BEST SERVED COLD
"You're the guilty one, Mr Renway." Sheryl looked the man in the eye.
"What?" Mr Renway spluttered. "That's preposterous! Why would I do that?"
"Mr Renway didn't die from the neck wound." Sheryl got up from her seat, and walked around the table towards Mr Renway. "So I suppose that doesn't really make you a murderer, but that's a moot point right now, considering that the intention was there."
"Are you saying he survived?" Lawrence stared at his friend like she was insane. "Sheryl, you're a doctor, you know Heston wouldn't have survived a wound like that."
"No, he wouldn't." Sheryl agreed. "But that would only be the case if he was still alive when Mr Renway slit his throat."
"What?!" Lawrence spluttered, his surprise shared by both Roger and Elizabeth.
"Heston Price died, not from the neck wound," Sheryl told the dinner party guests gravely, "but from a heart attack. Or more specifically, the deprivation of his dose of heart medicine."
"Rubbish!" Mr Renway argued. "Where's your evidence?"
"Let's think about this." Sheryl had reached Mr Renway by now. "Heston Price was an overweight man. Given his wealthy status, he would rarely have to do any physical work. And we know that he probably detests work of any kind. Isn't that right, Miss Reeci?"
Elizabeth started at the mention of her name.
"He stole your novel and passed it off as his own, isn't that right?"
Elizabeth nodded slowly.
"But I digress." Sheryl returned her attention to Mr Renway. "When I examined Heston Price's corpse, I found a large amount of sweat, and also a puddle of vomit – no doubt from the nausea, and both are which symptoms associated with heart attacks."
"So?" Roger piped up. "So Heston had heart troubles. What makes you so sure that his medicine was taken away?"
"Because there wasn't a medicine bottle anywhere in his room." Sheryl explained. "I searched his bedside table and his shelves, and he doesn't have a bathroom. There wasn't a bottle in sight."
"But what makes you think I took it?" Mr Renway protested. "Everyone here has a motive!"
"Because you are the only person that would possibly know." Sheryl answered. "Heston himself stated that he hasn't seen Mr Nelson, Miss Reeci and Lawrence in ten years. He failed to mention your name."
"But he must have forgotten." Mr Renway argued.
"I think not, Paul." Elizabeth put in quietly. "He did have the best memory out of all of us."
"Thank you, Miss Reeci." Sheryl nodded at the other woman, and looked back at Mr Renway. "Lawrence told me that you, Mr Price and himself were close friends, and shared everything. Considering that you stayed in contact with Mr Price, it wouldn't be too surprising that you knew about his condition."
"You still don't have evidence." Mr Renway's protest sounded weaker than before.
"In your jacket pocket," Sheryl continued calmly, "you have a bottle of pills."
"What makes you say that?" Lawrence asked curiously. "When did you see it?"
"When I asked everyone for tissues, I saw it inside his jacket pocket. A bottle of…heart medicine, if I'm not mistaken." Sheryl looked at Mr Renway. "Am I right?"
Mr Renway bit his lip, then finally opened up his jacket, and pulled the bottle out. "So what if I do? I am entitled to carry my own medicine, aren't I?"
"You would be," Sheryl's tone was deceptively light, "if you had a heart condition."
Sure enough, the bottle was of heart medicine pills, and everyone was suddenly aware of the glaring fact that Mr Renway was perfectly healthy.
"Furthermore," Sheryl wrapped a dry napkin around the bottle, "if I checked it for fingerprints, I am certain that I will find both yours and Heston Price's on there. Do you confess to the murder, Mr Renway?"
Mr Renway stood up abruptly, walking over to the window, and stared outside, refusing to look at the other guests.
"Do you confess to the crime, Mister Renway?" Sheryl pressed.
"I- I-" Mr Renway stammered, "I- I confess! Fine! I did it! I killed Heston!"
"Paul?" Roger looked at Mr Renway in shock. "Why?"
"It was because of Elise, wasn't it?" Elizabeth said quietly.
Mrs Renway. Lawrence mouthed at Sheryl in explanation.
"Yes, it was." The guilty man looked beaten down as he turned around. "Heston was always a thief. He stole Elizabeth's novel. He stole my wife's film manuscript, and set it under a new name. That manuscript was Elise's pride and joy…and when Heston took it and made it his own, it broke her."
"The blockbuster film." Sheryl realised. "That was your wife's."
"But what about the butter knife?" Elizabeth spoke up.
"I was going to use it to kill Heston originally," the murderer admitted, "but when I happened across his medication…"
"Another idea occurred to you." Sheryl finished.
"Yes," Mr Renway nodded, "I wanted to make him suffer, take away the thing that kept him alive, like he took Elise away from me. I wanted to watch him die. But he died too quickly, and…" Mr Renway closed his eyes, and swallowed, "…I was angry. So angry that he wasn't in enough pain. That he didn't suffer enough. And so…"
"You used the butter knife." Roger looked sick. "And so, you used the butter knife."
"Yes, the butter knife." Mr Renway confessed. "I attacked him with it… and well, you've all seen the end result."
"Where is it now?" Elizabeth finally gathered her courage to ask.
"Mr Renway must have disposed of it." Sheryl shrugged. "Probably while he was checking the bridge."
"Not quite, Doctor Barker." Mr Renway slid the weapon out of his sleeve. He gave her a sad smile even as shock and realisation appeared across the doctor's face.
"No, don't!" Sheryl started forward, but it was too late.
"Wow." The sheriff whistled. "One homicide and a suicide. What a night, eh, Miss Barker?"
"It's Doctor Barker," Sheryl replied stiffly, "and if that is all you needed, good day to you, sheriff."
"Yep, that's all." The sheriff seemed oblivious to her bad mood as he flipped through his notebook of statements from the witnesses.
"Guy's right, though," Lawrence admitted as the two drove away from the mansion and across the now clear bridge, "can't say I ever expected for the reunion to go that way…"
Silence answered him.
"I'm not a detective." The woman replied finally. "I'm just a doctor. I'm not supposed to be using my expertise in this way."
"Oh, Sheryl…" Lawrence spared a glance at his friend in sympathy, "…do you want to talk about it?" he offered, knowing what was on the doctor's mind.
Sheryl Barker looked at the blood red sunrise, and watched as the mansion started disappearing around the bend in the road. After a moment, she answered "No, Lawrence…"
The mansion was now in the process of being swallowed by the trees.
Then, it was gone.
"…I'll be fine."