A DNA Casualty

Contributor: John Laneri

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I've watched enough television to know that DNA evidence is often found on a murder victim’s hands. With a dead body across the street, it's clear to me that I'll become a prime suspect when the police begin to canvas the neighborhood.

The ironic thing is, I didn't murder the woman. I hardly knew her for God’s sake.

My dilemma started last night when our new neighbors, the Johnson’s, threw a neighborhood party. Jane and I attended along with most of the other people on our street.

We arrived at eight o’clock. The host and hostess were cordial people from the west coast. He was into banking and she… well, I’m not sure about her. But, we did converse briefly before Jane and I headed to the food table.

After about thirty minutes, the party came to life. By then, Jane had wandered away, so I looked around amazed at how quickly the place had become a madhouse of conversations. Everyone seemed to be talking and mingling at once.

Before long, our hostess, a woman named Serena, drifted my way and stopped in front of me.

“Enjoying yourself?” she asked, the green of her eyes sparkling playfully.

“It's a great party.”

“It gets better. We're only getting started.” She eased closer to me, her manicured fingers reaching to touch my shirt. “How’s the punch?”

“I usually don’t go for party punches. Scotch is my drink, but I have to admit it's very smooth.”

My attention remained on the nails. They were the long and tapered, and they appeared to be natural – not the synthetic types commonly seen on many women.

I took another sip of the punch and looked around for Jane. I saw her near the punch bowl engaged in an animated conversation with a group of women. In the back yard, I noticed someone jump into the swimming pool fully clothed. The party was indeed heating up at a rapid pace.

Serena stepped closer, her fingers still touching my shirt. “Have you lived in the neighborhood long?”

“Four to five years,” I replied, as her fingers began to fondle the shirt. Uncertain of her intentions, I touched her hand saying, “You shouldn't do that. People might wonder about us.”

She looked about, her eyes sweeping the room. “No one’s watching. They’re too busy talking. And besides, the punch should begin working in minutes.”

Surprised, I took a step back, my thoughts immediately turning to the possibility of a mass poisoning.

She laughed, her sparkling manner lighting her features. “Relax... the punch is nothing more than brandy, champagne and club soda. It's called a French Seventy-Five. Once it hits, the party explodes into excitement. That's when things really get lively.”

Moving closer, she placed an arm around my shoulder. “Dance with me,” she said,as she began moving slowly in place, her body swaying to the tempo of the music. “Take a few steps and work your hips,” she insisted. “The music is Latin.”

I slipped an arm around her waist and tried to follow her lead. Across the room, I noticed Jane looking wobbly, as if she was having trouble standing.

Returning to Serena, I felt her stumble momentarily before righting herself as if nothing had happened. “Too much punch?” I asked carefully.

“Not enough,” she replied, as she pressed her body against me and whispered, “I would love to get you alone in the pool house.”

Ignoring her, I again looked around the room. The remaining crowd seemed to be thinning out. Several couples were leaving early. And surprisingly, I noticed Jane following them, her hand cupping her mouth.

I returned to Serena, saying. “I need to go.”

“So soon?” she asked, as her fingertips caressed my face. “We’re just getting started.”

“My wife is sick, sorry.”

Seconds later, her eyes flared. Then suddenly, she raked the hand across my face, her fingernails digging deep. “You’re no fun,” she said, as she spun away, her manner causing the people near us to turn and take notice.

Hurrying outside, I found Jane laying in the front yard, retching. I helped her to her feet, listening to her mumble incoherently about the punch. Then, carrying her in my arms, I managed to get her home and put her to bed before another wave of nausea overcame her.

And, that's why I'm worried....

I phoned an attorney about thirty minutes ago. That was shortly before the police wheeled Serena’s body to the street. Now, I repeatedly ask myself the same questions. Who killed her, and why did she choose to hit on me, a graying fifty-year old?

Behind me, I heard Jane drift into the room. “Thank you for putting me to bed. I slept like a baby.” She moved beside me at the window and asked, “Why are the police at the Johnson's house?”

“The woman was murdered last night. I heard on the news that a maid found her in the pool house.”

“That's awful... do they know who did it?”

“The news reports are sketchy. But, I suspect the police plan to question everyone at the party. They're going from house to house now.”

“Then, I need to get dressed,” she said, as she turned to me, her eyes suddenly going wide. “Oh, my God! What happened to your face? It's horrible!”

I knew the scratches would raise questions. And, with my skin cells under Serena's nails, I was soon to become a suspect and very possibly a DNA casualty.

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John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit can be found on the internet and in several print edition periodicals.
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