Otley Chevin inherited the letter opener on the day when he found it inside his great aunt. Given the state of her remains, it was hard to tell whether some person unknown had stabbed her with it, or whether she had simply had a funny turn while holding it and had fallen onto it. That is was between her shoulderblades would have encouraged some people to infer murder. However, Otley knew his Aunt Maud well enough not to jump to that conclusion.
The winter before, there had been an accident where Maud had been found, pinned to the inside of her front door, by the very same letter opener. At the time she had explained to Otley that she’d been trying to deal with a massive spider on the ceiling and had fallen from the chair that had been serving as a ladder, and that the letter opener had slipped somehow, going right through the skin on her shoulder and trapping her against the door.
It was the letter opener with which Maud’s father, Asparagus Chevin, had cut his own throat. Which given that the letter opener was barely equal to cutting paper, must have been a long and rather unpleasant sort of process.
If there was a story about where the letter opener had come from, Otley had never heard it. He supposed it had to be from the family’s pre-island days, when they lived somewhere that people sent letters to each other rather than just going round and yelling outside each other’s houses like normal people. Great Aunt Maud certainly couldn’t read, and didn’t think her father could read either. Now Otley, equally unskilled in letters in every sense of that term, was the possessor of a letter opener that he had no obvious use for. A letter opener that, at this point had been involved in two hideous deaths.
Three if you counted that time Herb Chevin used it to kill Heebie Chevin after he died and was buried and then came back again. That one was contentious. Does it really count as killing someone if they’d definitely already been dead once?
Otley buried his aunt in her back garden. Partly because it was what she would have wanted, partly because moving her sticky remains round in pieces on a shovel was pretty undignified and putting in her in a wheelbarrow to get her to church didn’t seem like the right thing either.
He took the letter opener home, and gave it pride of place on the mantelpiece, having moved half a skull and a couple of odd looking stones out of the way. He liked the way the pretty handle caught the light. He was so busy admiring it that he nearly tripped over the hearth rug and barely saved himself from falling face first into the fire.
(With thanks to Andy Arbon for the prompt and the letter opener.)