Getting Away With It

By James Valvis

After Oliver killed his wife he didn’t know what to do.

The way he saw it, he only had four options.

First, he could try to cover up the crime.  He could throw the body into a bag and drive it somewhere in the mountains and bury it where no tourist would likely go.  He could tell people she left him for another man.  It might work.

It probably would work if it wasn’t for her parents, who would never believe she’d leave.  Oh, she would leave him, they’d tell the police, but Eileen would never leave Patty alone.  Especially not with a drunk like Oliver.

Eventually they would show up like in the police shows and use those fancy lights and find the place where he smashed her head in with the mallet.  No matter how much cleaning he did the walls would still show that blood.  He’d seen that on television.

It was no good.  They’d made it practically impossible for a decent man to have an honest murder.

His second choice was to kill himself.  This he decided against right away.  He wasn’t very religious, but he believed in hell and knew he was going there when his time came.  He wasn’t anxious to hurry that particular horror show along.

His third choice was to run.  He had some money saved.  He could clean out the bank accounts and hock all the valuables and be on the road by tomorrow night.  But how long would that last?  A week?  A month?  He wasn’t a man who knew how to do things like run from the law.  You had to be wily to survive on the lam and if there was one thing Oliver was not, it was wily.

That really only left him with one choice.

Turn himself in.

He decided to do it with dignity.  He would shower, shave, and dress himself in his best suit.  He would make an occasion of it.  He would not be like those murderers he saw on television, who cried and lied and denied.  He would be different.

In the mirror, shaving, he thought the murder had aged him considerably.  A few short hours ago, before he struck his wife with the hammer, he had been a strapping, confident man of forty.  Now he looked and felt decades older.  Guilt will do that to you, he supposed.

And he did feel guilty.  He had cared for his wife very much.  Love was probably too strong a word, but there was a fondness.  But she had said he hammered like an old woman and he said, “Oh yeah,” and he let her have it.  He was sure she would not say he hammered like an old woman after that.

But it didn’t take five minutes before he felt bad about it.  Then he considered his options, and he thought about dumping the body and saying she took off, but you couldn’t get past those fancy forensic guys.

The police station was only six blocks away.  He walked it in the warm afternoon, sad that he would never know such freedom again, for soon he would hear the iron bars of a jail cell slam shut.  But there was nothing to be done about that now, but to handle his guilt and punishment with grace.

A woman policeman was behind the counter. Oliver thought that was odd.

“Hello again, Oliver,” she said.  “Can I help you?”

“Yes, I would like to turn myself in,” Oliver said.  “I’ve committed a terrible crime.”

“And what would that be?” She seemed almost amused.

“I’ve murdered my wife.”

“Is that so?”

“When I say something, young lady,” Oliver said.  “I do not expect it to be questioned.”

“Of course, Mr. Angelino, please have a seat.”

“How do you know my name?”

“On the bench right there,” she said.  “I’ll be right with you.”

Oliver sat down.  She picked up the phone and dialed someone, maybe the homicide detectives.  This was not going as planned.  He supposed it was a very uncommon thing for a man to walk in and confess to such an awful crime.  She must think him a kook.  The nerve.  She would feel foolish when the body was found.

Half an hour later another woman arrived.  About time.  Making a man wait half an hour to confess his murder.  Unconscionable.

“Hello, Dad,” the woman said.

He squinted at her.  “Excuse me?”

“It’s me, Dad.  It’s Patty.”

“Patty?  My daughter?  I don’t—”

“Let’s go home, Dad.”

“You are not my daughter.  You’re practically my age.  My daughter is only 8 years old.”

“Did you confess to murdering Mom again?”

“He sure did,” said the officer behind the desk.

“Dad,” the woman claiming to be his daughter said.  “You didn’t kill my mother.  She abandoned us when I was just a kid.  She left you for another man and we never heard from her again.  You understand?”

“The body is on the floor.  In the living room.”

“She left, Dad.  30 years ago.”  There were tears in the woman’s eyes.  “You’re getting worse.”

Some flicker came to him.  Something a long time ago.  Something vague.  A shovel, a ditch, wiping sweat from his brow, then in the car, driving away, the news saying Bobby Kennedy had been shot.  Then something else,  a Christmas, not too long ago.  His daughter, her family, three grandchildren.  Him sitting on the chair staring at some show called Law & Order.


“Yes, Dad, I’m here.”

“They didn’t have forensics in those days,” he said.  “Not like now.”

“Let’s go home, Dad.”

“I got away with it, I guess.”

“Come on.”

The next day Oliver murdered his wife.


James Valvis lives in Issaquah, Washington, where he collects rubber ducks, toy robots, and William Saroyan abstract paintings  A book-length collection of his poems is due from Aortic Books in 2011.
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