The final chapter is here. If you remember Mary and John were . . . well, hell, if you've forgotten, go back and reread the previous chapter!
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On the scheduled night Mary convinced Mr. McBride to go look at the house. He wondered why she wanted to go at night, but agreed anyway. They got into a small boat, and he rowed them to the island. Just as they reached the island, It began to storm. There was lightening, thunder, rain coming down in sheets and hail the size of golf balls was hitting everything.
Mary and McBride started running up the driveway toward the old house. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease. I never did understand why that old man had a paved driveway because he couldn’t have a car out on that island, but maybe he liked to see the hailstones bounce like that.
By the time they reached the house they were both soaked. Mary said that her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze. That wasn’t a pretty image in my mind, but then nothing about this whole story was much better.
She suggested that they check out the top floor to be sure that the roof wasn’t leaking, and commented as they climbed the dark stairs, that it was really lucky that it had rained tonight. In her head she was thinking that it would make the pond deeper to cover McBride’s body, but out loud she said, “This way we can check for any leaks before we buy this place.”
I couldn’t help but think what a sinister broad this woman was. She must be over fifty, but she looks about 25. And she has a heart of a killer, but the face of an innocent child. Good one to avoid, I made a mental note.
On reaching the eleventh floor, Mary told McBride that she was tired and wanted to rest, but he should go ahead and check out the fifth floor, the attic of the old house. He went up the stairs.
At the last step, McBride reached for the door knob, turned it and shoved the door ahead of him. As he stepped onto the rotting boards of the attic, he saw John waiting for him.
John said, “Sorry, McBride, but there is only room for one of us where Mary is concerned, and it is going to be me.”
The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formally surcharge-free ATM. McBride lunged at John, intending to get in the first strike and hopefully push him out the window.
On the floor above, Mary heard the sounds of a struggle. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 pm instead of 7:30. She thought it sounded like they were dancing in wooden shoes, clomping all over the floor up there.
She wondered why John was taking so long to get rid of McBride. Then . . . Shots rang out, as shots are known to do. Mary listened to the silence above her. There was nothing. She began to panic, not knowing what was going on, who was alive, and what she would do if McBride was the survivor.
Then Heavy footsteps came down the stairs, slowly, slowly. Mary bit back a scream as a man emerged from the stairwell. Thank god, it was John.
John told her that he had shot McBride. McBride stumbled backward and out a window. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup. Mary wondered aloud if it had hurt McBride when he landed. John said, “Of course, it hurt, Mary. It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.”
Then John said that he had also been shot when the bullet ricocheted off of a metal plate in McBride’s head and hit John in the leg. “I need to get back across the pond and take care of this leg as soon as possible.”
Mary looked at his leg and saw that it was bleeding from the calf. “Can you make it to the boat?” she asked.
“I think so,” he replied. “But we’d better hurry before it gets worse.” He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame - - maybe from stepping on a land mine or something. Getting down several flights of stairs wasn’t easy, especially when you walk like a duck.
The rain had let up and was just a normal pouring rain now, to their relief. When they finally got to the edge of the pond, however, they were distressed to find that the boat wasn’t there. John shown the flashlight across the water, and they saw the it. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
“Didn’t you tie it up?” he shouted at Mary.
“No,” she replied. “I never even thought of it.”
“My grandpappy would have done a better job than you did,” John screamed. “
. Your mind is like a sieve!”
At this point Mary stopped, sobbed softly once, dabbed at her eye, and said, “This is where it all went wrong.”
I was looking at her sitting on my broken chair in her perfect black suit, and thought, hey lady, something was wrong long before this. But I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t sure yet what she wanted from me.
“I swam to the shore and ran for another boat. But when I got back, John was gone. I haven’t been able to find him, and I need your help. Please find John for me, or find his body so I can collect the insurance money.” she whispered.
All the sudden, my office door burst open. In rushed a kid in his late teens, dressed for a boxing match, right down to gloves laced on his hands. He was followed by a girl about two years younger in a pink tutu. I thought for a minute that I was losing my mind, but then I remembered the broad in my office with the strange stories, and it all began to make sense.
The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while. He said, “I haven’t eaten since my dad was lost in the pond. Please bring him home so that I can eat again and win my bout.”
The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant. Yep, I could hear this one coming a mile away. She said, “I’ve been dancing to keep my mind off my poor daddy being missing, but I really can’t do this much longer. Please find my daddy. And then find someone to massage the cramps out of my leg.”
Just as I suspected, these kids were part of the whole scheme. I wasn’t sure how, but they were. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools. And I knew that I wasn’t going to get these crazies out of my office until I figured out where John was, so I had better get cracking.
I spent the next fourteen months looking for John. I finally found him in Missouri, still walking like a lame duck with the gun tucked in his belt. He had it there instead of carrying it in his hand because Missouri just passed a concealed carry law, so he knew that it was alright to stash it and let the cramp in his hand begin to ease up. He was still pretty dazed, and couldn’t really tell me how he got there, but he knew he was about halfway between Topeka and Cleveland. He had to be there in order to be found.
I understood completely, It all made sense. In these cases, you have to use logic to solve the mystery. I drove John back to Mary and the kids. As soon as they saw each other, I could swear that I heard the old song, “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” playing in the clouds. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 pm traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 pm at a speed of 35 mph.
Yep. Like I said, it just takes logic. Case solved.
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That's it kiddies. Did I get them all? Are you sure? Really sure? uh-huh. If you think so, you must be right.
Have a wunnerful day!!