According to a December 9, 2005 story in the Washington Post, Fairfax County Police are shaking their heads over a series of coincidences involving two murder-for-hire cases:
"The two women, both named April and with the middle name Dawn, lived in different parts of Fairfax County and dated 22-year-old men. Now, both women have been charged in separate murder-for-hire plots with trying to have those boyfriends killed, police said yesterday.This week, my middle-schoolers submitted their surprise-ending sequels to Guy de Maupassant's short story "The Necklace," in which Madame Loisel, dissatisfied with her station in life and ever the social climber, faces the awful consequences of pride. In an attempt to impress everyone at a hoity-toity party, she borrows a diamond necklace from a wealthy friend and loses it. In fact, the borrowed necklace was paste. But not knowing that the necklace had no value, the Loisels give up their material possessions and their middle-class status, go into debt to buy an exact and outrageously replica of the lost piece, and work for ten long years to pay off the debt incurred. Thus Madame Loisel ironically loses her youth, beauty, and class status in a well-intentioned and face-saving attempt to "do the right thing." One student's sequel portrayed the Loisels as eventually receiving back as recompense the valued replacement piece--a just resolution--but concluded his story with these words:
"In what authorities called a bizarre coincidence, police charged April Dawn Shiflett, 33, with plotting the slaying of her 22-year-old boyfriend and charged April Dawn Davis, 27, with soliciting the murder of her former significant other, also 22. Police released the information yesterday, though the two were charged a week ago.
"Murder for hire is an unusual charge, and Fairfax police said announcing two separate plots on the same day, involving two women with the same first name, is extraordinary.
"'It is weird. We checked and double-checked to make sure they are, in fact, two separate incidents. We actually woke up the detectives,'' said Lt. Richard Perez, a police spokesman.
"He called the common thread of the name April 'a freaky coincidence.' The undercover officer was the same in each case....
"Despite the similarities in how the women were arrested, Perez said no specific crackdown is underway on murder-for-hire schemes."
"Together they decided to sell the necklace because of all the grief it had caused them. The husband had been saving for a hunting gun ten long years ago and had given his wife that money to let her buy herself a dress for the party. Now he could finally get himself a gun and do something he had wanted to do for a long--kill his wife."After reading his story aloud to the class, the student-author hastened to point out his use of "could," which creates an ambiguous ending in the modern style of leaving the reader guessing as to the plot's resolution. The class loved his story, and so did I!
Concluding a short story with a surprise ending is an accepted and fairly common writing technique. O. Henry, author of "The Gift of the Magi," used the surprise ending as his trademark. In the 1960's, Rod Serling of the The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock of Alfred Hitchcock Presents were fond of such plots, and those of us who grew up on such fare grew to love those twists at the end of each week's show. Stephen King, best-selling author of the last part of the Twentieth Century, has credited Sterling in particular with inspiring his work. Many of my generation have, therefore, grown to expect and even to predict surprise endings.
As the Fairfax County Police have just discovered, surprise endings and amazing coincidences happen in real life, too. And I can add a personal twist to the Washington Post's story of the two Aprils: One of them worked as a waitress in one of my favorite restaurants. Now, had I also known the other April, I'd have a bang-up ending for this blog article!