Angela Porter stood at the kitchen counter and counted the steak knives a second time. Just as she had the first time she counted, she came up one short. Everything had to be perfect for that evening’s dinner party, and perfection could not be achieved if the number of knives did not match the number of guests.
She counted again.
The number of knives did not change.
After taking a deep breath, Angela checked the inside of the dishwasher and examined the contents of every kitchen drawer.
She failed to find the missing steak knife, so she did it all again.
She sat at her kitchen table and contemplated her options. She had two. One involved driving across town to the Bed Bath & Beyond. The other involved a walk down the street to Ethel Stein’s home.
She walked down the street. After Angela rang the bell and was invited inside, Ethel offered her a cup of coffee. Angela followed her into the kitchen, where she knocked her neighbor to the floor, grabbed the back of her head, and smashed her face against the linoleum.
Ethel was still breathing, so she smashed her neighbor’s face against the linoleum again.
When Angela returned home, she removed one place setting from the dining room table and arranged the steak knives appropriately.
Michael Bracken is the author of several books, including the private eye novel All White Girls, and more than 1,200 short stories. His crime fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Best American Mystery Stories, The Best Mystery Stories of the Year, Pulp Modern, and many other publications. A recipient of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement, Bracken has won two Derringer Awards and been shortlisted for two others. Additionally, Bracken is editor of Black Cat Mystery Magazine and has edited several anthologies, including the Anthony Award-nominated The Eyes of Texas.
Wow. Great powerful story in a tiny package.