She Doesn’t Mind the Chlorine

“I don’t know what I’m looking at here.”

The detective hunkered down, pen and notebook in his hands, a frown on his brow.

“Well,” the medical examiner snapped back her latex gloves, “it’s a bite. And it’s what killed him, I’m sure of it.” She prodded the corpse. “Of course, I’ll need to conduct a proper examination, but I’m confident my answer won’t change.”

The detective remained silent for a moment. Overhead flew an aeroplane, contrails left in its wake, the steel autumn sky sliced in half. “But what kind of bite mark is it?” He lifted a scrap of the body’s clothing — what remained, anyway — and grimaced. “Musta been one hell of a dog.“

Dr Porter shook her head, blonde hair swayed. “It’s not a dog bite. Trust me. I know what those look like. It’s too big for a canine.”

The detective nodded. “Hmm.” Glad to hear it — the absent chunk stretched from the man’s armpit to his hip. He shuddered to think of what kind of pooch could do such a thing. Detective Stuart Caldwell glanced up. “You’re not going to tell me this is a human bite, are you?” He didn’t think a person could have done it, but he needed to double-check. Part of the job description

The examiner laughed. “God no! Christ, he’d have to open his jaw wider than physically possible.” Dr Porter grinned. “It’d be like one of those old Scooby-Doo cartoons. Y’know, when Shaggy and Scoob make a sandwich taller than their torsos?” She made an imagined oversized snack in her hands and took an oversized bite. “Whomp!”

Stuart smiled back. His proximity to a ravaged corpse hindered his sense of humour. “So, care to share your speculations on what this could have been?”

Dr Porter scrunched her nose up. “Not a dog. But that’s the only animal in the vicinity big enough to kill a human.” She stood up and winced, hands at the base of her back. The examiner stretched with a groan and a sigh. “Nope. No idea. I’ll make some calls, ask an animal expert friend of mine. I’ll give you a call once we have something concrete.”

Stuart nodded. “Thanks, Luce.”

“Don’t mention it. Oh, and Detective?”

“Hm? Maybe check with neighbours who’ve got pools?”

Detective Caldwell looked at the body. An overweight man — although he’d recently lost a good chunk — with grey hair and a gut that hung over his swim shorts. “Was already going to, Luce.” He clicked his pen.

“See ya, Doctor.”


“And when was this party?

“Uh-huh.” Stuart scribbled some notes. “And the address?” He scribbled some more. “Perfect. Thanks for your cooperation. We’ll be in touch.”

Caldwell hung up and stood in silence in the shadows of his office. He glanced at the phone in its cradle as he chewed his lip.

He shrugged, grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.

Dr Porter would have some answers by the time he got back.


“What kind of party was it?”

“Hm?” The man didn’t make eye contact. His tone of voice indicated disinterest.

Stuart pointed with his pen around the house. “I don’t see any balloons or anything for someone’s birthday. What was the party in celebration of?”

He hesitated. “An… acquisition.”

“Business?”

“You could say that.”

“And was Jeremy Lawson invited to this party?”

“Who?”

“Jeremy Lawson.”

“Never met the guy.” He shrugged and pulled a face that seemed to say, I-don’t-give-a-damn.

“Are you sure?” Caldwell used an infliction to imply he knew he had more to tell, and that it’d be in his best interests to share.

Mr Hubbard sniffed. “Positive.”

Stuart sighed and glanced around the room. A fancy house. Fancier than his humble home. Glass walls from floor to ceiling. Real wood floors. Suede sofa. When he walked in, the glimpse he’d gotten of the kitchen revealed lots of marble.

“Then why have I been told that he was here on the night he died? At the party hosted by you, no less? A pool party?”

The colour drained from the man’s face.

Gotcha.

“I-I don’t—” he shook his head.

“You’re a bad liar, Mr Hubbard.”

To his credit, he didn’t try to continue to spin his yarn. He folded and buried his face in his hands. “Oh, God!

Stuart clicked his pen. “Tell me everything, Mr Hubbard.”

He sobbed. “Such a fool!” He spoke downwards, into his hands. It muffled his words.

“Him or you?”

Mr Hubbard raised his face, eyes red and watery. “Him.” The word dripped with hate. “I didn’t even invite him, not directly. He’s—”

“Was.”

“—was a friend of a friend.”

Stuart frowned. “I don’t understand. You killed him because he came uninvited?”

Mr Hubbard lifted his head and laughed. An ugly sound. “You misunderstand, Detective. I didn’t kill him.” His eyes darkened. “She did.”

Stuart pointed to the other room. “Your wife?”

Mr Hubbard shook his head. He got to his feet.

“It’s probably best if I show you.”


The sun had begun to set.

Its colours bled through the clouds — red, pink and orange.

Stuart stared at the water, the surface several feet below the edge. Dark, murky, somehow viscous. It might as well have been black. The sight of it sent a ripple of ice through his core. He suppressed a shudder.

“I don’t know what I’m looking at here,” he said, aware of the symmetry of the statement.

“I like to buy exotic animals,” came Mr Hubbard’s voice from behind him. Cold, emotionless. “I was rather proud of my latest purchase, hence the party.”

Detective Caldwell hunkered down for the last time in his life. He could see nothing in the pool. “And what purchase would that be, Mr Hubbard?”

The answer arrived a split second before the shove.

“Crocodile.”


Written for the #BlogBattle prompt: “Exotic” — 19th October 2020

5 thoughts on “She Doesn’t Mind the Chlorine

  1. aebranson

    I miss Boddi Craig … but not so much to keep me from enjoying this! As the mystery unfolded the idea of a crocodile did come to mind, but when Hubbard offered to take Stuart to see ‘her,’ I toyed with the idea he might actually have a dragon or hairy monster or something like that. Nope, this time we stuck a little closer to the real world, and in a way that makes it even more insidious. One question that remained unanswered throughout the story was where Stuart and Luce were looking over the body. I wasn’t sure if it was in the woods or a park or somebody’s yard, but that’s a minor detail. Nice bit of foreshadowing when he looks at the phone but doesn’t make the call – can’t help but wonder if Luce might have been able to warn him about a crock or gator, keeping him from falling for Hubbard’s ploy. Nice dialogue how he uncovers Hubbard’s lie. This was set up well and had good flow … kind of like a crocodile swimming in a pool….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Gah, I think I’ve set a record for falling behind this month and last month! Yes, recently I’ve felt more excited about one-off stories. I’m sure I’ll return to BC at some point, but with all that’s going on, I’m trying to make things easy for myself. 🙂 I wanted to explain where they were having the conversation, but I ran out of words! In my mind, it was near the local woods. Thanks, AE! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gary

    It may not be the world of the senseless monks, but a good piece nevertheless. As Abe says, the dialogue is crisp and well construed. Nothing worse when such seems to be written as if the same person is saying everything. I guess that’s down to entering the characters rather than standing off forcing the issues they don’t want. I was thinking crocodile or alligator quite early on. Something suggested this wasn’t quite a supernatural affair from the dialogue by the Dr. I feel she almost knew what did it from the get go, but might not have thought it prudent to suggest the suburb had a rogue reptile knocking about. I hear they can actually move rather fast upon unwary creatures close to the bank too. Not that I suppose a party would have guests thinking the pool was inhabited by such a beast. Beats snakes on a plane…crocodiles in your pool has a much better ring!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Thanks, Gary! I’ve recently felt more inclined to write one-offs than continue my serialised pieces. With all that’s going on, I’m trying to not be too hard on myself 😂

      So glad the dialogue worked, too! It was all rather spontaneous. Maybe that says something about how I should approach all my pieces…

      In my mind, the Dr had an inclination, but didn’t want to appear nuts by chattering on about a suburban crocodile!

      It was inspired partially by this viral video, and partially by this Asian horror movie I saw recently…

      In case you’re interested:

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gary

        Ones offs tend not to require vast memory remembering what went before ha,ha. I’m well behind this month, although it’s a valid excuse this time rather than anything untoward.

        I often think spontaneous dialogue often works better too. No planning or overthinking retorts. Might be more natural than trying to apply our own responses to characters that are so not us?

        Always interested in anything that creates a muse too ha, ha!

        Like

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