The Murder Collection
January 18, 2017
Cover art: Dianne Thies, Lyrical Lines
Copyright: Emporium Press / C.S. Poe
Genre: Amateur sleuth mystery, romance, choose your own adventure
Pt. 6 ended with two options:
What did Jordan say to Dean in the coffeeshop:
“Dean. It’s been so long. How’s that collection coming—is it at the MoMA? I’d love to see it.”
“Oh, I’ve been fine. Busy. So busy. I have a show opening this week. If you’ve got nothing going on, I can add your name to the list and get you in.”
Readers chose the second option!
“Huh,” was all Detective Watanabe said.
I felt heat creeping up my neck and face. “Like I said, he was being an asshole. I told him to—to get bent, and I left.”
“Did you go to his exhibit?”
Watanabe tapped his notebook with an open pen, leaving little ink spots on the page. “All right.” He snapped it shut and tucked it into his coat pocket. “Dean,” he said firmly. “I’m going to ask you this, one time.”
“Okay?” I said, confused.
“Did you kill Jordan Bradley?”
“N-no! No way! Jesus Christ, me and death aren’t bros. I can’t even use a mousetrap in my apartment. I caught it inside a little box, brought it outside, and let it go in the alley. I named it! George.”
Watanabe narrowed his eyes. His expression was one-third badassery, one-third hardass cop not taking even the smallest piece of shit, and one-third that look models give the camera—smoldering, I think it’s called. I could feel his stare all over my body. It burned right through my clothes, pierced skin, and it was as if it were looking into my soul to confirm whether or not I was a killer.
But eventually, maybe a bit reluctantly, Watanabe nodded.
“You believe me?” I asked, voice wobbly.
“Should I not?”
“No, please do. I swear I’m telling the truth. Jordan was a jerk, but he didn’t deserve… that,” I said, jutting a thumb backward, indicating to my studio and the human soup in the tub.
“I’m going to let you leave,” Watanabe continued. “But you stick close to home. Understand? I don’t want you leaving this city without calling me.”
“Good.” Watanabe turned and started for the studio.
He glanced over his shoulder.
“What if he comes back?” I asked.
“I think Mr. Bradley is quite dead,” Watanabe answered, deadpan.
I smiled a little. Not because I was glad Jordan was dead—far from it. I smiled because it was a weird thing to say. Kind of funny, like Watanabe was trying to assure me zombies weren’t real. I wasn’t sure if he said it to be morbidly humorous or he was being serious in his attempt to make me feel better.
“I mean Doc.” I took a breath. The very mention of Charlie Houdini— just thinking of his face, that gun, the fact that Watanabe had literally been a human meat shield for my sorry ass…. I looked down at my colorful shoes. My feet were sweating inside them.
Watanabe exhaled loudly. He walked back toward me, passed by, and said, “Come on.”
I raised my head and quickly spun around, all arms and legs flailing after him. “Where’re we going?”
“I’m taking you home,” Watanabe answered.
This morning when I’d left my apartment, I hadn’t planned on coming back with a man who should have been on the cover of GQ wearing the hottest new suit in town, but was instead sporting a badge and service weapon. I mean, my house was an embarrassment—we’re talking my mother would have a heart attack knowing I had guests see the sorry state of 12F, kind of bad.
Upon unlocking the door and stepping inside, I immediately started grabbing dirty clothes off the floor. I tossed them into the open kitchen, kicking them with one foot to disappear behind the counter. I snatched an open pizza box, empty takeout containers, and—one shoe, why was there one shoe in my kitchen—and threw them into the laundry pile.
“Nice place,” Watanabe said. He shut the door and took a look around.
“I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if I thought to clean more than once a month,” I agreed. I walked past him and kicked a few more items under the nearest table.
Watanabe made a sound under his breath that could have very much been a laugh.
I looked up. He was staring at me, hands in his pockets, looking far too enticing for his own good.
God. My life was a Shakespearean tragedy. Really. All I’d wanted to do was dick around my studio and paint. Instead I found a former classmate dead. Was shot at by a wanted murderer. Met a total hottie who turns out to be a cop….
And after all this—now he’s laughing at me.
“What?” I asked, my defense coming out way stronger in that single word than I’d meant.
“You said you were twenty-two?” Watanabe looked around the apartment again. “Yeah. I can see it.” He started across the tiny living room, briefly inspected the kitchen, then made his way to the bedroom.
“What’re you—ah—wait!” I ran toward him, jumped onto the couch, then over it, and landed in front of him. “Don’t go in there.”
“Do you have something in the room you don’t want a cop to see?”
“Did you want me to make sure this place was safe before leaving, or no?” Watanabe countered.
I chewed on the inside of my cheek. “It might smell weird,” I warned.
“I’ve experienced far worse than a little BO.”
I felt my face flush again and I awkwardly leaned back against the door, letting it fall open. Watanabe strolled inside and began poking at each corner of the room in an effort to deem it clear of any and all monsters or mobsters.
I swallowed the wad of spit in my mouth as I watched.
CHOOSE DEAN’S ACTION!
“So uh… you seeing anyone, Detective?”
Dean blows it and says nothing.
The Murder Collection Home - Pt. 8