Title: Put it down!
By Author: Martha Martin
Appearing in issue #37, September 16, 2013
Tag line: When Sam retired to his basement hideout, he was absolutely positively certain he’d left no clues to his whereabouts!
Police characters: None.
The gist: A man escapes from the county jail and decides to hide out at his aunt’s house, which was only a mile from the jail. His plan was to evade the police for one day, and then when the police thought he was long gone, he would steal his aunt’s jewelry and keep running. Aunt Clara was elderly, lived alone, went out every day to the senior center, he knew where she hid her key, and she had a great dark cellar that she never went down to because the stairs where too steep for her. So Sam, our escapee, made it to Clara’s house even though he was wearing a bright orange jail jumpsuit. He had been lucky that no one saw him sprinting through the woods. When he got to Clara’s house her car was gone, so before he went to the cellar he used the bathroom, making sure to dry out the sink with a paper towel after he washed his hands. Then he made himself a sandwich of just one slice of ham and one slice of cheese, using two slices of bread from a full loaf, thinking Clara would never miss any of them. He also took one bottle of water from a carelessly stocked but full shelf. He went upstairs to the bedroom closet and found old clothes from his late uncle that he felt Clara would never notice were gone so he could change tomorrow when he left. Then he went down to the basement to make himself comfortable and eat. He heard Clara come home and turn the television on. Sam fell asleep. He woke to the cellar light being turned on and two cops looking at him with guns drawn. What had been his mistake?
Crime scene: None really.
Clues: He was very careful not to leave any clues…but he forgot one thing.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: He used the bathroom and made the typical mistake of forgetting to put the seat back down. When his aunt heard on the local news that her nephew had escaped and then came home to a toilet seat in the upright position, she called the police.
My two cents: This was delightful. It moved along quickly. I never figured out the clue. At first I thought maybe he had been snoring. Or that he didn’t throw away the paper towels. When I read what the clue really was, I laughed out loud.
There were no technical problems with this story. Where I live and work, orange jumpsuits are only given to high risk prisoners so that if they escape they are more easily seen. Also orange is only used for state prison inmates here. This guy was in county jail. But colors and their uses vary from state to state so Sam could very well be in orange at the county jail. I know that some states use orange for ‘reception’ which is where incoming inmates are processed. Another fact in police work is that the police immediately make contact with the families and girlfriends of these escapees and search their houses and run checks on the phones, but our runner in the above story might not have known that. So it made sense for him to think he could hide at Aunt Clara’s.
The title that WW chose to use is pretty much a clue, but it went right over my head as I don't have any men in my house and I didn't even think of the toilet. Nice job, Ms. Martin.