Mary Maloney

There was a slow smiling air about her, and about everything she did.

Mary is introduced as if in domestic bliss. In the next sentence it will be revealed that changes have taken place in her appearance because she is pregnant. Her grace and quiet, deliberate demeanor are two of the qualities that are thought to mean Mary makes a good housewife, but they are also ironically two of the qualities that make her a good criminal once the murder has taken place.

'Darling,' she said. 'Would you like me to get you some cheese? I haven’t made any supper because it’s Thursday.'

This question immediately followed by a statement accomplishes two things. The question provides further evidence of Mary’s solicitous tendencies toward Patrick. Her choice of words is triggered by the unanticipated awkwardness between the couple tonight and is an attempt to gingerly alleviate the tension that may be a result of Patrick’s alcohol consumption on an empty stomach. At the same time, the quote acts as exposition, determining that Thursday night is customarily a date night for the couple.

'I want some potatoes please, Sam. Yes, and I think a can of peas.'

These are the phrases Mary scripts for herself when she sits in front of her mirror and rehearses the scene to deceive Sam into believing that she thinks Patrick is still alive at home. When she arrives at the grocery store, Sam responds to her hello with “How’re you?” but Mary bypasses his perfunctory question and launches with a robotic brightness into the exact words she has rehearsed. This shows that deceit does not come naturally to her initially, but that she has a determination to master it.

Jack Noonan

'It’s the old story,' he said. 'Get the weapon, and you’ve got the man.'

Noonan says these words to Mary to reassure her that the police are drawing on their considerable experience and will be able to solve the crime. He has no idea that this is exactly the opposite of what Mary wants. This statement proves that he and the other law enforcers are being fooled. In an era when society characterized women as naturally docile, the investigative team assumes that the perpetrator is a man. Most ironically of all, they are searching for a large, heavy object which is currently in the oven, in the process of being rendered useless as a piece of evidence. The investigators indeed get the weapon. In fact, they’re consuming it. But they never think to get the woman.

'Probably right under our very noses. What you think, Jack?'

Jack is the sergeant in charge of the investigation team, and the character who has made it clear that finding the murder weapon is the key to solving the crime. This jaunty question is asked of him as the police sit around Mary’s kitchen table unknowingly consuming the murder weapon, which is literally under their noses. The poser of the question is not identified specifically but the supposition preceding the question is presented in colloquial form and lacking a grammatical subject, so its light-hearted informality adds to the ironic humor. The reader never receives Jack Noonan’s answer, as the story ends with Mary listening and giggling to herself in the next room.