The first victim was Chester Goodwin, the owner of a local car dealership who was most famous for his over-the-top commercials that ran on channel 4 at midnight. “If you don’t know Goodwin, you don’t know (bleep)!,” they used to say. The ads were quite racy for a small town like ours.
No one thought much when Chester was found murdered. Don’t get me wrong – people were sad, but some thought he had it coming. Chester was well-known as the “Lemon Guy”, someone who regularly sold Pontiacs that petered out and Volvos that were no-gos. It wasn’t a far stretch to think he’d finally picked the wrong sucker.
Then Mrs. Armillo was killed and the town had a collective heart attack. She ran a flower shop on Main Street and everyone knew of her habit of capturing the mosquitoes and wasps that had trespassed into her store and freeing them in the alley outside. She was a woman who, literally, would not hurt a fly and no one had any idea who would want to hurt her.
Mrs. Armillo was the hottest topic of conversation, as businessmen took to the tavern discussing what happened over sips of Miller Lite and handfuls of salty pretzels. Women whispered quietly among themselves as they jumped around the aerobics studio, out of breath and out of answers.
Fred Fimple, a thirty-three-year-old accountant living in the center of town, came next. His murderer happened in broad daylight – he was seen leaving Henry’s Cafe at noon and discovered dead by his girlfriend that evening. She dropped the takeout she was carrying the second she saw him, contaminating the scene with moo shu pork.
The fourth victim was Anders Johnson, a landscaper who loved to sit on his porch and yell at the neighborhood kids whenever they set foot on his lawn. The killer took great care to respect this, ending Ander’s life but making sure not to stomp on his rose bushes or traipse over the tulips. It was like no one had been there at all.
I knew each of the victims, which I guess made me a suspect. But it was a small town where everyone knew everyone. And that made all of us guilty.