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The Charlie Talbot Case

Donny Worth, his wife, Suzie, and his best friend, Charlie Talbot, sat in the kitchen of his two-storey house celebrating his recent promotion to district manager. On the table was a large bottle of Canadian Club rye, now a quarter full, three glasses and a bowl of fruit. “A toast,” he said.

“A toast? To what?” Charlie’s words were slightly slurred. “To what?” he repeated. They had been sitting at the table for more than an hour reminiscing, telling each other stories about things they had done together and feeling comfortable in their companionship.

“To us,” Donny answered. “To the three of us. To our lasting friendship! To our love for each other! And above all, to our charmed lives.”

“Charmed lives? How’s that?” Charlie asked. Donny and he were the same age, but Charlie was built like an athlete, priding himself on keeping fit, while Donny had let himself get soft and overweight. “I’ll tell you, guys, if I make it home like this, I will have a charmed life. I’ve had too much to drink.”

“Hey, we’re indestructible. You know that. Nothing can hurt us.”

“You wish,” Charlie said, flapping his hand disdainfully and taking another sip from his glass.

“I know,” Donny answered. “We’ve been friends for most of our lives. We fell in love with the same woman, and when I married her, our friendship survived. That was an omen. Each of us has been involved in accidents where we should have wound up crippled or dead. I had a car accident, you a skiing accident, and Suzie, sweet Suzie, took that bad tumble down the stairs. We recovered without any permanent injuries. Doesn’t that tell you something? We are protected. Charmed!”

“Lucky,” Charlie said. “Plain dumb luck.”

Suzie’s head bobbed in agreement. “But I lost the baby, Donny. I lost the baby.” Her glazed eyes were blinking hard as she tried to focus her thoughts on Donny’s words. It didn’t take much to make Suzie drunk. It didn’t take much to make Suzie do anything. Danny poured another inch of the amber liquid into her glass.

“That, too, was a sign, baby. We’re not the parent type. You know that. We got our own lives to live.”

Suzie, barely five-five, brunette and quite pretty, wasn’t known for being overly enthusiastic. “I guess,” she said, taking a little sip from her glass.

“We’re indestructible!” Donny’s voice rose with drunken enthusiasm.

Charlie shook his head. “Lucky,” he said again, “and maybe stoopid.”

“Stupid! Never! Just indestructible. I’ll prove it.” Donny hauled his heavy body up out of the chair and staggered on his skinny legs out of the kitchen, then thumped down the hall. Suzie and Charlie exchanged silly grins. When Donny returned he held a revolver in his hand, which he pointed at Charlie. “I’ll prove it,” he said as he circled the table.

Charlie paled; his mouth fell open. Suzie gazed stupidly at the erratic movement of the revolver.

Donny returned to his seat and rested the weapon on the table. “There’s six bullets in this gun,” he said. “Six. Did you know that?” He looked at the two of them smugly. They hadn’t taken their eyes off the gun. “I’ll show you.” He ejected the bullets onto the table. “See? Six.” He picked one up between two fingers and with much giggling and clumsiness inserted it into the chamber. He rolled the chamber three times, gripped the revolver in his left hand and rose unsteadily to his feet, his right hand gripping the table to steady his balance. He licked his lips, then grinned at Charlie and Suzie as he placed the gun against his temple and pulled the trigger.

His wife and friend gasped at the resounding click.

Donny roared with laughter. “I told you we’re charmed. Nothin’ can happen to us, nothin’.” He pushed the revolver to Charlie. “Shoot me,” he said. “Go ahead, shoot me!” He weaved unsteadily as he waited for Charlie to pick up the gun.

“You’re nuts,” Charlie whispered. “You were just lucky.”

“No! None of us can be hurt. I proved it. Shoot me. Nothin’ll happen.”

“Forget it.” Charlie rose unsteadily to his feet, staring at the gun. “This is dumb.”

Donny grabbed the gun, twirled the chamber, placed it against his temple again and pulled the trigger. Click. He laughed so hard he lost his balance and fell behind the table. Charlie and Suzie stared down at him rolling on the floor. He pulled himself to his feet, a ridiculous grin on his face and shoved the gun towards Suzie. “Go ahead, Suzie, shoot Charlie. Nothin’ll happen.”

Suzie stared at the gun, then hesitantly, she raised it and swung it toward Charlie.

Charlie laughed nervously. “You gonna shoot me?” He pulled himself up to his full height.

Suzie closed one eye, swayed to one side and aimed just as Donny slumped against the table, one outstretched arm striking the bowl of fruit, tumbling its contents onto the floor. The gun exploded and a red stain erupted across Charlie’s shirt. With a look of incredulous surprise, Charlie opened his mouth, but all that came out was a strange gurgling sound as he slid to the floor to join the fruit. Suzie looked dumbfounded at the gun in her hand, before she began to scream.