about the author

Lorin Cary taught history at an Ohio university for decades and while there co-authored two prize-winning historical studies. Now he creates his own cause and effect relationships in stories and a novel, The Custer Conspiracy. His short story “Silver Lining” recently appeared in Cigale Literary Magazine. He also takes photos, and they may be seen at cambriacreations.com.

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Lorin Cary

The best idea involved a sliver of ice. Shoot it into her heart and it would leave little trace. He smiled.

“Charles, stop this behavior.”

He heard the raspy high-pitched voice of his supervisor, Ermaline. It was more than he could take. He stared at the tufted beige fabric on the wall and pondered his next step.

“Charles, I’ve warned you. Shape up or there will be consequences.”

He could not stand the woman. He settled back in his chair and counted the number of rows in the fabric between a shelf and a light. He sighed at the thought of Ginny and the girls. No matter what people said, given the incident, he did love them.

Ermaline was another matter. Always talking about “production” and “productivity” and “proactiveness” and “proactivity”—the last two of which he wasn’t sure were really words. He tuned her out—although he could hear her babbling along like a second sound track on a poorly dubbed recording.

It had been this way since her promotion. At the first weekly meeting she’d berated him. “You’re lazy, Charles, that’s what you are,” she’d said. “You’re a poor excuse for an employee. I’m giving you another chance only because I know about the situation with your wife.” She’d jabbed her finger at him. “But you’re on a short leash, buster.” He’d stood there while all the others in the department avoided his eyes. He’d felt the heat inside, knew he’d turned bright red.

That was only the beginning. She kept sneaking up on him. She was so short you couldn’t see her over the top of the cubicle. If you stood up to peek she’d give out that godawful Rebel battle cry. Once she stuck her skinny face into his space and yelled loud enough for the entire fifth floor to hear. “Ah, hah. You call that work? No wonder your numbers are down.”

She taunted him, always in public, about his clothes, his reports, how he spoke to clients, and the fact that his overbite caused him to slurp soup. And she talked about him to others in the office as if he wasn’t there. If he dared to counter anything she said, Ermaline flew into a rage and threatened to have him terminated. He could not understand why she’d been promoted.

To make matters worse, Ermaline’s loose false teeth meant she whistled her s’s and th’s. That’s what finally drove Charles to decide he’d kill her.

He’d toyed with the idea for quite a while and he knew some wise-ass psychiatrist would make a big deal out of that. Probably a really thin guy with a German accent who wore expensive suits and loved Mahler symphonies, except that once a year he indulged himself by seeing the full production of Wagner’s dreadful Ring cycle. Which no doubt explained Adolf Hitler.

The point, Charles concluded, was that killing Ermaline was the right thing to do. That was as clear as glass. The question was how.

Charles read tons of mysteries to get ideas. To avoid creating a paper trail for investigators to follow he limited his exploration of Internet sites and bought used books instead of using the library.

He posed as a mystery writer and joined a writers’ club to get feedback on some of the techniques he’d collected. But the folks weren’t friendly, especially after he’d read a couple of pages of a fake story. They kept talking about “point of view” and “voice” and “dialogue that didn’t resonate.” It sounded like psycho babble. He shut his ears and never went back.

In the end he learned about privacy software and encrypted external hard drives. He created a file of ideas, methods, tactics, possibilities, issues and solutions which exceeded forty-seven single-spaced pages in the 7-point font he preferred. He created a password with a 100 percent strength rating. And he’d written it down, or thought he had, yet he’d found no trace of it anywhere—on paper or, so far, in his mind.

Which didn’t really matter. He knew that the sliver of ice was the key. But how to make the sliver, and how to fire it? Projecting it was less of a problem than carrying it because his body temperature ran high.

Charles slumped in his chair, his chin tucked down, his fingers templed. Surely there was a way.

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