The prompt for Monday night, January 19th is as follows. I have included my response to the prompt, to show how it works. My thanks here are to the Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason for the ideas.
Three Little Words
In his murder mystery entitled Tainted Blood, Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indriðason had an opening scene in which an older man is discovered murdered in his basement apartment in the capital city. Among the strange elements of the murder scene is that the murderer has written three words on a piece of paper beside the murdered body. The writer does not reveal those three words until near the end of the story. They are explained by the story. Try doing that in a short story.
The door to the basement apartment was still open. The eight-year-old son of the family that lived in the apartment above had seen the door open, went to investigate, and discovered a scene of blood, death, and a note beside the body of the 50ish man who whose home it was. He ran from the scene as anxious to tell the story as he was scared by what he had seen. He returned with his father, trailed by his younger brother, as they returned to the home and the body of their neighbour. The police were called, and they stood around the body metaphorically if not literally scratching their heads. Beside the body was a clearly written not, just three little words.
By all accounts of the neighbours in the area, he was a quiet man who kept to himself, the type who in police procedurals was often found guilty of some particularly disgusting crime. He was Icelandic. The only way you could tell that was that ‘he spoke with an accent’ and there was a small copy of the Icelandic flag on his door (one of the boys had looked it up). It had a red cross imposed over a white cross on a background of blue. He had lived there a long time, way before the family moved in above him.
There were no signs of robbery, not that there was much to steal. The computer was old, the television not even a flat screen, and the place generally was passing neat with the exception of the body, and the note with the three words placed beside it.
When the police found his name, Gudlaugur Egilsson, on some bills in a drawer, they were able to discover that he worked as a doorman in a posh hotel near the airport. Two days of investigation revealed only that no one really knew him, a slight smile and a nod was all he gave to fellow workers, and generally to the patrons as well. On his name tag were the initials G. E.. They too said that he ‘spoke with an accent’, but no one knew where it was from. One reception person said she thought it might be Norwegian, Swedish or Danish, “something like that.”
A little bit of research revealed that he did not have a police record, had never become a Canadian citizen, although he had been in the country for 20 some years, and did not drive a car. Fred (‘call me Freddie’), an enterprising newly-minted detective thought to contact the police in Iceland, ‘just in case something popped up.’ He had a long conversation with an Icelandic counterpart of his, young, recently made a detective, single, living in a big city, that often went off topic, but the hard news was, Gudlaugur did not have police record there. They ran into a dead end there. Too bad.
The murder was fast becoming a cold case in the weeks that followed. No leads, no clues. Those mysterious three words led nowhere. They must have meaning only to the murderer, certainly seemed not to lead to who that person was, or why he or she had killed the Icelandic fellow. Must be a nutter.
Then the phone call came, with the accented caller asking for ‘Freddie.’ The young detective was in his small office, filling out forms, his least favourite activity, and was called to the phone. He ran to the phone when the desk sergeant said “It is about the murder.”
The two young men talked for a few minutes, before the Icelandic man, Erlendur (‘just call me Earl’) came to the point of the phone call. There was nothing in the record in terms of someone being committing an actual crime, but, there was a case, about 20 years old (Erlendur had been intrigued by his first ‘international’ case and wanted to be of help to his Canadian colleague), where the name cropped up. There had been an accident, a car driven by a young woman driving a car with her two year old son in the front beside her, had slipped on black ice and smashed into the side of a stone wall. The woman was able to get out, but could not manage to move her son wedged in against the door. She yelled out for help from a man who was walking past the scene. She was of a slight build, and wasn’t very strong. “I will go phone the police” he said in a slow, low pitched voice, and proceeded to walk, with no hurry in his step down the road to a phone booth that was about a block away. The woman’s descriptive word to the police was “plodded.” By the time he got to the phone, the car burst into flames, killing the child. The police officer who took down the woman’s words, and the few words offered up by the man who had called them, wrote down that the look on her face could have killed a man.
After the call was completed, Freddie believed that he understood the meaning of the words written on the note: “Never walk away.”