Friday, December 20, 2013

Appearing in issue #51, December 23, 2013

Title:   For love or money
By Author: Gary Delafield

Tag line:  The detective arrived to find that a little old lady had died – and not of natural causes…

Police characters: Detective Kate Billings and Officer Tom Dixon
The gist:  Everyone at the senior home has to sign in and out to get onto the property, even Det. Billings when she arrived and was escorted to Margaret Hill’s room where Officer Tom Dixon stood guard.  The ME was already on scene and pronounced Margaret dead by strangulation.  A green and blue scarf was still twisted around her neck.  At this point Det. Billings asked Officer Dixon if there was a motive. (Good grief.)  Officer Dixon pointed to the victim’s desk and said, “Check out the will.  That’s her lawyer’s phone number on the Post-it.  He told me he hadn’t spoken to his client in months.”   Margaret’s niece and nephew were the sole heirs.  Margaret had two visitors that day; her niece and nephew.  (Nicely tied up with a bow, right?) The niece arrived at 10 AM and signed out shortly after.  The nephew arrived 45 minutes later and found Margaret dead.  The director of the property led Det. Billings to the reception room where another senior citizen, Alice, was sitting. According to the director, Alice might have seen something as she was a nosy thing.  Alice claimed she only saw the niece and nephew visit Margaret.  (Somehow now both the niece and nephew were also sitting in the reception area at this point.)   Alice said the niece tried to make small talk with her on the way out, claiming it was probably to establish an alibi.  (What? They sign in and out.) Alice pointed at the nephew and said, “What some people will do for money!”  Det. Billings noted that Alice knew about the will.   Alice claimed that Margaret was her best friend and that she had given her that very same scarf that had been used to kill her. The nephew claimed when he arrived and saw his aunt dead, he thought it must be a heart attack.   When Det. Billings mentioned that Aunt Margaret was about to change her will, he seemed surprised.   The niece said she knew her aunt was about to change her will and that since both of her heirs were financially comfortable Aunt Margaret was going to give some money to charity.  The niece said her aunt seemed happy and in fact had told her she had just met a man and she wanted her family to meet him.  She said Margaret made a little joke about how she’d landed him.  As the women way outnumber the men in the home, there was a lot of competition. 

So that’s it.  Know who did it?
Crime scene:  Village Senior Residence.

Clues:   The scarf. 
Suspects:  The niece, the nephew --- the new man?

Red herrings:   The will. 
Solution: Alice is the killer.  She wanted the man that Margaret landed.  When the niece spoke to her on the way out, she mentioned that she was coming back later to meet her aunt’s new beau.  Alice confronted Margaret and lost control when Margaret confirmed her romance.  Alice’s mistake was mentioning the scarf.  Until the coroner’s report no one knew the scarf had been the murder weapon.

My two cents:   Okay…where to start.  From the top.  The staff at the residence knew Margaret had been strangled with a scarf…that’s how she was found.  So to say that Alice couldn’t have heard the details of her friend’s death is questionable.  
The detective asked the officer what the motive is.  Let me say that again…no, okay, you get it.  It’s the detective’s job to figure out the motive.  The officer took it upon himself to bungle the investigation by calling the lawyer before the detective bureau arrived and speaking to him.  That is just not done. 

How did the niece and nephew, who had left the building hours ago, get into the reception room?  Also Det. Billings questioned Alice in front of the niece and nephew.  It’s stuff like this that gets people off in trials.  The detective just poisoned the credibility of all of the witnesses.
Next, you can tell this story was written by a man.  Ask any older woman in a senior home…no one…none of them…wants to hook up with a man.  By that time in their lives, they’ve had it with men.  So for two old ladies to argue about who was going to be his girlfriend?  Hahahahahha.  It would be more like they argued about who HAD to take him.  Okay, I’ll back down on that one.  It is possible that some older woman wanted a boyfriend.  

The solution was pretty long.  When you have to explain everything, maybe the story didn’t work so well. Also there was no indication that jealousy could be a motive.  That came out of the blue and was only revealed in the solution.  We hate that. Next thing you know they’ll be saying the butler did it.


Tamara said...

Another story where the motive was not mentioned. At least, I read no indication that the two women were rivals for the new man. So, why, oh why, did I receive a rejection for not revealing the motive? This is the second one in a row that paid $500 without doing so. Hmmmmm.....

Chris said...

I agree that more should have been made of the rivalry thing in the story, not just in the reveal. Cassie could have hinted that Margery's friend Alice was the love rival when she spoke to the officer.

(By the way, people do have to sign in AND out of care homes, Jody, simply for security and fire reasons, so they know who's there and who isn't.)

The solution says that the clue to Alice's guilt is that she 'knew' the scarf was the murder weapon, but she didn't actually say that, just that she had given it to her friend for her birthday. All that showed was that she knew Margaret was wearing it that day, not that it had been used to strangle her. If Alice had denied seeing her friend that day, then the mention of the scarf would have been incriminating. As it is, it proved nothing.

Naturally if their aunt had been found dead, possibly murdered, the niece and nephew would return to the home. I didn't have a problem with them being there again. Reception areas in these places can be pretty big, so the fact that they were sitting with an officer 'across the room' wouldn't necessarily put them within earshot of the conversation with Alice.

As to old folk not liking a little flirt and the idea of finding love in their twilight years... I can think of half a dozen game old birds who'd argue that point. They still have a twinkle in their eye when a good looking man's about.

My biggest issue with this story was the notion of an elderly woman having the physical strength to strangle someone (or is it garrotte) with a silky scarf. Where were the ridges and bruising on her skin where she'd wound it round her hands for extra grip? Surely she'd be showing signs of pain in her joints from the exertion? There should have been something in the author's description of Alice to show she was capable of that. Sitting calmly reading a newspaper seemed pretty chilly if her friend had just been killed, but that was about the only 'clue' we had.

Those aspects aside, it worked okay for me.

Tamara said...

The question about the MO did occur to me too, because I've heard that strangulation is not a women's MO, when it comes to murder. Could happen, of course, but it would have been a good idea to toss in a description of the woman as big and muscular or something.

Jody E. Lebel said...

Chris. RE: signing in and out. Yes, that's true. I don't think I picked on that, did I? If I sounded like I did, mea culpa. I used to work in a nursing home years ago as an aide.

The point about the scarf. I had to go back and read that part again. Alice said: "I gave her that silk scarf for her birthday." When I added the part about it being the very same scarf that killed her, that wasn't in the original story. So your point is taken here. It really doesn't incriminate Alice. It might raise a question in the detective's mind and make them inquire further, but it's not in and of itself a confession.

I think the author may have had some lines cut. He probably had something in there about the family being called back in. But the current reading just has them gone one minute and sitting in the reception room the other. It seemed disjointed to me.

Excellent point about the strangulation. An old woman may not have the strength to do that, especially if the victim fought her. It would make more sense to have the killing be done by a blow to the head from the floor lamp or something. Or a glass paperweight. Even better. Something Alice could still have given her as a gift.

When I think of a garrotte (sp?)I think of something small and sharp, like wire. I think when you garrotte someone you slice into their throat. Not sure on that. I'd have to do some research.

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