This is a short story I wrote for an international contest several years ago. It won first place in the Thriller category. That's not my usual genre but it was so much fun. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
“I’m leaving for work now, Danny. I left a few crackers and some Sprite on the nightstand for you. I’ll see you this afternoon.”
Casey turned for one last look at Danny, totally under the covers. She really hated leaving him alone when he was not feeling well, but she couldn’t miss work again.
She locked the door to the apartment and went down the stairs, passing elderly Mrs. French in the entry hall.
“Everything okay?” Mrs. French asked in her nosy neighbor way.
“Yes,” Casey said, trying to smile. “My husband is not feeling well, but I’m sure it’s just a touch of the flu.”
“Well, make sure he stays in your apartment. We don’t need him spreadin’ any germs to the rest of us.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Casey answered. “I will.” She wanted to add, ‘you hateful old bat’ but she smiled and went out onto the street as she did every day. Danny had been sick for weeks and it was getting tiresome.
Casey tried calling home on her lunch hour but of course, Danny didn’t answer. He’s probably sleeping, she thought. That’s a good thing.
As Casey turned the key and opened the door, she hoped Danny might be setting up, but as usual, he wasn’t. The crackers and soda were untouched.
“Oh, Sweetie, you’re not feeling any better?” she asked as she went into the kitchen. “Can I make you some soup or something? You have to eat, you know. I wish we had the money for you to go to the doctor again, but we just don’t. It costs so much and the last time you were there, we could barely afford the prescription, remember?”
She touched his cheek. He didn’t feel like he had a fever, but she wasn’t very good at telling that way and they didn’t own a thermometer. She smiled to herself as she washed the few breakfast dishes, remembering how her mother had always felt her head when she was sick and knew immediately if she had a fever or not. Casey wished her mother were here with her in this cramped little apartment. She would know what to do about Danny…but she wasn’t. Casey sighed and suddenly felt sad and very alone. Her mother would never come see her; they hadn’t spoken since she and Danny ran off to Chicago and got married. She could hear her mother’s voice telling them they were making a huge mistake. She accused Casey of being delusional about life and never accepting reality, but she and Danny left anyway.
Casey didn’t want to think about the realities of their hasty decision. Nothing turned out the way she thought it would. Danny quit his job, so there was only her paycheck to pay for rent and food, bus fare and his damned cigarettes and then the doctor bill and the medicine, too. Well, now they were behind with the rent payment, but she had done her wifely duty, hadn’t she? She gave him his medicine, measuring every dose; sometimes a little more than it said on the bottle, but she wanted him to get better, faster.
She really wished they had a fan. It was so hot and the apartment was stifling, but a fan would make the electric bill even higher. She couldn’t allow herself to think about what they would do when winter came and they had to pay for heat. Maybe she could move before winter; just her. If Danny didn’t want to work, she would find a place of her own.
Casey shook her head to clear her thoughts. Her main concern right now should be Danny and what to do about him.
The loud knock on the door startled her. Probably the landlord, but she didn’t have the money he would be looking for.
“Who is it?” she asked.
“The police, Ma’am. Open the door, please.”
“Police? Why? What do you want?” Casey stammered.
“We’ve had a complaint about a smell coming from your apartment.”
“Did Mrs. French call you?” Casey asked. “She’s such a busybody. I just forgot to take out the garbage.”
“Open the door, Mrs. Croll.”
Casey opened it a crack and looked into the hallway. A policeman and two men in suits were standing there. They pushed past her and moved toward the bed.
“Please don’t disturb my husband. He doesn’t feel well.”
The officer in the uniform took Casey by the arm and led her out of the apartment.
“Come with me, Mrs. Croll. They will see to your husband.”
As Lt. Wills pulled the sheet back and put a mask over his nose, he asked the coroner, “How long do you think?”
“We’ll need to run tests for sure, but from the looks of him, I’d say it’s been over a week.”