Tidbits, Truths and Taller Tales by Sandra Novelly on the Independent Author Index
Random Access Murder
The tap of her fingernail on the Delete key sounded with regularity as Celia Moore scrolled through the lengthy list of e-mail messages; many of them jokes sent by well-meaning friends and relatives, some advertisements.
Ever since she joined an online matchmaker service, Celia rushed home each day to turn on her computer in the hope she would find some decent responses to her personal ad. Most of the answers so far had been a real let down: either replies from men twenty years her senior or from young men looking for a sugar mama. When she actually went far enough to meet with a man, he would turn out to be a far cry from what she expected.
As usual, Celia read each electronic message with a growing sense of disappointment. ‘Do all the men in this part of the country suffer from over-inflated egos and have they all had multiple marriages?’ she asked in disgust.
Celia placed the cursor on the Close button but a message captured her attention. She clicked to open the note. Bold letters trumpeted a greeting. Hi Neighbor! The message included a link to a personal ad for a man named Sam who lived in the same area of town as Celia.
Might as find out his story, she thought and clicked on the link. The screen filled with information. She scanned the data: he sounded harmless enough, he enjoyed the same type of things she did, he was the right age, and his requirements for a match seemed to describe her to a T.
I wish his info included a picture, she thought. He has the same last name as my ex. But then Moore isn’t exactly an uncommon name, and this man’s only been married once before’that’s a big plus.
Celia tapped out a reply to his message: ‘Glanced at your ad. We seem to have compatible interests. What’s next?’ She hit Send, and got up from the computer to take care of her usual evening routine.
After dinner, she went back to the computer to see if she’d received a reply. She had.
‘IM?’ Sam asked her to instant message him.
With nervous fingers Celia typed a reply to indicate she would be glad to message Sam and chat for a while. Almost immediately after hitting Send, her IM program pinged to alert her to a new message.
‘Is it you, Golden Girl?’
‘Yes. Is that you, Sam?’
‘Yes, this is Sam. What are you doing?’
‘Not much. I’m settled in for the evening. Maybe I’ll turn on the TV.’
‘How about some coffee then?’
Celia glanced at the small clock on the shelf of her computer desk. Already almost eight o’clock and she had to work tomorrow.
I’m not as young as I used to be…but what the heck. ‘Where?’ she asked’
Sam named a popular nearby restaurant. ‘Half an hour OK?’
‘Hmmm…make it forty-five minutes?’
‘Sure. What are you going to be wearing?’
Celia thought feverishly. ‘Navy and white checked Capri pants and a navy shirt.’
‘Ok. I’ll be in khakis and a red golf shirt. See you soon.’
Celia raced to her bathroom where she applied some makeup to enhance her eyes and good cheekbones. So nervous her hand shook, she could barely keep the mascara wand steady. Quit being silly, she chided herself. She took several deep breaths. A goofy grimace in the mirror dispelled the tension. She chuckled, cheerful as she finished her task.
She dressed quickly, and fluffed her short, chic hairdo. Celia grabbed a navy jacket in case the restaurant was too cool, and slid her feet into a pair of sandals. The image in the full-length mirror looked back at her, wide-eyed. She smiled, did an about face, and went out of the door.
Traffic was slow, and Celia seemed to catch every red light. As she played the stop-and-go game, she dialed the number of her best friend.
‘Ann, I’m on my way to meet a guy named Sam.’
‘Ok, how many times has this one been married’and how many cars and houses and millions does he have?’ Ann teased.
Celia laughed. Ann had already buoyed Celia’s sagging spirits through several disastrous meetings. "I guess I deserve that. At least this one’s only been married once. And he practically described me when he listed what he’s looking for in a woman.’
‘Don’t expect too much. You know how this game goes.’
‘Yeah, I know I’m probably getting my hopes up for nothing. One thing does bother me…’
Ann’s laugh exploded in Celia’s ear. ‘What is it, Celia? Is he younger than you? You need to get over your age hang-up…’
Celia interrupted. ‘No, Ann, he is not younger than me. But his last name is Moore…’
‘You don’t think…?’
‘No way! Steve would be more likely to find a young one in a bar somewhere. Gotta go, Ann. I’m here. I’ll let you know what happens.’
The restaurant was scattered with patrons: young families out for a snack, older folks gathered for coffee and companionship, a few singles reading papers or books as they ate a solitary meal. She peered around the softly lit interior in search of a single man in a red golf shirt.
A gentle tap on her shoulder interrupted her scan. A young woman stood there, her nametag on the pocket of a plaid uniform read Belinda Cochran.
‘Excuse me. You seem to be looking for someone and if that someone is Sam, he asked me to be on the lookout for a lady dressed like you and to tell you he had to take a call. I’ll show you to his table. He’s such a nice man’comes here quite often.’
Encouraged by the girl’s assessment of Sam, Celia followed Belinda’s quiet rubber-soled route to the rear of the room. After the girl left, she pulled a compact out of her handbag and took an anxious peek. I need some fresh lipstick, she decided.
She had just raised the tube of color to her lips when footsteps approached the booth from the opposite side. A man’s voice began, ‘Ah, Belinda found you…’ and then trailed off as though its owner had been abruptly choked into silence.
Celia looked up to stare into the startled eyes of her ex-husband. The lipstick dropped from her hand and hit her blouse. A bright trail of color marked its fall. Humiliation reddened her face and she felt like an overheated boiler.
‘You…you…you…’ she sputtered. Mortified, Celia slid from the seat and hurried out of the building. Curious eyes followed her retreat.
Sam, indeed! Celia clenched her teeth so tightly they squeaked. She should have guessed. Stephen Andrew Moore…SAM! Steve’s buddies had used that nickname in college but she hadn’t known Steve to use the acronym in years. How juvenile could a person be? But then one reason they’d divorced was SAM’s grand aptitude for deception.
By the time she navigated the little Toyota through the streets and pulled into her drive, she had worked up a good head of steam. Celia stalked into her bedroom and jerked open the drawer of her nightstand. She pulled out the small handgun kept for protection, and made certain the weapon was loaded. Into the living room Celia marched, and over to the computer desk.
The monitor screen squatted on the desktop, its’ Cyclops eye still filled with the personal ad from ‘Sam’ Moore’she had forgotten to shut the computer off in her haste to get ready for her date. She took careful aim and squeezed the trigger. A bullet blasted the screen into jagged shards. Boom’another slug fried the processor.
A short time later, Ann and Celia curled up on the sofa. The melodious tunes of a smooth Jazz CD filled the room. Celia sipped from an almost empty tall glass of pale red wine. She stared at nothing in particular, and didn’t even stir when they heard a knock. Ann rose to her feet and opened the front door.
Two police officers stood on the porch.
‘Ma’am.’ The younger officer tipped his hat. ‘I’m Officer Green. Officer Delano’Green jabbed a thumb in the direction of his partner’and I received a complaint of gunshots from the direction of this residence. Everything all right here?’
‘We’re fine,’ answered Ann. ‘My friend’Ann nodded in Celia’s direction’just got a little upset…’
Celia rose to her feet. ‘C’mon in, Officers.’ She waved the officers into the room.
When the two policemen stepped into the room, Celia pointed to the computer desk and the mangled mess of splintered glass, severed wires and melted plastic. ‘Your victim.’
The computer still smoked.
Green glanced toward his partner, who struggled to keep a straight face, and scratched his head.
‘How do I write this up?’ The young officer’s voice reflected his bewilderment. ‘This form has no box to check for the homicide of a computer.’
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