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.


Chris said...

I didn't mind the chicken-chomping Sheriff - a bit of scene setting's fine, even in these shorties. For me, it was the closed door 'solution', plus still not knowing whodunnit by the end, that grated. Setting aside the nonsense of having a door that leads absolutely nowhere located four storeys up a semi-constructed building, if for some unknown reason someone HAD put one there, then it could easily have been shut by the wind after Harris fell through, making its closed state irrelevant. Doors slam shut all the time and one that's forty feet up on an exposed wall...? More to the point, with no warning notice on it and no barrier across it, the developer and the site foreman are going to face manslaughter charges anyway, surely, for negligence?

Mr Floyd's stories are usually better than this so perhaps some of the detail fell foul of the edit.

Jody E. Lebel said...

or fell 'fowl' of the edit. hee hee

Tamara said...

Good pun, Jody. And while we're creating puns, it appears that Floyd gets by with murder.

Elizabeth said...

I knew someone many years ago who was almost murdered by this same method ... she and her husband went to look at an apartment, and the insane landlord tried to get her to walk through a door that led nowhere. I never thought of using that as the plot of a Woman's World mystery though!

Chris said...

I'm guessing that might have been in a building where part of it had been demolished, Elizabeth, leaving a door going nowhere, rather than one that was under construction?

Odd landlord, to try and murder someone who'd come to look round an apartment. Don't suppose he got too many tenants!

Mary Jo said...

It has been a while since I read this story, so I may not remember it correctly, but when the call came in about the murder, didn't the Sheriff say to Angela, "Come on, let's go" or something like that? I just do not get this pair or why the editors think they are not downright annoying. I mean, why in the world would even a small town law officer even think of taking an uninvolved civilian to a crime scene to help him investigate? This whole scenario is way beyond me.

I sometimes get the impression that all these writers are struggling to come up with something that can get into print, and most of them don't even have a clue. Well, I know I don't.

Jody E. Lebel said...

Mary Jo,
Yes, good old Chunky did invite Angela to go with him. As a general rule a civilian can only ride in a squad car if it's work related; you're a suspect, a victim, an injured party, a witness. There's a civil liability issue involved here. Cities have been sued when accidents happen. Cops don't give rides willy nilly...even if your car is broken down and being towed. They will stay with you on the highway until someone comes for safety reasons, and they will call you a cab. Civilians can do what's called a ride-along and the rules for that vary from department to department. In that instance you have to sign an insurance waiver. With all that being said...I know cops who give rides to their girlfriends. So officially it's not done...unofficially it's done. Floyd has set his story in a small town so he can relax the regs.