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Their mother had been unconscious for forty eight hours and they’d been told to expect the worst. James and Gregory talked, Annabelle preferred the silence her brothers found uncomfortable, they were strangers to her.

“Is anyone hungry?” Asked James.

“I could eat.” Replied Gregory.

Annabelle said nothing, James and Gregory went to eat, Annabelle breathed a sigh of relief. She knew it was just a matter of time now. She didn't know how she felt, she'd never felt close to her mother, she’d never been the mother Annabelle wished she'd been. Even when Annabelle was a child her mother could be distinctly cold. She looked so old lying in the hospice bed. She'd always been so glamorous, so perfectly put together.

Her mother Majorie had always put James and Gregory first. After their father died, Majorie remarried and her brothers were the reason Majorie had divorced husband number two, he had dared to give Majorie his opinion of her sons. Husband number three was a rich doormat who died leaving everything to her.

Annabelle had heard her brothers talking about the will. They’d openly talked about it around their mother’s death bed but they’ve been living out of her purse their entire adult life.

“Anything happen while we were away?" Asked Gregory as he walked back into the room. Annabelle didn't answer. Later that night their mother died.


Majorie’s funeral was a garish over the top affair. Annabelle felt numb. James and Gregory wept uncontrollably while their wives Jennifer and Stephanie comforted them. The funeral was full of creepy old men and drunken old women, all with their condolences and best wishes. Annabelle couldn't wait for it to be over.

People gave heartfelt speeches about Marjorie. Annabelle didn't know what version of her mother they’d known but it wasn't the version she’d known.

Afterwards there was a mad frenzy for the buffet. Annabelle didn't eat, buffets grossed her out. She watched people double dipping vegetables and cheese into whatever dip several other double dippers had dipped into.


Thanksgiving was six months after the funeral. Annabelle was invited to James and Stephanie’s house and felt compelled to go. She was happy she did, she had a wonderful time. 

For the first time in her life Annabelle was actually enjoying her brother's company. Even Jennifer and Stephanie weren't the aggravating fools she'd always considered them to be. They played a drunken game of Taboo, girls versus boys and the girls easily beat the boys.

The next morning James was found dead by Stephanie. He was smiling when he died. No one could explain what had happened.

 Detective Garcia, a local detective, asked questions but no one knew anything, James had been in good spirits the day before. A post mortem sample of James's liver tissue, blood, and gastric contents were analyzed and small amounts of the poison Cicutoxin were found, a naturally occurring poisonous compound found in plants. 

The police suspected something from the garden may have accidentally been cooked. All the vegetables they’d eaten were from James’s garden and poisonous plants were spotted growing nearby. It was the first time any vegetables from James’s garden had been consumed. Even though no one else had any symptoms, they thought that James may have unknowingly been extremely sensitive to the poison.


Another family funeral, James’s funeral. Stephanie was devastated, Gregory and Jennifer did their best to comfort her. Annabelle felt numb. The only time she'd felt close to James was the day before he died. All the same people that had attended their mother's funeral were in attendance. The same creepy old men and drunken old women. The same people double dipping vegetables and cheese in the same dips as everyone else. People made speeches but unlike at Majorie’s funeral, the James they all talked about sounded like the James that Annabelle had briefly known.



Annabelle spent a quiet Christmas alone. She didn’t see Gregory until the following spring. Since James’s death he’d been drinking heavily. To make his frame of mind worse, Stephanie and Jennifer had unexpectedly fallen in love and run away together. 

Annabelle encouraged Gregory to get help but her advice fell on deaf ears. After Gregory flew home, Annabelle was unable to get a hold. A few days later Detective Garcia visited her with the sad news of Gregory’s death, he had been found dead at a motel. Annabelle was distraught, all of her family were dead. Gregory had died with a smile on his face, the same as James had. Detective Garcia told Annabelle that they were waiting for the autopsy results. Annabelle told Detective Garcia about Gregory’s drinking, how hard Gregory had taken the deaths in the family and how his wife had suddenly left him for James's widow.

A post mortem sample of Gregory’s liver, blood and gastric contents found traces of the poison Cicutoxin.


The same people attended Gregory's funeral. The same speeches, the same buffett and the same double dippers. Detective Garcia watched from a discreet distance, Annabelle didn’t notice him. He'd had no reason to suspect her of anything until he found out about her mother’s impending will reading. He had no proof that Annabelle had murdered her brothers but he’d been watching her since he learned the results of Gregory’s post mortem.


After the will was read, Detective Garcia watched Annabelle boarding a plane to Los Angeles. He informed a Los Angeles detective of what he suspected.

Unknown to Annabelle, she was followed the moment she departed the airplane. In Los Angeles she rented a car and drove to a house she had bought. A detective reported Annabelle

only left her house for an occasional visit to a grocery store. She spent the majority of her time working on her suntan and swimming laps in her pool.


Annabelle pulled onto her driveway in her brand new car. She was shocked to find Jennifer and Stephanie waiting there.

“You've got a lot of nerve coming here.”

“We need to talk.” Replied Jennifer.

“After what you two did, I have nothing to say to either of you. Now get out of here or I'll call the police.” 

“Do you know a detective has been watching you Annabelle?” Said Stephanie.

“I don’t believe you.”

“You don't believe us Annabelle? They think you murdered your brothers.”

Annabelle was shocked at what Jennifer had just said. She looked around, the street was deserted but she could see her neighbors in their houses, anyone could hear their conversation. She motioned to Jennifer and Stephanie to follow her inside her house.

“Why do the police think I murdered James and Gregory?”

“You inherited everything in your mother’s will.” Said Jennifer.

“What does that have to do with anything?”

"The same poison was found in both James and Gregory’s bodies.” Jennifer said. 

“The poison contorts the facial muscles, causing death by asphyxia. That’s why they both had a smile on their faces.” Said Stephanie.

“Do you know what Hemlock Water Dropwort is Annabelle?” Asked Jennifer. “It's a poisonous plant that’s highly toxic. We've been sneaking it into James and Gregory’s food for years, just a little to see the reactions. We would have given it to your mother too, if cancer hadn't killed her first.”

“James and Gregory found it in our garden, it gave them a nasty rash.” Said Stephanie.

“You killed my brothers?”

“Don't act like you care Annabelle. You were never there. We had to put up with your brothers and your bitch of a mother. You know what Majorie was like, if everything wasn't perfect, she was unbearable.”

“I'm calling the police.”

“No you're not.” Said Jennifer.

Stephanie shot Annabelle who died instantly.

Jennifer and Stephanie knew exactly what they were looking for and within minutes Annabelle's money was in an offshore bank account.

“Is that detective outside?” Asked Jennifer. 

Stephanie looked through the blinds. 

“No, let's get out of here.”

Jason Smith writes out of the Pacific Northwest. He’s married and a father to a special needs boy. Originally from England, he has lived near Seattle WA since 2009.

He has published with Mystery Tribune, The Yard Crime Blog and Short-Story.Me.


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