Frisson of Doubt (short story)

As I have been struggling for what seems to be forever with writer’s block, I decided to use the Daily Post prompts from this week (above, restart, dim, premonition, imagination, and congregate) to consider my novel from an alternate perspective. Hopefully, this will re-engage me and I will be able to finish my manuscript in the relative near future. 

She sat on a bench overlooking the rows of headstones, trying to gain some perspective. Off to her right, mourners were congregating around a freshly dug grave. As she watched them, slightly intrigued, she wondered what those who might have observed Stanley’s service had thought about her and others in attendance. What revelations might they have gleaned? More importantly, what had the trained observer, Detective Freeman, been able to ascertain?

Though a slight breeze touched her skin, it couldn’t dim the stifling and smothering sensation she felt. The only question was whether it was the heat and humidity or her dark and depressing thoughts that left her struggling to breathe; more likely, it was a combination of both. Was it her imagination or was Detective Freeman specifically and intently focusing on her? Sure, he seemed to be pursuing leads in multiple directions, yet she could almost feel him breathing down her neck. In response to that notion, she automatically glanced over first one shoulder, then the other, but there was no one behind her.

She tilted her head to look at the canopy of tree limbs above her and took a deep, steadying breath. She inhaled and exhaled, slowly and deliberately, in an attempt to calm her nerves. There was no need to be concerned, no room for doubt. It was merely the unusual circumstances that had her unnerved.

Stanley had apparently had his share of secrets and if not enemies per se then certainly disgruntled or annoyed acquaintances. Still, he appeared overtly well-liked. His death, now known to be murder, was a shock to all. So what was to account for this tingling shivering that was trailing up her spine, the pervading premonition that she was caught in an intricate web, about to take the fall?

She once again scanned the crowd at the nearby funeral. She scrutinized them one by one, observing stance, body language, and expressions of grief. Were they all genuinely saddened or were some just putting on a show? She wondered at the decedent’s cause of death. Had it been from natural causes? If not, if he or she had been murdered, which of the mourners would she suspect? Whose actions appeared to reek of guilt?

As she watched them, she pondered her own behavior. From watching them, what could she learn about her own actions and the impression they gave? How should she behave in order to deflect Detective Freeman’s attention? She knew without a doubt that he would be back to question her again. He was thorough and dogged in his pursuit of the truth. She had been as truthful as she dared. Thinking back, she wondered if her responses might have been misconstrued. Had the truthfulness of her answers made her appear cold, calculated, or perhaps guilty? Just contemplating that made her breath quicken and caused the pounding in her temple to restart.

She was no better off now than she’d been when she arrived at the cemetery today. So much for gaining a clearer perspective. With one last look toward the aggrieved, she peered toward Stanley’s grave. Then she rose from the bench and proceeded slowly down the path toward her car.

Daily Post Prompt: Above


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