MYSTERY

Vial of Anguish

Short Story
ESTIMATE 6-MINUTE READ

EPISODE 1 – DEATH ON THE VIAL

A brother’s concern tortures his mind and nearly rips a family apart, as he seeks to resolve inward groaning over his sibling’s suspicious demise.

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Doubting The Obvious

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If truth be told, the secret isn’t what killed her—the meds did—those questionable medications. But they’re only questionable from Thomas’ candid perspective of strange events. For Thomas, all he has to do is get others to see it: the family, the cops, perhaps, Sheryl herself—except that’s literally unachievable given she’s been victimized—now, in effect, taking a vile residence six feet down in the grave.

‘They should see it,’ Thomas ponders amid pulling his legs under the thick, Egyptian cotton covers, ‘If for nothing at all, to make evidently clear the fine line between truth and fiction.’

It’s chilly and the wind is damp, having snowed all through the prior evening.

He’d been returning from visiting Sheryl’s grave when the snow hit, and even now with him buried beneath the sheets, he can still feel the cold, the snow seducing his tanned skin.

Pulling the covers up his face, eighty-seven-year-old Grandma waltzes into the room and pulls the blinds open. Thomas frowns at the mass daylight now flooding his room. He rises to a sitting position and sighs, his keen displeasure quickly registering on Grandma.

“You promised to stop barging in Gran. You—”

“And I also promised I’d help you find answers. It’s past noon, kid. Come down for lunch. Too much sleep isn’t as healthy as you might think.”

Thomas growls and stares the old woman in the face. “Thirty-year-old-kid? Funny. What have you found out?” Thomas asks.

She’d promised to speak again with the detective. Gran sits on the bed and shoots out a hand to Thomas’ leg, softly caressing it.

“I know what you want to hear, poor boy, but I can’t give you that. I can only give you the truth, which is that Sheryl died of natural—”

“I’m just going to have to stop you there, Gran,” Thomas says flatly, stepping off the bed and hurriedly pacing toward his closet where he pulls a robe on.

“What’s natural about Sheryl taking her usual shot of insulin, in that exact same dose, and then falling dead moments later? Did you—tell me the truth, Gran. You didn’t do any asking, did you?”

“I did. I’d never lie to you.”

Thomas’ face now bears a lonely grimace, nearing clear anger and frustration. “Somehow, I find that hard to believe. Why am I the only one caring that someone may have murdered Sheryl? My sister! Your only granddaughter! I—”

Gnawing Intuition

“We all love Sheryl,” snaps Gran, “and I know you care so much for her. You’re her twin, but trust me, this twin-tuition thing you keep on hanging on to isn’t helping.

“There’s no proof of anything foul, and frankly, we all just wanna move on from this. It’s been six months, six good months, and all you keep doing by this quest is bruising us whenever we make any progress with healing.”

Thomas can’t believe his ears. “I’m the problem?” With his words getting caught in his throat, he stands there motionless for a while, then says, “It’s fine, Gran.”

It is totally not fine, and he knows it. But dismissing the dialogue sends him nuts—knowing this isn’t just some intuition he harbors, but a strong gut feeling that something is wrong. For the entire family, including dear mother, to brush this off is sickening.

But Thomas knows for a fact something’s amiss. Autopsy revealed Sheryl died of kidney failure and a sudden cardiac arrest. Reasonable? Yeah. But not for Thomas, because days before her death, Sheryl had told him of something sinister she’d witnessed—something she shouldn’t have seen.

Sibling Distress

Having not been able to discuss details of this secret, she’d died with it. What if, Thomas thought, what if whoever Sheryl had witnessed in whatever activity had plotted to hurt her?

Sheryl clearly had been afraid, very much afraid. Is it thus, far-fetched that he’d fear her life might have been in danger?

Thomas begins to spend time in Sheryl’s room, rummaging through her belongings and diaries, trying to find something that’d lead him to some good answers. He reads through her diaries, text messages, and browser history. But—nothing. Absolutely nothing suspicious. Sighting Sheryl’s bag of insulin shots on her study table, he sheds a tear. Sheryl. None of this makes any sense.

Injecting Questions

Thomas rises to leave the room. To clear his head again, he walks to the garage where he’s set up a small gym. Half an hour into his workout is when it hits him hard—the syringe! Sheryl’s last insulin shot. It was never found by the police.

‘What if what Sheryl administered into her system wasn’t the insulin she thought it was, but something else—something lethal? Wait, no,’ Thomas thinks, ‘Traces of it would have been found in her system—.

‘Unless the chemical is designed to not leave any traces after some time following ingestion.’

His blood churns as he exits the garage and heads up to his room. Thinking critically. If he’s to find the syringe, forensics could get it tested. He searches for hours. Nothing. Arriving at the thought that the only way the syringe would be missing moments after Sheryl’s use of it and subsequent death is if someone deliberately got rid of it.

Thomas is consumed with fear. Because that would mean someone living in the home with them did that. And highly likely, that person killed Sheryl because they were scared she would expose some dirty secret of theirs.

Who? Who killed Sheryl? What is the secret that justified her death?

Continued

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