Wil A. Emerson WHo, Where, How, When

Wil A. Emerson: Who, Where, How, When

Excerpt from

A short story from Wil A. Emerson


Black Cat Weekly magazine cover      Black Cat Weekly #32, April 2022:  Opposites attract? Two detectives work different angles to resolve who murdered a young woman. The stark differences in how she lived and what they discovered is chilling. But working together proves to be the better way to settle differences.

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by Wil A. Emerson

       If the color of her bedroom had been pale blue or a subdued yellow, I would not have given its austerity a second thought. The walls, instead, were painted a cool flesh tone. Light enough, like skin, to imagine the veins and tendons of the room’s inner core.

       Pale colors used to enhance poetic thoughts? I sensed few of sonnets about one’s life had been written here.

       The color theme played out on the down comforter and pillow slips on her queen size bed. Two dull blonde side-tables were topped with clear cylindrical glass lamps. The only whimsical features anywhere in the room were the white snowflake crystals of various sizes that dangled under bland opaque lamp shades. A hint of flare or a subtle show of dispassion? The bed and tables filled the span of the far wall and caught your eye as you walked into the room. The room itself was large enough for comfort, small enough for intimacy.

       On the windowless wall to the left, a porcelain or pearl crucifix about ten inches in height hung above a frameless full length mirror. Surely the religious token was meant to be viewed each time an image appeared in front of the silver glass. Next to it, was a large four drawer chest. Bleached wood with white knobs, the width about six feet across, stood as a stoic, utilitarian piece of furniture. Nothing had been placed on its surface.

       On the opposite wall, floor to ceiling, pale beige linen draperies were drawn together. The dense inner fabric felt like tent material. Were those thick, monotone window covers installed to hide the outside clutter, confusion of the world or to contain the secrets of the room’s occupant?

       The absence of a view, the unseasonal warm spring day and a brilliant tangerine sky I’d witnessed shortly before entering the luxury apartment caused me to wonder why this woman, who was now quite dead, had intentionally denied herself the daylight. However, it soon became obvious she wasn’t a stranger of the night.

       Darkness and shadows. Secrets, sad songs. One could only guess when it had all started. But it no doubt had come to a sadistic, unnatural end.

       One would expect by the woman’s age this should be a bright, spirited sleeping quarter, as welcoming as the entrance to the modern midtown landmark building. It’s wide glass door, copper and iron chandeliers, purple and green ceramic pots were filled with ferns and day lilies. The opposite here. So monochromic, it felt anemic.

       Obviously, the occupant wanted the room extraordinarily stark. The nude-like quality reflected, in my quick review, constraints and restrictions. Devoid of emotion.

       The décor, the atmosphere, told a far more eerie story about a dead occupant than what dispatch had reported when they forwarded the information about the homicide of a prosperous young woman who lived on Lexington Avenue. This encounter, what I now viewed was more than I had anticipated. The location itself was an area of town where young professionals, lawyers, doctors, stock brokers lived. Safe, sophisticated and expensive.

       Is an address a lifestyle statement or does it lend purpose to one’s life?

       I sniffed the air. Waited for one identifying, significant, lone aroma to ignite a clue as to the reason why she died here. What were her likes and dislikes? Pleasures, habits. Wine or whiskey, cigarettes or marijuana, chocolate candy or lemon drops. The physical act of two bodies, love’s peak or the solemn act of loneliness absent, also. To assess the chemical variances in the air, I had to disengage my ultra-keen senses and make a consciousness shift to assess the surroundings at another level of awareness.

       I flared my nostrils, breathed deeply. The scent of Dove* soap from my morning shower drifted in. Degree* antiperspirant also seeped through my mental filter. I wore the brand’s unscented variety but still recognized the distinct properties of its formula: paraben, alcohol and aluminum chloral hydrate. So I closed my eyes, took several deep breathes, held them to a count of thirty and then pushed out stale carbon dioxide to clear my olfactory epithelium and reset my piriform cortex for unusual odors.

       With a certainty, a cognizance not to be ignored, the occupant of this room had done nothing to conjure up a rash of emotions for visitors by introducing trigger scents like musk spray or aromatic candles. Nor were there any antibacterial, alcoholic purifiers to cleanse the air.

       I wouldn’t confuse myself, though, or make a rash conclusion until I finished my tried and true routine of identifying what moved through the air besides ordinary hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. So I counted again, reset my mind and took another full, nostrils- flaring breath. I mentally catalogued blood, its ferrous, metallic aroma and put it in the insignificant folder of gray matter. Of course, serum from a victim’s wound is a compelling factor but not necessarily an instructive clue as to why or how the victim died.

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Woman standing in front of a low marble wall


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