Friday, January 31, 2014

Appearing in issue #5, February 3, 2014

Title: A friend of the family

By Author: Laird Long

Tag line:   Trevor was dead, and to Marguerite, it sounded like a case of murder!

Police characters:  None.

The gist:   Marguerite and Trevor were sweethearts.  They had planned to spend a lovely weekend in his country home, but Trevor’s three kids, adults in their 30s, showed up uninvited: Brandon, Bruce and Beatrice. The kids had spent much of the day arguing with their estranged father, quarreling about how he should still be supporting them and what a tightwad he was.  The night before had been a bad night with Brandon snoring all night, Bruce tossing in his sleep, and light sleeper Beatrice yelling at both of them to quiet down. Tonight at midnight they finally all retired to bed.  A loud bang awakened Marguerite from a sound sleep an hour and a half later. She went to investigate. She saw Trevor’s bedroom door ajar at the end of the hall, which was unusual.  She went to his room and found him dead, sprawled face-up on the floor with a bullet hole in his forehead.  On her way back to her room to get her cell phone to call the police, she peeked in each of the children’s rooms. Brandon was lying on his back, eyes closed, seemingly asleep.   Bruce was on his side apparently sleeping. And Beatrice was curled up under her bedcovers fast asleep.  Marguerite called the police and then knocked loudly on each kid’s door.  The three roused themselves and stumbled into the hallway rubbing their eyes.  Marguerite told them their father was dead and the police were on their way.  There was little emotion from any of the kids. None of them claimed to have heard a gunshot.  Marguerite was sure it was murder and she knew who did it.

Crime scene:   Trevor’s home.

Clues:   How the three siblings slept.

Suspects:  All three kids.

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  All three siblings did it.  For a loud snorer Brandon was dead quiet when Marguerite opened the door.  Bruce was still, dead asleep.  And for a light sleeper Beatrice was pretending to be asleep despite the loud gunshot that awakened Marguerite.

My two cents:    I’m underwhelmed.  So let me get this straight.  All three adult kids got up and went into their father’s room and one of them shot and killed their father, and then they all crept back to bed and pretended to be sleeping.  Have I got that right?  Marguerite was awakened by the gunshot.  She was just down the hall.  She got up to investigate.  There were no lights flashing on or off, no noise of doors closing, feet running, excited utterances…just one bang and all is silent.   Maybe they’re zombies.  Zombies are pretty cold, can see in the dark, and are dead quiet.  

Snorers don’t snore every second they’re sleeping.  Nor do tossers toss all night.  Light sleepers may not sleep well all night but they do fall into deep sleep for a portion of the night.  What Marguerite saw when she opened their doors for a moment proves nothing as far as who killed dad.  

If Trevor had shot himself there would have been a gun at the scene.  At least tell the reader that no gun was seen, so we can look elsewhere.

Three last comments from me:  I think Trevor should be shot for naming his offspring Brandon, Bruce and Beatrice; this case would make a defense attorney salivate; and  I don't get the title.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Appearing in issue #4, January 27, 2014

Title: An inside job

By Author: Clare Mishica

Tag line:   Nelson Wheeler’s quick solution to his own problem ended up having fatal consequences for his boss…

Police characters:  Sheriff Lawson.

The gist:   Nelson’s boss had proof that he was embezzling from several of the law firm’s clients. When confronted with a CD full of proof, Nelson reacted violently, grabbing a bronze trophy from the desk and striking his boss in the head, killing him.  Knowing that his boss had made many enemies over the years, Nelson decided to throw suspicion on them.  First he had to get rid of the evidence. Nelson slipped the CD into his boss’s computer and deleted the incriminating files, which were photos of payment records to a private investigation company that didn’t exist.  Nelson had pocketed the money.  Then he emptied the computer’s recycle bin.  All that was left on the CD now were family photos.  Next Nelson wiped his prints off the keyboard and mouse and he cleaned up the trophy.  Any other of his prints in his boss’s office would be there from normal work meetings. He carefully studied his clothing for signs of blood, but didn’t see any. Just to be sure he removed his winter coat and traded it for a trench coat he kept in his office.

     He didn’t want to be the one to ‘discover’ the body, but he worried that someone might have seen him come into the building.  He called 911.  EMTs arrived followed by Sheriff Lawson.  The EMTs told the sheriff to call the coroner, which he did, and the coroner arrived accompanied by two crime scene technicians.

     When asked by the sheriff, Nelson told him that his boss had asked him to stop in to discuss a case. He said he knocked on the door but didn’t get an answer.  He said the light was on so he waited and knocked again a few minutes later but there was still no answer so he went in and found him lying on the floor.  He told the sheriff that the boss often left the front door unlocked when he stayed late.  He told the sheriff, when asked, that there were people that wouldn’t be sorry that the man was dead, and told him to check his case files for more information.

     A few days later the sheriff arrested Nelson and charged him with murder.

    How did he know?

Crime scene:   A law office.

Clues:   Nelson was meticulous.  You had to really follow him through the cleanup to find his error.  The clue was well hidden.  

Suspects:  None.  We know from the get-go who did it.  The question is how did the sheriff figure it out?

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  Nelson forgot to wipe his prints off the CD, which he had put back in the computer to delete the files.  All that was left on it were family photos, so there would be no reason to have Nelson’s fingerprint on that CD.  The sheriff found the print, became suspicious and had the print run, and then had a computer tech recover the deleted info.

My two cents:    I thought this story was well plotted out.  I figured sooner or later the computer geeks would get their hands on the hard drive, especially since Nelson told the sheriff to ‘look at his files’, but I didn’t pick up on the fact that he hadn’t wiped his prints off the CD. Just about everyone who uses a computer, and this guy was a lawyer…no dummy…knows that deleted data is never really deleted.  Nelson should have pocketed/hid the CD.  That was his downfall.    All in all a nice job by Author Mischica.

My only procedure comment is that the way it was written she has the coroner arriving with his crime scene techs.  Those are two different offices and ‘crime scene’ does not work for the coroner’s office.  Maybe she meant that they happened to arrive at the same time.  Whatever.  It didn’t spoil the story.  Just pointing it out.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Appearing in issue #3, January 20, 2014

Title: A bad deed

By Author: Emma Courtice

Tag line:   Old Mr. Mathers’ had been sitting on a fortune in real estate.  Until someone decided to evict him, once and for all!  (I don’t understand the apostrophe after Mathers.)

Police characters:  Detective Marie DeLuca

The gist:  Old man Mathers was found dead in his bed apparently smothered by his pillow.  He lived on a ramshackle farm that was surrounded by property that was owned by builders who were putting in modern housing units.   His property was worth a lot of money if only he would sell out to the investors…but he refused.  The first on- scene cop, a veteran of the force, had suspicions and called in the DB.  There were no signs of forced entry but the old man never locked his doors as he was way out in the country.  Mr. Mathers had taken to living downstairs because he couldn’t handle the stairs any longer.  The living room had been turned into a bedroom and a small bathroom had been added.

There were three people at the scene.  (The magic number for WW.)  The grandson, who was well dressed and drove a new car, told police that, yes, he had wanted gramps to sell, but there was no rush.  Grandpa was getting up in years and eventually he and his sister, the two heirs, would get the property.  He added that it just goes up in value over time anyway, so it wasn’t a problem to wait it out.  The granddaughter, who was crying, said she didn’t care about the money; she only wanted her grandfather to be comfortable and happy.  She had done all the renovations to the downstairs. The third person was the nearest neighbor lady, who had come over when she saw the lights and heard the sirens.  The neighbor said Mathers was a cantankerous old coot, stubborn, and kept to himself.  She didn’t see anyone visit him besides the two grandkids in years. She thought it was sad, him living all alone here, living out his years in a tiny corner of such a big old house.

Det. DeLuca had all she needed to point a finger.   Can you figure it out?

Crime scene:   The farmhouse.

Clues:   IMO there weren’t any.

Suspects:  The two grandkids and the neighbor lady.

Red herrings:  I didn’t see any.

Solution:  The neighbor did it.  The solution read “She (the neighbor) claimed not to have visited the farmhouse or spoken to Mathers in years, but she knew the old man was confined to the ground floor.”  She did it because her property was up for sale and she was getting a great price, but the deal stipulated that the Mathers’s property had to be included in the package.  He wouldn’t sell so she took care of business.

My two cents:    First of all, let’s talk about the first on-scene cop.  He had suspicions.  No kidding?  Mathers was smothered with a pillow.  Did the VETERAN cop think the old guy did it himself? Good thing there wasn’t a dog, or he would have pointed a finger at the mutt.  

Next, do you feel cheated?  I do.  Nowhere in the story did it state that the neighbor hadn’t visited or spoken to Mr. Mathers in years.  She certainly was right on the spot when she saw there was trouble and the police were there, which would lead one to believe she knew this neighbor, cared about him, and had been there before.  

Lastly, why would you kill someone in a remote place, then show up when the police come?  Wouldn’t you be trying to establish some kind of alibi for yourself and not chit-chatting with the cops?  

I liked the title.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Appearing in issue #2, January 13, 2014

Title: Lights, Camera…Attack!
By Author: Kendra Yoder

Tag line:   Could the detective tell which suspect was lying?  It’s not easy when dealing with actors!

Police characters:  Detective Alan Werner.

The gist:   Movie director Frank Jordan, whom everybody hated, was attacked from behind while he was in the prop room.  He was whacked with a tennis racket.  He fell to the floor, dizzy but he never losing consciousness.  He couldn’t see who did it but he heard the sharp echo of hurried footsteps leaving the room.  He had a cell phone on him and called 911.   As only employees are allowed in this area, it was easy to find out who could have been there.  The culprits were narrowed down to three actors, all who had come in earlier than normal. 

The first actor was playing an American Indian and was dressed in the part right down to his moccasins.  He denied doing the crime but said he’d shake the perp’s hand.  He said Frank had it coming and that Frank was ruthless.  He said he arrived early because he said he was a morning person.

 The second suspect was cast in a Roaring 20s movie and was wearing a flapper dress and black heels.  She denied the crime and said she liked to come in early and rehearse on the quiet set. She confirmed that everyone hated Frank and that Frank had just fired the costume designer, Joe, after 40 years of service.   Joe lost his job and his pension. 

 The third actor was in a tennis movie and was in a tennis outfit from head to toe.  She didn’t have her racket and didn’t know where it was, suggesting it must be in props.  She also denied the crime.

Crime scene:   Prop room of a movie studio.

Clues:   The actor’s costumes.

Suspects:  The 3 actors; Indian, flapper, tennis player.

Red herrings:  Joe being fired and upset.  The fact that one of the actors was in a tennis outfit.

Solution: It was the 20’s flapper.  Frank couldn’t see but heard the sharp echo of footsteps leaving the scene.  The Indian had moccasins and the tennis player wore sneakers.

My two cents:    I thought this story was very well laid out.  The revealing clue was in the first 75-100 words and the reader got so absorbed in the rest of the details that it was forgotten.  The clue wasn’t obvious or in your face.  Everyone was a suspect as everyone disliked Frank.  There were two good red herrings in this story.  Neither the title nor the tag line gave the story away.

 Although not mentioned in my ‘gist’ above the detective was said to like things in black and white and that gray areas bothered him.  As the story unfolded the author stuck in black-and-white or gray-area tags.  Also the black and white was a reference, although a light one, to the movie industry. 

  All in all a good job by veteran author Yoder. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Title: Watch your step

By Author:  John M. Floyd
Appearing in issue #1, January 6, 2014

 Tag line:   Sheriff Jones wasn’t sure if the victim was the only one who would end up taking a fall for this accident!

Police characters:   Sheriff Jones and wanna-be crime solver Angela Potts.
The gist:   The first 73 words talk about Angela dropping in for a visit and Jones eating greasy chicken.  (I don’t know how the author gets away with this.) 

On with the story:  Dispatch announced that Gumbo Harris out at Pinewood Apartments just fell off a house. So Sheriff Jones had to abandon his chicken and give Angela Potts a lift to the scene.  They were met by the complex’s developer, Gary, who it was rumored was knee-deep in loan sharking and gambling.  “What happened?” the sheriff asked wearily.  (Must be tiring eating chicken.) Gary took Potts and Jones up the stairs to the 4th floor in a building under construction.  (Old Ms. Potts must be in good shape.) Gary pointed to a closed door and explained that Bud, Gumbo’s cousin and the foreman on the job, was showing Gumbo around.  Allegedly (Like that word?  It’s not in the story.) Gumbo started wandering and walked out the door Gary was pointing to and fell to his death. The closed door was 40 feet up the side of the structure set in a blank wall.  There was nothing on the other side but open air. (Gary didn’t die from the fall, but from the sudden stop.  I couldn’t stop myself from typing that.)  Gary claimed that nobody went near the door or the area where Gumbo fell.  Gumbo owed money to Gary and Gary was unhappy that he’d never see it.  Sheriff Jones accused Gary of making an example of Gumbo for the rest of the bums that owed him money.  Gary denied it.  Sheriff Jones said, “We’ll see.  Meanwhile, you’re under arrest for the murder.  I think you walked him to the end of that hall and opened the door and pushed him.  And I think the lady across the street who happened to be looking out her window is going to make a great eye witness.”  Gary still denied it.  Sheriff Jones said, “If it wasn’t you, then who was it?”  Gary ratted on Bud, saying Gumbo owed him a lot of money, too.  Both Gary and Bud were arrested. Jones had made up the eye witness story to get the truth out of Gary.
Crime scene:   Building under construction.

Clues:   The door.
Suspects:  Gary or Bud.

Red herrings:   Gambling debts … maybe … not really sure because the story didn’t say why Bud killed his cousin.
Solution:   Whoever pushed Gumbo out the door must have closed it.  If Gumbo truly fell, the door would have been open.

My two cents:    Well, we aren’t starting the new year with a bang…more like a smack.  Or a big plop.  Like I said we don’t know why Bud killed Gumbo.  If he owed him money, he sure wasn’t going to get it now.  Maybe Bud was also a ‘businessman’ who might want to make an example out of a non-payer.  Maybe there was an insurance policy.   Maybe if we didn’t get so many greasy chicken details, a real motive could have been added to the story. 
We didn’t really need Mrs. Potts in this one.  I guess she’s just arm candy here.  Or maybe in keeping with the theme of the story -- a scrawny chicken leg.