Friday, November 29, 2013

Appearing in issue #48, December 2, 2013

Title: The listener
By Author:  John M. Floyd

Tag line:  Sharp-eared Angela Potts just sat there…waiting for the suspect to misspeak. The question is: Would he?

Police characters:  Sheriff Chunky Jones and school teacher Angela Potts

The gist:  While Sheriff Jones was at the dentist dispatch got a call that a woman had seen a man in a white t-shirt and jeans sneaking out of neighbor’s house.  She reported the man was heading east into Heritage Park.  Deputy Prewitt was near that location, so he headed over to the park and spotted Jack Nelson coming out of the park on the west side.  Jack claimed he had nothing to do with the crime and had never been to that guy’s house before. Cash and jewelry were stolen, but Jack didn’t have anything on him when he was picked up.  Jack says he’s out of work and was just hanging around the park.  Jack told Sheriff Jones that Deputy Prewitt had picked him up and taken him back to the house that had been robbed.  The owner of the home said he had never seen Jack before, but of course, the house had been burgled when the owner was out.  Jack told the cop: You think I’m the only guy in town wearing a white t-shirt and Jeans?  He also said: How do you think I got rid of the goods?  Hid them somewhere?
Mrs. Potts knew he did it because he said the wrong thing.  

At the end of the story Jack admits to the theft and told the police he had stashed the loot in the park in a storm drain.

Crime scene:  Burglary of a dwelling.

Clues:  White t-shirt and jeans. (This was the obvious clue.  Turns out it's not the clue at all.)

Suspects:  Only one, Jack Nelson, the only guy around with a white t-shirt and jeans. 

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  Jack said Deputy Prewitt took him ‘back’ to the burgled house. If he’d never been there before, how could he go back?

My two cents:  I thought the story progressed well enough.  Mrs. Potts wasn’t snarky to Jones, which is a bonus.  I got a bit confused on the ‘he was headed east into the park’ but yet he was picked up coming out of the park on the west side.  I’m not sure we needed the east/west thing.  He could have been headed toward to the park…and then he was seen leaving the park.  I figured that was a clue, but I couldn’t figure it out.  It wasn’t a clue.   I also thought I had the clue when Jack said he wasn’t the only guy in town wearing a white t-shirt and jeans.  No one had mentioned that fact to him.  But that wasn’t a clue either.  I completely missed the real clue because it’s a non-clue to me.  Stating that the deputy picked him up and they headed back to the scene of the crime doesn’t imply guilt to me.  It implies that the police were there earlier and now they're headed back again, this time for a show-up identification.  

"How do you think I got rid of the goods?  Hid them somewhere?"  I thought this was a dumb thing for him to say.  I'm positive it crossed their minds that this guy might have stashed the loot before they got to him.  Why would the bad guy even hint of that, or plant that idea in their minds when that's exactly what he did?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Appearing in issue #47, November 25, 2013

Title: Half-time heist
By Author:  Tracie Rae Griffith
Tag line: An expensive watch left out in plain sight is tempting – and someone had succumbed to the temptation…

Police characters:  Detective Kristine Kay and Sgt. Bill Morgan

The gist: Three friends are at Kip’s house watching a football game.  Kip had won an expensive Rolex watch from his job for high sales and he had it out  showing it to his friends.  It wasn’t on his wrist; it was on a table.  It went missing and Kip called the police.  

Here is the sequence of events:  The 3 guys are watching the game.  Halftime comes and they order a pizza. When the pizza guy comes, Kip goes to pay for it, Al goes to the bathroom to clean off a food spill on his shirt, and Sam goes to the kitchen for more chips.  Kip thinks that both men left the room so they wouldn’t have to pay for the pizza.  He claims they both had gambling debts and also both are cheap. 

Det. Kay noticed spare change and business cards scattered on the table top.   (I can’t figure out what relevance that sentence has to the crime.)

Sgt. Morgan asks Kip:  “So that means you were alone with the watch for some period of time?  Was it insured?”  I guess he’s hinting that Kip stole his own watch.  Kip said that the watch was insured. He stated that he had to go to the bedroom and get his wallet and after he paid for the pizza he went out into the kitchen to help Sam bring out more food.  At that time Al came out of the bathroom with a wet shirt and they all settle down to eat and watch the game.  During the third quarter Kip notices his watch is gone. Kip accused Al (the bathroom guy) of being alone with the watch when he was in the kitchen with Sam.  Sam added that Al was also alone with the watch when he (Sam) spilled beer on his shirt and before he (Al) went into the bathroom, because Kip went to the kitchen for paper towels, and he (Sam) went into the garage for more beer. Al shot back that when it started raining during the second quarter he (Al) and Kip went outside to close their car windows but Sam stayed inside, alone with the watch. 

  Sgt. Morgan is basically clueless.  He thinks the watch is in one of the cars, thinking either Kip (the owner of the watch) or Al stole it.  Or perhaps Sam put it in the garage when he went out there.  Sgt. Morgan says they will need a search warrant for the cars and the garage. 

    But Det. Kay  figured it out. 

Crime scene:  Kip’s house. 

Clues:   I’m so confused I couldn’t even get it.   I will tell you though, after reading the solution the clue is that Kip had to leave the room to get money for the pizza. 

Suspects:  One of the three men; Kip, Al or Sam.

Red herrings:  Beats me if there are any. 

Solution:  It was the pizza delivery man. When Kip left the living room to get his wallet Al was in the bathroom and Sam was in the kitchen.

My two cents:  Too many suspects and too much moving around.  The story was laid out in a very confusing manner and it was disjointed. It was even difficult for me to get it down on paper for this blog.  First they’re watching the game.  Then Al gets food on his shirt and has to go get cleaned up.  Then the pizza guy comes and they all scatter like rats.  Someone goes to the garage for more beer.  Someone goes to the kitchen to get more food.   We learn later that Kip spilled his beer in the middle of all this and went for paper towels.  It starts raining and a couple of them go roll up windows.  And of course, the stellar clue of some change and business cards on the table.  Huh?  And they both have gambling debts?  

Kip is ticked off that the guys leave when the pizza man shows up.  Why didn’t he collect some money when they ordered the pizza?  Especially if he knew that his two friends are cheap.  That’s what we do when we’re with a bunch of people.  

I like Tracie’s stories usually, but this one didn’t make the grade.  The one part I did like was that it wasn’t any of the three men in the house.  Nice twist.  I didn’t even think of the pizza guy.  I just wish the story flowed better. 

It was kind of a shame that Kip blamed his friends and it wasn’t even one of them.  I guess those friendships are over.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Appearing in issue #46, November 18, 2013

Title: A spotless reputation
By Author:  B.K. Stevens
Tag line: Certain clues made it crystal-clear that this had been no accidental death!

Police characters:  Lt. Alicia Mendez, Det. Frank Lane

The gist: William Camden was found dead at the bottom of a sleekly polished wooden staircase.  He was dressed in an immaculate white shirt and sharply creased slacks.  He looked to be about 70 years old.  A sweater lay near his outstretched right arm.  He was found by his niece, Meredith, who is 30 years old.  She claims she found him dead, checked for a pulse, but touched nothing else.  The television was on in the living room.  Det. Lane surmised that William had been watching TV, had gotten cold, went upstairs for a sweater, and slipped on the way back down.  He had died of an apparent head wound.  Lt. Mendez noticed a TV guide open to last night’s programs on the coffee table next to a half-empty beer bottle ringed by a damp circle. The niece claimed she had stopped by tonight to pick up her uncle’s dry cleaning, which she routinely does on Wednesdays.  When he didn’t answer, she let herself in.  She has a key, as does her cousin Evan.  The uncle did not have a housekeeper.  He was very fussy about his furniture and hated clutter.  He could not keep a housekeeper for those reasons.  Lt. Mendez noticed how neat and clean and sparkly everything was.  

Evan arrived just at that moment, having been called by Meredith.  Evan claimed he had stopped by last night as his uncle was having dinner.  Lt. Mendez noticed that Evan wore a loosely knotted tie over a wrinkled shirt, and he had disheveled hair.   They went into the kitchen to talk, out of sight of the body.  Lt. Mendez noticed dirty dinner dishes stacked in the sink and yesterday’s newspaper on the table besides William Camden’s glasses.   Meredith accused Evan of stopping by yesterday to ask for money.  Evan denied her accusation.  Evan unwrapped a piece of gum, popped it into his mouth and tossed the wrapper on the table.  Meredith snatched the wrapper and put it in the trash can.  Evan claims he only stayed 15 minutes and then was out with his buddies until after midnight.  Meredith noted that neither of them liked their uncle as he was always threatening to disinherit them and that frankly she would not miss him. 

 Noting that William’s glasses were on the kitchen table and he would need those to read the TV guide, Lt. Mendez suspects foul play.

Crime scene:  Uncle William’s house.

Clues:  Uncle’s glasses in the kitchen.   A beer glass on the table ringed by a damp circle.   Dishes in the sink. 

Suspects:  Evan and Meredith. 

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  Someone left dishes piled in the sink and placed a beer bottle on the coffee table without using a coaster.  Uncle William would never do that, nor would his compulsively neat niece Meredith.  Her sloppy cousin would though. 

My two cents: This story has all its loose ends tied up pretty well.  I can’t find any major problems with it, although it was pretty predictable with all the neat vs sloppy references.  Again the story title gave it away.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Appearing in issue #45, November 11, 2013

Title: Testing, testing
By Author:  Percy Spurlark Parker
Tag line:  Professor Marsh had to figure out who had cheated or else get a failing grade for her detective skills!

Police characters:  None.

The gist:  There were three students left in the classroom taking a mid-term test.  The professor called them “the usual trio of slackers”.  Ashley finished her test, placed it on the desk and left.   Ten minutes later both Karen and Tammy finished and left.  The professor left her classroom to attend to another matter and returned 20 minutes later.  She noticed that the drawer on her desk was protruding slightly.   She was certain she had locked it as it contained the answers to the test along with a stack of blank test booklets.  Nothing appeared disturbed but just to be sure the professor counted her blank test booklets.   There were only 49 and there should have been 50.  Someone had sneaked into the room and using the answer sheet retook the test.   She checked the completed pile of tests.  Tammy’s, Ashley’s and Karen’s booklets were on the top (in that order).   She graded the three papers.  Tammy scored 88; Ashley scored 79, and Karen scored 76.  The professor was sure one of those girls had cheated.  She thought about making them take the test again, but decided they could pass or all fail the second time around and that wouldn’t prove anything.  She decided to question the students and went looking for them.  She spotted them in the cafeteria.  When she approached Tammy and Karen were drawing circles in their catsup with what fries they had left.  Ashley was just taking the first bite of her sandwich.  When questioned, all three girls told the professor that they had left the classroom and came straight to the cafeteria for lunch.   The professor knew who had cheated. 

Crime scene:  Classroom.

Clues:   The girls’ lunches and the order of the tests on the desk.

Suspects:   The three girls.

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  Ashley is the cheater.  She left the classroom before the others yet she was just starting her lunch.  Why?  Because she went back, broke into the desk drawer, and retook her exam.  Also in her haste Ashley didn’t put her test booklet back in the same order it had been. 

My two cents:  The only real clue here is the order of the test booklets.  The fact that Ashley was just beginning to eat her sandwich proves nothing.  She could have made a phone call first.  She could have eaten her dessert first.  She could have eaten a salad or fries or just about anything else in the world first.  The story didn’t say what was on the lunch trays.  Or she could have stopped and talked to someone before settling down to eat. Or sent a few hundred text messages.  You know teenage girls.

There was a lot of talk (that I left out of my ‘gist’ above) about the professor working with an architect and about her being designated the coordinator for the new wing, something she grudgingly accepted, and the secretary's call that he’s ready for her, etc, etc.  All just filler.  All that could have been cut.  It’s just a waste of our precious 700 words.  Perhaps the story was so simple that that extra padding was needed?  

I didn’t think “the usual trio of slackers” was a very nice thing for the professor to say. 

I’m not so sure the professor would have gotten away with ‘making’ the three girls retake the test.  I know as a parent I would have raised a stink.

All in all not a bad idea for a mystery story.  It was a little dull.  I think it could have been written in a more interesting way.