Maree Collie loves the idea of Flash Fiction. So much to say in such a little space. She also dabbles in short stories, monologues and plays. Maree has had pieces published in anthologies, a play performed in 2018, and a monologue being performed currently. She has completed a BA in Professional and Creative Writing at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. https://collieflowers.wordpress.com
The Rose Motif (November 2019, Theme: Whodunnit)
He skillfully plucks a rose cutting from her bush. Yes, he knows she’s watching him from behind the French lace curtains, and yes, she’s told him so many times before not to do it – but he does it anyway.
How dare you! How many times do I have to tell you – not my David Austins, you bloody old Vagabond? Nervously, Anne turns away from the window and returns to her bespoke kitchen where the freshly percolated coffee awaits.
With the rose carefully tucked into his top pocket he ambles towards the docks, passing the old churchyard, his regular route. He kicks at the crisp brown leaves, memories flash, of his little dog hunting imaginary things under the fallen foliage.
There’s always a lot going on at the docks. He takes his usual seat overlooking the wharf where the fishing boats birth. There is much yelling and hoopla as the boatmen work. No one notices the body bobbing along, attracted to the pylons by the currents under the pier. Suddenly there is a change in tone and mayhem enthrals. Someone has seen it, hooks it and heaves it onto the decking. He observes their actions and then leaves. He knows that the area will soon become a theatre of blue and red lights, sirens, and questions.
The authorities swarm over the docks. The deceased, a Mr. Mullins, ‘known to police’, has a bullet hole in the back of his head, and a rose in his top pocket.
Anne, still recounting the vagabond’s blatant disregard for her roses, washes the cup thoroughly and returns it to its rightful place in the cupboard. She sees the television news report; a body at the docks, and rings the desk ‘…and as soon as I saw the rose I knew who did it’ she says ‘a wretched vagabond steals my roses. My name? Anne, don’t want him coming to murder me too. I live alone you know. However I’m proud to do my community service.’
The detectives go looking for the vagabond. He’s nowhere to be found. They postulate that his absence indicates his guilt. A landlady comes forward, saying that he used to live at her lodgings but she doesn’t allow dogs. A ferry pilot said that he had seen the old man sleeping rough under the New Bridge, and that he used to have a little dog. The investigators spend a lot of time searching under that bridge and through his meagre possessions.
A large crowd attends Mullins’ funeral. The detective watches a woman unremorsefully toss a rose onto the coffin and spit. He sidles up to her to offer his condolences. ‘What!? That scumbag!? Finally someone’s done society a good deed.’ He asks her about the vagabond. ‘Yeah see him puttin’ flowers on his dog’s grave, back of the old church yard. Me? Me daughter’s in the cemetery, suicide, scumbag here pushin’ dope on the kids.’
The next day whilst doorknocking a detective is confronted by an old lady. ‘You’ve taken your time to come about that dog. That woman driver was most unrepentant. Yelling at the old man saying dogs should be kept on a leash.’
At the Monday morning debriefing the investigating team discusses the case. The whereabouts of the vagabond is still unknown. There is consensus that Mullins was a stand over man not a drug lord, even though that woman at the funeral, Betty, thought otherwise.
‘…What’s the connection between Anne and the vagabond?’
‘She might’ve killed his dog, but the rose thing feels very personal.’
‘What if it wasn’t the dog Anne was trying to hit?’
‘What’d we know about her?’
‘Not a lot. She ran for mayor a few years back – campaign of ‘Clean up the Streets’ didn’t win too many friends… her husband got killed in a hit run, was all over the papers, no one got charged.’
A few weeks later, Anne rings the police, hysterically, saying the murderer is in her shed, begging them to come quickly. They tell her that it was a possum, but they spend a lot of time searching the shed.
A detective unceremoniously dumps a large box onto their desk.
‘That key from under the bridge – fits a bus depot locker.’
They document the photos, paraphernalia, and a large amount of money.
‘If he’s blackmailing her, why leave all this money?’ They uncover a photo of ‘Betty from the funeral’ with Anne’s husband. Suddenly the case develops into a sordid plot of sex, money, and extortion.
They conduct another search of Anne’s shed and recover a gun. Begrudgingly Anne agrees to more questioning. She looks at the photos. They ask her about the vagabond.
‘Don’t know where he is, don’t care, hope he’s dead, the meddling old fool.’
‘Is the vagabond blackmailing you?’
‘Why is he intimidating you?
She snatches at the next photo. ‘That’s Betty the lying two timing tramp! Seduced my husband, what a lowlife, what a bitch!’
‘Mullins? No idea. Why? And Betty never had a daughter! The lying scheming bitch.’
‘The murder weapon was found in your shed.’
‘Then you’d best go ask Betty bitch!’
At the bottom of the box lay a small sympathy card adorned with an intricate rose motif. It contains one word, ‘BohoSouth’. Overlooked, until one investigator asks: Why is this here?
‘BohoSouth’, the password to Mullins’ computer, reveals a world of financial deception. Anne’s husband, the banker, provided dubious financial assistance to older people, usually women, until ‘the accident’ as Anne put it. Mullins had become ‘a too big for his boots’ Betty recounted. ‘They were trying to take over our business. We had to stop them.’
The vagabond, in clean clothes, holding his plane ticket, pulls his bag from the carousel and moves towards the exit. Only when he’s safely on the shuttle bus does he afford himself a smile. He’s earned his money. The newspaper editor congratulates him on ‘a great piece of investigative journalism’ unravelling the elaborate Ponzi scheme.