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MRS GERTRUDE REGRETS

Cindy Maddera

It is with deep regret that I must inform you of the passing of the very dear Colonel Martin Vanhousen. You may remember that I mentioned him a few months past, about how he lived in a third floor office building among his collection of artifacts from his explorations around the world. You might also recall that I mentioned he had a string of widows who visited him frequently. It was one such widow, Mrs. Gertrude Delany who discovered the Colonel's body. It was her usual night to stop by with dinner and that evening she had prepared a new chicken casserole recipe that she was eager to get feed back on. Mrs. Gertrude knocked several times on the door, but after a few minutes of waiting, she flipped the edge of the doormat over and retrieved the spare key that the Colonel kept 'hidden' there (in case of accidental lock outs). Then Mrs. Gertrude let herself into the Colonel's home. 

Upon entering the apartment, Mrs. Gertrude walked straight back to the kitchenette to set her hot casserole dish down, all the while chatting to the Colonel about everything from the weather and why it was he was still lazing about in his house coat with the all of the curtains shut tight. She then went to one of those windows, drew the curtains back to let the sunlight in and turned to see the Colonel wearing his slippers and his red velvet house coat, sitting in his favorite leather wing-backed chair with a glass of scotch in his hand. She noticed that his skin seemed paler than usual and his face slack as if he were sleeping. She tip-toed closer and said "Marty?" When he did not reply or even twitch, Mrs. Gertrude poked the Colonel in the cheek which was quite cold. Mrs Gertrude shrieked and then dug her phone out of her purse to call 911. 

After further investigation, it was determined that the Colonel died peacefully in his chair. Though if a thorough autopsy had been performed, the coroner would have discovered a poison found only on the tips of the blow darts used by an obscure tribe of indians dwelling in the Amazon rainforest. You see, the Colonel had woken up on the morning of his death feeling tired. Not physically tired per se. He found that his tiredness was more mentally related. The Colonel got up out of his bed, sliding his feet into his slippers and shrugging his house coat on over his satin pajamas. He then shuffled to his kitchenette and set the kettle of water on his hotplate to boil for his usual morning cup of tea. Once his tea was made, he took his mug into his office where he sat at his large mahogany desk looking at the clutter around him. The Colonel unlocked the middle drawer of his desk and removed the letters and locket from his one true love, Elsbeth, and proceeded to re-read the letters he had read so many times before. Then he opened the locket to gaze at Elsbeth's lovely face. He then closed the locket, stood up and walked to the bookcase. The Colonel ran his hands along the rows of stacked field notes, pulling one notebook at random and flipping through it. 

The Colonel had lead a very exciting and long life. He had seen many amazing things, traveled the whole world, and fought in a number of skirmishes. His life, with the exception of his beloved Elsbeth, had been a full life. It was all recorded in those stacks and stacks of field notes. Every skirmish and near death experience. Every unbelievable find. Every adventure. It was all recorded there for any one to pick through. The Colonel then poured himself a glass of his favorite scotch. He rummaged through his drawer of arrow heads until his fingers found what he was looking for in the very back of the drawer, a vial containing the poison darts he had stolen from a tribesman while on expedition in the Amazon. The Colonel knew that the poison would not work instantly, but it would work quickly. He had enough time to prick his finger with one dart, place it back in the vial and then return the vial to his desk drawer before taking his scotch to retire to his favorite chair. He was able to take two more sips of his scotch before the poison stopped his heart. The Colonel Martin Vanhousen left this earth, as he had lived: on his own terms.

His apartment/office has been completely cleaned out with many of his things being sent to auction to cover his debts. His field notes were all donated to a local historic society. All of them with the exception of one notebook. His most recent field notebook now resides with the Mrs. Gertrude Delany. While waiting on the authorities to arrive, Mrs. Gertrude discovered that the Colonel had been writing down his latest 'adventures'. This included very detailed reports of the encounters he had with the various widows who visited him during the week. Very. Detailed. Notes. Mrs. Gertrude nearly fainted as she read his description of how his removal of her girdle for the first time was like 'peeling a banana'. Scandalized, Mrs. Gertrude tucked the notebook into her purse. It is now locked in the bottom drawer of her cedar jewelry case. Mrs. Gertrude has yet to decide whether to burn the notebook or use it against the other widows.

Of course, despite the scandalous notebook, the Colonel Martin Vanhousen will be greatly missed. 

*This story comes to you after noticing that the building that inspired the original tale has been gutted. It is under renovation and has a 'for sale' sign out front.