Five-Minute Mystery: "Special Thanks to My Mentors" by Mary Jane Maffini
In the first instalment of our Five-Minute Mysteries, a grisly glimpse into the corporate ladder—and the powers of lemon meringue pie—from Mary Jane Maffini.
Who knew death could be so delicious? Platters heaped with brownies, pies and creamy cheeses cover the conference table of Dundrogan Investments offering comfort to shocked staff, many still with tears streaking cheeks. Everyone whispers over the loss of beauty and power, not to mention broken bones and all that blood.
It’s hard to believe it’s only been two days since I saw Miranda smiling falsely with more teeth than a decent person should have. If only I could have dropped through the floor into a convenient sewer, but I was trapped on the wide marble staircase leading to the corporate offices. Miranda advanced, her pricey highlights gleaming. My knees wobbled. I was conditioned, a rabbit caught in the gaze of a fox.
I knew her schedule perfectly. Why couldn’t I avoid her?
She pointed a blood-red fingernail at my midsection, wordlessly insinuating I’d packed on the pounds.
Resistance was futile. After all, Miranda was sleeping with the CEO.
She called back over her shoulder, leaving a trail of Le Parfum and instructing me to try and resist lemon meringue pie.
There was always an audience. Two of my co-workers smirked nearby, happy to remind me the next time I reached for a slice of pie. When it comes to loyalty, the fox trumps the rabbit.
As usual, they’d tell me I was lucky Miranda gave me the time of day and that I should take her advice.
You see, I was a born victim, conditioned not to retaliate. And Miranda was not my only tormentor.
She was matched by Stacey, iron queen of HR. Conjure up the devil and listen for the sharp click of Stacey’s stilettos. Stacey pointed to me in exaggerated horror. “You look like you’re coming down with something dreadful.”
Nicely played, Stacey, I thought. Now my colleagues would recoil from me for days while reminding me that Stacey could make or break a career and, worse, that I should learn from her too.
Was there something to be said for that? The two queen bees may have loathed each other, but why shouldn’t I embrace both Stacey and Miranda as mentors? I’d learn their ways, especially when it came to twisting the truth. I decided to hatch a new career plan. Of course, if it failed, I’d be toast.
Meanwhile as with all plans, timing was everything.
Miranda’s smile had the warmth of a frozen halibut when we met in the foyer and I mentioned that Stacey had just been speaking of her.
I managed to look both guilty and evasive. Her smile sent chills until I blurted, “She said that you look like you’re coming down with something dreadful’.
I scurried up the stairs and found Stacey exactly where and when she should be. “Oh! Miranda was mentioning you and—”
Stacey’s eyes narrowed. “What did she say?”
I quivered, wide-eyed then stammered out, “That you should try and resist lemon meringue pie.”
I dared not glance toward the wide marble staircase as Miranda ascended to the CEO’s office right on schedule, passing Stacey returning from her 2 o’clock with Corporate. I saw the toss of Miranda’s head, the subtle but vicious pushback from Stacey, the retaliatory shove against the well-tailored arm, the tug of highlighted hair, then the slow-motion struggle for balance and the glorious long tumble from stair to stair, the screams of co-workers. I stared down at the tangle of limbs on the marble floor. Miranda’s neck was bent at a bizarre angle. What a relief when Stacey’s high-pitched shriek finally ended.
All in all, it was so much better than I could ever have hoped.
The buzz about the tragic accidental fall continues. Food and commiseration are endless. I shake my head in shared shock with colleagues and agree, “Miranda and Stacey were such unbelievable mentors. Dundrogan Investments will never be the same. Lemon meringue pie, anyone?”
Mary Jane Maffini is the author of three mystery series and nearly two dozen short stories. Her short fiction has been published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Chatelaine, and Storyteller among other publications. She holds two Arthur Ellis awards for short stories and has been anthologized in World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories and The Penguin Book of Crime Stories. Mary Jane is also a member of the Ladies' Killing Circle, though she has never actually killed anyone.