Saturday, March 29, 2014

Appearing in issue #13, March 31, 2014


Title:  Room Service

By Author:  Tracie Rae Griffith


 

Tag line:   The breakfast special was murder on Sophie Andrews’ health!


Police characters:  Detective Kristine Kay and Sgt. Bill Morgan

The gist:   A maid saw a breakfast cart in front of Sophie’s door.  It held a covered plate, a side dish of fruit, and a carafe of coffee.  She cleaned the hall and still Sophie had not retrieved her food.  The maid knocked; no answer.  She opened the door to peek in to tell her that her breakfast had arrived, and found Sophie dead on the floor.  The maid told police that Sophie was a nice lady who, in fact, tipped her the night before.  She also told police that Sophie’s family was staying at the hotel and were on the next floor down. Sgt. Morgan observed a heavy lamp with the base wrapped in a towel and assumed that was the murder weapon. There was no sign of forced entry.  Det. Kay picked up the order form lying on the food cart and saw that breakfast, one Diamond special with coffee, was ordered at 7:35 and delivered at 8:02. 

The police gathered the family in the conference room to tell them the bad news, that their Aunt had passed.  Ellen asked if it was a heart attack.  Ellen was the executor of her aunt’s will.  Arthur said if Ellen had shown up for dinner on time last night instead of just showing up for dessert she would have heard Aunt Sophie talking about how she joined a swim class and had become a vegetarian and that she was in the best of health, unlike how she looked when she lived with Ellen for a year.

When asked where they all had been between 7:30 and 8:00 this morning, Ellen had a receipt for the gift shop with a time stamp of 7:55.   Della, the third relative, said she had been walking in the nearby park alone. Arthur looked down at his hands and said he was in his room watching the weather channel.

The detectives left the family and went to have coffee and review their notes.  Sgt. Morgan ordered breakfast also, the Diamond special, which consisted of pancakes, eggs and bacon. 

Det. Kay figured it out.

Crime scene:   Hotel room.

Clues:   Aunt Sophie is a vegetarian. Breakfast was ordered at 7:35 and Della’s gift shop receipt read 7:55, enough time to have killed her aunt.

Suspects:  The three relatives.

Red herrings:  Della has no alibi.  Andrew is acting guilty.

Solution:  Ellen killed her aunt.  She went to her room at 7:00 AM and a fight ensued over the will.  She then called room service and ordered breakfast, unaware that her aunt is now a vegetarian and would have never ordered bacon. Then she went to the gift shop for an alibi.

My two cents:    This is a well paced story.  The tag line gives it away, but that is not usually the fault of the author as WW makes those up.  The clue was pretty obvious when Andrew said Ellen missed the dinner conversation where Aunt Sophie revealed she had become a vegetarian.  The time stamp on her gift shop receipt didn’t help but at least Ellen tried to get an alibi.

The police acted appropriately in the way they gathered the family in a private area to inform them of the death of their aunt in such a way as to not reveal she was murdered. But, I’m thinking the police would have looked at the plate on the food cart in the hallway to see if it was untouched.  Aunt Sophie might have eaten a little bit and decided it was cold or not good or whatever, and pushed the cart back into the hall.  If that were the case the time of death would have changed a bit.

The only mistake I could find is that a female responsible for managing the affairs of a deceased person during probate is known as the executrix. 

 

All in all another good story from Tracie Rae.

28 comments:

Tamara said...

I thought this was a good story. I pretty much figured out the clue, but I had to think about it. Good for Tracie Rae.

joyce said...

This is a really good story. There are no "give away" clues like in some I've read. It is well-paced, with the right number of suspects. Good job.

Chris said...

I agree, this was one of the better ones. Pacing was good, the clue nicely hidden but there in the story to be found, and it was solvable if you went back through it. My only question is why was there a towel wrapped around the lamp? It seemed its only purpose was to flag up to the cops that the lamp was the murder weapon. If the towel was used to wipe away fingerprints, why wasn't it returned to the bathroom instead of being left there? I'm still puzzled by it now.

Otherwise, a pretty good story.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. I don't think Ellen used the towel to wipe the prints, my guess is that Ellen wrapped the towel around the lamp to avoid leaving fingerprints and after the deed was done she just dropped it. She was panicked, trying to think of an alibi. She called room service and then scurried, like the rat she was, to the gift shop.

joyce said...

I wondered about the towel wrapped around the lamp base too. I thought it might have been to muffle the sound of any breakage if the lamp was glass or ceramic. The fingerprint theory sounds good, too. It seems that she could have wielded a better, more deadly "hit" if the the weapon wasn't padded with a towel.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. Obviously you haven't bludgeoned anyone. lol Take notes. You know, just in case. You wrap the towel on the bottom part where you would grasp the lamp, and hit your victim hard on the side of the head with the top part. This wouldn't work with a smaller dainty lamp. It would have to be one of the heavier larger types.

Chris said...

That's fine, Jody, but this killing was supposed to have been impulsive, following a fight between Ellen and her aunt about money. Having the foresight to stop arguing, go into the bathroom to get a towel, and wrap it around the lamp to muffle sound/limit breakage/prevent fingerprints, rather takes away the heat of the moment element. And what was the victim doing while all this was going on - just sitting there waiting to be clobbered? I just wish the blooming towel hadn't been there at all. It bugs me. Wish a few more authors would drop by and tell us their thinking once in a while.

M D'Angona said...

Is there anywhere online where you can read the WW mini mysteries. WW is not really my kind of mag, of course, only interested in the mystery story. Its also not a money issue, just a waste of time and trips to store for a five minute read?? Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.

Chris said...

I can email you a dozen or so scanned versions if you'd like, Michael. csutton45 at hotmail.com (Use @ and cut out the spaces)

M D'Angona said...

That would be very nice. I appreciate that, Chris. I will email you soon. Thanks

Trace Rae said...

Hi, Everyone!

I see my towel has upset some people. Jody was correct. Ellen wrapped a towel around the lamp so that she wouldn't leave fingerprints. It was so that in 700 words the police wouldn't waste time searching for fingerprints right then, they would get onto the business of interviewing suspects.

Why didn't she put the towel away? Well, she's not a perfect murderer -- it wasn't thought out well in her head.

Aunt Sophie was suppose to be sitting on the bed, looking through her purse, when Ellen snuck up on her with the lamp. Sophie was the kind of woman who dismissed you when she was done talking to you and then went on about her business.

And no, I didn't write the tag line.

Hope this helps. I have another mystery coming out in a month, but honestly it is not one of my favorites. I was rather surprised they picked it.

Keep Writing, Everyone!

Tracie Rae

Jody E. Lebel said...

Thanks Tracie Rae. I think that clears things up. An impulsive angry bludgeoning to death of a relative doesn't always leave you with a clear head. lol

majbooks said...

Thanks for the input, Tracie Rae. It's nice to hear what the author has to say. Although I figured out this mystery, I have to say, it is very difficult to "hide" the clue and have everything make sense. You did a great job!
--Mary Ann Joyce

Chris said...

So that's what happened. Now we know. Congratulations, Tracie Rae, this was a good job. I just couldn't get my head around that towel, so I'm glad you explained. Don't you wish you had an extra couple of hundred words to supply all those background details...

Well done on getting another one accepted for next month too. Look forward to reading it.

joyce said...

That's one of the problems with such a short word count for a mystery. The author can't explain every little detail, and the reader sometimes doesn't understand every nuance of the story. So often when I write a mystery, or a romance, for that matter, I'll think it's done and then, at the 107th reading, I'll think, "Ohhhhh. I need to explain why...or I need a little detail here...or that doesn't make sense."
It's hard to get everything right within such a short story. And then they cut them even more,in the editing process.

M D'Angona said...

Quick question to anyone. Finishing another submission to send and I'm adding a tag line. But the total word count exceeds 700 with the tagline. Still acceptable or does the entire paper sent with everything has to be 700 words or less? Thanks

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Michael. Just be aware that Johnene likes to make up the tag lines and she probably won't use yours. With that said, if you want to include one anyway, sort of as a teaser, don't include it in the 700 word count. It's part of the title section. I always submit with a cover letter, and if I think I have a catchy/cute tag line, I put it the first paragraph of the cover letter, and again under the title of the story on page one in italics. Frankly, I'm not sure if they even read those cover letters as they have so many submissions to get through ... but I'm old school.

M D'Angona said...

Thanks for the info. It can't hurt to send a tag line, and if used...then it's like a little bonus on top of the acceptance. I guess the ultimate would be if they used an author's title, tag line and story with minimal editing.

Tamara said...

I never thought to send a tag line; figured Johnene wouldn't use it. I did send them a "A Moment for You" that I thought was pretty good, and I never heard from anyone. Michael, that scenario you described is the ultimate writer's dream, especially the minimal editing. The journals I've been in have done no editing; they give a range in word count and that's it. If they like it, they publish as is.

M D'Angona said...

I thing I have learned from magazine article writing is the more "stuff" you can give the editor to make their job easier, the more valuable you become. It can't hurt to throw a tag line...the editor may like it and use it. Nothing to lose.

Tamara said...

This is logical; that is why I am always amazed when the editors make so many unnecessary changes that do nothing to enhance our stories. And, I give them fewer than the required 700/800. If you get more published in WW, you may find yourself asking, "Gee, why did she change that?" "Wonder why she took that [pithy dialogue or description] out?" Scratching your head all the way to the bank.

Tamara said...

By the way, I just had an email interaction with Johnene, and she was very friendly and helpful, responded right away to my concern about a story that might have been lost. Just thought I'd share.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. Do you happen to know their system for logging stories in? I mean how are they able to tell someone, no, your story is not lost? What's the status of your story?

Tamara said...

With my several phone interactions with the first editor who died and Johnene by email, I haven't quite figured it out. I know by this correspondence with Johnene that she sometimes holds stories that are out of season and that she has a "to be read" pile. I actually have six stories submitted and she obviously hasn't seen two of them at all. I have a mystery with EIC, so you all might want to sharpen your evil red pens. ha ha

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. You have a mystery with EIC? wow...that's GREAT news. How did you find that out? Why do you say Johnene obviously hasn't seen two of them? Details, woman! We want to know. oooo... you made me use an exclamation point. You may have to pay for that...

Tamara said...

!!! Take that, Jody !!!! (Ouch, I can feel the extra jabs with that red pen.) Anyway, I have been complaining recently (maybe too much) about not hearing back from Johnene on some stories. Well, I finally emailed her and asked her if something was wrong because I had six submitted and response time had long-since lapsed on at least two of them. (I assumed the one in June was lost, so I resubmitted it in February.) She wrote back and told me which ones she had; said one of them was out of season so she was holding it (makes me think she likes it), one was in her "to read file", and that the lone mystery was with EIC. She asked me to tell her which ones she missed and she'd look for them. There were two missing, so I told her and am awaiting another email from her. It took me a while to get up the nerve to ask her about this, but now I'm so glad I did.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. Very interesting. Did you use the email address that we get when we get a contract?

Tamara said...

jgranger@kingroad.com is the address I have for her. That's the same one we send the stories to.