An excerpt from

The Courier Wore Shorts
by Sheila Kindellan-Sheehan

What could she say to Doyle that she hadnít already said? What soft spot would turn the girl around? She had no time to lose. Her best thinking occurred in her office, so she headed there. It was November 8th. In eight days, sheíd meet Connor. Madison began another review of her presentation. She heard the footsteps on the stairs, carpeted or not. She supposed it was a courier. The regular mail came later. She hadnít accepted any new manuscripts, but first-time authors sometimes thought they could bypass no unsolicited manuscripts by sending theirs by courier, which might impress the agent enough to accept them. It canít be legal papers from Doyle already. Itís only been a day! When the bell rang, she peeked through the blinds and was instantly relieved to spy a courier with a familiar cardboard box. A manuscript. Normality restored. This author might just get lucky.
               A low gray November sky meant it was cold outside. Madison pulled the foyer door behind her as she unlocked the front door. She looked quizzically at the courier when she saw the shorts and gloves, scarf and cap. The mix was odd, but Doyle and how to handle her preoccupied Madison.
               It wasnít summer for her today so she invited the courier in for her signature. There should have been something to warn Madison, a sudden chill, a threatening sky, a black thought, a hesitancy, but there was nothing.
               Before the courier closed the front door, a gust of wind blew the foyer door open. Madison reached around to close it properly. As she was turning back, the courier levelled the first blow, catching Madison at the corner of her left eye, knocking her violently off balance into the side wall. Blinded by spurting blood, immobilized with shock, she couldnít raise a hand to defend herself. Involuntarily, she bounced forward into a haymaker that drove her sideways through the glass window of the foyer door. She fell hard against the jagged shards at the base of the frame. A low moan betrayed the pain at her collapsing lung, but she hadnít screamed. Most of the broken glass fell on a carpet runner. Bent in two, pinioned by the shards, Madison still managed a coherent thought. Iím watching my own murder.
               The courier breathed heavily but never said a word after their first exchange. Madison felt the door being pushed open, dragging her with it. She felt the courier staring down at her, could hear the heavy breathing. The next blows struck the side of her head. Madison couldnít feel pain. She couldnít count the blows either. The thought came back. Iím watching my ownÖ
               The courier stood silent once more, waiting, before kicking Madisonís legs. There was no response. Removing the blood-smeared shorts and gloves, the courier reached for pants stowed in the messengerís bag, put them on, stuffed the shorts, gloves and manuscript into the bag with the gloves and cap and reversed the jacket. The extra shoes werenít in the bag. The shoes!
               Without warning, there were footsteps. The courier stopped breathing. The vertical blinds on the front door were closed, but the door wasnít locked. If the caller tried the doorÖ Was it possible to see anything from the side of the blinds? If it were another courier, heíd snoop, not wanting to have a come-back. The caller stopped at Holmesís door and rang, then rang again. The courier heard a few steps off to the left. The caller was looking in at the office. Was there a view of the hall from that window? Another ring, then the phone rang four times before voicemail picked up. Whoever it was hadnít left but stood not three feet from the courier, who sank against the wall. There was no movement from Holmes, no death rattle. A thump at the front door startled the courier. Finally, the sound of footsteps growing faint.
               For the next two minutes, the courier stood stock still, listening. Reaching into the messenger bag a second time, the courier grabbed the shorts and used them to smear the bloody footprints. But there was nothing to do with prints that might be left on the balcony and stairs. The courier was forced to wear the blood-smeared shoes. Without locking the door from the inside, the courier opened and closed it quietly, using the jacket to block fingerprints. Stepping over two manuscripts by the front door, the courier rushed down the stairs, careful not to use the railing. On the sidewalk, this unremarkable individual turned right and disappeared down rue Beaubien. Madisonís front door remained unlocked.
               No one on rue Beaubien noticed the bloody shoes until the courier reached a lane and stopped.