Bodies in the Basement

Bodies in the Basement

A Story by Ross Brooks

My first attempt at a murder mystery? Who ever said they were the best?


Ross Brooks

Bodies in the Basement


Todd Ried sat at his desk in a miserable mood. Today was collection day, and he had been dreading it all month. He ran a fairly stable apartment complex, but almost all of his tenants were real penny pinchers, and Todd had to practically wrestle the money out of their pockets. Just last month, Dr. Green attempted to haggle the rent down - a completely absurd idea, of course - but one that quickly gained popularity with a few of the other tenants. Todd had to threaten eviction with one young hooligan, who would not open his door unless Todd admitted that he had included unjust fees in his rent. Slowly, with much reluctance, Todd stood up, and trudged out of his office to begin his rounds.

            He started on the third and highest floor, making Thomas Green his first endeavor. Dr. Green never told anyone what his seemingly apocryphal degree was in, but he made long efforts to ensure that everyone knew he was in fact, a doctor of some sort. Throwing big words around like a child throwing rocks on a playground, and simply assuming that he possessed more intelligence than everybody else. Todd wasn’t worried about Dr. Green not paying his rent, he always did, but always after delivering a long lecture on the situation of the current economy, and how it related to the obnoxiously high prices that Todd seemed to pile on the poor people of his apartment building.

            In reality, Todd was very aware that his prices were extremely reasonable, and that most other buildings charged much more than he did. The elevator dinged as it came to a halt on the third floor, and Todd made his way to Dr. Green’s door.

            Before he could knock, he noticed the door was slightly ajar. Cautiously, Todd pushed open the door, causing a teeth gritting creak. “Mr. Green? Are you here?” He called softly.

            “That’s Dr. Green to you, sir,” said a deep voice from behind a folding screen. “And I’m changing, so if you don’t mind, you can kindly shove off, whoever you are.”

            “It’s Mr. Ried, the landlord,” replied Todd with annoyance. “And I’ll have you know it’s collection day, I hope you haven’t forgotten.”

            “What, ho? Ah yes, Mr. Ried. I was going to bring my check down to you earlier, but I became thoroughly stumped on what apparel I should wear today.”

            “What’s the occasion?”

            “That fellow who dwells in the basement, Mr. Smith, has invited me to tea. Apparently, he has read some of my work, and dearly wishes to discuss it with me in person.” A deep chuckle resonated from behind the folding screen. “Finally, somebody who appreciates my hard work. The check is on the kitchen table, by the way. Good day to you, Mr. Ried.” Todd found the check, and left as quickly as he could, shutting the door behind him.

That was odd. No lecture today. Todd didn't think too much about it, because he couldn't care less about Dr. Green’s silly preaching. Todd went to the next unit, and collected the young hooligan’s check with no trouble, then walked briskly back to the elevator, his mood having been slightly elevated.

            On the second floor, there was only one tenant, but she was rather loquacious, and Todd could never seem to get away once she started talking. Ms. Croke ranted endlessly, and had in her repertoire an equally endless list of gossip and unimportant trifles. Todd’s wife, Barbara, seemed to get along with her just fine, so as much as Todd resented the woman, he was forced to keep her around.

            He got to the door, and was about to knock, when his cell phone started buzzing in his pocket. Grumbling quietly to himself, Todd wrestled the phone from his trousers, and answered. “Hullo, Todd Ried Speaking.”

            Nancy Croke’s squeaky voice drilled painfully into his ear. “Ah yes, Mr. Ried! So good I caught you when I did. I left my check in your drop box this morning.” the voice became muffled, and Todd could hear Ms. Croke firing off a long comment, followed by a roomful of laughter. “Anyways, I came down early to join Mr. Smith for tea, which is why I’m not in my unit. But of course, I guess you can already assume that.” Her cackling laughter rang through the phone. “This Mr. Smith is so compelling. But he’s got this smell. I can’t place it. I suppose it’s because he’s foreign. Anyways, I have to go; the party is getting impatient with me.” Again she cackled and snorted. “I’ll see you around, and we can catch up, okay? Bu-bye now.” Her voice was suddenly cut off, and Todd was left staring dumbly at Ms. Croke’s door, trying to process the astronomical pile of random information he just received.

            Who did this Mr. Smith think he was, anyhow? He had moved into the basement unit about a month ago, and now that Todd thought about it, he had really only got a good look at the bloke once or twice. The most he remembered about him was that he was erudite, and carried a funny smell that Todd could never place. But the man led a quiet, surreptitious life, and paid his rent on time, so Todd never gave him much thought.

A touch of jealousy slipped into his mind. Why did all of these inferior oafs receive an invite to tea, but a well deserving landlord did not? The notion was inexcusable! Todd stomped down the steps that led to the basement, and banged hard on Mr. Smith’s door. “Mr. Smith! Your rent is due!” He cried harshly.

            All was silent on the other side of the door, which infuriated the already bitter landlord. He was distracted from his impassioned state by a slight shuffle at the base of the door. Looking down, Todd saw that a plain white envelope with “RENT” written neatly on the front had been slid through the space between the floor and the door. Bending down and opening it, Todd saw a wad of notes stuffed hastily inside, more than enough to cover this month, and the next two payments after it.

            Sighing heavily, his anger slightly abated, Todd headed back up the stairs to the first floor. It was almost noon, and Barbara would be making lunch. He went straight into his unit, and called for her. “Barbara, it’s almost noon. Did you put any tea on?” Silence answered back. What in the blazes was that woman doing? He thought. He rounded a corner and entered the kitchen. The tea pot was cold and empty, and the usual smell of biscuits baking was gone from the air. There was a note lying on the counter, and as Todd went to retrieve it, he saw Barbara’s neat handwriting scribbled upon it.

Mr. Smith invited me to tea

There is a turkey sandwich in the cooler

Will be back later


            Todd’s face began to turn red and his hands slowly tore the note into pieces. Filled with rage, he stormed out of his unit and headed back to the basement, murder in his eyes. What business could that woman have with him? He thought. What terribly ribald activities were they performing even now? Todd hastened to Mr. Smith’s door, and plowed his fist repeatedly into the hard wood. “Mr. Smith! Barbara!” He cried. Again there was no noise on the other side of the door, only that strange smell.

            Fumbling in his pocket, he found his set of master keys, and slid one of them into the lock. He charged through the door, breaking the door fastener clean off. As he entered the room, the strange smell grew ever stronger, burning his nostrils.

            On the far end of the room, the slouched figures of Dr. Green, Ms. Croke, Barbara and Mr. Smith were huddled around a small table, cold tea in their hands. “Ah! Mr. Ried, so good of you to join us.” Dr. Green said cheerily. Dr. Green’s lips never moved, and his head never turned. In fact, Dr. Green’s voice had come from behind Todd.

            Before he could turn around, a sharp pain shot through his skull, and he fell to the floor in a daze. With difficultly, he managed to roll over to his back, and saw an almost identical Mr. Smith standing over him, a wooden sap in his hand.

            “Good afternoon, Mr. Ried,” said Mr. Smith’s voice, coolly. The look of complete confusion on Todd’s face seemed to invigorate the not-Mr. Smith, and he let out an annoying cackle and snort, signature only to Ms. Croke. “I must commend your lovely wife,” said Barbara’s voice, “She has such neat handwriting.” Not-Mr. Smith pulled out a note and dropped it onto Todd’s chest. He didn’t have to read it to know it was the exact note he had ripped to pieces not minutes before.

            Todd tried to move, to squirm away from this vile creature. But he was still woozy from his blow to the head, and his legs would not respond to his commands. Helplessly, Todd watched as the not-Mr. Smith threw the wooden sap aside, and pulled a gleaming knife from his pocket. “Welcome to my tea party, Mr. Ried,” cooed an alien voice. And as the not-Mr. Smith bore down on him, the strange smell permeated his senses, and it became clear. The smell was death.

© 2013 Ross Brooks

Author's Note

Ross Brooks
It was only proofread twice, so I would appreciate any polishes. (but don't pick it to pieces, because that would make me sad...)
Also, It's meant to be spoken in a sort of English accent, because I enjoy writing dialogue that way.

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This is pretty good. I sawno errors. It's hard to write an English accent; you have to use english terms. You did good with "tea".

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Added on January 14, 2013
Last Updated on January 14, 2013
Tags: Murder, Mystery, Bodies, Basement, Ducks, Whales


Ross Brooks
Ross Brooks

Flint, MI

I write things. more..

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