French Polished Murder - By Elise Hyatt


The Fast and the Electrically Furious

We were thirty years old—and, in his case, thirty plus a little more than six months—when I came to the sad conclusion that I would have to murder my friend Benedict Colm.

This was as sad as it was necessary, but there was no escaping the fact as my son, Enoch—whom I call E in an attempt to save him therapy bills as he gets older—came speeding into the living room, atop Ben’s Christmas gift to him.

The gift was a toy electric motorcycle with a top speed of ten miles per hour, an acceleration that might seem impossible for a small boy to achieve in a home that was less than seventy feet in either direction, but that E managed, quite often.

I heard the horn blare a moment before E came riding in and, with the practice born of two weeks of terror, dove behind the sofa, while Ben, who stood square in the middle of the living room, his arms crossed on his chest, became an impromptu traffic circle.

E sped around him once, twice, then headed the other way, at increased velocity.

“What do you mean you’ll have to kill me?” Ben asked obtusely, looking at me. “And what are you doing behind the sofa?”

I crept out and up to stand on the sofa itself, having learned that a large piece of furniture was the best defense against the toddler version of the fast and the furious. “Isn’t it obvious?” I said as, from the kitchen, there came a now-familiar series of sounds indicating that E was either rearranging the kitchen chairs to use as slalom cones or simply hitting them and dragging them along with sweet disregard for what it might do to chair legs and seats.

I dropped to sit on the sofa, shaking slightly, with what I figured was a form of post-traumatic stress disorder only not particularly post, since the stress had started just over two weeks ago when E had first unwrapped the fully charged electric motorcycle.

“If you were likely to have children,” I told Ben darkly, “I’d already have started payments on the realistic drum set with electronic amplification.”

“You are making no sense at all,” Ben said, in that even tone that made me want to strangle him with my bare hands—even though I was aware that would be one of the stupidest ways to kill him, as I would be immediately discovered. “What can the possibility of my having children have to do with this? Besides, surely you remember I used to have a garage band. In the unlikely event I ever have a child, I’d be happy if you gave him or her a drum set.”

I think that was when I picked up the nearest object— a collection of mystery short stories, leather bound, weighing in at about three pounds, a Christmas gift from my parents—and flung it at his head. I missed, of course, just as E came back through the door from the dining room, in time to ride over the book and break its spine.

“Well, you shouldn’t have thrown it at me,” Ben said, looking baffled when I howled in outrage. He picked up the book and tried to smooth the broken spine.

Ben stood six-three in his stocking feet, with reddish-blond hair and the sort of face that is pleasant to look at rather than handsome. Because this was the weekend and also still part of his Christmas vacation, he was in what he considered his relaxed attire: dark green pants, with a broadcloth shirt, a cashmere pullover just a shade darker than his pants, and the sort of tie he considered playful and holiday-like—in this case green, with a barely discernable red dot. I would bet that were I to lift his sweater I would find his tie had been precisely arranged to fall just over the top half of his belt.

I thought, not for the first time, that it was a very good thing that Ben was gay because any woman worth her salt, forced into a romantic relationship with someone so unflappable, exact, and unemotional-seeming would have done the sensible thing and put a steak knife through his heart.

“Not your steak knives,” he said, when I communicated this sentiment. “They’d never get past the rib cage. You never sharpen them.” He set the abused book on my coffee table, which is thirdhand and made mostly—I think—of spit and cardboard. The legs bowed under the weight of the book, which wasn’t exactly a surprise,