Congrats to Hailey Ardell, the winner of the Mystery Writers of America Flash Fiction Contest at this weekend’s Printers Row Lit Fest! The contest was judged by Sara Paretsky and Clare O’Donohue, Chicago mystery authors.
Here’s Hailey’s great story. We loved it!!
Trial and Error
by Hailey Ardell
No, no. Let me start over.
Your honor, I know that this trial “doesn’t have all day”, but trust me, this is pertinent information.
I had known Mary for twenty-five years. She was my next-door neighbor after I moved to the suburbs. I had moved from the city, but Mary was born and raised in this small town. She always had big dreams, wanted to see the world, but boy oh boy, Chicago ain’t ready for that blonde.
Yeah, we dated for a while. I broke it off. She hadn’t yet shown any signs of mental illness. No, that wasn’t it. We had just grown apart. She was still that sweet gal that had a big heart and bigger ambitions. She was taking classes at the local university and had lots of friends there. She was so social, so happy. I guess that’s why it’s so surprising where she is now.
Eventually, I moved back to the city. She called me once or twice. We were still on good terms. She wanted to travel to see me in person at my apartment, but I kept her at arms-length. Even then, she had started showing signs. She wasn’t quite right in her head. I could tell from our conversations. Sometimes she got crankier and more short-tempered, but then just like that, she would be chatting just like normal, just like she used to.
I had just gotten home from work when I got the call. I remember that I almost fainted when Mary’s mother phoned me, telling me… telling me the awful news. Who would have thought that Mary, sweet Mary, would have shot herself? I don’t think that anyone saw it coming, but it was definitely suicide.
I know that Mary’s father couldn’t have killed her. I know I said earlier that no one saw it coming. Maybe that’s not accurate. She was suffering mentally. No, I know it was her father’s gun. I know his fingerprints were on it. Look, it wasn’t him, just trust me. How do I know? Well, I wasn’t there to see it happen. Of course not. How would that even be possible? I’m not a liar. I’m not a liar! Mary’s father is just as innocent as I am.
Wait, hang on. Can I please start over? I’m afraid I wasn’t being quite clear. I apologize, I don’t know what got into me. I certainly wasn’t implying that I killed her. No, no, no, that would be impossible, I was at work.
Don’t be silly.