Murder Limit

The sirens blared, and Frank could feel the strength draining out of his arms.  “Unbelievable,” he muttered, setting the axe down next to the body of his former coworker.  He tried to kick the severed arm back into place, hoping the officer wouldn’t notice if he took no more than a passing glance at the scene.  It wasn’t working; the protruding thumb was preventing it from rolling.  With a scowl, he abandoned the attempt, instead trying to look as nonchalant as possible as the officer approached.

“How can I help you today, officer?” Frank said, trying to keep the panic out of his voice.

“Well, it looks to me like we’ve got a murder in progress,” he said, pulling out a pencil and a pad of paper from his breast pocket.

“What?  No…” Frank said, kicking the dirt with his boot.  He tried to avert his gaze, lest the officer see the worry in his eyes.  Even that proved too suspicious, however.

“Sir, are you aware that the posted murder limit is third degree in this area?  There are a lot of concealed ditches and vast patches of loose topsoil.  This would be a high-frequency murdering area if we didn’t keep it heavily patrolled.”

Frank feigned confusion, and then surprise.  “You think I… oh, no, officer, this is just manslaughter!,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck.  “I mean, I was just driving along,” here he gestured back to his car for emphasis, “when suddenly this guy… well, he came out of nowhere, you know?  I mean, it’s unfortunate, but these things happen.”

“And I suppose he just happened to fly fifteen feet sideways, perpendicular from the road, when you hit him?” the officer asked, glancing down at the axe, and then back to Frank.

“I, okay, yes…” he said, shoving his hands into his pockets.  A nervous rubbing of hands would prevent him from selling the lie, reasoned Frank.  “But, officer, he was already dead when I dragged him over here.  I figured I’d cut the body down to a more manageable number of pieces.  I mean… bodies are heavy.  It’s just… I figured it was the least I could do.  I’m trying to do my civic duty, here.”

“Sir, it is never a good idea to disturb a crime scene,” said the officer.  “I appreciate the idea, but the fine men and women of the Animal Control Unit have the proper tools and equipment to dispose of the body.  Your axe is just not going to cut it.  You’ve just created unneeded suspicion against yourself.  Now we’re going to need to bring out a coroner to determine if the cause of death came from blunt impact, or from the axe wounds on his chest.”

“Aah, come on,” Frank said.  “That was just when my hand slipped.  It’s… it’s really hard to aim an axe, you know.”

“I’m sure it is,” the officer said, closing his notepad and slipping it back into place.  “All the same, we’re going to need to hold an investigation, here.  So if I can just get your license and registration, then you can be on your way.”

“Come on, officer,” Frank said.  “It was just manslaughter.  You really don’t need to go through all of this.”

“License and registration, please,” repeated the officer.

“Officer, I’m in a bit of a hurry, here,” Frank said, handing over his driver’s license.  “Look, I didn’t do anything wrong here.  Surely there must be something I can do to convince you of this?” Frank asked.  The officer’s face remained unmoved.  “I’m telling you, I didn’t kill Alvin!” he added.

“Sir, did you just name the victim?” asked the officer.  He placed Frank’s license into his pocket, and then began to pat down the corpse, looking for some form of identification.  Frank winced, kicking himself for blurting out something so dumb.

“Yeah, fine,” Frank said, pulling a wallet out of his back pocket.  “But I only knew who he was because I took his wallet.  But I’m telling you, I only took it because he was already dead.  If I was going to kill Alvin for…” he paused, biting his tongue.  What was his problem today?

“Sir, I recommend you exercise your right to remain silent,” the officer said.  “Regardless, it doesn’t matter why you scavenged that off of the body.  Intent to claim other’s property for your own makes this a second degree murder.  We don’t even need an official report to determine whether or not this was premeditated.  Wait here while I go and do some paperwork.”

Frank groaned.  Once the officer had retreated back to his patrol car, Frank lashed out in anger, kicking Alvin’s corpse in frustration.  He grimaced; blood from the gashes seeped into his tennis shoe.  Now his socks were wet and squishy, on top of everything else.  Could this day get any worse?

“Alright, sir,” the officer said, coming back over.  “Here’s your license back.  This is a citation for committing second degree murder in a third degree murder limit zone.  That’s a fine of ninety dollars.  This part here is the court fee of sixty five dollars, and your court date is in three weeks.  If you wish to plead guilty in advance, you can pay the full amount online, or mail in payment at this address listed here.  Sign here to acknowledge that you understand.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Frank said, letting out an exasperated sigh as he signed off on the citation.

“Thank you,” the officer said, taking back his pen.  “The pink copy’s yours.  We’ll have Animal Control finish cleaning up the scene, so you’re free to go.  Now, you be sure and murder safely out there, okay?”

Frank made no reply, fuming silently to himself as the officer drove away.  Of all of the days for him to get caught, why did it have to be today?  Another twenty minutes and he probably could’ve gotten away with it.  One hundred fifty five dollars.  “Ridiculous,” he yelled, kicking the front wheel of his car.  Who has that kind of money lying around?  As if no one else around here premeditates murder.  Heck, once you hit the midnight rush hour, there’s so many people ignoring the murder limit that the police could never be able to write a citation for each offender.

Frank buried his head into the steering wheel.  “Well, at least I didn’t get a speeding ticket.”

Neil Siemers grew up in Derby, Kansas, a comparatively small town south of Wichita. He moved to Lawrence to attend the University of Kansas, and hasn't left since. Neil likes to pretend that he is a big shot full time writer, although it's probably closer to a hobby. Either way, it's funded by a full-time job in the insurance industry, where he happily works as a cog in the machine for The Man so that bills can be paid.

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