Precious Things by Guest Author Alex Knight

Alex Knight

Caroline Stewart was certain that her husband Adam intended to kill her. As each day passed her suspicions grew stronger. After all, he had killed his first wife, hadn’t he? Well it was true that he had been acquitted, thanks to Caroline’s alibi and the testimony that she had given under oath.

The two of them had been having an affair for several months before Adam’s wife had been murdered. Adam claimed to have been driving around, trying to summon up the courage to ask Margaret for a divorce the night an intruder had bludgeoned her to death. Once the police learned of Adam’s involvement with Caroline, they had a motive and his arrest was imminent. Adam begged Caroline to provide him with an alibi. Since Caroline was alone at her cottage all weekend, it would be easy enough to say that Adam had been with her, and so she had. The officer asked Caroline if anyone else could vouch for the presence of Mr. Stewart at the cottage that weekend.

“Under the circumstances, that is hardly the kind of thing we would have advertised, is it detective?”

“No, I suppose not,” he conceded.

Still, Adam had been arrested and tried for Margaret’s murder. There was nothing Caroline could do except testify that Adam had been with her the entire weekend. What if he hadn’t been driving around? What if he had murdered Margaret? After hearing a bit of the latest suspicious telephone conversation, Caroline was now almost certain he had and feared she was next.

“…I’m certain that she doesn’t suspect…right, see you at seven…”

Adam always said he was going to the bar or to a game, but these excuses left Caroline skeptical. She had been on the receiving end of such furtive calls in the past and was pretty sure that the person on the other end of the telephone was Adam’s newest girlfriend.

Adding to Caroline’s suspicions was a rather large floral purchase on the credit card account statement and the way Adam tore the statement out of her hand while she was reading it. There was also a purchase from Precious Things, she wondered if that was for lingerie or jewelry?

Recalling gifts Adam had given her while he was still married to Margaret, it seemed that the pattern was repeating itself. Patting her pocketbook, Caroline was reassured that her newest companion was nearby. Properly registered and licensed, her revolver would stop Adam in his tracks should he attack her.

Caroline thought about going to the police with her suspicions and decided against it. What could she say?

‘You must believe me. Yes, I was lying then, but I’m telling the truth now.’

Once her credibility was in question, the authorities would have no reason to believe anything she said. Better to keep quiet. If she had to shoot Adam she would claim self-defense and take her chances with a jury. Given the circumstances of Margaret’s death, it wouldn’t take much of a leap to reach the conclusion that Adam was trying his luck a second time. Caroline wondered if Adam’s new love interest was going to be foolish enough to provide him with an alibi.

“Come on honey, snap out of it and pack.” Adam put her suitcase on the bed.

“But Adam, it will be chilly at the cottage this weekend.” So, he planned to do it this weekend at the cottage. Why else would he be so insistent?

“Nonsense, just grab something and we’ll be on our way. I’m already packed.”

“Okay, but let me call Sheila, we were going to go to brunch on Sunday.”

“No time honey, the motor’s running, come on.”

Adam had been randomly tossing things in the suitcase for her while she dragged her heels. Thank goodness she had the gun.

It was dark when they arrived at the cottage. Caroline fumbled with the light switch but nothing happened. Had Adam already been up here, rigging the lights? Caroline pulled out the gun and listened for his voice. She heard him rustling behind her.

“Adam, what are you doing?”

“I’m just grabbing a log for the fireplace. Once a fire is going, I’ll get a flashlight and check the fuse box.”

He was probably going to hit her with a log and burn it afterward. Is that what he did the last time? Caroline aimed the gun where Adam had been standing.

Just then the lights came on and Adam, along with a room full of people, shouted “Surprise.” Caroline fired on reflex.

The banner across the mantel read, Happy Anniversary Darling. It was only then that she became aware of the scent of gardenias in the cottage, her favorite flower. Through tears in her eyes she spied the jeweler’s box on the mantel, Precious Things.

“Caroline, why?” Adam crumpled to the floor.

“Someone call 9-1-1.”

The voices sounded hollow in Caroline’s head, as if she was in a vacuum. She looked down at Adam and realized she had shot him. Had she killed him? Looking at the gun in her hand, the gardenias, their friends, and then back at Adam everything had a sense of the surreal. Just before everything went black Caroline heard someone shouting ‘catch her.’

When Caroline awoke in the hospital she was amazed to learn that she was under arrest for attempted murder. A cop was guarding her door and she wasn’t allowed any visitors except her lawyer.

“Walter, tell me that he’s going to be all right.” Caroline pleaded.

“Caroline, Adam is going to be just fine; I wish I could say the same for you. What were you thinking? Why did you try to kill him?”

“He’s going to be fine, oh thank goodness. But…I wasn’t trying to kill him, he was trying to kill me, at least I thought he was…” she broke off, not in full control of her faculties just yet.

“Caroline, you bought a gun a few weeks back, you’ve been acting suspicious, and when you think the two of you are alone at the cottage, you pull out the gun and shoot him. To make matters worse, there is the note Adam wrote and gave to his lawyer a few weeks ago for safe

keeping, in case anything should happen to him. They will have to produce it at trial, but essentially it says that he believes you killed his first wife and plan to kill him as well.”

“Trial? No! Walter, please… you have to help me. I didn’t kill Margaret, but I think Adam might have and he was planning to kill me as well.”

“You testified that Adam had been with you that entire weekend.”

“I only said that because he was arrested and he swore to me he didn’t do it.”

“Caroline, Adam claims that on the night Margaret was murdered he had got up for a drink of water in the middle of the night and you were absent from your side of the bed. He didn’t know how long you had been gone, but the sheets were cool to the touch, indicating that you had been gone for some time. He was asleep again before you returned to the cottage. When he realized that the police knew about the affair the two of you were having, he kept his mouth shut to protect you because you had as much of a motive as he did.”

Their conversation went on for another half-hour, until Caroline was too tired to speak coherently.

In another room, in a different wing of the hospital, Adam was sitting up speaking with Rachel, his current love interest. Coincidentally, her father was Adam’s new lawyer.

“Adam, what do you mean, you orchestrated the whole thing?” Rachel was incredulous.

“I tell you, it’s perfect. I’ll finally be cleared of murdering Margaret, once and for all. Yes, I know I was acquitted, but that’s not the same thing as being found innocent. Most people still think I did it. This way Caroline goes to prison; I get my divorce and keep the family fortune. You and I get married and live happily ever after.”

“But Adam, how did you know about the gun and that she would shoot you at the cottage?”

“The cottage was a gamble, but I had been acting strangely and letting Caroline hear snippets of suspicious conversations. I knew she would put two and two together and come up with the right equation. Once I saw the gun in her handbag, I all but dragged her to the cottage. I wanted her to shoot me in front of a room full of witnesses. As soon as I spoke my last words to her, I shifted my position slightly. Fixing on my voice as she did, Caroline was aiming where she expected me to be. The lights coming on by remote at the same time we shouted ‘Surprise’ triggered a reflex reaction. Then there was the note I gave to your father for safekeeping, in case something were to happen to me, it all went according to plan.”

“Adam, I have to go now. Daddy will be wondering what’s keeping me.” Rachel opened her purse to get her keys. She smiled to see the red light of the mini tape recorder blinking at her; it was still running. Oh yes, Rachel had at one time planned to marry Adam, but her plans changed. She had also put two and two together and was not such a fool as her predecessor had been. Rachel wondered if Caroline’s lawyer was still in his office, or if she should just try calling him at home.