The Discovery of Death by Fred Skolnik

typewriterDick and Jane and Bob and Sally lived in a pretty little town with grass and trees. One day Bob was gone, leaving his body behind. Dick said to Sally, “Where is Bob?” Sally said to Dick, “Bob is gone.” They looked at Bob’s body, poking it with a stick. It did not move. He was not there.

“Have you looked in the attic?” Jane said.

“Yes, I have looked in the attic,” Sally said.

“Have you looked in the basement?” Dick said.

“Yes, I have looked in the basement,” Sally said.

“Maybe he went to the grocery store,” Jane said.

“No,” Sally said, “he did not go to the grocery store. We only shop in the supermarket.”

Dick and Jane were perplexed. They had never heard of such a thing, people vanishing into thin air just like that, not in their town anyway. Dick said to Sally. “Let us hire a detective to investigate.” Sally said to Dick, “Yes, that is a good idea. Let us hire a detective to investigate.”

Dick and Jane looked in the telephone book. There were thousands of detectives listed in the telephone book. There were more detectives than plumbers and electricians, which led Dick to suspect that the phenomenon of missing persons was more widespread than he had initially believed to be the case. He said to Jane, “I suspect that the phenomenon of missing persons is more widespread than I initially believed to be the case.” Jane said, “So do I.”

They phoned a detective named Seymour and he came right over. “Thank you for coming right over,” Dick said.

Seymour said, “I always come right over.”

“That is good,” Dick said.

“So whaddya got?” Seymour said.

They led him to the body and he poked it with a stick.

“It does not move,” Jane said.

“I can see that,” Seymour said.

“What will you do now?” Dick said.

“I will investigate,” Seymour said.

“That is a good idea,” Jane said.

“Yes, that is a good idea,” Dick said.

They went to Sally’s house and had coffee and cake and talked about how the neighborhood was changing. Then Seymour said to Sally, “Has this ever happened before?”

“No,” Sally said, “this has never happened before. As forgetful as he is, Bob always takes his body with him when he leaves the house.”

Dick said, “I can vouch for that.”

Then Seymour made a thorough search of the premises. After an hour he came back and said, “He is not here.”

“I could have told you that,” Dick said.

“I had to see for myself,” Seymour said. “That is how detectives work.”

“So what now?” Dick said.

“I will investigate further,” Seymour said.

“That is good,” Jane said.

“Do you think you can find him?” Dick said.

“Well,” Seymour said, “in my long career as a detective I’ve encountered many cases of this kind and I’m going to be perfectly frank with you: the prospects aren’t good. There are very few cases on record of anyone coming back once they’re gone. Nonetheless I’m willing to look. I’ll require a thousand dollars up front and a hundred dollars a day to cover expenses. That’s what we call a per diem in the trade.”

“That is kind of steep,” Dick said.

“Yes, that is kind of steep,” Jane said

“Take it or leave it,” Seymour said. “I’m a busy man.”

Dick and Jane talked it over with Sally and they decided to take it rather than leave it and retain Seymour’s services for a week.

“What should we do with the body?” Dick asked him.

“Put it in the ground,” Seymour said. “We may be able to use it later.”

After Seymour had gone, Dick and Jane went back to their house and had a light supper. There was nothing on TV so they went to bed. After he had lain on top of her for a while Dick said to Jane, “I will talk to the neighbors in the morning. Maybe they can tell us something.”

“That is a good idea,” Jane said.

In the morning Dick talked to all the neighbors. Some of them were very helpful. Mr. Jones said, “I seem to remember a similar occurrence years and years ago. It was my wife’s great ahnt. They found her body with a hole in it but she was nowhere to be seen.”

“That is odd,” Dick said.

“Yes, that is odd,” Mr. Jones said.

“Did you hire a detective?” Dick said.

“I do not believe so,” Mr. Jones said. “Their fees are kind of steep.”

“Yes, that is true,” Dick said.

Mr. Smith also remembered an occurrence of this kind. “It was my sister-in-law,” he said. “She had gone to bed with a stomach ache and in the morning only her body was there.

“Did you poke it with a stick?” Dick said.

“Yes, we did,” Mr. Smith said. “It did not move.”

“That is strange,” Dick said.

“Yes, that is strange,” Mr. Smith said.

And finally Mr. Murchison-Fuller told Dick a similar story. This time it was about a distant cousin who had jumped into the ocean but only his body had come back. They had looked everywhere and had even sent down divers but he was not there. “It remains a mystery to this day,” Mr. Murchison-Fuller said.

“I imagine it would,” Dick said. He was beginning to suspect that there was more to this than met the eye and said as much to Jane. “Yes,” she said, “those are my sentiments exactly.”

“I hope Seymour will report to us soon,” Dick said.

“Yes,” Jane said, “I hope so too.”

“In the meanwhile,” Dick said, “let us put an ad in the paper.”

“That is a good idea,” Jane said.

So Dick and Jane put an ad in the paper. Many people answered the ad but not about Bob. They too spoke of having had similar experiences and had also hired detectives, though to no avail. This confirmed what Seymour had said. It looked like once you were gone you never came back, unless you took your body with you.

“But where do you go?” Jane said.

“Search me,” Dick replied.

After a week Seymour came back but he had nothing to report, not even a lead. No one he had spoken to could think of a reason why Bob should leave his body. It was fit and tanned and had served him well. It had taken him around the world. It could run and jump.

“Maybe he found another body,” Dick said to Seymour.

“That is highly unlikely,” Seymour said. “And besides, where would the previous occupant have gone?”

“I see what you mean,” Dick said.

“And anyway, people would notice the difference,” Seymour said.

“Yes, that is true,” Dick said. “Why didn’t I think of that myself?”

“You are not a detective,” Seymour said.

They hired Seymour for another week, despite the cost. Bob had some stock options that Sally was able to dispose of at slightly below par. Friends and family came over to visit her. She showed them where she had put the body in the ground. Some of them looked around the yard, thinking they might find him behind a bush. Not a stone was left unturned. Dick and Jane watched them sadly.

“They are barking up the wrong tree,” Dick said.

“I am afraid they are,” Jane said.

“Do you have a stomach ache?” Dick said.

“No, why do you ask?” Jane said.

“Your stomach looks big,” Dick said.

“So it does,” Jane said.

Dick and Jane waited for Seymour’s report. They also kept their eyes peeled for other bodies that might have been left behind. Sure enough, no sooner had they begun looking than they began to notice many such bodies lying on the ground. Some had holes in them or were covered with blood. Some seemed to be sleeping and others looked wide awake. They did not move.

Otherwise life went on as before. They shopped in the supermarket and watched TV and every night Dick lay on top of Jane for a while. Jane cooked the meals and did the laundry and Dick went off to work. Jane’s stomach got bigger, which caused Dick some concern, so sometimes when she was asleep he poked it with a stick. Meanwhile Seymour was in Cincinnati following a lead and Sally, for her part, was at her wit’s end and said as much to Jane.

“Maybe Bob will come back one day,” Jane said.

“I do not think so,” Sally said. “He is gone and I am stuck with a portfolio full of worthless junk bonds.”

“Have you heard from Seymour?”

“He is in Cincinnati following a lead.”

“That is good,” Jane said.

They put a marker over Bob’s grave so that they would be able to find it in case they wanted to dig the body up at some future date. They put ads in the papers again assuring him that his body was waiting for him whenever he got home. Nothing in fact had been disturbed. His coat was in the closet and his slippers were under the bed, and all his favorite snacks were in the frig. But there was no reply from Bob.

After another week Seymour got back. Clearly he’d done a lot of traveling. He had a new set of luggage and a new felt hat and various gifts that he said he’d picked up for his nieces and nephews, including a little monkey that played a tin drum when you wound it up.

“So what have you got?” Dick said.

“I’m afraid it’s bad news,” Seymour said.

“What is it?” Jane said.

“Bob isn’t coming back,” Seymour said.

“But where is he?” Dick said.

“Nowhere,” Seymour said.

“Nowhere?”

“That’s what I said.”

“How can that be?” Jane said.

“It’s a long story,” Seymour said.

“We’ve got time,” Dick said.

So Seymour told them all the things he had discovered. He told them that Bob was neither here nor there, or anywhere. Ditto for all the other bodies lying on the ground. They were dead. That was the word he used. At first they couldn’t grasp it. It didn’t seem to make sense. How could anyone not be anywhere?

“That’s just the way it is,” Seymour said. “When you gotta go, you gotta go.”

“But where do you go?” Jane said.

“Like I told you,” Seymour said, “you don’t go anywhere. You kind of dissolve.”

“Dissolve?”

“Well, something like that.”

Dick and Jane shook their heads. This was quite a revelation. Jane’s stomach was very big now so she sat down to rest for a moment. “Goodness me,” she said, “what will we ever tell Sally?”

“I’ve already told her,” Seymour said. “Actually she took it quite well. She and I are getting hitched next month. And by the way, that’s a kid you got in your belly.”

“What?” Dick exclaimed.

“You heard me,” Seymour said.

“I find all this hard to believe,” Dick said.

“You’ll get used to it.”

“Poor Bob,” Jane said.

“He never knew what hit him,” Seymour said.

“This is not good,” Dick said.

“No,” Jane said, “this is not good at all.”

 Fred Skolnik

Banner Image : See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

3 thoughts on “The Discovery of Death by Fred Skolnik

  1. Hi Fred,
    This was quirky and totally brilliant.
    From now on, if there is anything I don’t understand, I will poke it with a stick!
    Excellent!!!
    Hugh

    Like

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