Saturday, May 18, 2013

Title: Power play
By Author: Phyllis Whitfield

Appearing in issue #21,  May 27, 2013
For sale date:  May 16, 2013

Tag line:  It was a dark and stormy night when one of Pete Patton’s many enemies came to call.
Police characters:  County Sheriff Eddie Smith

The gist:  The power is out in River Falls for a half hour.  At 8:05 Sheriff Smith gets a call that Pete Patton, who lives in the neighboring town of Glen Oaks, has been shot.  Nobody likes Pete.  He’s bad tempered and has made a fortune selling organic potatoes to fast-food restaurants.   Sheriff Smith meets Alex Till at Patton’s door, who tells him the body is upstairs.  Alex, the plumber, had an 8:00 AM appointment with Pete.  He said no one answered the doorbell but lights were on and since Pete was expecting him, he just went on inside and found Pete dead.  Alex said he got along with Pete but that he didn’t always pay on time. The coroner announced Pete was killed an hour ago.   
Pete’s ex-wife, Helen, wasn’t happy in the divorce. She lives in Glen Oaks. She wasn’t sorry that he was dead.  When asked where she was at 8:00 she said she was working on her computer.

 Pete’s nephew Jesse fought with him all the time.  Jesse lives in River Falls.  He said his uncle used Jesse’s savings to start the business and even though the money was paid back, Peter wouldn’t give cut the nephew in on a share of the profits.  He said he had been home been watching TV all evening with his girlfriend and she would vouch for him. 
Pete’s sister Connie was treated poorly by Pete. She lives in Glen Oaks.  She said they were family and she just put up with his mean ways.  She claims she was reading a good book at the time her brother was killed.

 Crime scene:  Pete’s home.
Clues:  The power was out at the time of the death.

Suspects:  Ex-wife Helen, Sister Connie, nephew Jesse.
Red herrings:  None.  We had four 'suspects' but not one of them had a good enough motive to even be considered as a red herring.

Solution:  Jesse was the only one who lived in River Falls.  He claimed he was watching TV all night but there was no power for a short time.  He didn’t know the power was out in River Falls because he was in Glen Oaks fighting with his uncle, a fight then ended up with him shooting Pete.
My two cents:   Well, there are a couple of things here.  Just because the power was out in one city doesn’t mean it was not out in the neighboring city.  The sheriff never asked if the power was out in Glen Oaks.  And it was only off for 30 minutes.  The wife said she was on the computer.  Computers work without power.  The sister said she was reading.  You can read without a lamp.  Jesse said he was watching TV all night, and he could have been.  Just because he didn’t say I was watching TV all night expect for 30 minutes when the power went out doesn’t make him a killer.

How many plumbers do you know that just walk into your house when no one answers the bell?
There were four people to keep track of and two cities.  It was a bit confusing and crowded in the ‘ole suspect room’.   Nobody had a really good motive to kill Pete.  He had paid back the money. His divorce wasn’t pleasant but whose is?  (And we didn’t all kill our exes.  um...we didn't, right?) Pete treated his sister badly, but she didn’t have to take it.  There’s no compelling reason to kill here. That along with the vague inference that the power must have been on in the neighboring city makes for a ho-hum mystery


Anonymous said...

Ummm - did we read the same story??? It was VERY clear to me that the power was off in one city and off in the other. I LOVE Phyllis Whitfield's stories - she's great. Maybe I live where folks are nice - but ... if I was expecting the plumber and had asked him over ... come on in!

Jody E. Lebel said...

Well, Ms. Anonymous, thanks for stopping by. I love to hear opposite views. In fact, I used to be on the debate team in high school and find it fascinating that 3 people can look at the same thing and see it differently. I think maybe your intense love of Ms. Whitfield may be coloring your view of this story. (You aren't by any chance Phyllis, are you?) Not everything one writes is always a smashing hit. This story was a bit lacking in that there was no solid motive. Pete was bad tempered. So is my judge. I don't think about killing him though.

The power thing? I still don't see a positive indication whether the power was on or off. The plumber could have been lying about the lights being on to cover the fact that he just barged into Pete's home. I don't care how nice folks are, a worker doesn't walk into someone's house. If I didn't hear the door bell and then turned around and some huge cable guy was coming towards me in my living room, I'd be upset. In fact, it's against the law. It's called breaking and entering.

And the fact that the plumber knew Pete and had done work for him before doesn't give him license to enter either. What if he went in, did the work, and when Pete came home he claimed there was jewelry missing? The plumber could be charged with burglary. Bonded and licensed workers know better than to put themselves in that position.

This wasn't a bad story, it just wasn't a great story.

Betsi said...

I didn't read the story, but I just read these comments and wanted to say that they made me laugh! :-) I was remembering the other day how people used to "just walk in" to our house when I was a kid -- the insurance man collecting payments (yes, they did that), the meter reader -- and all the times my mom was in her slip getting ready to go to her evening job! I'd call the cops if anybody tried that now, for sure.

Jody E. Lebel said...


Yes, those were gentler times. And those were the days of slips and rollers in our I remembering playing in the woods next to our house for hours building forts and climbing trees, and hiking down to the creek to catch pollywogs. These days you almost can't let your children play alone in their own backyards. <>