Friday, August 16, 2013



Title: Dismissed for cause
By Author:   Emma Courtice

Appearing in issue #34, August 26, 2013

Tag line:  Mr. Ferguson had given his employees the boot.  Now, it was their turn…

Police characters:  Sgt. Norman Bain

The gist: Wallace Ferguson lay dead in his bed upstairs.  No murder weapon was found.  The story didn’t give a cause of death, but said a fireplace poker was missing from the set.  The handyman and the maid had both been given a month’s notice last night.  The handyman was questioned but he was pretty hung over and didn’t remember much. After getting the bad news he had begun to drink heavily.  He didn’t even remember finishing the bottle.  There was a trail of muddy footprints from the back door that were unmistakably made by the handyman’s work books.  The footprints were uneven as though the walker was unsteady, and they led first to the fireplace, then upstairs to the old man’s room.  Then more footprints were seen very clearly by the old man’s bed before they led back down and outside towards the handyman’s quarters over the garage.  The handyman had been found asleep in his own bed, clothes still on, but muddy boots on the floor.  Crime Scene found a bloody fireplace poker in the bushes by the garage.  No fingerprints were found on it.   Sgt. Bain pointed the finger at the maid. 

Crime scene:  Old man Ferguson’s bedroom.

Clues:  Muddy footprints everywhere and no fingerprints on the poker. 

Suspects:  Handyman and the maid.

Red herrings:   None. 

Solution:  Sgt. Bain didn’t figure the handyman was sober enough to have the presence of mind to wipe his prints off the poker before he threw it into the bushes. Also the footprints were excessive and very clear, as though someone had re-muddied the boots and made trails.  The maid killed Ferguson and tried to pin it on the handyman as he was getting drunk and wouldn’t remember.  She put on his boots and made the prints.  She had to wipe off her fingerprints from the murder weapon. 

My two cents:  She almost got away with it.  If she had only thought to go up to the sleeping handyman and press his fingers on the poker before she discarded it in the bushes by his quarters, she may never have gotten caught.   Of course she overdid the muddy prints in an attempt to frame the handyman, and that would not have gone unnoticed by the police, but had his fingerprints been on the murder weapon, that mud detail would just have been something the defense attorney would use to plant a question in the minds of the jurors. 

This story started out by telling the reader how cheap Ferguson was.  He didn’t have a dish washer.  The clothes were hanging on the line.  I’m thinking this was done to tell the reader why he was firing his help; otherwise that information isn’t germane to the story.  All in all, this tale worked.  There were no procedural errors.  There were no mistakes in the construction of the story.  It moved along well and the clues were not so obvious that the reader wouldn’t bother to read the solution. 

Just as an aside, there was not one exclamation point in this story.  Not even in the tag line.  Do you think WW is paying attention to this blog?  lol

5 comments:

Chris said...

I love the fact that the old man not having a dishwasher or tumble dryer is supposed to show how cheap he was. I don't own either and I manage just fine. But I thought this was a pretty good little mystery. I got the killer and the clues but that didn't matter to me as it was soundly plotted. I might have placed a pair of handyman's gloves beside the boots to account for the lack of fingerprints, but that's nit-picking.

Jody E. Lebel said...

That's a good idea about the gloves. Of course when you get fired that day and you're all mad and decide to kill the boss, you don't always plan it out so that all the bases are covered...at least that's what I'm assuming as I've never killed my boss. The maid probably figured the cops would think he wiped it off. But there's not much sense to wiping it off then leaving it in bushes next to where he lives. That was a bit obvious. But again, the perp isn't thinking clearly when she just smashed someone in the head with a poker. I'll bet the adrenaline runs amok. I thought it was a good story. And I don't say that often.

Mary Hicks said...

I wondered if someone that drunk would bother to take his boots off!
Made me think another person took them off for him...

I liked the story.:-)

Jody E. Lebel said...

Mary,
I haven't been that drunk since college but it seems I always kicked off my shoes at least before I fell into bed...:)

Of course, he's a guy...so...you may be right.

Mary Hicks said...

Jody, I've never been that drunk!! I don't know what I'd do... guys are different. They probably wouldn't even go to bed. :-)