Millicent Stingley planned her perp walk like a supermodel on a fashion runway. She took almost two hours picking out something to wear. She had settled on a blue Chanel pantsuit that accentuated every one of her curves. Hippy and busty, Millicent knew what men saw when they looked at her, and her IQ of 160 didn’t show in the right outfit.
Dark red lips, matching red fingernails and one karat diamond earrings that she’d bought herself for her birthday completed the presentation. She had sent the jewelry bill to her now ex-boyfriend’s office.
Her attorney, Reeve Mattox, and a bodyguard named, as far as she could tell, simply “Gunny”, waited in her living room. She smiled at her own reflection in the bathroom mirror one last time and opened the door.
“I apologize for the wait, gentlemen, but I wanted to look my best. I hope you all understand.”
Both men forced a grin , and Gunny mumbled something about going out the back door.
“I want to walk to the car in the front driveway. There are television cameras out there. They deserve a great look at me–and you too, Gunny,” Millicent corrected him.
Gunny, a 6’4” former Marine approaching 50 years old, had perfect posture and a square jaw. Still, he acquiesced to Millicent. He put her right arm in the crook of his left and led the party into the front yard. She exuded confidence in every serene breath. Tall, like her late father, and justifiably proud of her looks, the brunette Millicent enjoyed the November sunshine as it bounced off her perfectly coiffed hair. She leaned into Gunny’s left ear to tell him what would happen next.
“When we get to Reeve’s car, you’ll let go of my arm and I will walk to the police car. Do not fight me on this.”
She stepped away without waiting for an answer. She walked parallel to Reeve’s Mercedes and let go of Gunny’s muscular arm. Cameras flashed, reporters shouted questions, and the Copeland County police officers asked her to extend her hands. Reeve shouted, like a capable attorney, that the action was unnecessary, but Millicent ignored him. Seeing a well dressed, good looking woman in handcuffs was what the media wanted. Millicent Stingley played the role with aplomb.
Sleeping in the holding cell was neither uncomfortable nor unpleasant. As a child, Millicent had watched her father and grandfather work in their chemistry laboratories. They would find her napping on their wooden workbenches and metal drawers. Being alone with her mind was a vacation. Reeve Mattox had insisted she be placed in solitary confinement. He knew Millicent’s style would make her a target. What Reeve didn’t know was that Millicent had two capsules of synthetic cyanide hidden on her. She was a danger to other inmates.
Time passed slowly the first night. She found a small, plastic screw loosened in one of the benches. She used it to practice chemical formulas on the bench. She thought of the first day she met her ex-boyfriend Trever Jones. It was in a suite at an Atlanta Braves baseball game. She had showed Trever how to formulate headache relief pills from household items. He fell for her brain. In retrospect, the guy never had a chance with Millicent. Her bar was so high.
Knives are messy and guns can be tricky. Poison worked neatly, silently, and intelligently. It meshed perfectly with Millicent’s personality.. She’d known what was coming with her boyfriend. Millicent knew she hadn’t been the best girlfriend, but she’d thought she had been good enough. Lately, Trever had been distant. Then he’d made friends with a younger woman who had moved in above him. Close friends. It sealed his fate.
An intelligent and talented chemist, Millicent mixed chemical compounds in her bathroom laboratory. She put them inside beige capsules and white syringes. She showered, picked out the best black cocktail dress for her long legs and curvy hips, then spent almost an hour on her makeup. As she finished, her cell phone vibrated with an incoming text. She read it while painting her lips scarlet red.
“Just meet me at the restaurant.”
She mouthed the words like they tasted bad. She shook her head. “The least you could have done, Trever, is treat me right one last time,” she said into the vanity.
Millicent arrived at Sunset’s promptly at 7:30pm. Trever was already seated. She could see him texting, his head lowered like a bull. He had rarely texted during most of their three years together. Then, starting two months ago–after the other woman had moved in–he’d begun to text. Often.
He rose reluctantly as she reached their table, and she leaned in to kiss him. He lightly pecked her lips. It was devoid of any warmth.
Dinner was a disaster. The conversation was as dry as the Chardonnay they’d ordered. Finally, Millicent had had enough. Her chocolate-brown eyes narrowed. The low light that was supposed to inspire romance caught all the highlights in her dark hair.
She was tired of listening to him recount the same boring anecdotes, so she interrupted.
“Just tell me why you kissed my mouth like you wished it were someone else’s.”
A chill that gave way to numbness swept over Millicent’s body as Trever’s face hardened.
“Mill,” he snapped, “I’m done. I want to call things off.”
She bit her bottom lip until blood pooled around her teeth . When he noticed her grimace, he touched her hand from across the table.
“I’m sorry, but this is how I feel. ” He patted her hand awkwardly.
Through malevolent eyes, she made her decision, too. A brutal minute passed.
The waiter came to refill their glasses, and Trever excused himself, nearly running to the restroom. As Millicent watched him retreat, she removed a capsule from her purse, poured its contents into his glass, and picked up her own glass in the same movement. The red wine washed the salty blood from her mouth. A satisfied grin spread across her face as she thought about all the work ahead of her. Trever made his way back to their table. He began to pull his chair back, and Millicent spoke.
“Let’s just down this last glass and go back to your condo. I have some things there and I want to end this night on a positive note. There’s no need for this to get ugly, right?”
At that, Trever relaxed, for the first time since they had begun the conversation. He leaned back in his chair, and spoke easily.
“I don’t understand, Mill. You’re not going to scream about what a child I am? Accuse me of screwing my neighbor, again? Who are you tonight?”
Millicent licked her lips clean of the blood camouflaged by her lipstick.
“Just drink your damn wine,” she hissed, and Trever obliged.
Dinner limped along for a few minutes longer until Millicent put it out of its misery, standing abruptly and sliding the check over to Trever’s side of the table. He walked over to pay, and Millicent drove to his place.
She knocked on door 6 . A friendly redhead poked her head out the door. She was wearing a blue sports bra and matching workout pants that suited her cheerleader’s figure. She was, Millicent estimated, at least 10 years younger.
“Hi,” Millicent chirped. “I’m Trever’s girlfriend. I can’t find my key and he’s five minutes behind in traffic. Can I use your restroom?”
“Oh, no problem,” the woman nodded yes like a hyper cocker spaniel. When she turned to point the way for Millicent, she exposed the perfect spot on her sharply crafted abdominals, right between the ribs. Millicent swiftly stabbed a syringe into place before the woman could react. She dropped to the floor, whimpering, and Millicent stood over her, expressionless.
“Shut up. You’re not dead. Yet. It’s just a paralytic . In a few moments you’ll get to hear me take care of my next ex-boyfriend. I’ll be back.”
Trever met Millicent as she bounded down the stairs.
“All that wine,” she said, “I had to use the restroom. The friend you’re not screwing is way too nice.”
Trever ignored Millicent and unlocked the door. As soon as they walked inside, she threw him against the wall and began pulling at his clothes. Trever stopped her, whining.
“Mill, slow down. It’s over. Tonight’s our last night. Understand?”
The petulant smirk on his face enraged her. Especially because he didn’t try very hard to stop her.
She smirked back and pulled him over to his dining room table, shoving him onto its wide surface. She lifted her dress and climbed on top of him. Millicent looked up at the ceiling and estimated she was within two feet of the redhead. Trever’s look of lust turned to worry.
“Mill, I don’t feel so good. Can we st–”
She clamped a hand over his mouth and ignored his bleating. Millicent was relentless. She listened for the redheaded fly trapped in the jar above them. After she was done with him, she’d tear off its wings.
Trever’s four wooden dining table chairs laid on their sides, and the table’s middle leaf had come apart. Although he could no longer speak, Millicent felt pleasantly sure it was pinching his back. She moved off him, adjusting her underwear and dress. His body sighed and settled into a coma, the first symptom of the lethal cocktail she’d dumped into his wine. She kept his pants at his thighs, knowing that would help staging in a few minutes. It took her two shoves to move his 180 pounds from the table to the floor. She could not tolerate disorder, so then she had to correct the table and chairs.
While he grunted on the floor, occasionally twitching due to the strong dose, Millicent searched through the condominium for anything that belonged to her. She figured it would be pretty crowded in there after Trever failed to show up for work for a day or two, and thought now would be the best time to get her things. She filled a laundry basket with clothes, earrings, movies, and CDs. She was heading to the next part of her business when a stray reflection caught her eye. On the nightstand, she found a silver iPod. She put on the ear buds, pressed play, and smiled when her favorite AFI song began to pound directly into her head. This iPod definitely belonged to her. Trever never listened to rock music.
Back upstairs, she was all business. The redhead was still splayed flat on her stomach, her ear to the floor. A puddle of drool had formed around her face and chest. Millicent was satisfied that the younger woman had heard everything. She stopped the iPod when she discovered the redhead’s handbag. Rifling through it, she found a driver’s license made to Britney Cole.
Millicent sat down for a moment, relaxing as she watched Britney’s blue eyes blink rapidly. Britney was regaining feeling in her legs and feet. It explained the twitching. Millicent smirked and restarted the iPod. It was far easier to get Britney into position than Trever had been. She stuck another syringe into Britney’s side and laid her over his stomach.
“Perfect,” she said. And it was.
Her ex-boyfriend and her replacement would die together, sometime in the early hours of morning. This particular blend of poisons would give her a 24 hour start, maybe even more. Millicent got in her car, plugged the iPod into her stereo and hit replay. She headed to the Atlanta airport for the red eye to New York City. AFI’s Miss Murder blared.
There was one stop to make. Millicent’s college professor (and former lover), Paul Heyward, was in Atlanta for business. He had called several times. Millicent looked in her purse and saw a syringe. Paul knew her secrets. He would tell them. She watched the maid clean his hotel room, number 327, then stepped in the open door as if she’d lost her key. Restless, she found a deck of playing cards inside the nightstand next to the bed. She patiently stacked them. By the fifth level, she considered the structure lucky to be standing.
The door opened. She met him before he got to the bed. A long, deep kiss disarmed his surprise. It was a red herring for the syringe plunged into his neck. He slumped on the bed, causing the house of cards to fall. She smiled, then left for the airport.
Millicent was wearing white. It was twenty four hours past Labor Day and she could not care less. She thought the eggshell blouse and matching skirt looked good with her brown hair and eyes. This was one of her finest moments. Time for these police detectives to feel necessary, she supposed. The detectives tested their interrogation equipment.
“Okay, Millicent Stingley interview is being videotaped. The time is 3:03 pm, Eastern standard time. The date is September 6th, 2012. The place is Copeland County police station, room 3. Present are senior detective Stu Andrews, and myself, junior detective Gordon Summers.”
She was bored immediately. She knew she should call her lawyer but the thought of giving the policemen a taste of the same medicine she had the others was enticing. The older detective spoke first.
“Knock, it off, Gordy. We get the point. Ms. Stingley, you are consenting to an official police interview without the presence of counsel. Correct?”
She shook her head yes because she didn’t want to waste valuable words on these simpletons. The younger blond one, Gordy, offered her a soft drink. Millicent shot him a fake smile and batted her long eyelashes. There was no way she would offer her DNA to them on a Coke can. The older, bald, paunchy one was droning about something.
“Millicent Stingley, you are considered a person of interest in the investigation of the deaths of Britney Cole and Trever Jones. My first question is, can you tell us where you were on the evenings of July 7th and 8th of this year?”
She felt unchallenged so she decided to play with them.
“Detective Andrews, tell me what you know about drug hybrids.”
The blank look on a man’s face was, by far, her least favorite human response. She looked instead at Gordy.
“Fine, I will engage you, Gordy. You probably look at the internet. Do you really know what’s in your headache relief?”
Millicent silently cheered for Gordy to respond. He did.
“Well, it’s a compound of acids, salts, and other stuff.”
Hunger had by now joined the boredom, and Millicent was losing patience with both of them.
“Before you two brought me into this room you ran a background check on me. You also checked my website advocating homeopathic medicine and recipes for making my own home remedies from plants and common chemicals. You have no idea how my former aquaintances died. The toxicology reports are coming back clean. There’s no physical evidence I was even around them when they died.”
The older detective grew angry. His face reddened. Millicent silently assumed hypertension.
“We’ll ask the questions here, Ms. Stingley! Where were you on July 7th and July 8th?”
She was craving avocado. Millicent’s thoughts wandered to getting the sandwich instead of the salad across the street at Two’s Cafe.. She spoke with authority.
“Detectives, I’m a fifth generation apothecary. My father was one, and his father was one and so on and so on and so on. My degree from Emory University is in chemistry. I know more about the chemical make-up of your coffee than you do about your police work. I make and distribute pharmecutical drug hybrids that heal and, yes, possibly, in the wrong hands, kill. During that week in July, I was at a chemists’ conference in New York City. Here is a card from a colleague who will verify my attendance. So, there is my alibi. Until then, you’ll have to speak to my lawyer, Mr. Mattox. Here is his card.”
Millicent flipped the business cards at Gordy. He and his partner were slack-jawed. She wondered why police work hadn’t improved in the 21st century. Murder certainly had.
“Ms. Stingley, we can’t talk to you right now, since you asked for an attorney. You can go, but count on us being in touch soon. Gordy, turn the camera off.”
Gordy looked crushed. She liked Gordy. Millicent thought he was cute, his reaction, too. His wedding band indicated marriage. He probably had a cute wife and cute kids, she daydreamed. Paunchy was ringless and two honeybuns away from a heart attack. The room was being watched everywhere but the corner where Paunchy’s coffee cup sat, blinded by shadow. Millicent made her choice for victim number four. On her way out of the room, she reached the coffee cup and sprinkled contents from the same kind of beige capsule she laced Trever’s wine. Paunchy, older police detective Stu Andrews would die within hours.
The irresponsible clutter of the psychiatrist’s office angered Millicent Stingley more than having to talk to him. Books were unalphabetized and some weren’t shelved. Magazines were strewn on the coffee table without reason. Worst of all, the carpet hadn’t been vacuumed in days. She picked fuzz off her orange shirt and looked at the clock on the wall. It showed 4:03 pm.
“My time is important, too. Lateness is just unacceptable,” she whispered to herself.
He walked into the office, flustered, with a small black journal and a manila folder with papers hanging in different directions.
“Hello Ms. Stingley, I’m Dr. Lawrence Pugh. Your attorney asked me to meet with you to help your case with the State of Georgia.”
He wore a maroon sweater-vest with snack crumbs on covering the front. His hair was graying around the temples . A pale face and brown-rimmed reading glasses suggested nothing remarkable. Millicent disliked it all. She demanded control of the conversation.
“Can we just be honest with each other so time you didn’t seem important is not wasted?”
Dr. Pugh fumbled through the papers but managed a nod with his bushy, graying eyebrows.
Millicent never moved from her comfortable perch on the beige couch. Her long legs, gently crossed at the knee, stayed perfectly still. The only indication of her perturbation was the tone of voice booming from her red-lipsticked mouth.
“I am not insane, nor am I going to tell you I killed three people four months ago. There is no murder weapon. I have alibis for both days. If I did not respect the opinion of my extremely impressive lawyer, Reeve Mattox, whom the entire Copeland County, Georgia District Attorney’s office fears, then I would not be here. Ask your questions.”
Dr. Pugh put the folder down and wrote “hostile, wants to be in control” on white paper held in the clipboard.
“Mr. Maddox believes that without a psychiatric evaluation, pursuing a case against you will be easier for the prosecution. Why do you feel differently?”
Millicent stared at him. Almost a minute passed without either of them speaking. The psychiatrist looked away, scribbled on his clipboard again, and, just as he was about to speak, Millicent did, picking lint off the right thigh of her orange pants the whole time.
“The police had a tantrum because they couldn’t get me to confess. The prosecutor’s office then threw a fit of their own because I wouldn’t coperate with them. Do I look like a killer to you, Lawrence?”
Dr. Pugh looked uncomfortable. The lack of emotion contrasting with her hostile speech scared him. He felt hurt, for some reason, by the use of his first name instead of his title. It spurred him into answering in an unprofessional way.
“What would you say if I answered yes?”
Millicent smiled. She knew she owned the room. It was all she wanted. A month earlier another police psychiatrist had become so frustrated with her that he left the interview room after only twenty minutes. She’d recalled him yelling as he stomped into a hallway, “She killed something all right, my damn nerves. She’s more bitch than sociopath, good luck with that one!” He was removed from the case.
This would be another fine moment for her, she believed.
“Well, then, Lawrence, I might say I’ve killed before.”
She smiled. She didn’t care if he believed her, she just wanted a reaction.
Dr. Pugh’s hands shook as he mumbled his next question.
“Tell me about your first time?”
She looked away and examined the door of the small office. It was locked. Her look focused and she spoke with measured defiance.
“You can’t repeat what I say to anyone, correct?”
He rubbed his salt and pepper beard with his left hand. With his right, he wrote “showing off” on the paper inside the clipboard laying across his lap.
“Unless I think you are going to commit a crime, no, I cannot repeat your words.”
The memory was over a quarter of a century old, but it felt fresh. She was proudand carried the recolelction with a perverse pride. She shook her medium length brown hair and smiled into his scared blue eyes.
“My father and grandfather were brilliant chemists. In fact, apothecaries populate my family tree for over 100 years.“
Dr. Pugh wrote “hero-worship, supported by memories of family ”, then averted his eyes from hers.
Millicent straightened her shoulders and continued.
“My grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease. Five generations of people, committed to cures and health enhancers, yet this insidious sickness was rendering a great man, disabled.”
Dr. Pugh rolled his eyes and Millicent caught him. She reiterated.
“He was a great man.”
He fidgeted in his black office chair, which caused his clipboard to drop. He sighed relief when it hit the floor face down. He checked to make sure she couldn’t read his disdain and fear. She stood, with tall, bold posture. She adjusted her ill fitting orange pants and walked to the window. A ray of sunshine came through, illuminating her alabaster complexion as she continued.
“I would sit with my grandfather on weekends, watching the Atlanta Braves on TV. We’d drink hot chocolate that I made, always covered with a light film of cinnamon. I started making coffee, hot chocolate, tea at a very young age. By the time I was ten, I’d garnered a family reputation for beverage preparation. My grandfather said I could do anything with spices. He called me his cinnamon girl. I loved that.
“For my tenth birthday, I asked my father to take me to the nursing home. Granddad was just blank. He didn’t recognize me. Instead of cinnamon girl he called me “nurse’”.
Dr. Pugh moved up in his chair.
“What happened next, Millicent?”
She turned from the window, more interested to see the small doctor hang on words that would soon make him cower.
“When my father and I walked to the car to go home, I told my him that granddad wasn’t the same person anymore and something needed to be done. Later that night, my father kissed me goodnight and left his cabinet keys at the foot of my bed. I waited until my parents were asleep. I went downstairs and found the potassium cyanide. The next weekend, I went to see my grandfather. The Braves were playing the Dodgers. At first everything was fine. We drank a mocha blend with cinnamon. Granddad asked for a refill. As I took his cup, he called me nurse. I went to his room’s pantry, made his hot chocolate, and watched him go to sleep, forever. That was my first time.”
A heavy silence enveloped the room. Dr. Pugh stared at his clipboard, and his right hand shook as it wrote in black ink, “cinnamon girl thinks she’s invulnerable”. Millicent crossed her arms and walked to the door.
“I would like to leave now. I’m going to call the guards. I think we’re done. Guards!”
Dr. Pugh got up and unlocked the office door. He stood, slouched and speechless, as a confident Millicent strutted into the arms of the two larg-bodied corrections officers. One of them spoke to her.
“Trial’s tomorrow. You’re gonna end up going away for a long ass time.”
Millicent shot a wicked smile to the mouthy jailer as he prepared to handcuff her. She curled her full lips as she answered.
“The courthouse is next to a Starbucks. I’ll get us all some cinnamon lattes. After that, who knows what will happen.”