Ms. Calidor, 87 years old, was a lovely person. Apart from an innate hate for bugs—that she saw as plant enemies—she badmouthed nobody, and she wouldn’t say no if you needed help. Some people loved her, others envied her wealth, but one was going to kill her.
Ms. Mollow, 72 years old, entered the gate of her building and stepped onto a path leading to the entrance. Around her, dwarf Japanese trees and a thick lawn spoke of wealth. The building’s red-brick façade bestowed calm, and police officers were on every corner, ensuring the tenants were safe.
Ms. Mollow waved her gloved hand, and Ms. Calidor mirrored her from her window, beaming.
Old bitch, Ms. Mollow thought.
Some of Ms. Calidor’s neighbors didn’t like that she had been elected the best horticulturist in town. Even the Press interviewed her, and aspirant horticulturists visited her. All the attention was on her, and nobody looked at her neighbors’ plants. She was the star, and many tenants held a grudge.
Every day, Ms. Calidor watered her plants at her first-floor bay window, and a man called Alan Simmons watched her from the third floor. He wanted to murder her.
His hatred came from an atrocious event. The grumpy, introverted man moved there in his twenties with his parents. He never got married, and his parents died. His mood gradually worsened, but he found a black beetle in a vase by his window. He saw a friend in the bug, and his mood improved.
Alan talked to the beetle for ages. Apart from the hours spent working in an office as an accountant, he spent the rest of his days at home, talking to the faithful bug. He found it beautiful, and every time it opened its wings to fly, Alan enjoyed it as if it were a masterpiece.
But the beetle flew out of Alan’s window and landed on Ms. Calidor’s dazzling orchid. Armed with a small shovel, she crushed the poor thing.
Alan saw everything. Choking a scream, he rushed to the bathroom, looked at himself in the mirror, and swore revenge. His eyes were crimson, his soul wounded, and his intentions not good. He spent one month overthinking a plan to eliminate such an “old witch” without arousing suspicions, watching her from his window every day. Despite his overthinking, Alan came up with bizarre ideas like asking for sugar to enter her apartment and cutting her throat using the gardening scissors she kept in her vases. But Ms. Calidor’s neighbors could have seen him from the peephole.
He might have killed her on the street, but she never took dark roads.
Alan’s hopes had almost vanished until he met Ms. Calidor in the elevator on his way back from work.
After ten awkward seconds, she said, “It’s so cold outside, isn’t it?”
She had crushed Alan’s friend, and now she tried to be friendly. Alan was tempted to pounce on her but controlled himself.
She turned to him when the elevator opened to the first floor. “Luckily, there are no beetles in winter. I hate them!”
That night, Alan couldn’t sleep. He was obsessed with Ms. Calidor’s cruelty. Enough already! I must punish her.
The following day, Alan was at the window, watching Ms. Calidor. A whistling milkman was leaving the building, and Ms. Mollow was coming back with her poodle on a leash. Ms. Mollow smiled, waving her hand at Ms. Calidor, who mirrored her.
Old bitch, Ms. Mollow thought, keeping up her false smile.
“I’d better assume a false identity,” Alan mumbled, pacing his room. “I should disguise myself as a postman.”
He rushed to a store and bought a postman costume and a blond wig.
Later, Ms. Calidor entered her building, holding grocery bags. She met Ms. Mollow at the door, who greeted her warmly.
“Hello, Ms. Calidor. It’s a pleasure to see you. Such a famous woman living in our building—wow!” But when Ms. Calidor got into her apartment, Ms. Mollow frowned and thought, Old bitch!
Lunchtime came. After a reinvigorating chicken soup, Ms. Calidor went to her window garden. Someone knocked on the door, and slowly, the old lady shuffled to the entrance. She felt pain in her head after she unlocked the door. The woman reeled, almost passing out, and abruptly, a blade sliced her throat.
When Charlotte Throne, a floriculture college student, rang Ms. Calidor’s bell, nobody answered. It was teatime, and Charlotte wanted to return a book about plants to Ms. Calidor. She noticed the door ajar and pushed it. “Ms. Calidor?”
Suddenly, she screamed.
Ms. Calidor lay on the floor in a pool of blood.
The police stormed into the building. Everybody must stay in their apartments and wait for the detective to interview them. Every tenant was a suspect.
Detective Moore and his assistant interviewed everybody in the three-floor building.
Mr. and Mrs. Wade from the first floor told them they saw a shadow walking through the aisle from their spyhole, but they couldn’t provide a description.
Ms. Mollow, from the second floor, said she heard nothing and wept the whole time, repeating that Ms. Calidor was “such a gentle lady.”
Mr. and Mrs. Hack from the third floor told the detectives they had always minded their business. “Police should be more active, young man,” Mrs. Hack said. “When I was young, it was different.”
There was one more tenant to be interviewed on the third floor, and Detective Moore rang a bell tagged “Alan Simmons.”
“Hello,” Alan said hesitantly.
“I’m Detective Moore,” the short detective said, scanning the tall Alan. “This is my assistant, Detective Darren. Do you mind if we ask you a few questions?”
“Where were you at lunchtime, Mr. Simmons?” Detective Darren asked.
“Like every Saturday, I had my lunch while watching TV.”
“I bet you watched Donald Spike’s News,” Detective Moore said.
“The Game of The Three?”
“So, what were you watching, Mr. Simmons?” the detective asked, glancing at a blond wig under a piece of furniture. He turned to Alan Simmons. “Are you a hairdresser, Mr. Simmons?”
Alan Simmons got arrested. In a small room, the two detectives stared at him, waiting for his answer.
“I’m gonna ask you the same question one more time,” Detective Moore said. “Did you kill Ms. Calidor?”
“She was an evil soul.”
“She murdered my friend.”
“My dear friend,” Alan said, sobbing.
“You mean she killed a person?”
“Not a person, a beetle, my friend.”
“You cut her throat because she killed a beetle?”
“I didn’t kill her.”
“So, why don’t you remember what you watched at lunchtime? What’s the purpose of the wig? Why do you keep a postman uniform in your closet?”
“I wanted to slaughter that bitch.”
“Really? But strangely, someone else saved you the trouble, right?”
Alan sobbed, and the two detectives took a coffee break in the hall.
“Do you think he did it?” Detective Darren asked between sips.
“Who else?” said Detective Moore.
The night fell over the city. Every tenant went to sleep, trying to forget what had happened. Ms. Mollow grabbed her cocoa and went to bed.
“The world has become a terrible place to live,” she told her poodle curled up by her bed. “There are too many sick people around.”
She pulled the nightstand drawer and grabbed a huge kitchen knife wrapped in a cloth. Its blade was stained with blood. Next, she seized a bottle of alcohol from the drawer, poured a few drops onto the cloth, and rubbed it onto the knife. Then she turned to her window and glanced at Ms. Calidor’s.
Her wrinkled hand seemed stronger now that she clutched the knife. She lifted it aloft and cracked an eerie smile. You got what you deserved, old bitch!
Nicola Vallera is an English teacher certified by the University of Cambridge (Celta). He lives in Brazil, and his hobbies are reading and writing. He published one short story (The Endless City – 2019 – Deadman’s Tome and Datura).