Friday, September 23, 2016

Vignettes by Me, on Themes Picked Randomly: Day 23

Theme 961: Answers

The bullet zipped through the thin glass of the frontroom’s bay window and entered Phoebe Tarragon’s temporal lobe three centimeters behind her left ear, exploding shredded gobs of brain matter and shattered swaths of parietal bone from her head’s right hemisphere. The bullet, later identified as a .308 Winchester, finally lodged itself in a pinewood corner brace behind the plaster wall two meters away. Phoebe was killed instantly. Penny Wattleseed, Phobe’s eight year old piano student and next-door neighbor, was seated to Phoebe’s right on the Emerson upright’s wobbly bench. Thus, Penny’s rouge angora top was sprayed with Phoebe’s skull fragments, cerebrospinal fluid, and blood. Penny was otherwise unharmed. The time was approximately a quarter to one.

County Sheriff Eduardo Sumac, the supervising officer who arrived soon after patrol units had secured the scene and called in rescue personnel to confirm the death and tend to Penny, surmised that a state ballistics expert would be needed. By this point, though, Sheriff Sumac had already reached his own conclusions as to the identity of the culprit and the circumstances of Phoebe’s death. 

Less than two hundred meters to the southwest of the Tarragon residence’s cul-de-sac lay the one hundred and twelve acres of the Kiwanda Wilderness Reserve. The Bureau of Land Management had designated the Reserve a deer and elk hunting zone again this year, despite the warnings of park safety officials and the protests of the residents of the new housing subdivision adjacent to the Reserve. During the present elk season alone, the Sheriff’s officers had responded to eleven calls involving hunters stray bullets being found embedded in mailbox posts, garden trellises, garage doors, or other damaged property.

So Sheriff Sumac set his subordinates to contacting all individuals with elk licenses registered to hunt in the Kiwanda zone. They were to interrogate those with matching gun types. Two days later, the Sheriff believed he had pegged the perpetrator: Art Thyme admitted that he had carried his Mossberg bolt action rifle, which fired .308 Winchester rounds, into the Kiwanda woods an hour prior to Phoebe’s death, accompanied by his fourteen year old son. Though the Thymes claimed to have heard a shot at a quarter to one that originated several hundred meters from the copse of red alders they were then crouching in, Sheriff Sumac remained convinced that the Thymes were responsible for Phoebe Tarragon’s death.

Precinct Homicide Detective Holy Lavender, however, reached a very different conclusion. Using subpoenaed bank records, Detective Lavender tracked the charges made to an independent account that Kenneth Tarragon, Phoebe’s husband, had opened without his wife’s knowledge. The detective found that Kenneth had stayed at the Crimson Phoenix Motel, located three miles from his office, on forty two separate occasions over the past year. The Crimson Phoenix’s proprietor told the detective that Kenneth had entertained a number of unknown young women in his suite during his visits. Furthermore, the detective believed that she could connect money withdrawn from the same independent account to the cash purchase of a CZ 750 bolt action sniper rifle, which also fires .308 Winchester rounds, at a local gun show. Detective Lavender believed that these facts, taken together, proved that Kenneth Tarragon had killed his wife with premeditation—perhaps out of marital malaise, or dread of alimony payments should she divorce him over his infidelities, or some other perverse motivation.

Presented with Sheriff Sumac and Detective Lavender’s combined evidence, however, the grand jury was unable to make a determination as to the true events in Phoebe Tarragon’s case or to recommend an indictment. The evidence linking either Art Thyme or Kenneth Tarragon to Phoebe’s demise was deemed too tenuous. Neither Sumac nor Lavender has since been able to uncover further significant data to corroborate their respective theories, moreover.

Let it be noted, though, that in an interview with one of the first patrol officers at the scene, recorded in a brief that has unfortunately slipped behind a filing cabinet, Penny Wattleseed’s mother recalled overhearing from her kitchen window a meeting between Phoebe and a man who had introduced himself as Morgan Parsley, a private detective with a military background.

Explanatory Postscript: When I say “picked randomly,” I mean picked from a Master List that I’ve compiled of 999 themes intended to serve as creative writing prompts (from the following sources: 501 Writing Prompts; 25 Creative Writing Prompts; Examples of Themes; List of Themes; 365 Creative Writing Prompts; 100 Themes Challenge Writing Prompts; List of Journal Ideas; and Top 10 Types of Story Themes). To pick a theme at random, I roll three ten-sided dice (the first for the hundreds place digit, the second for the tens, and the third for the singles) and find the theme under the number I have rolled. If I hit a theme I have already written on, I roll again. If I ever roll 000, I make up a theme. The Master List is a secret, so don’t ask for it.

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