Friday, February 14, 2014

Appearing in issue #7, February 17, 2014

Title: Perfect crime

By Author:  John M. Floyd


Tag line:   James figured he was too clever to get caught…but he never figured on Mrs. Potts!

Police characters:   Sheriff Jones and his deputy.  And Mrs. Potts.

The gist:   It was a snowy night.  James drove to his office, a law firm, which was located outside of the city limits on a piece of remote land, parked in the empty lot, took a bolt cutter and crowbar from his car, stomped through the snow, used the crow bar to splinter the front door and entered.  He used a flashlight to get to the door marked Private and pried that door open as well.  Within a short time he cut the padlock on the safe and took out bundles of cash from within.  He could now finally pay off his gambling debts.

Then he phoned the police and said he was calling from an office that had been burglarized at his firm’s building.  He hurried back to the car, stripped off his gloves and stowed them and the tools in his trunk.  He covered them, along with the bundles of cash, with a blanket. Then he went back inside to wait for the police. To his surprise a gray-haired lady showed up with Sheriff Jones and his deputy. Sheriff Jones asked if James had touched anything in the office.  James said no.  Was anything missing except the contents of the safe?  James said he didn’t know and that no one ever uses that office.  Mrs. Potts asked James why he had come into work on a bad weather night.  James said he often works nights and weekends.  Sheriff noted that not too many people keep a padlock on a safe these days and that the burglar must have known that because a bolt cutter had been used. (Frankly, the only real clue in my eyes.) The deputy swept the room that had been broken into for fingerprints and only found a few on the filing cabinet.  James said they were probably from the secretary.

 Mrs. Potts asked why there were two sets of footprints going and coming from James’s car to the office.  James said he keeps files in his trunk and he went out to get them for the corporate phone number as he was going to call their main office next to report the crime.  Mrs. Potts asked James “Mind if we check your car trunk”” and  “We could get a warrant if he’d like”.  James asked, “Why, because I left footprints in the snow?”  Mrs. Potts said it was because of something he didn’t leave.

Crime scene:   James’s place of work.

Clues:   Snow footprints.  Padlock on a safe.  No gloves on a winter night.

Suspects:   James or some random burglar.

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  James had left his gloves on when he used the office phone to call the sheriff.  His fingerprints should have been on the receiver.

My two cents:   James could have come in the building with his gloves on (it was a cold night), saw the signs of a break-in, called the cops, went back to his car to get the phone number of the corporate office from the files in his trunk (although I don’t know why he wouldn’t have the corporate office phone number in his own office inside the building), took off his gloves to shuffle through the paperwork, and then left his gloves in the car at that point.  I don’t know why he didn’t just put them in his coat pocket instead of stashing them in the trunk.  It was winter after all.  People wear gloves.  It’s not a sign of guilt.

It always cracks me up when Mrs. Potts threatens to get a search warrant.  You have to have strong probable cause, write up a sworn affidavit, convince a judge that there is probable cause to do the search, and have him/her sign off on it before the search can be done. This all takes time.  You can’t invade people’s property and step on their rights to go on a fishing expedition, or for a hunch.  She could have been trying to gauge his reaction when she threatened him with that, but the story didn’t make that clear.   This guy worked in a law firm.  Even if he isn’t a lawyer, he’d pick up through his daily work with the other employees that it’s not easy to get search warrants.  Lawyers file petitions and motions to suppress and fight search warrants all the time in court.  The sheriff can’t hold him there and can’t impound his car.  He was free to leave. He should have known that.  Had I written the story, I would have made it some other type of business.

It was night.  It was winter and cold out.  She’s old.  Potts should have been in bed. It must frost the deputy’s cookies that the sheriff let’s her ride with them.


Elizabeth said...

Maybe John Floyd was getting tired of the banter between Ms. Potts & Sheriff Jones. In this story, he was across the room & didn't say anything. I agree with your comment that someone who worked in a law office should know more about search warrants, but even so, I actually liked this story more than some of the recent Jones/Potts stories.

Tamara said...

I thought the clue wasn't solid. He could have worn gloves to make the call or not worn gloves. I feel bad criticizing other people's work, but I have to say, Mrs. Potts is bordering on the silly to me lately, and I think stories I've seen rejected (as on this post) have been better.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Elizabeth. It must be hard to keep a story line fresh. Floyd had written so many Chunky/Potts stories that maybe it's time to move on. YET... WW keeps buying them, so who am I to say? I think the readers generally like the duo and that's what counts in the end.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. I agree. I've seen much better from this author. I think the readers like old Mrs. Potts and it doesn't matter what the story is about. It hasn't run its course yet. Maybe I'll submit a story as Joan M. Floyd... :)

Chris said...

It was a reasonable story up until the reveal, when I'm afraid it lost me. If this had been set in the summer then it might have been different, but it was a snowy night and the guy had just walked into a cold office, so whether he kept his gloves on or not to make the phone call is irrelevant. It certainly wasn't a clue to his guilt. There should have been a stronger solution.

Tamara, I don't like saying negative things about someone else's work either, but we're making valid comments about published stories here, not being nasty for the sake of it. And let's face it, Mr Floyd isn't likely to care two hoots about what we say anyway. He got paid handsomely for it and good luck to him.

Tamara said...

Point taken, Chris. And Jody, I can just see it now: Johnene gets an influx of stories from various members of the Floyd family -- I'll be Jasmine M.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Jasmine M. I like it. I'll write about Sheriff Skinny and Mrs. Pans.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. I know we've said this before, but it bears saying again for any new readers... we never really know what WW editors fiddled with and cut and changed and therefore messed up the flow and clues of the story. Otherwise why would they even publish some of these lame stories if they started out lame? Seems like they'd get a rejection right away for not working. "This just doesn't work for me." (For new readers, that's editor Johnene's favorite line that she scrawls at the bottom of our rejection letters.) But some of these stories just don't work for anyone. It's very odd that they get chosen.

I had to cajole John to comment on the very first story I blogged of his. Since then he doesn't stop by. You'd think he would. I would. I'd be curious as to how my stories are being taken. Especially if I thought the blogger was mostly critical. Seriously, those are the spots we learn the most from. People that tell you your work is wonderful don't help you grow. We don't dislike all of his stories. He's had some very good ones. I will say that since we complained that Potts is too mean to Chunky and that Jones is too miserable and dumb all the time, the vibe has changed in his stories. Maybe a coincidence, or maybe he does read our comments.

Mary Jo said...

Readers like the Chunky/Potts stories? How do the editors know that? Do people write fan letters, telling them what wonderful fun these two are? Or even about any of the other stories that are published? I am just curious about what motivates the editorial choices. The so called demographics are not too flattering to the women who buy the magazine, for whatever reason. It is amazing that anyone even knows how to read in these high tech days.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@Mary Jo. I do see comments on WW's Facebook page about different parts of the magazine. People write in. Right now the comments are focusing on Dr. Oz and how sick everyone is of him and him pushing his diet products. I haven't the slightest idea how the magazine does their market testing...but I'm pretty confident they do research of some sort. The reason I say people like the Jones/Potts characters is because Johnene keeps publishing them. WW is getting good feedback from somewhere. As far as the demographics, I know that a lot of seniors buy this magazine, including my aunt, my mother and my girlfriend's mother. (And that was before I had a story in it.) It think it's the price mainly, and the pretty pictures (babies and pets), the short articles, and diversity of the sections (crafts, recipes, fancy drinks, travel, horoscope ... you name it, it's in there.)

Tamara said...

I've wondered whether people ever write in to comment on our stories. I do know that they omitted the romance (possibly the mystery) in a Christmas issue once because of space and they got letters of complaint. Jimmy Meiss said this to a friend of mine who's had a few mysteries published and who talked to Jimmy a few times on the phone. I'm still awaiting word on some stories, and they are laaaate.

Chris said...

I've recently started resending my stories from the early part of last year that didn't ever get a response, but you do have to wonder about that giant black hole so many of our stories disappear into. Thankfully there are other mags out there and this month I've had yesses from New Woman (India) and You (S. Africa). Don't forget those other magazines, ladies.

Tamara said...

Something must be going on at WW. Resignation of an editor? Revision of editing process?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@Tamara. Why do you say that? What have you heard? Come on, gurl, share.

Tamara said...

I haven't heard anything -- that's just it. Responses to my submissions are late. The one I sent last June was probably lost (vis-a-vis that mystery SASE I received--I'll resend that one). But responses to a romance and mystery are way past due--one sent August 9 and the other sent November 19. Not unheard of, but because there are two, I wonder if there's something going on. I did get a couple of mysteries back in between.