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.