Your Money Or Your Wife

By: Helmut Luchs

I don’t regret what happened. As they say, everyone does it — I just got caught. It was about a month ago. I was watching an old Fred MacMurray film on Turner Classic Movies called Double Indemnity. It’s about an insurance man who falls for a dame in a big way. They murder her husband to collect on his policy, but an insurance investigator smells a rotten egg that leads him straight to their little love nest. Do you like yours fried or scrambled? The basic idea was good, I thought; the trouble was, there were two of them. I decided I would try something similar, but without the dame. I immediately began to draw up plans. Nothing would be left to chance.

When my wife walked through the front door that night I acted as if everything were normal, as if our life together could go on for an eternity, never faltering, never changing, never drifting from its destined dreary course; and then, quite suddenly I chopped off her head with an ax. I had meant to wait until she sat down. Until she was reading comfortably in her favorite chair. She often complained that I was in her reading light, and I thought it would be fun (or at least appropriate) to hear her say one last time as I stood behind her, ax raised overhead, “Honey, you’re in my light again.” But somehow (and you’d know how if you knew her), when she came through that door I had what the amateur psychologist might call an insane compulsion to kill her. Not a bad guess. The professional, however, would’ve recognized it as merely the dog in me which instinctively desires to see an old thing buried. Preferably six feet underground with a marker to remind what and where it is.

After I was quite sure she was dead (which was doubtful at first since her head rolled around on the living room floor for several minutes, biting at table legs and pausing now and then to throw a hideous glance my way), I quickly removed all the eye shadow and hair clips from her purse to create the impression she’d been robbed. Then I called the police. I told them my wife had been horribly murdered. The Captain asked if I might be “exaggerating just a wee bit.” I admitted it was possible but insisted she had been badly murdered at the very least, and furthermore, whether it had been good, bad or indifferent the result was fatal, and they should skip over here immediately. The Captain threatened to hang up on me at the first sign of another ill-tempered outburst. After a mild debate he agreed he would come out the next day a little after lunch to check the body, but he warned me there would have to be someone home to answer the door. I promised to stick around.

It was only after I had hung up and settled myself in a comfortable chair to gloat over my accomplishments that I realized neither my wife nor I had insurance of any kind. My dreams of incredible wealth were fading before my eyes. My ship had at last come in, but it had hit the dock and was sinking fast. How could so much go wrong when I had been so careful?

I had to think fast. I called the police again. “Hello,” I said. “I’m the man who just murdered his wife. I mean, the man whose wife was just murdered. What I really mean is, she’s not actually dead at all. She’s simply suffering from extremely poor posture.” I finally convinced them everything was all right by agreeing to buy two tickets to the policeman’s ball.

It was late now and nothing more could be done tonight. Tomorrow I would go down to the insurance office and fill out their best policy in person, and then take it home and forge my wife’s signature. But the next day was Christmas and everything was closed. So I watched the parade, then went home to open my presents. Damn! More neckties, and after all the trouble I had gone through to buy her perfume and a new frying pan. If I hadn’t killed her last night, I would’ve used one of those ties on her today. I was happy I had killed her. For once in my life I was doing something for me.

The next day I picked up the policy. After experimenting a while, I realized it would take an expert’s hand to forge my wife’s name. I decided on the little neighbor boy. He had once forged my name on an ugly letter that had somehow ended up in the hands of the President of the United States and put me in bad with most of Washington.

I took the policy next door but the kid was busy watching TV. He finally signed it during a commercial break. The little bugger was good, real good. I slapped a five-dollar bill in his hand and closed it tight. “Listen,” I said, “you ain’t never seen me here, see?” He grinned and closed his eyes. “No, I don’t see,” he said. I gave him a slap in the face that sent him sprawling. I don’t like smart aleck kids.

Returning home I discovered there was quite a collection of policemen around my house. Most of them were playing on the swing set in the back yard, but a couple were removing my wife’s body on a stretcher. I was about to run but it was too late, I’d been spotted. One of the officers was calling me over to the swing set to balance off the seesaw, which had four on one side and only three on the other. Another cop who had been sniffing around for clues approached me and announced that I was under arrest for the murder of my wife. “How can you prove it was me?” I demanded. “As the saying goes,” he replied, “a criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.” “But I live here,” I said. “I’m sorry, sir, but the saying makes no provisions or exclusions for those living at the scene of a crime.” “That will never hold up,” I said, “not even in a court of law.”

But I was wrong. At the trial it seemed things were hopelessly against me, but then came a new piece of evidence. It was a letter the police had received in the mail, signed by me and claiming responsibility for the murder of my wife, as well as confessing it was I who had stolen the athletic equipment from Lincoln Elementary School last spring. All the experts agreed it was definitely my signature. I looked at it and it was, but I had never written any such letter. Then they brought out the insurance policy. The experts all agreed it was positively nothing but a cheap forgery of my wife’s name. In fact, one of them pointed out, it was so bad a child could do better. In the audience of the courtroom I spotted the little neighbor boy eyeing me with an impish grin as if he were watching an insect squirming near a hot match.

The jury deliberated for 14 hours. There was one sweet old man who insisted that someone of my apparent intelligence were going to kill his wife, he would have done it years ago. In the end, however, the jury found me guilty and the judge sentenced me to death.

I guess it’s what I deserve for watching a movie that stars Fred MacMurray. Now it’s just one hour before the State of Illinois is to execute me by means of lethal injection.

I only hope it’s good stuff.


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