shoved the mouthpiece into his neck hard and deep. He stood up, but immediately fell over backwards over one of the chairs. He was grasping at the pipe and struggling for air. He tripped over the brick floor around the fireplace and fell backwards into the fire. The flames spit up and out when he crashed into them. He rolled out screaming and hollering, fire all over his coat and combover. He took the coat off and jumped out a nearby window.
She listened to him yelling and screaming in pain until he couldn’t scream anymore.
Well, she’d proven herself, she’d solved the murder.
She looked down at her chest, the wound was going to be the death of her.
She decided to run the evidence one more time. Wilson had planned the robbery, using the young men to aide in his crime. But he’d never planned to share the money with them, he’d kill one and set them up for the crime. That’s why he needed time with the body alone, so he could make sure everything contradicted their story. A story he’d no doubt concocted for Brad to tell. The cabin would have been the safe house, a place to split the money before making their getaway. Wilson was always complaining about the weather, perhaps he was…………………………………………….