The Nutcracker

Detective Singer stared at the two fidgeting brothers silently.
‘He was like that when we found him!’ the younger boy suddenly burst out under the Detective’s intense scrutiny, ‘I swear!’
As still as a statue, Detective Singer continued to stare unblinkingly at the boys. He’d learnt from long experience that silence produces more results than badgering.
‘Okay, okay,’ the older boy, who’d been desperately trying to maintain his cool façade, finally broke, ‘This is how we found him, sir, but we did empty his pockets.’
Singer held out his hand wordlessly and waited as the boys handed over the victim’s wallet, keys, wedding ring and an expensive watch. When Singer was sure they’d handed it all over, he had a Constable escort the boy’s home.
Sergeant Travers had been studiously avoiding having to look towards the body during this exchange. Now he chanced a quick look to see how the crime scene techs were going. The body was still lying on a boulder, his body unnaturally arched backwards so that the back of his head was resting on his ankles. His face had taken a terrible beating leaving him completely unrecognisable.
Quickly turning back towards Singer as the bile once more rose from his stomach, Travers tried to start a conversation with his taciturn boss, ‘Definitely not a robbery then, sir. And at least know we’ll know who the poor bugger was, but what possible motive could anyone have to do that to another human being?’
‘Motive is obviously a strong factor, but it is the how that interests me right now.’
‘He has to weigh at least 150 kilos and yet his back has been snapped cleanly. When we know how, we will know who did it.’
‘You have your ideas already though, don’t you, sir?’
Singer gave Travers a quick smirk as he handed him the victim’s wallet; a smirk that many who did not know the man well would take as arrogance. Travers knew it was certainty, and when Singer was certain, the case was practically closed.
‘Recognise the name, Travers?’ Singer asked as the Sergeant flipped open the wallet to look at the driving license within.
‘Colin Yartell? Should it?’
‘We must inform the widow. I think you’ll find her very interesting.’
‘My mother is unwell,’ the tall, surly youth who’d answered the door snapped impatiently, ‘Come back when my father is home.’
‘I’m afraid it is your father we have come to see her about,’ Singer replied placidly, ‘I really must insist.’
Caught off guard, Yartell’s son shifted his weight from one foot to the other. With a scowl, he stepped inside and gestured for Singer and Travers to follow him.
‘There’s a couple of cops here,’ the boy announced, stepping into a dimly lit living room.
Travers blinked in surprise as the figure of a woman rose from a chair in the corner of the room and stepped towards them, her eyes red-rimmed and sorrowful. To say she was a large woman would have been a gross understatement. Standing at least seven feet tall, the woman was as large as three footballers put together. It wasn’t fat either. Though she was dressed in a feminine, ankle length summer dress, there was no mistaking the rippling muscles beneath her clothing.
‘Marietta Yartell?’ Singer asked, holding out his hand to the enormous woman, ‘I am Detective Inspector Singer and this is Sergeant Travers. We are from the Special Investigations Unit.’
‘Please take a seat,’ Marietta said in a surprisingly soft, gentle voice, ‘Lucas?’ she turned briefly to her son, ‘Will you fetch a tea tray for our guests?’
‘Yes, Mum,’ he answered with an annoyed sigh, slinking from the room.
Taking a seat across from the policemen, Marietta smiled sadly, ‘I must assume you’ve found him already. I knew I couldn’t get away with it…but my son.’ Her voice had trailed off and she appeared lost in thought. When she spoke again, it was with curiosity, ‘How did you know it was me?’
‘Many years ago, I saw your act, just before the authorities closed your husband’s circus down.’
‘Ah!’ her eyes were lit with sudden interest, ‘And what would a policemen have been doing at that sordid establishment?’
‘It was a chance encounter only. I never forgot what he made you do, and I never forgot your tears.’
Marietta did not respond, merely nodded, her eyes shining with unshed tears.
‘Why did you stay with him, Marietta?’ Singer asked quietly, ‘And why kill him now?’
Lucas returned with the tea tray, served them all a cup and then perched on the arm of his mother’s oversized armchair. From a side table, he silently extracted a long chain and a pair of shackles.
Marietta looked at them with a shudder and then turned back towards Singer, ‘He kept me chained in this room, Detective,’ she said quietly, her voice heavy with emotion, ‘I have not seen daylight in twenty years.’
‘He has been making her do it every week since the circus closed!’ Lucas cried out angrily, ‘I found the key and set her free, and then I killed him!’
Marietta smiled and grasped her son’s trembling hand, ‘He knows that I am the only one who could have done this.’

‘I still don’t understand, sir,’ Travers voice was still puzzled, ‘How did you know it was her?’
‘It was because of her act in the circus, Travers. Yartell would set a pack of hungry rottweilers on her. To save herself, she would have to kill the dogs. It was her method that told me who had killed her husband.’
‘Her method?’
‘She would lift each dog in turn, snapping its back, folding it like a deck of cards. Yartell called Matietta’s act “The Nutcracker”.

© Alison Pearce 2008

The Nutcracker

Alison Pearce

Logan Central, Australia

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For Crime Time’s Challenge #4

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