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A hard-boiled fiction style short story about a 'Barbie Doll' victim. Why was this woman killed?
The long blond hair fell loose from her shoulders. Her lifeless blue eyes stared at me, recognising nothing. She was stiff and cold. Like the Barbie Doll held in her gloved hand, the red evening dress offered no warmth in death.
Doc Sloan’s voice butted in on my private thoughts.
‘She’s been dead around five hours Inspector … rigor mortis is well established … appears to have been strangled … I’ll confirm this after the post mortem.’ ‘What? Oh yeah Doc… whatever. I’ll catch up with you at the autopsy…’
I stayed in the room, long after the body had been taken away. I stood alone, looking at an old photo of the dead woman. I’d found it on the bedside table. She’d been a stunner in her youth! Her figure was perfect, just like the Barbie Doll, clutched in her hand. There was a handwritten inscription on the photo:
To my handsome Kenny Doll from your devoted Barbie Doll xxx Sep ’58.
Hell, that was forty years ago. Barbara Dean, the deceased, was seventy years old, according to the driver’s licence in her bag. She had been a glamour model in her hey day. She was still beautiful, but frail and vulnerable in death. Who’d want to kill her? Why? Robbery wasn’t the motive. Her handbag was untouched. I remembered vaguely seeing photos of her a few years ago. Was it some sort of scandal?
I thought about the poor old chook who’d found her. Poor old Jan Miles, the cleaning lady had come for the weekly clean. She’d found Barbara lying in her evening dress on the bed. It was the old bloody story. No one had heard anything or seen anything during the night. No witnesses … nothing!
One wall of the bedroom contained shelves holding a collection around a hundred of dolls… Barbie Dolls. The house was full of shelves of these dolls. It was probably a valuable collection. The doll that Barbara held in her stiff hand had no fingerprints on it. Barbara was wearing gloves. This Barbie doll wore an identical outfit to her dead owner, complete in every detail, down to the net stockings and the long black gloves. Was Barbara senile…living in a Barbie Doll fantasy world?
Realising that I was caressing the doll’s hair. I thought,
Christ, I’m playing with a bloody doll! Its time to leave!
Next stop was the son’s house. Sam lived on the other side of the city. By the time I arrived, he’d been notified of her death by the local police constable, and was preparing to go to the morgue to identify the body later that morning. My Sergeant, Jenny Black was waiting for me outside. It was a dump of a house, just the opposite of his mother’s smart mansion in the elite suburb south of the Yarra. We went through the broken gate together.
He was quick to answer the door. I was shocked at his appearance. He was a dark, sullen, broody looking slob, weighing over twenty stone. A nearly empty can of Foster’s was clutched in his left hand as his right paw tried to crush mine.
‘I ‘spose ya better come in. Wanna beer mate?’
‘No. I just need to ask a few questions.’
‘Want an Alibi huh? Well I’ve got one! I was shagging my bird all night. She’ll testify to that. Allie…come here luv…’
A sleek, petite blond appeared.
Christ, every woman’s starting to look like a Barbie Doll!
She flashed a set of shiny white teeth at me. Her voice purred at me and my groin ached. Hell what did she see in a fat slob like Sam?
‘Sam’s perrrrrfectly rrright Inspectorrrrr. I was with him all night.’
‘We’ll need your written statement to confirm that,’ retorted Jenny. Her crisp, businesslike request reflected her obvious dislike for Allie.
Half and hour later, Jenny and I were sitting in the city office, comparing notes of the events in the morning.
‘What a little sexpot, Allie is eh, Boss?’
‘Yeah, a regular ‘Allie Cat!’
Jenny grinned then continued. ‘Did you know that she’s got a record?’
‘She’s been charged three times over the last three years for soliciting. Sam’s got a record too… drunk and disorderly last September, and GBH two years ago… apparently he got off, because the other poor sod dropped the charges.’
Jenny put the files on Allie and Sam on my desk. They were typical files for people from their area. It was had to imagine that Barbara was Sam’s mother. Jenny voiced my thoughts.
‘Sam’s not like his mum, is he? His father died five years ago under mysterious circumstances. Barbara found his body in the garage. He’d been gassed in his car by the exhaust fumes. The coroner found an open verdict. It caused a scandal in the headlines at the time, as he’d been loosely connected with the underworld and drugs… No evidence of course… Thought you’d find that interesting Boss.’
Good ‘ol Jen! Research work’s your, forte… that’s why I like you as a work partner!
I replied, nodding,
‘Yeah. I remember it now. There were photos of them. She was dressed up … fit to kill.’
‘Yeah, Boss, maybe she did kill him… now someone’s killed her. You know his name was Kenny… They were Kenny and Barbie dolls in real life!’ Jenny couldn’t control herself any longer and burst into laughter. It was infectious. We had a good chuckle before returning to the serious job before us.
‘She hardly looks like a murderer. Besides my predecessor gave her the all clear at the time. The big question is Jen, who would have wanted to kill her? So far we don’t have any real suspects or motive. Sam and Allie could be covering for each other. Damn it! She was old and frail… no harm to anyone…why would anyone kill her? Lets hope we’ll discover something the afternoon at the autopsy.’
The only thing that Doc Sloan’s butcher work did was confirm that Barbara Dean had died of strangulation. He suggested that the bruise marks were either a man’s handiwork or an angry woman’s. Fat lot of help that last comment was to us! We were back to square one with no leads and no suspects.
Back at the office, Jenny and I sipped on coffee, trying to sort out some clues.
‘Well Boss, so far the only possible suspects are Sam and Allie, who’re alibi’s for each other.’
‘Yeah, nice an’ cosy, weren’t they… maybe too cosy… let’s go back and have another chat to ‘em.’
It was dark when we arrived back at Sam’s place.
‘Not you again!’ was the greeting as Sam opened the door. ‘Why don’t ya leave us alone eh? We’ve told you that we was here all night… Waddaya want now?’
Sam was very drunk. His speech was slurred. We followed his swaying figure down the passageway to the kitchen. Allie was sitting at the table. She looked stoned. On the table lay a spoon, a used syringe and a small empty plastic bag. Her eyes were glazed and her bright lipstick was smudged.
‘Hellooo Mr and Mrs Policcccmen. How purrrfectly nice to see you again.’
Sam went to grab the damning evidence on the table. I hit him hard in his fat gut. He squished down, breathless into the nearest chair. He wheezed,
‘Christ Allie, how many times ‘av I told ya to put that stuff away…, now we’re in the pooh!’
I couldn’t have expressed their situation better. Half an hour later, the divisional van had taken them both over to the city station. The drug squad charged them with possession.
Sam Dean’s next door neighbour, Mrs Presto was waiting to see us back at the office. She’d been out shopping when we’d tried to contact her earlier.
‘I hava something important to tella youz’
Jenny got her a strong cup of coffee. We sat and listened. It was our first real break in the case. Sam and Allie had been lying. They had been out most of the night and had returned to their unit around five in the morning. Sam had knocked over the rubbish bin outside Mrs Presto’s unit, waking her. He’d yelled at her when she’d peered at him through the curtains, saying.
‘Go back to bed you ‘ol busy body!’
Mrs Presto said that Sam appeared to be drunk. She signed her statement, then left, with our grateful thanks.
I looked gleefully at Jenny.
‘Barbara had been murdered around four. It takes around thirty minutes to drive between Barbara’s house and her son’s. We now had two possible suspects, but as yet, no motive. Time to see how the drug squad’s interview with Sam’s going eh?’
Sam was sweating like a pig. He wasn’t the confident fat slob we’d first met. Finally, it was my turn to ask the all-important question.
‘Did you go to your mother’s?’
‘Yeah… we went to see her. I needed some more money from her. My allowance for the month had run out. Silly old cow wouldn’t give it to me but. Mum told us to leave.’
‘Did you kill her?’
‘No! … I was bloody angry that she wouldn’t give me my money ... but I didn’t kill her…she’s my maaaa…I couldn’t kill me maaaaaa.’ Sam burst into sobs. He looked like a deflated elephant. Jen and I left the interview room.
I went to the lockup to see Allie. She was sitting, looking glazed. The doctor had stated that she was not in a fit state to be questioned that night. She looked at me and smiled.
‘Where do you get your supplies from Allie?’
‘As if I’d tell you… Find out yourself, Mr Smart Arse Detective! Sam ‘n I went to see Barbie for money.’
‘No … we got nothin’ off her… nothin’
I knew I was bending the law, even by talking to her in the cell. I had to try and break this bitches story … then we could tape it when she could talk ‘legally.’
‘She make you angry, didn’t she?’
‘Yeah, snobby bitch … She’d do anything for Sam usually, but this time she put her foot down … told him to break up with me … told us there’d be no more … She kept waving that bloody doll in my face … she made me so bloody angry that … I … I … shit what have I done!’
With that last remark, she turned over on the bunk in the cell and buried her head in the pillow, crying. I went back to my office. Jenny was typing up her reports. I sat down.
‘She did it Jen… all we need is to get her formal confession in the morning… Our Barbie Doll was killed in anger. Why? Allie could’ve got some money by going back on the street. The old girl was harmless … Or was she? Was there a secret side of Barbie that we don’t know about?’
The Barbie Doll was lying on the desk. Deep in thought I picked it up. Jenny looked up and said,
‘Careful Boss, someone might see you playing with that doll and get the wrong impression!’
‘Yeah! Damn this bloody Doll. I’d hoped that it might help me solve her murder. I thought it might help us find a motive. It’s probably valuable… people collect ‘em. She had hundreds in that collection. They were obviously of value to her.’
In frustration I went to fling the doll onto the desk. Her head fell off into my lap. The top of a plastic bag stuck out of the hole in the headless body. A gut feeling told me, ‘Barbie’ together with the others in the ‘Dolls House’ were worth a bloody fortune. The bag was full of dope!
Wendy Laing © 2000
Site: Wendy Laing
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