Of course everybody knew Martha. People were used to seeing Martha at the bus stop in her red felt hat with its purple band. She was a neat, crisp woman of a certain age. She caught the seven thirty-five, three days a week, exact change, five stops, off at the library, never spoke except to exchange 'Good morning,' in a voice like frosted cereal. It seemed she had a penchant for romantic novels. A quiet spinster; she had few friends or visitors, didn't go out much except to church or work; often left early and got a lift back late.
Today a fellow passenger remained standing, jiggling, arm hung high from the overhead strap, beside her empty seat. Another held the newspaper aloft, elbows pinned to his sides as usual – even though she was not there beside him. No one had to ask where Martha was – she was on the front page.
They'd found her at the weekend in her flat, tied to the bed and dressed in leather gear. The police didn't suspect foul play – just play it seemed: a heart attack the cause of death. A local alderman was 'co-operating' with their enquiries.
The man with the newspaper folded it as he got up to disembark and left it on her seat, her photograph leaning against the backrest. Nobody moved it to sit down. No one spoke. The silence lasted for days.
First published: February, 2011
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