Sunday, December 10, 2006

the start of a murder mystery... (a class assignment)

Bill Brennan can’t really be that mad at all of us. He was the natural choice for a suspect and he knew it. Sure, maybe there wasn’t an obvious motive, but who besides a pet store owner could have acquired a cone snail to slip into Mrs. Greeley’s tropical fish tank. Who else would have known it was so poisonous. We couldn’t honestly think that Norm over at the bait and tackle could be so crafty. Once the sheriff told us you can get pretty much anything on the internet these days, everyone in town with a computer or with kin who had a computer became a suspect, and that was basically everyone. Bill Brennan was off the hook for now.

As murders go, it was crueler than most. After her husband died, Mrs. Greeley shifted all the love in her body from her husband to her aquarium. The cone snail retrieved from Mrs. Greeley’s house (the “scene,” the sheriff calls it) was so beautiful, brown and densely patterned. She must have seen it in that tank and realized she hadn’t put it there. She probably thought it was an empty shell one of her grandchildren had picked up in a lunchtime swap and dropped in the tank as a sweet gesture. Knowing Mrs. Greeley as we all did, she would have wanted to know the species of mollusk before she let it lie there with the anemones and the sea cucumbers. Who knows how long the damn thing had been lying in wait. It had a little secret harpoon, full of poison, and it killed her. The sheriff shared some information he’d found about the cone snail and said they call one particular species the cigarette snail because you have only enough time for a smoke before you die. Mrs. Greeley had enough time to phone her daughter Luanne and thrash around her house a bit, knocking over the knickknacks and photos. Then the paralysis, and shortly thereafter, the respiratory failure.


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