The wind had picked up considerably as the full moon rose. The sound was that spooky shriek that only seems to come around on cold winter nights. The leaves constantly rustled as millions of snowflakes slipped and scurried across the frozen gravel driveway. The wooden frame house was nestled in a clearing close to the woods, but not close enough to break the chilly wind. Its icy fingers seemed to slip into every crack and crevice of the hardwood floors.
Toliver Banks adjusted the thermostat up another notch. It slid beyond the seventy degree mark for the first time since its installation the previous fall. He knew he should have had the carpets down by now, but his stupid back....The house was definitely warmer than it had been for years, not to mention quieter since the bitch's departure. The insurance money had paid for the central heat that now pulsed through the still shiny vents of the Banks homestead.
Toliver sat down in his old easy chair and propped his feet on the ancient gas heater. He couldn't bear to part with his old chair nor his old foot warmer (which still functioned). He had rested in this faithful place a thousand times before as the bitch went on and on about some hogwash. Always nagging! Well, those days were over for 'ol Tol.
Yes, he had solved that one good, all right. The night he had ended that nagging was nothing like tonight. That night it had been scorchingly hot. He remembered the sweat pouring from his face and his shirt sticking to his back as he finished up with the woodchipper.
A man shouldn't have to hear nagging on a day like that!
It wasn't for the insurance, no sir! It was for peace of mind. He could hardly go hunting and fishing anymore without hearing it. There was a limit on how much a reasonable man could take. Finally, she had crossed that line. It was as simple as that.
The beauty of it was, however, that he would never be caught. How could you be tried for murder when there was no body? No evidence? No signs of struggle? Nothing, no sir! There was nothing to connect him with his wife's disappearance.
He came home one day and she was gone. That's what he told the cops. And how could they deny him? The old Sheriff just looked peculiarly and murmured, "Yeah, women do that, sometimes." Sure, it took some time on the insurance money. He damn near spent his life savings on that crooked lawyer in town. But it was worth it. No more nag, no more work, no more worries, no more shrill voice screaming, "You lazy slob! Can't you pick up after yourself? Shit!"
Yes, the good life was here, Tol thought as his feet warmed on the fire and he glanced towards the kitchen door, half expecting to hear those dreaded, slippered footsteps slipping across the scarred linoleum. And that blasted squeak from the hinge as the door opened and the shouting began. But there was no sound from the kitchen. He was alone. The only sound was the howling wind, screeching and searching for a way inside to join him by the fire.
Yes, Tol thought happily about how good he'd had it since that night he had pounded his wife on the back of the head with his claw hammer. After a day in the deep freeze, he had slowly dismembered her in the garage with his chainsaw after laying down a sheet of plastic he had planned on insulating the windows with.
The frozen blood had kept things clean and neat. Garbage bags held it all while he took the parts (he liked to think of them as 'parts', not 'her') down to the old fishing pond. And yes, he brought along his old woodchipper. No, no one would find the fish food cast into the pond that night, along with an old Poulan chainsaw.
As his grin spread into a full smile, he glanced again at the kitchen door. He must be getting sleepy. For a moment, he thought he'd heard a slippered footstep in there. Then, he even fancied that the hinge was squeaking and the door was swaying open slowly.
He stopped smiling when he heard his old Poulan crank on the first pull.
"Toliver Banks must have just run off one day." the sheriff supposed, speaking to the local newspaper reporter. "Men do that, sometimes."
Copyright © 2002 by R. Jay Driskill and Bewildering Stories.