By: Terri Talley Venters
Caroline Kirby descended the magnificent staircase of her estate on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida. Her coral-pink Chanel dress would certainly turn heads at the club this afternoon. Her long slender legs walked gracefully in her Armani heels.
She knew she’d miss her beautiful home after today’s accident, but she saw no other choice. At forty, she wasn’t getting any younger. And Jasper grew suspicious of her extra yoga classes with her hot personal trainer. Caroline knew she couldn’t hide the affair forever, nor could she end her lazy afternoons with her twenty-eight year-old boy toy.
She looked around her luxurious surroundings one last time and regretted her designer wardrobe she’d left behind upstairs. But everyone would grow suspicious if she moved all of her clothes out of her and Jasper’s Florida home shortly before it went up in flames. At least she’d shipped her favorites to their palatial summer home in California in preparation of their annual trip to the west coast.
“Good morning, Mrs. Kirby,” the housekeeper said as Caroline entered the grand foyer of the mansion.
“Good morning, Renee. I’ll be at Epping for a luncheon this afternoon, but I’ll see to my husband before I go. He’ll probably sleep after he takes his medication and won’t be a bother to you.” Caroline explained her absence and initiated the first phase of her alibi to the frail, ancient housekeeper.
“Mr. Kirby is never a bother. He’s the nicest man I know, the epitome of a perfect Southern Gentleman,” Renee gushed.
“Oh, and before you get started, I need you to run the usual errands. I left a list on the counter. You have my cell phone number.” Caroline dismissed the help.
Caroline walked into the masculine study and cringed as she inhaled Jasper’s pungent Swisher Sweet cigar. Although she hated the nasty habit of his, it gave her the perfect excuse to sleep in separate bedrooms. And today of all days, the nasty cigar provided the perfect explanation to the cause of the fire.
“Good morning, Darlin’.” Jasper smiled as he looked up at his beautiful trophy wife, nearly half his age.
“Mornin’ Jasper, what did I tell you about smoking inside? You’re going to start a fire one of these days,” Caroline said loud enough for Renee to hear.
She watched Jasper’s hand shake as he held his cigar. His Parkinson’s wouldn’t prove a burden to Caroline any longer. In fact, his disease played a crucial role in her exit strategy. She knew the fire marshal would never suspect arson because a shaky-handed old man smoking a cigar in a cozy recliner tidied up the upcoming homicide case nice and neat.
“You look beautiful today, my dear. Just as beautiful as the day I married you. Do you remember our honeymoon in Italy?” Jasper gazed wide-eyed at his wife.
“Of course I remember, the happiest time of my life.” Caroline smiled.
She missed those early days when they were first married. Even with a thirty-five year age difference, Caroline loved their social life in the beginning. They traveled first-class throughout Europe. Jasper spoiled her with couture gowns and expensive jewelry. They went to all the best parties and rubbed shoulders with the best of Jacksonville’s society. And no one snickered at their age difference, at least not to her knowledge. How could anyone ever say anything negative about the richest, kindest, and most generous man in the city?
But now Jasper’s health prohibited him from going out anymore. Caroline hated the burden of taking care of him. She missed her freedom-filled days when Jasper golfed three or four times a week. She couldn’t do it anymore and she didn’t want to wait for him to die. It could take years for him to kick the bucket on his own. Caroline didn’t want to waste her dwindling youth on an old man.
“So where are you off to today?” Jasper looked up at Caroline with the enthusiastic look of a young boy with his first crush.
“I’m having lunch at the club, but I shan’t be long. Oh, I almost forgot, I have something for you, my dear.”
She retrieved Jasper’s lapel pin from her purse and secured it to his smoking jacket. She smiled at the ingeniousness of her plan. Intentionally breaking the clasp on Jasper’s heirloom lapel pin gave her the perfect excuse to have it repaired. But before returning it to Jasper, she added a few modifications of her own.
She’d swapped out the enormous emerald for a piece of green glass she’d found in some old costume jewelry at an antique store. She didn’t want Jasper’s ungrateful son to inherit the priceless stone. And secondly, more importantly, she inserted a tiny piece of rubidium into the pin’s intricate design. Rubidium reacts violently with water, turning the normally harmless liquid into a flammable, Molotov cocktail.
“Oh, my pin is fixed. Thank you, Darlin’. You’re too good to me. What would I do without you?” Jasper crooned. He kissed his wife on the lips, not knowing it would be for the last time of his doomed life.
“My pleasure, Jasper. Here, let me fill your water glass. You know how thirsty your medication makes you.”
She filled up his water glass to the tippy-top of the rim and placed in on the end table. She knew it would be impossible for a normal man not to spill the water all over his chest and lapel pin. But a seventy-five year old man suffering from Parkinson’s would most certainly spill the glass of water all over himself, reacting with the rubidium and instantly igniting an untraceable cause of fire.
Caroline smiled at her husband for the last time as she exited her beautiful home, already counting the millions she’d inherit from her soon-to-be late husband, Jasper Kirby.