The act of murder is horrible in its thought, but when circumstances arise, the thought of the deed increases and then crime is committed. Such was the case of Horace Winstle, a meek man in his ways, always obedient to wishes of others... especially to his overbearing wife who constantly nagged and harassed him with a forked tongue. Horace Winstle did not have the appearance of a murderer, but one with the image of a meek little man, rotund in form, and plain in features. Yet, his wife’s nagging tongue turned him into a vile killer.
It wasn’t so in the early course of union between him and his once beloved Matilda. The first years of their marriage were of harmony and bliss with sweet words between them. A serious of calamities that followed soured the poor woman. The events turned a good soul into a bitter scold in the later period of her life, which, in turn, became a terrible burden to her spouse.
The harpy, through those long tedious years, annoyed her suffering husband by persistent complaints, faultfinding, and demands. Until that fated day when the well of misery overflowed, and without hesitancy Horace Winstle committed the act of murder....
“Horace, Horaaace,” a harsh voice echoed through the chilling cold of the morning, cutting the stillness of the hour.
It had been a cold snap during the night mixed with a fall of snow and icy rain. At the following morning hours Horace Winstle, had dressed his pudgy body snugly against the cold, and left the warmth of his home to tend to the chores of clearing the snowfall. When the harsh call sounded he had been perched on a ladder, busily chopping dangerous chunks of hard icicles from the roof gutter.
The shrill voice called again with a tone of urgency. Horace Winstle cringed at the call; his cherubic face bunched into wrinkles and his clear brown eyes widened with anticipation.
Horace Winstle shuddered once again at the note of the crying voice; he shivered through the warmth of his bundled body. From his stance on one of the rungs of a ladder he answered the demanding call as loud as he dared, “Yes dear, yes I hear you... coming, coming, be there in a minute.”
Horace Winstle left the tool of his work at the top ladder rung and climbed down as fast as his short stubby legs would allow. The good man nearly slipped on the chopped chunks of ice lying on the ground as he hastened to answer the call; a bit of anger engulfed him when he caught his bearing, and he stooped down and flung aside a few of the pieces. Then he made his way carefully, but with quick steps, through the fallen snow towards the direction of the call, namely the kitchen entrance. A forgotten piece of hard frozen ice was gripped in the gloved right hand as he hastened to the command. The entrance door flew open as he mounted the porch; and there stood, Matilda, his wife of countless torturous years. Matilda tapped hard on her thick-soled shoes as a flow of screechy words flowed from her wagging tongue.
“Horace Winstle, you forgot to go to the grocers... Always forgetting... Called you twice from the kitchen window... What in heaven’s name where you doing in the yard? Land’s sake on such a bone-chilling morning... Can’t understand you.. Well, don’t stand there, its freezing outside... Come inside afore I catch the death of a cold. . And don’t forget to wipe your feet... Do you hear!!!”
Horace followed the shawled thin frame of his wife into the warmth of the kitchen, remembering to wipe his booted feet on the mat. And, at the last moment, he remembered to shut the door, giving a relieving sigh in the effort. He joined his wife at the large worktable where, again his scold berated him. He listened in silence, as it was his custom, and nodded to the words with slight signs of movement from his puffed, reddish face, partially hidden by a lumberman’s woolen cap.
“The grocer’s list is in the basket,” as she pointed with a thin scrawny finger as she looked directly into the eyes of her spouse. “There, can’t you see... Blind as well as deaf, you are... “ The wide thin-lipped mouth spewed forth. Her greyish eyes scorned; the white of her hair shook in rage; her wrinkled face showed her dismay. The tongue-lashing continued without a seemingly pause for the needed breath.
Horace Winstle stood there in the rage of his very soul. He started to fist his gloved hands; stopping when he felt the hard piece of ice in the grip of his right hand. Anger engulfed him as his thoughts remembered the countless years of this abject torture. His anger increased with the increasing tempo of the wagging tongue. Without hesitation he lifted the large icy bar, and drove it hard towards the target of his misery.
Matilda, looked at the dripping icicle, screamed once, and felt the cold club dash upon her head; the shock of the blow stunned her and she remained numb in stance. Horace Winstle struck the head of his nemesis again and again, till the ice shattered. As the body of Matilda tumbled towards the floor, her head hit the corner of the table, causing the wound to open with the spilling of blood and gore. Homer watched without a sign on his features as the body dropped with a sickening thud to the floor. He just stared at the battered, bloody remains; his hand still gripped the broken chunk of ice. After a moment, he flung the cold piece aside, grabbed the shopping basket and retreated from the warmth of the kitchen. And, as an afterthought, deliberately left the kitchen door ajar.
Horace Winstle returned to his modest home within a period of three hours, light in stride. As he neared the dwelling he noticed that all around was set in official order. Three police cars and two other authoritative vehicles were parked near the driveway. Uniformed police and badged investigators were going all around the garden poking and searching. Horace watched an expert dust for prints along the outside window frames, even on the ladder he had used for his chores. One or two officials were molding plaster on a set of footprints found in the mud under the eaves of the house.
After a few moments of watching the passing scene, Horace gripped tightly the filled shopping basket and walked along the path to the entrance of his home. At the halfway point an uniformed deputy stopped him and he was requested to leave the grounds. As Horace was being escorted through the garden gate a note of exclamation was pronounced.
“That be Horace, the husband of dear Matilda Winstle,” shouted a wavering voice. “Oh dear, poor man, poor man...”
The words were uttered by a friendly neighbor who offered the proper identification of Horace as the late spouse of the Matilda Winstle. The neighbor, a gossipy elderly woman, neared him and offered in the flow of excited words and informative phrases a garbled explanation of the tragic events that had happened to her good friend Matilda. Horace was deaf to most of her bated-breath tone, and he simply nodded. Sympathy was offered as she placed Horace in the trustworthy care of the uniformed official with phrases of concern.
The officer accepted the words and with a firm grasp on an elbow of the good man, led him into the house. Within the confines of varied rooms activity was in progress: walls were dusted for prints, photos were taken all about, floors and walls were being measured, and every nook and cranny were scrutinized.
Horace Winstle stopped for a moment near the entrance to the kitchen as he was escorted through his modest home. He peeped in and his eyes surveyed the scene of the crime. All was chaos; two police officers were busily opening and searching through cupboards and drawers, leaving the mark of their work signed in a cluttered mess. The good man’s sight searched the floor and was relieved by an outlined chalk diagram etched on the muddy floor.
Horace held tightly to the filled shopping basket as he was led into the living room where he was offered a comfortable armchair. The detective in charge of the investigation was called in; and upon introduction, he offered the deepest sympathy for the unfortunate demise of Matilda, the wife of the good man.
Horace, still dressed in the warmth of his street clothes with the filled shopping basket set firmly on his lap, heard of the tragic events. He didn’t utter a word as he stared at the hefty investigator standing alongside the chair; he simply nodded to the phrases of the condolences offered. Horace only felt the aging years of nagging misery being lifted from his burdened shoulders which brought a momentary sense of relief.
The burly investigator, in gruff words, offered Horace Winstle an explanation to the police investigation. He told him of the find of the deceased by a close friend who happened to be in the neighborhood. That the good woman was shocked at the sight of the deceased lying in her blood on the floor as she entered through the unlocked door of the kitchen; despite the shock, she had put in a hurried summons to 911.
Horace Winstle sat in silence as he heard the flowing words of the detective. Words told that the investigation lead to a burglary motive; phrases explained that probably the thief was surprised in the act of his trade and had used a blunt instrument in the murderous deed of escape. Explanatory words told of the intensive search for the weapon; phrases told that when found it will be subjected to DNA and other tests. The investigator spoke with certainty to the need of finding it; that with this evidence in hand the finger of guilt will point to the murderer. Before the detective was able to finish, an urgent call beckoned him to the kitchen.
The investigator expressed his apologies to Horace and then scampered to the beckoning voice. As he hurried along his thick-soled feet stepped on a small piece of melting ice; and he skidded under its slipperiness and fell hard on the bulk of his body.
“Damn, bejeezus” he shouted as he lifted his hefty frame from the knotted pine of the floor. The detective rubbed his tender parts, and brushed his clothes brusquely. Then he gave another curse, and with anger kicked the dribbling chunk of ice towards the nearby wall.
Copyright © 2003 by Norman A. Rubin