Bad to the Bone

Kathryn Lynch

Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Lynch


Photo of feral cat in trap.

The snoring from the next room aggravated the Old Lady. She could smell stale alcohol permeating the air as she firmed up in her mind the plans she had made the night before.

He was sleeping off yet another drunken binge. Most likely he had picked up a woman and attempted to be the lover he once was.  He should have figured out long ago that booze had softened up more than his brain.

After years of trying to get him to sober up and putting up with him returning home dirty, unshaved, broke, and disagreeable, she had enough. He had ended his latest alcohol-fueled foray into the world by calling her the C word, over and over, before collapsing fully clothed onto the bed. There would be no more whiskey-driven adventures for him. She was going to kill him.

The shoulder of ham had been in the Old Lady's freezer for six months. She had chosen carefully, looking for one with the bone protruding from the end. Carrying it now, as if the bone were a tool handle, she quietly made her way on slippered feet, into the room where he lay sleeping.

She watched him for a moment or two, their years together flashing through her thoughts. There had been some good times, of course, enough so that she didn't want him to suffer long. So it was that the Old Lady lifted the ham with both hands into the air, and swung it downward with all her strength, crushing his skull.

He appeared to leap upwards, accompanied by the sickening sound of shattering bones. Tremors seized his body from head to foot, jerking him around in a macabre dance of death. After a few moments, the movements slowed and finally stopped. He was gone. The Old Lady covered him with a blanket and carried the ham into the kitchen.

Her old heart was pounding now, but the cold water in the sink had a calming effect as she washed the outside of the ham. Next she placed the meat on a platter where it would thaw slowly, giving her time to dispose of him.

The Old Lady placed a garbage bag over his head and tied it around his neck. She did not want any leakage to reveal that he had been killed in the house. Her plan was to leave him by his car outside, making it appear that he had been attacked by someone when he came home drunk.

After placing a tarp on the floor by the bed, she rolled him to the edge. One more roll and he now rested on the blue plastic. Grabbing the tarp at one end, he was soon sliding over the rug on his way to the front door.

The stairs were tricky. The Old Lady slowed his descent by taking the steps first and letting him rest against her legs. She left him by the driver's open door, empty money clip tossed a few feet down the driveway, hinting at a robbery.

She recovered the tarp by rolling him off gently. The tarp had previously been used to cover a stack of firewood nearby, so she placed it there once again. Forecasted rain would wash away any suspicious residue.

Removing the plastic bag, she returned to the house to burn it in her woodstove. Lastly, the bedding was now circling in the washing machine. She was done.

The Old Lady called 9-1-1, reporting that she had just looked out their window and he was down by his car. While she waited for the police, she calmly placed the ham in a roasting pan, covering it with onions and cloves. The oven had been preheated to 350 degrees. Sizzling noises could soon be heard, the cooking smells quickly replacing the stale air in the home.

It had been a hectic afternoon. First there were paramedics, then uniformed police, lots of them. Yellow tape encircled the property. Technicians scoured the yard and his vehicle, taking innumerable pictures and talking to neighbors. One tech raised the tarp, studying the firewood underneath with little passing interest. It had begun to rain, making the job of finding evidence more difficult.

They wrapped him in a body bag and took him away in a coroner's wagon.

Finally, homicide detectives wearing suits came into the house. The delicious odor of baked ham filled the rooms as they sat with the Old Lady at the kitchen table. They asked her many questions and took notes. The murder weapon had not been found so they asked her for consent to search the house. She readily agreed.

While they searched, the Old Lady removed the ham from the oven, slicing it generously with her electric knife and scooping the onions into a separate dish. After placing both on the table, she added a loaf of homemade sliced bread, mayonnaise, and even mustard which she personally despised.

The search had yielded no bats, sticks, or other instruments likely to crush a victim's skull. The tired, disappointed detectives sat once again at the table wrapping up their notes.

The Old Lady fixed herself a sandwich, offering to make sandwiches for the men. They weren't supposed to accept any gratuities but they were exhausted and hungry. Eating would give them an excuse to remain seated and the ham smelled so good! They ate with relish, eyes half closed, breathing deeply while pondering in their minds what could have been used to crush the dead guy's skull...

When the detectives had gone, the Old Lady trimmed the remaining ham off the bone so that she could make a pot of soup. Her big dog, who had silently watched this entire series of events, was finally rewarded. He went out into the yard with his treasured bone, chewing on it with enthusiasm for the rest of the afternoon.

Every ten days or so, for about two months, she called the detectives to inquire about any progress on the case. They assured her that they were working on it and there would probably be a break soon. In fact, they were unable to find any evidence except for the money clip. There were no unexplained fingerprints, no suspicious DNA, no leads to the identity of the killer, and they didn't have the murder weapon. The case was cold. Too bad. Such a sweet old lady deserved some closure...

The murder was never solved.

Epilogue: The Old Lady thrived on her new found independence.

Twice a week she spent time with friends at the Senior Center, playing aggressive hands of Hearts. She enjoyed the company except for one senior named Irene, who drove her nuts talking incessantly about unimportant events which took place long ago.

The Old Lady did not like to talk about the past. There was only one thing she could do. She would shop again and invite Irene to lunch.

In case this story seems familiar, Alfred Hichcock had a story where the police ate the ham evidence.  In this story all of the parties and details are different.

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