Title: A shot in the dark
By Author: Herschel Cozine
Appearing in issue #39, September 30, 2013
Tag line: Was it a deadly accident or a deliberate murder? Only time would tell…
Police characters: Unnamed detective and his mother-in-law, Gladys, who likes to think of herself as an amateur sleuth.
Crime scene: The victim’s home.
The gist: Gladys and the detective are talking over the morning paper. Gladys has recently moved in with her daughter and son-in-law, who works as a detective, and has taken an interest in his work. She loves to ask him about his cases. Today they are discussing what the police are calling an accidental shooting. Gladys thinks it was murder. The detective explained that the husband claimed his wife heard a noise downstairs at night and sent him down to investigate. He told her to stay upstairs. He went downstairs with his gun and proceeded into the kitchen. The lights suddenly went off. He became a bit disoriented and waited quietly for a moment to let his eyes adjust. He was frightened. He claims he felt a presence, heard a noise, and shot his gun in that direction. Then he went to the fuse box and threw the switch. When the lights came on he discovered he had shot and killed his wife.
Gladys doesn’t believe the story. She questioned why the husband didn’t go first and turn the lights back on. The detective said that was a consideration but the man did say he was frightened. She questioned how a burglar would even know where the fuse box was to turn it off. The detective explained that the culprit might have been in the house before, or maybe even lived in a similar floor plan. She questioned that the lights even went out at all. The detective noted there was a digital clock on the table that was ten minutes off, just the amount of time the husband claimed this whole thing took.
Clues: The clock.
Suspects: Is the husband guilty of killing his wife or was it an accident?
Red herrings: None.
Solution: When power goes off digital clocks revert to 12:00 o’clock and flash until they are reset. The husband had manually set the clock back ten minutes to reflect a power outage that never happened.
My two cents: The story starts off with a joke about men. So right there you’ve got to love it. The interaction between mother-in-law and son-in-law is entertaining. He tries not to roll his eyes. She snorts at his explanations. He tells her to let him talk and she presses her lips together and makes a zipping motion over her mouth. When she smiles, he is reminded of the shark in Jaws. I can almost see these two characters. He has a logical explanation for everything and is trying to keep an open mind, but she isn’t buying any of it.
This story was told in first person and pulled the reader into the scene. It was presented in an interesting manner. The reader is not taken to the usual crime scene, but instead learns the case details after the fact through dialogue between two people. Although in the real world detectives are not supposed to discuss open cases with civilians, we know they really do. In this scenario Gladys works details out of him and he gives in probably to keep peace in his house. You have to feel for the guy.
If the power really had gone off, other electronic devices would have also been blinking that the cops might have noticed. Like the microwave maybe. If this husband had only thought to really turn the power off for a few minutes he might have gotten away with it. The title fits and the tag line doesn’t give too much away. All in all this was a fun story that worked.