“But why?” asked Wilma Dexter, looking at her husband who knew a lot of things.
“Why not might be more the answer,” said Howard. “Did any of us really like him? Even Adele?” No one answered. “I, myself, as his partner, gain full control of the business. Adele stands to inherit a tidy sum, I imagine. And she’s earned it, the way he’s treated her.”
“He has my promissory note for $200,000,” offered Phil Pomeroy, looking surprised, even as he spoke, that he was throwing himself in. “A so-called loan between friends, but at a very unfriendly rate of interest. The man was a shark.”
The conversation quickly became a group confessional. Wilma Dexter, giving her husband, then Adele, quick sheepish looks, said quietly: “He put the moves on me more than once. He was fairly disgusting.”
“Oh dear,” said Adele.
“Me too,” said Myrna. “Just this afternoon.”
They all looked at the corpse, as though seeing the totality of his corruption and vileness for the first time — although he didn’t look all that corrupt and vile at the moment with his face twisted into a silly little grin and a tumbler of Scotch in his lap. Then they began to look suspiciously at each other, sizing each other for murderer’s shoes. “Would anyone care to confess?” said Howard. No one volunteered. “I guess we’ll have to call the police.”
“Do we have to?” asked Adele. “They’re… they’re foreigners. They’d be happy to just throw one of us in a stinky jail and be done with it.”
“Or all of us,” added Wilma Dexter.
“Does it really matter who did it?” asked Phil Pomeroy. “I mean, when you really get right down to it, there’s no great loss.” Adele sobbed again, and they all weighed Phil’s words.
“I guess Phil’s right,” said Adele. She shivered. “He was brutish, and I’m well rid of him. It’s just… just so ghoulish to be talking about him this way. And he’s sitting right here.” She looked at her dead husband and suddenly giggled. “Wouldn’t we all be terribly embarrassed if he were just pretending to be dead?” They all studied the body once more just to be certain, and it gradually dawned on each of them that just not telling the police didn’t solve their problem. Their problem was sitting on the couch.
The eventual plan was, of course, Howard’s, and it centered on the theory that if the body were found in a crowded public place, like say the market, with hundreds of people around — but not a certain fivesome — the police, who were probably incompetent anyway, would assume he died of natural causes, especially when they brought the bad news to his wife and friends and learned of his history of a bad heart.
Howard’s idea came under fire, however, as the morning wore on and nobody paid any attention to the dead man on the love seat in the market. What few words were spoken on the terrace during that tense morning were given toward characterization of, first, Howard’s idea, then his know-it-all attitude, and, lastly, his parentage.