An Infinite Deal of Nothing
I arrived early at the salon this morning. Being manager, I usually do. The salesgirls, Mellie and Tiffany, start later. My boyfriend, Phillip, who’s also the owner, is chronically late. I remember walking through the gowns, daydreaming about Phillip leaving his wife for me. He’s promised it will be soon.
I sensed someone behind me, then something squeezed my throat like a vise. Burning pain cut off my breath, I woke to whatever state this is.
I stare at the moose antlers on the wall. They were there when Phillip bought the store. He pretends he shot the animal. What a crock. He’s no hunter. I am. I pursued him for three years before catching him.
The door opens. Mellie screams. Phillip’s face swims into view. He drops to his knees. “Denise!”
Tiffany yells, “Don’t touch her! I’m calling the police.” She sounds strangely in charge. Meek, quiet Tiffany is never in charge.
The officers surround me. One they refer to as Detective Murray shakes his head. “Damn shame. Beautiful woman.” He turns to another cop. “What’s that?”
The officer holds a veil in his gloved hands. “Found it under the rack.”
Murray grimaces. “That’s what the killer used to strangle her. There’s lace marks on her throat.” He turns to Phillip. “No sign of forced entry. Who has keys?”
“Mellie. Me. And of course the victim.” Phillip says.
I feel anguish at Phillip referring to me as “victim”, but know he’s using caution. We’ve kept our affair secret.
Mellie produces her key.
“Mine are on my desk.” Phillip walks away.
I rise upward and follow him. Sort of. Even without a body, I have substance, but my movements are clumsy, like I’m learning to walk again. Phillip grabs his keychain, looks confused. “Here’s my keys.” He holds them out to Murray who has tailed him, as have the others. “But the store one’s missing.”
Murray’s eyebrows rise. “When did you last see it?”
Phillip shrugs. “I don’t know. I rarely use it. Denise opens the salon. Mellie on occasion.”
Mellie frowns. “Denise opened this morning. The door was unlocked when I arrived.”
“Plus you found her,” Tiffany adds.
I recall my last terrifying moments. Who hated me so? Cop shows always cite motive and opportunity. Did Mellie murder me? I did hire her on a hunch even though she had a murky past. But we get along. She’s an excellent employee.
They carry out my body. I stay. I must find out who killed me.
Murray takes statements.
“Traffic was bad,” Phillip says. “I came in just as Mellie screamed.”
“I overslept, so I was late.” Tiffany gives Phillip a nervous glance which he appears to ignore.
Mellie rubs her forehead. “I arrived on time, but familiarized myself with today’s appointments before coming to the stockroom.”
When the police leave, Phillip closes up shop. I need answers. I follow him home. I love him so, but his embrace with his wife stuns me. He tells her about my murder. Next thing I know I hear them upstairs having hot sex. I float into their room. Phillip lies on his back while she cuddles into him. Bastard. I wish I knew how to haunt them or if that’s even possible. I linger near while they have post-coitus chatter. Damn him.
Later, Phillip goes golfing, and his wife and her friend sit together drinking bourbon.
“It’s terrible about Denise,” his wife says. “But that means Phillip’s latest fling is over.”
We were so careful. How did she know? Did she take Phillip’s key? Hide in the stockroom? She could have. Who would suspect? The security camera is broken. I hate her.
I will myself back to the stockroom. If I could cry, I would. It’s just me and the antlers for the night. I pace. It’s odd. I’ve regained my body’s outline, Eileen Fisher dress and all, although I’m transparent. That’s when I realize I’m missing the garnet ring Phillip bought me. Where did it go?
Murray returns often, trying to catch someone out. Mellie is red-eyed all the time. Is that for me or has her boyfriend left again? She keeps the place going. Phillip does zilch. I flatter myself he’s missing me, then I remember that bedroom scene. He jumps every time Murray catches him unawares. There’s an odd smile on the detective’s face. He reminds me of a cat stalking a bird. I spend time in the stockroom. Often Murray comes in. We search for clues together. I wonder if he feels my presence. I wish he did. I am so alone.
Phillip gives Mellie my job. She leaves her shared office with Tiffany, moves into mine. I ponder this. Is it good business sense or something else? I can’t figure it out.
The fourth day I go into Tiffany’s office. She unlocks a drawer. Why? None of us lock drawers. Intrigued, I lean in. The drawer slides open, and there are Phillip’s missing key and my ring. I’m stunned. Murray’s in the stockroom. If only I could summon him, but then there he is, in the doorway. He calmly asks her to explain.
“I never saw those before,” she shouts. Murray stares, and she breaks down. “Okay. I killed her."
Phillip and Mellie come to the door, and Tiffany points at Phillip. “It’s his fault. He said he’d leave his wife for me. Then he fell for that bitch, Denise.” She cries as Murray reads her rights.
I give Phillip one last glance. He looks neither guilty nor surprised. His expression is neutral. I realize it doesn’t matter anymore. I have to get out of there but instead of going back to the stockroom, I drift out into the beautiful summer day. I don’t know where I’m headed. I only know I’m free to go.