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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

eleventhframe.jpg
Art by Tim Ramstad 2017

Eleventh Frame

 

Bruce Harris

 

One man, Dennis Johnson, knew secrets. The two fingers, the affair, and the cup of sugar in the gas tank, but he didn’t know the body’s whereabouts.

The other, Malcolm Hutchins, knew secrets. The two fingers, the affair, the body’s whereabouts, but he didn’t know about the cup of sugar in the gas tank.

Dennis and Malcolm were friends and competitors. They shared a locker at Roll-A-Way Lanes just outside the city limits. Along with ninety-eight other participants, they competed in Roll-A-Way Lanes’ annual bowling tournament. The contest boasted the largest cash prize money on the east coast. And, just as certain that every September the tournament sponsor kicked off festivities proclaiming, “Gentlemen, roll your balls,” Malcolm Hutchins and Dennis Johnson finished one, two, respectively. Malcolm had edged out Dennis the past eleven years, always by margins of fewer than three pins; the outcome usually decided in the tenth and final frame. The result of this year’s competition, their last, was no different. Nor was the famous Malcolm Hutchins “thumbs up” gesture to the crowd following victory.

What should have been a celebration of another tournament win with drinks, and toasts, turned instead into a violent confrontation between Malcolm Hutchins and his wife, Fran. He didn’t miss out on the liquor, however.

“I saw the way you looked at him, Fran. Don’t deny it!”

“You’re crazy, you know that? And drunk!”

“Am I? Maybe, but I hired a man, a private detective. You know that?” Hutchins detected the slightest pullback of Fran’s head. “Who do you think you’re kidding? My guy saw you and Dennis go into the Starlight Motel on at least a half dozen occasions. How could you?”

Fran glared back and gave Malcolm the middle finger. “How? Because Dennis treats me with respect and spends time with me and listens to what I have to say and…”

“Shut up! And put your finger down. How dare you give me the finger!”

2

With that, Fran shoved her hand closer, and with an added oomph, shot her husband the finger again. It was all the alcohol-fueled Malcolm could endure. He grabbed the giant trophy, its plaque read, “1969 Roll-A-Way Lanes Tournament Champion.” Had this been the board game Clue, the solution, “Mr. Hutchins, in the bedroom, with the trophy,” was a winner. That wasn’t all. The booze took over. Enraged at her having given him the middle finger, Malcolm went into the kitchen, grabbed a steak knife and cut off Fran’s finger. He stared at the wedding ring purchased years ago and felt shame. Betrayal. He cut off her ring finger as well. Malcolm Hutchins carried the body into his car. After disposing it, he headed to Roll-A-Way Lanes. It was late, nearly closing time. Malcolm ignored the few remaining patrons. He opened the locker he shared with Dennis Johnson, removed the two severed fingers from his pocket and placed them into the two corresponding holes drilled into Johnson’s bowling ball.

***

Dennis Johnson also hired a man, a different kind of man, not a private detective, to tail Malcolm Hutchins’ shiny 1969 model Pontiac GTO, the new car Hutchins had purchased with his tournament winnings. The hired man was a professional. He kept his nondescript black Chevy at a safe distance and watched as the GTO slowed, stuttered, and eventually steered toward the side of the road. Sugar and gasoline don’t mix. The man touched the knife strapped to his belt and nodded to no one. He didn’t have to wait long before seeing Malcolm Hutchins on the side of the road hitchhiking, thumb out.


Bruce Harris is the author of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: ABout Type.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017