Today's Reading

I look it over, the crumpled-tarp mound. Underneath lie flesh, skin, bone, teeth. Three and a half hours dead.

I wonder if he's still warm. My husband. Warm to the touch. I Google it. Either way, I don't want the shock.


Okay, the arms and legs should be cold to the touch but the main body will still be warm. Okay then.

I take a long, full exhalation. Okay, here we go....

I stop. Wait.

I don't know why, but I clear his burner phone's search history. It's pointless, I know; the phone's untraceable and after a couple of hours in the damp October ground it won't work anyway. But then, maybe it will. I place the burner back in his coat pocket and slip his personal iPhone out of his chest pocket. It's on airplane mode.

I look through the photo library. Us. Tears well and then streak in two hot dribbles down my face.

I fully remove the tarp, exposing everything it conceals. I wipe the phone for prints, return it to its warm chest pocket, and brace my knees to drag.

I'm not a bad person. Or maybe I am. Maybe you should decide?

But I should definitely explain. And to explain I need to go back. Back to that anniversary morning, three months ago.



Anniversary Morning

We woke up before sunrise this morning. Mark and I. It's our anniversary morning. The anniversary of the first day we met.

We've been staying in a boutique pub hotel on the Norfolk coast. Mark found it in the Financial Times's "How to Spend It"
supplement. He has a subscription but the supplements are the only bits he ever gets time to read. The FT was right, though; this is "the cozy-country bolt-hole of your dreams." And I'm glad this is "how we're spending it." Of course, it's not my "it" we're spending, really, but I suppose it will be soon.

The hotel is a perfect country nest of fresh seafood, cold beer, and cashmere throws. Chelsea-on-Sea, the guidebooks call it.

We'd spent the past three days walking until our muscles were loose and heavy, our cheeks flushed from English sun and windburn, hair smelling of forest and salty sea. Walking and then fucking, bathing, and eating. Heaven.

The hotel had originally been built in 1651 as a coaching inn for customs officials making that bumpy trip to London and had since boasted famous Norfolkian and Battle of Trafalgar winner Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson as a regular patron. He stayed in room 5, the one next to ours, and came here to collect his dispatches every Saturday of his five-year unemployment, apparently. Interesting that Lord Nelson had stretches of unemployment. I suppose I always thought if you were in the Navy, then you were just in the Navy. But there you go. It happens to the best of us. Anyway, throughout the years, livestock auctions, assizes, and all the fun of the Jane Austen fair had been hosted here in the hotel.

The coffee-table book in our room had gleefully informed us that the preliminary hearings for the infamous Burnham Murderers trial had been held in what was now the private dining room downstairs. "Infamous" is questionable. I had certainly never heard of them. So I read up.

The story began in 1835 with the wife of a shoemaker violently retching up her stomach at the family dinner table as her husband watched. Mrs. Taylor, the retcher, had been poisoned with arsenic. The flour in the larder had been laced with the stuff, and arsenic traces were later found in her stomach lining at autopsy. An inquest into the poisoning found that Mr. Taylor had been having an affair with their neighbor, a Mrs. Fanny Billing. And Fanny Billing had recently purchased three-pennyworth of arsenic from a local druggist. That arsenic had made its way into the Taylors' flour bag and consequently into the dumplings that ended the life of Mrs. Taylor. I guess Mr. Taylor was abstaining that evening. Perhaps Mr. Taylor was on a no-carbs diet.

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