This is an interesting installment of the 1,000 Word Challenge, because I am using several pictures in the building of a single story. The main inspiration for the first part of the story comes from my very good friend Missie, who offered this source of inspiration. The second part will be coming next week.
The photograph first inspired this short verse:
She sent her children
up to Heaven
She couldn’t afford
To feed ’em bread
and felt that they’d
be better dead.
From there, the story emerged in its following form:
“The boys from the sanitarium are nothing if not through.” observed the Chief Constable Murray as Prescott came into ear shot.
“A gang of fine boys indeed. Dedicated and all that, eh Murray?” Prescott offered a hand to Murray, who grasped it with an iron grip that could shatter stone.
“He’s half the worry. Seems like he and the lady of the house went South Seas and started digging up fresh bodies from the potters’ field yonder.” Murray pointed to the rolling fields beyond the house, speaking softly and drawing close to Prescott. “Ghoulish, absolutely ghoulish,” he confided, “Never seen worse in my days. One of the young fellows heaved into his helmet; I’d advise to keep clear of the kitchen. Just watch for green faces, and you’ll know it’s near.”
“So, what am I doing here? You have the suspects in hand, and I’m guessing that the crimes are obvious enough. Mrs. P was unhappy when the call came in, you know.”
“It’s the kids. We need to know if they are dead or not. There isn’t hide or hair of them, and that is why the toils are your, Hercules.” Murray slapped Prescott on the back and sent him on his way into the brooding house.
It was enormous and extravagant and Prescott immediately decided that the Wilsons’ rich living corrupted them. Nothing else could explain their sinister crimes: sedentary lifestyles led to all sorts of depraved thoughts and actions. He crossed a marble floored foyer and stepped into an oak lined study where Mrs. Wilson was tied down to a chair.
She was a spidery woman with sharp features. A vile coldness radiated from her whole form and set Prescott’s nerves on edge. Prescott couldn’t imagine how the woman could have born children, never mind raise them. His first inclination was to think that the children must have run away from her predatory gaze.
“Not what I expected. Not at all.” said Mrs. Wilson, never taking her eyes off of her blood stained hands. “It was for survival, you know. Of all the vicious things to do to someone who is trying to survive,” she said in a rational tone.
“Then you know why I am here,” stated the Inspector.
“Obviously. You are a gorilla, king amongst apes,” announced Mrs. Wilson with all the authority of a barrister. “This is a banana court, and you are here to pass your simian sentence on me.” Prescott told himself that she was prodding him, and that he should always keep his head firmly on his neck.
“I intended to make the best of it, you know,” she confided to the Inspector. “We were all very hungry, and when opportunity provides itself, one must make do.”
“From my understanding, you are wealthy. Why were you so hungry?” asked the Inspector, aware that he was reticent to make eye contact with Mrs. Wilson.
“Have you ever tried to eat only vegetables? It is most dreadful. That is just what it is like. People are delicious, and once you’ve eaten one, it is far too hard to go back to regular meat. It is like seeing Heaven; nothing is ever the same again. If you want a confession, there is none to be had. It is simple enough; the bodies were just going to waste underground. Why let the meat molder when people are so edible?”
Mrs. Wilson had ensconced herself securely on the moral high ground, and she seemed confident that the gallows didn’t loom in her future. Her high-backed chair creaked as she struggled against her bonds weakly.
“If eating is a crime, then the proof is in the pudding, as well as the pie,” she announced after a long pause. A thin grin traced its way across her face. Inspector Prescott tried to pretend that he was a brick wall, tried to keep himself from being unnerved. He could feel her eyes on him, and discomfort grew from deep within his bones.
“I will be blunt. Where are the children? Are they in the pudding and pie as well?” He was pleased with his sarcasm and he hoped that its flippancy would make himself seem less intimidated. Mrs. Wilson’s cackle did nothing to soothe the inspector’s spirit.
“I am not given to killing. It is uncouth and dirty,” she said abruptly.
“What about your husband? Does he think killing is uncouth? Or that robbing fresh graves is a clean task?” The Inspector started to feel confident, and it showed in his posture.
“The graves are a filthy matter, but really, is it any dirtier than digging for your own potatoes?” She responded quickly; it seemed to the Inspector that Mrs. Wilson had been practicing for this interrogation. In the brief silence, there was a scrabbling sound coming from the walls.
“It seems like you have rats in your walls. Drawn, no doubt, by the stench of carrion.” Prescott said logically.
“No. Not rats Inspector. Not rats at all.” responded Mrs. Wilson with the Devil’s smile on her face.
“Do you mean to say…” started Prescott, halting mid-sentence and unwilling to give voice to his thought. In the quiet, he could hear the scratching coming closer. He could also hear the soft laughter of children.