Go Forth And Multiply

This was an Authonomy flash fiction challenge. It didn’t do very well, and I can’t imagine it finding a home for it anywhere else but I don’t like consigning my stories to oblivion so I’m putting it here. It might not be especially PC but I’m hoping it’ll be taken in the spirit I intended. I considered playing around with the genders of the protagonists but it felt forced. If anyone’s offended-and I might well be overthinking this-I apologise.

“A domestic, then, Guv?” Asked Cooper, wanting to keep the disappointment out of his voice.

“Looks that way, Sergeant,” said DI Thistlethwaite, not bothering to look up from the body, “Husband’s already confessed. Says he snapped.”

“Oh,” said Cooper, deflated again. He’d been with CID two weeks and was getting bored with the lack of action. At least with Traffic division, there’d been the occasional car chase.

There was a silence. Neither man seemed anxious to fill it. For his part, Cooper was unsure of the etiquette. What was one supposed to say standing over the corpse of a bludgeoned librarian? He coughed, teased at the lapel of his polyester suit and wished he could think of something to say.

“Sad story,” offered Thistlethwaite, eventually.

“For her, at any rate,” said Cooper, his tone even. It was a comment that could be passed of as an attempt at mordant humour, but he’d still be able to deny everything if his boss took offence.

“For both of them,” said the inspector.

“Right,” said Cooper, non-committally.

Thistlethwaite stood up, emitting a faint moan as he did so. Getting old, thought Cooper. “Bernie Weston,” he began, “That’s our perp.”

“I know,” lied Cooper, who hadn’t done his research.

“I knew him.”

“You did?” Asked Cooper, not interested.

“He was an accountant. Used to do the books for the Police Benevolent Fund.”

“Sounds a fun guy.”

“He wasn’t,” said Thistlethwaite, missing his sergeant’s sarcasm, “He wasn’t very good around people.”

“Figures,” said Cooper, gesturing at the body. He probably wouldn’t get away with that one if the DI wanted to come over all doe-eyed and sensitive.

“Numbers were fine. He liked them, but not numbers. They’d..aggravate him. Wind him up.”

“Ah,” nodded Cooper.

“It got so the only way he could cope was by doing long multiplication in his head. 338×94, 111×26. That sort of thing.”

“964×229?” Suggested the sergeant.

“Aye. Said it calmed him down.”

“Really?” Asked Cooper. He’d always found copious amounts of Guiness had the same effect. As long as he could do his sums in his head, he could tolerate anything.”

“But, Guv?”

“Yes, sergeant?”

“Didn’t you say he snapped?”

“So he says.”

“But…why?”

Thistlethwaite shook his head sadly as he picked up the murder weapon and put it in an evidence bag, “His wife bought him a pocket calculator.”

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