Myrna Kent gazed longingly at the shiny brochures showing delectable spots in Italy and Spain and smiled to herself. After playing the grieving widow at her husband, George’s funeral yesterday, she’d registered with the Galloway Travel Agency for their guided tour.
She told her friends, especially her neighbor, Ida, that she needed a change of scene, as “everything reminded her of poor George,” who had suffered with his heart condition. He had been fortunate in that she’d done him a favor by helping him along into that pastoral place in the sky—or wherever he was signed up for.
A knock on the door forced her to reluctantly push the brochures to one side of the kitchen table. It was Ida with a dish in her hand.
“Chicken casserole.” Ida walked in and set the dish on the table. “What’s this? Travel brochures?”
“Yes. I’m going on a trip.”
“So soon? Now I know you’ve had a difficult time these past few months, but won’t people talk? You know how they are in a small town.”
“If they do, they just don’t understand what I’m going through.”
“Your business,” Ida said, “but I think it’s too soon.”
“Don’t worry. George would have wanted it that way. ‘Myrna,’ he used to say, ‘you’re a saint to be home taking care of me day after day.’”
Of course, George had said no such thing, and it was all she could do to peek in his room to give the impression that she hadn’t forgotten him entirely. And she hadn’t; the insurance amount of one hundred thousand dollars kept shining in her mind like a neon light. She remembered how she had to get Ida to go to the pharmacy to get George’s digitalis prescription refilled. She hadn’t wanted to do that, but she couldn’t be in two places at the same time—with George and stockpiling the medication.
“I’m having friends over for a séance tonight,” Ida said.
“I thought I’d let you know in case you wanted to come.”
Mryna’s interest piqued. Ever since that trip three years ago to New Orleans, where she and George had stayed in a hotel that was “haunted,” she couldn’t get paranormal phenomenon out of her mind. Still, the invitation unnerved her, coming as suddenly as it did. It was one thing to attend a séance for fun, and quite another to have George come through and tell everybody who had helped him out of this world.
Myrna had to tread carefully here. “Do you think George will contact me?” She injected a note of forlorn hope in her tone.
“No,” said Ida, “not so soon after he passed on. He’s now in an intermediate plane until his soul is ready to cross over to its final abode.”
That suited Myrna perfectly. “Alright, I’ll come. What time?”
“About eight,” Ida said, and left.
After dinner, she rang Ida’s doorbell. “Come on in, Myrna. We’re ready to start.”
Ida led her to the dining room where two men and a woman sat at the round table draped in a multicolored cloth. Five unlit candles stood on saucers at the ready.
“This is my friend, Myrna,” Ida said to the others. She introduced them to Ida by their first names—Donna, Bob and Jake. She then pointed to an empty chair opposite hers. “Have a seat. We’re just about ready to start.”
Ida lit the candles, gave them out and then switched off the lights. Closing her eyes, she stretched out her hands toward the others. “Let’s join hands and call forth our dear departed.”
A few minutes passed as they concentrated on their breathing. Ida sat with her eyes closed, swaying slightly, already looking as if she was in a trance. “We’re waiting for Donna’s sister, Sally.” Her voice rose a pitch. “I feel a soft presence near me–a young woman.”
Myrna opened an eye a crack and saw Donna sit ramrod straight as Ida spoke.
“She says she’s happy and watches over her loved ones, but she must go.”
Silence reigned for a few moments before Ida spoke again. This time, her voice dropped an octave, and she spoke in a down-home accent. “I am here.”
“Who are you?” Ida sounded like herself.
“George. I have a message for Myrna.”
Myrna felt herself go stone cold, her fingers stiff. For a moment, she was too scared to speak. Then she turned to Ida. “What? You said George wouldn’t come through.”
Ida ignored Myrna’s comment. “I am troubled. I am here to get answers. Why did you kill me?”
“That’s a lie and you’re a fake!” Myrna sprang out of her chair. “I took care of you.” She slapped on the lights and Ida jolted out of her trance.
“What did George say?” Ida looked puzzled.
“Don’t you know? He said I killed him.”
“And did you?”
“Of course not. He was so ill he could have died any day.”
“That’s not true,” Ida said. “The day you sent me to get the prescription filled, the pharmacist was astonished that George took the same dosage when the doctor had lowered it. You see, he was getting better—not worse. And you knew it.”
A strained silence followed.
“You’re making it up,” Myrna screamed.
“Call the doctor tomorrow and ask him.” Ida moved toward her. “Do you know what made me suspicious?”
Myrna glared at her in answer.
“All the herb tea you kept giving him, even when he was over the cold he had. You dumped more digitalis into it than he needed. The doctor’s office can say how much he was supposed to take and the pharmacist will let Bob here, who’s a police officer, know how many times you went to have it filled, pretending you misplaced the bottle.”
Mryna’s shoulders slouched. “What’s the use? He would have been around forever and I would have been an unpaid maid all over again.”
Bob took over. “Officer McClellan, ma’am. I need to take you to the police station for questioning. If this is true, an autopsy would show digitalis.”