Saturday, January 26, 2013

Title:  Wound up
By Adele Polomski

Appearing in February 4, 2013 issue.
For sale date: 1/25/13

Tag line:  The thieves had been real pros.  So why had they taken the time to knock over the grandfather clock?

The police: Chief Nancy Taylor, Deputy Rex Hauser
The gist:  Someone broke into an antique store and stole several pieces, the most valuable in the store.  A grandfather clock got knocked over and the hands stopped at 10:10.

Crime scene:  An antique gallery.
Clues:  The security system was down for scheduled maintenance.  The manager hired their usual backup security guard.  The grandfather clock had been knocked over during the robbery and stopped working at 10:10. The manager noted that he wound the clock himself every evening and it had been working.  He thought the thieves were professionals.  There were no fingerprints on the clock.  Mimi, the assistant manager, has worked there for one month and claims to have left at 6:00.   She prepared a detailed list of stolen items for the police.  Mimi has a degree in art history and believed four of the stolen paintings had been forgeries and had told the manger, who told her they would bring in an expert to check them out.  The manager told the police that the stolen paintings had all been authenticated and Mimi was wrong.

Mimi claims to have been home alone at 10:10.  The manager, Poole, said he had a late dinner at 9:00, then joined friends for drinks, then came home at midnight.  The guard said he arrived at 7:00 and before Poole left he instructed the guard to walk the perimeter of the building every hour, same instructions as last time.  When he wasn’t doing his surveillance, the guard sat in his van out front.  He does not have a key to the building. The theft was discovered in the morning when the manager and the security guard entered the building and saw the clock knocked over.  A back window had a broken lock.
Suspects:  Louis Poole, manager.  Mimi Cox, manager’s assistant. Matt Donnelly, security guard.  Or random thieves.

Red herrings:  The security guard looked wide awake for a guy who hadn’t slept all night.    Mimi doesn’t have an alibi.

Solution:  Poole, the manager, stole the paintings.  After Mimi left and before the security guard arrived he adjusted the hands of the clock to 10:10 to secure his alibi.  He wiped the clock clean of any fingerprints and pushed the clock over to stop the time and divert suspicion from himself.  He then broke the window lock and loaded up his car.  He staged the robbery to remove forgeries he had swapped for authentic paintings.
My two cents:   Why didn’t the guard, who walked around the building every hour, not see the broken window lock?  If you could only see it from the inside, that’s a clue missed by the cops. How do you break a window lock from the outside without it being seen? How big was this window that paintings were supposedly removed from?  If the crooks came in through the window, they probably exited through a back door with the goods.  Was the door locked in the morning?  Was there a back door?  Were the paintings small? These things were never addressed.

There was no mention of dusting for prints at the entry point, the window.
Just how long is ‘scheduled maintenance’?  What kind of security system has scheduled maintenance that leaves their customers without security on their valuable property so that you have to hire a guard?  Not in this day and age.

For me the main clue was that Mimi told Poole she thought the paintings were forgeries and he told her he would bring in an expert, but he told the police she didn’t know what she was talking about.  He already knew she was right, which prompted him to get those forgeries out of the gallery through a fake burglary.  Knocking over a large grandfather clock and then cleaning off all fingerprints was just dumb on his part. But who says crooks are smart?  lol 

This story is portrayed as a robbery, but it is actually a burglary.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

By Laird Long

Appearing in January 28, 2013 issue.
For sale date: January 17th

Tag Line:  The classic Cadillac convertible had taken its final drive.  Question was: Who’d been behind the wheel?
The Police: Detective Drew Warner, insurance investigator Cliff Ramsey.

The gist:  Bill Johnson’s 1967 Caddy went missing and was found torched, a total loss.  Bill had taken it out for a ride on Monday night and had the top down.  When he returned, he left the top down and parked the car in his locked garage.  Next morning he flew out of town on business, taking a cab to the airport.  When he returned Tuesday night he found a broken latch on the garage and his car missing.  He reported it immediately to the police.
Crime scene:  Behind an abandoned building.  

Clues:  Bill’s bedroom window faces the garage and he claims his window was open all night and he didn’t hear any smashing of locks.   He hadn’t seen anyone suspicious around the neighborhood.  When he left on Tuesday morning he didn’t notice any damage to the garage lock.  It had rained hard all day Tuesday.  The car was found three days later.   The top was down on the convertible.
Suspects:  A  joyrider.  Bill Johnson.

Red herrings:  I didn’t find any in this story.

Solution:  If the car was stolen on Tuesday when it was pouring rain the top wouldn’t have still been down.  Johnson set it ablaze on Monday night then left for his out-of-state trip that would give him an alibi.   If Bill had checked the weather forecast he would have put the top back up before he torched the car.

My two cents:  Well, it doesn’t all add up for me.  The car was found three days later.  If someone had stolen it on Tuesday when Bill was gone and taken it for a joy ride, they could have ridden around for two more days, putting the top back down after Tuesday’s rain.  It’s a convertible.  It’s Florida.  They’re going to want to ride around with the top down.   The fact that it was found with the top down is no surprise.  After a few days of fun, they would realize they have to ditch the car, so they set it on fire to burn away any fingerprint evidence.
 Bill Johnson has a job that takes him out of the state but he doesn’t have air conditioning in his bedroom?  Florida is hot and muggy and he had his window open all night?   I lived in Florida.  That doesn’t happen. That was more of a clue to me than Tuesday’s rain.  The story never said why Bill set his car ablaze.  I assume it was insurance fraud.

On scene Detective Warner asked the insurance investigator: “Why?  And by whom?  And can you tell me when?”  How would the insurance guy know why and by whom?  The only solid dialogue here is “Can you tell me when?”  Also, most cops don’t say whom. 

VOTES:  1 - solved
               2 - Needs help

Friday, January 11, 2013

Turn right at the light
By John M. Floyd

Appearing in January 21, 2013 issue.
For sale date: January 11th

Tag Line:  Angela heard the distress call come in, and she didn’t like the sound of it.  Not one little bit …
The Police: Sheriff Charles Jones, Sally the dispatcher.
Not the police but a regular character: Angela Potts, Sheriff Jones’ former schoolteacher.

Overview:  The sheriff is sent to a fake call to get him away from the jail, where young Jeffy Barrow was currently a guest.
Crime Scene:  The sheriff’s office.
Clues:  The man who made the call identified himself as “Joe Smith”.    He might as well have said Joe Blow.  Joe called for police saying there was a fight on his front lawn.  When asked his address Joe noted that the movie theater located at 216 Oakwood Drive was right across from his house which was 218 Oakwood Drive.  This is not the way lots are numbered in the United States.  (For our UK fans the lots are numbered odd on one side and even on the other.) Joe also told the sheriff to turn right at the light and go straight to reach his property.  The street the sheriff’s office is located on runs east and west and has a stop light at either end.
Red Herrings:  There really are no red herrings in a Sheriff Jones/Angela Potts story.  She always figures it out before the sheriff does.

Solution:  Jeffy’s father made the call to get the sheriff away from the jail so he could break his son out.  Angela Potts realized Joe was giving directions as if he could see which way the cruiser was parked, and also that the house number was wonky.

My two cents:   First let me say that author John Floyd has sold 50 stories to Woman’s World magazine.  His Sheriff Jones/Angela Potts stories are popular.  With that said I will comment that this was not one of John’s stronger stories.  The entire first column, one-fifth of the page, had nothing to do with the mystery but was utilized to introduce us to the characters. 
     In my day job I work around cops, and I know that it is against departmental policy to allow a non-official person to ride in the front seat of a patrol car.  It is an insurance liability.  Yet Ms. Potts hops in and Sheriff Jones lets her.  This is a small town police department with only two law enforcement officers, so things are a bit lax in some areas.  Okay, I can live with that.   
     Normally the dispatcher talks to the callers and then relays the info to the officers, but in this town people call in and talk right to Sheriff Jones, which tells me  that Sheriff Jones knows his town and its citizens.  He should have known there was no “Joe Smith” residence across from the theater.   In addition, we have caller ID on our phones now.  The dispatcher should have been able to see who was actually calling.

Votes:  1 - figured it out
               2 - delightful
               1 - so-so

Friday, January 4, 2013

Key to the crime
By Tracie Rae Griffith

Appearing in January 14, 2013 issue
For sale date: January 4th

Tag Line:  Detective Kay began to wonder if the thief had managed to make a clean getaway …
The police: Detective Kristine Kay.

Overview:  Antique 24-carat gold earrings are missing from a guest’s room.

Crime Scene:  Hotel room.

The suspects: Front desk clerk, the housekeeper  and the handyman. 

Clues:  Room 181 still had the maid service card dangling from the knob when the detective arrived.   There was an unmade bed, waste basket full of paper, and wet towels in the bathroom to indicate the maid had not been in there yet.  The victim claimed she had worn her earrings the night before to an event and had left them on the bureau before she retired and they were still there in the morning. The victim rose at 8:00 AM, made tea in her room and turned on the weather channel.  She tried to do some work at the desk but the lamp did not work.  The victim took a shower, hung the maid sign on the door, and went downstairs for breakfast.  She was gone for about an hour.  When she returned to her room, the earrings were gone.  The handyman stated he had been tied up on another floor and hadn’t had a chance to fix the lamp yet.  The housekeeper maintained that she hadn’t been in room 181 to clean yet as she arrived late for work and was behind in her duties .
Detective Kay noted that the two people who had door keys alleged to have not entered the room to do their job. While the detective mulled over the case, she turned on the TV in the room via the remote and watched a hockey game in progress.  This act gave her the information she needed to solve this crime.

Red Herrings:    The desk clerk told the detective there were no signs of a break-in even though he was not asked.  The words ‘clean getaway’ in the title send the message that it was the maid. Upon hearing there had been a theft, the desk clerk paled and called the police.  Yet later he stated that the victim must be mistaken and that the hotel has a flawless reputation.  The desk clerk surely has access to the master key that opens every room on the property.   

Solution:  The handyman did it.  He had gone to the room to fix the lamp, had turned on the sports channel to check the score for his favorite team, saw the earrings, stole them, then left without fixing the lamp so he could say he had never been in the room.

My two cents:    I was not able to figure out how a hockey game on the TV fit it.  My weather channel has sports and news clips in between the weather bits, so I didn’t think anyone had changed the channel.   Perhaps it should have read the 24-hour all weather channel.  And the hockey game didn’t lead me to the handyman.   That part was a bit stereotyped.  The maid couldn’t be a big hockey fan?  My daughter is.
All in all this was a good story.  Worthy of WW.  It read well, was consistent and was not easy to solve.  

NOTE:  The author of this story advised me that WW changed a lot of her details, including the title and the clue that solved the crime.  This happens all the time with WW.  “My Two Cents” critiques the story as WW presented it.