An unexpected conclusion emerges in this one-page fictional crime story.



Katherine pushed the needle into the blue vein on her grandmother's arm and eased the plunger forward. When the syringe was emptied of the clear fluid, she pressed a cotton ball to the mottled skin and drew the needle out. She held the cotton in place for a few seconds, then cleaned the site carefully with a sterile wipe. "We're done, Grandma," Katherine said. She patted the back of the old woman's hand. "Now you can sleep." She stood and carefully replaced the plastic sleeve that protected the needle, then dropped the device into the pocket of her raincoat.

To Katherine's eyes, the objects in the room represented all the stages of the life she and her grandmother had shared. As a small child, when her parents would go out for the evening and she had spent the night in the spare bed, she sometimes gazed at the faded Madonna and Child hanging in the same spot on the wall, puzzling over the small crescent of orange behind the baby's ear that peeked out like a slice of carrot. The television set in one corner was the one that she had sat cross-legged in front of at night night watching Perry Mason unravel another motive for murder. On the wall by the closet door, a cluster of photographs chronicled her life as an infant, a toddler, a fifth-grader posed for the yearly school picture, and a high school graduate. Even the picture of she and Jacob, smiling at the camera on their wedding day, was there. Funny, she mused, that there are no pictures to record the bitter unravelling of a marriage. Only a rectangular shadow remained to remind her of where the photograph of their daughter Reilly, had once been.

She returned her gaze to the woman on the bed, whose eyes were closed and whose breathing was now becoming shallow. She recalled the nights when, blinking against the incessant tug of sleep, the last thing she would see was Grandma propped-up in her own bed, a solitary lamp casting a bowl of light where the woman read or worked at her crossword puzzle. The window next to the bed was now curtained and, she knew, sealed and nailed shut so it could never be opened again. It occurred to her that, until this moment, she had not speculated about what Granda had been reading when Reilly had toddled to the window ledge and fallen to the ground below.

Someone else recollecting childhood might sigh at such a scene, but Katherine had no sighs left as she walked across the room to the waste can that had forever stood next to the massive mahogany bureau. Carefully, she removed another syringe from her raincoat and laid it atop the dresser. Again reaching into her pocket, the other one this time, out came a small vial of liquid.. She lifted the syringe, removed the protective sleeve, and plunged the needle through the plastic membrane that sealed the vial. She filled the syringe with insulin and quickly removed it, tossing the bottle into the waste can. Holding the needle away from her body, she pressed her thumb against the plunger, forcing the liquid to splay into the air and fall in small droplets to the floor. It would soon evaporate, and only a trace of the medicine, just enough, would remain in the syringe, which she tossed into the trash after the vial.

She looked a last time at her grandmother, the circle of light casting a sterile glow on the now still body that would soon turn cold and rigid. She smiled at the irony. Television's Perry Mason would figure this one out, but nature's inevitable decomposition of tissues had already commenced, and its chemistry would soon obliterate all trace of poison from the old woman's body. She passed though the threshold and turned to look one more time into the room. Everything was where it should be, where it belonged. She reached around the corner and flicked off the light switch, the same as she had done every night after putting Grandma to bed. The room vanished into darkness, and she turned and gently closed the door behind her.

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