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The Secret
About the Author: Diane A. Hadac is an Active Member of the Mystery Writers of America and an advertising copywriter. Her credits include, "Kegler Killer," Black Coffee Anthology, 2016; "The First White House Costume Ball and Other Trumpery," We've Been Trumped Anthology, 2016; "Golf Widow," 3rd Place Winner, Arizona Mystery Writers Short Story Competition, 2014; "Arthur's Indiscretion," (under Philomena Benedetto), Strand Magazine.

I awoke with a certain numbness in body and spirit. Murder is a desperate act, but last night I was a desperate woman. Morning had come and nothing had happened—the police weren’t rapping at my door and my phone wasn’t ringing.

After my husband Roger left for work, I turned on the radio. The report I wanted to hear was broadcast minutes later. Sitting at the kitchen table in my bathrobe with a mug of black coffee cradled between shaking hands, I breathed a sigh of relief and marveled at how simple it was to commit the perfect crime.

Clerics maintain confession cleanses the soul, and I admit the whole mess was mostly my fault; but its mundane beginning did not foreshadow a catastrophic outcome …

Roger and I were sitting in the living room one evening. I was leafing through the latest issue of a home decorating magazine, and he was busily drafting a legal brief on his laptop.

When he took a break, I asked: “What’s with your new assistant? Whenever I phone your office, she lowers her voice to a conspiratorial whisper and prolongs the conversation with trivial chatter, mainly about you. I don’t understand the point of this? She seems to be harboring a secret that she can’t bring herself to tell me.”

Roger stopped typing and jerked up his head sharply; his neatly trimmed brown hair ruffling slightly. With a slightly distracted air, he said mildly, “Just ignore her, Sandra. She leans toward the dramatic.”

“I’m Carol, not Sandra,” I corrected coldly. “Sandra’s your assistant. You know … the person we’re talking about!”

Roger gave an apologetic head shake. “Sorry, my mind was still focused on this brief.”

“I’ll let it pass this time, but don’t let it happen again.”

Aware of my peevish tone, he said, “Point taken,” and returned to his work.

I leafed half-heartedly through a few more pages of the magazine before commenting idly, “Employees learn a lot about their employers. You and Sandra work closely together. Maybe she wants to spill the sordid details of your late-night sessions at the office.”

Between keystrokes, Roger said, “Sandra's young and inexperienced; she thinks the law profession should function with intense drama, like it’s portrayed in the movies."

“She doesn’t sound inexperienced,” I persisted. “She has a very professional demeanor considering she’s been working with you only a few months.”

Roger stopped typing and said with an exasperated sigh, “She’s an excellent employee—punctual and hard-working. San … I mean Carol,” he corrected quickly with a sheepish grin, “can we discuss this later? I’d like to finish this brief before dinner.”

“I’ll check on the food,” I replied, tossing my magazine on the coffee table and heading for the kitchen.

Roger must have felt contrite about abruptly ending our conversation concerning Sandra. He raved about dinner even though it was just a simple stew made with canned vegetables and potatoes. I had been out for the afternoon, and I didn’t have time to prepare anything special. When I put the basket of dinner rolls on the table, he placed a hand over mine, and said, “I’m a lucky guy, Carol. Sandra may have the office under control, but she’d never be able to make a house a home, like you do.”

“Thanks, dear,” I said with a self-conscious laugh, as I sat down across from him again. “Of course, you realize that Sandra gets the lion’s share of your time and attention because you’re at work more than at home. When you are here, you’re usually sequestered upstairs in the office.”

Leaning forward, Roger looked steadily into my eyes, and said gravely, “You’re right, Carol, but things will change. It’s my fault that we’re apart so much. From now on I promise to come home promptly at six-thirty and leave unfinished work for the next day. I love you and I don’t want to lose you.”

My skeptical eye-roll brought a chuckle.

Contrary to his usual routine, he helped me straighten the kitchen after dinner; and then suggested going for a walk. It was a delightful summer evening, perfect for a stroll. When we returned, the phone rang. Roger answered, murmured a few “Uh-huhs,” and promptly hung up.

“Who called?” I asked mechanically.

He hesitated a moment before saying, “Oh, just Sandra.”

“What did she want?”

“She said she’d phoned our number by mistake.”

This story appears in our MAR 2022 Issue
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Reader Discussion

I loved the pace of this story and the unexpected ending was brilliant! Great writing 😊
By Yasmin Keyani

A great story with a great ending.
By Frances Dunn

Excellent! Ahh great twist at the end! A powerful push! Fantastic storytelling!
By Tina

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