Blood Poisoning
About the Author: Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, now live in Texas. Joe's stories have appeared in more than one hundred magazines including The Saturday Evening Post and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was published by Harvard Square Editions October 2015. His second novel, Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller was published by HSE in June 2017. Joe was among one hundred Italian-American authors honored by Barnes & Noble.


My morning began by picking up eighty-seven-year-old Molly Hart, running naked on Utica Avenue. Try getting that image out of your head. My squad car was unmarked, and Molly imagined herself as twenty and ready for action.

“Hi, Blue Eyes,” she said.

I invited her to take the back seat, and her face crumpled into disappointment when I didn’t join her. As I drove to her house, she cycled between banging on the steel grill separating us and sulking. Her husband Bill also suffered from Alzheimer’s, and when I rang at their asphalt-shingled, row-home, he came to the door naked to the waist, wearing red-striped pajama bottoms and one Minnetonka slipper on his right foot. His face stuck on surprised as I tried to explain the purpose of my visit. I took his elbow and ushered him to my car, thinking that he would calm her down. Instead, Molly screamed that she wasn’t having sex with an old man. Bill straightened, disclaiming that he was married to “that crazy woman.” I put him into the front seat and smoked a Lucky Strike as the two of them hurled insults at each other. A guy and gal from social services arrived who knew the couple. They explained that Bill and Molly drifted in and out of awareness and would be more actively supervised. Molly blew me a kiss as she was led back to her house. I sighed in sadness. I’d known her for most of my forty years from when I’d trick-or-treated her and Bill as a kid.

My name’s Bragg, and I’m a homicide, gold-shield detective. While I waited for social services to arrive, I sighted advertising fliers strewn around a red-smear, concrete stoop a few homes down and across the street from the Harts. Peter and Grace Blanchard had been another Halloween target, but I lost contact after Grace passed a dozen years earlier. I’d attended P.S. 53 with Laurel, their daughter. Blonde, not unattractive, but the boys avoided her because she’d rat out our escapades to teachers.

I radioed dispatch at Brooklyn South that I’d be further delayed and ambled over to the gray-painted house. I rang, knocked loudly, then peered through a gauze curtain spotting Peter on a floral couch with his head lolling against the wall. If he were asleep, he would’ve awoken with my banging, so exigent circumstances required a forced entry. I slammed the heel of my Florsheim black loafer against the wooden door and broke through. Inside, the odor of death stabbed my nostrils. Once I checked his pulse, I called the coroner and donned blue shoe baggies and latex gloves.

Seventy-three, and living alone. On an end table next to the couch sat a half-finished tumbler of water beside a plastic druggist-vial of Amoxapine tablets. When the medical examiner read the prescription, his eyebrows rose.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Tricyclic antidepressants have given way to safer drugs like Zoloft. About a decade ago, they were a major cause of poisoning because the therapeutic amount is too damn close to a fatal overdose. These days, doctors only prescribe them for the most severe cases. I’ll conduct some tests, but I’m betting that the Amoxapine killed Mr. Blanchard.”

Peter died wearing a brown knit tie and houndstooth sports jacket. In my examination of the house, everything was neat and tidy, and he’d made his bed. His stamp album and magnifying glass sat on the kitchen table beside a stack of new purchases waiting to be added to the collection. In the bedroom a small-caret, round-diamond ring in a black jeweler’s box sat atop a receipt dating the purchase from the previous week. A recent photo depicted Peter and a blonde woman, probably in her sixties. Smiling, they held onto each other like teenagers.

Peter took care of himself, pursued hobbies, and had a love interest, none of the signs of someone clinically depressed.

I approached my supervisor, Lieutenant Dixon, a grizzled African-American, to open a homicide investigation.

He clutched the medical examiner’s report as he spoke. “Blanchard offed himself. No signs of a struggle, the pills weren’t forced down his throat. Nothing suggests murder.”

“The guy showed an interest in life not typical in suicides.”

“Depressed men can collect stamps and pine for women. A doctor prescribed the antidepressants for a reason. Maybe they were working. Almost certainly, Blanchard took the overdose by mistake. Don’t waste time on hunches when real homicides need solving.”

I huffed in frustration, but Dixon had a point. I needed evidence that Peter had somehow been induced to overdose. When I got off duty, I began my unofficial investigation by canvassing the homes on Peter’s block.

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Reader Discussion

4
Feb
Bravo! What a fascinating read and story!
By Tina Jude

5
Feb
This story is tight, economical, and presents what feels like a real-life scenario. Loved the reappearance of Molly Hart at the end. Somehow the story feels like an excerpt from a novel. I was pulling for justice to prevail somehow. Two thumbs up.
By Danny Thomas

5
Feb
Hey Joe--Great story; great writing! Hit all the highlights prescribed for a mystery: Interesting, believable characters; plausible motive; satisfying twist ending. A very enjoyable read!
By Diane Hadac

5
Feb
Thanks for reading and for the kind comments. If you have time, please check out my website and sign up for my blog. You'll find short stories, the first chapter of my novels and some Italian history. http://joe-giordano.com/ Best regards, Joe.
By Joe Giordano

5
Feb
Good story I enjoyed it
By Nancy Scott

5
Feb
I liked the story. I did want Detective Bragg to prevail and bring the daughter to justice. I was a tad bit disappointed in the ending, but a beautifully written story.
By Frances Dunn

5
Feb
Liked the story. Detective Bragg should have used the Amoxapine on Laurel and forged a new will for Evelyn
By Heather W

6
Feb
Good story! It moved well, and I enjoyed the twist at the end.
By Elizabeth Varadan

7
Feb
Great story. Really enjoyed it.
By Robert Petyo

15
Feb
Very good short story. I hope that some British director read it and make a thriller. It has all the requisites to become a British stile successful movie.
By Carlos A Mendeleh do Prado

15
Feb
Loved the story, but I'm having a hard time sleeping...trying to get the image of Molly running out of my head...
By Jay Sabatino

4
Apr
Hi Joe, Thanks for sharing the story. The visuals from the beginning are stuck in my head. I wanted to see her pay for the crime of killing her father but... sometimes things are out of our control. Worry about the things we can control. Have a great day! -Ray
By Ray in Maryland


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