Friday, April 25, 2014

Appearing in issue #17, April 28, 2014

Title:  Family matters
By Author:  Tracie Rae Griffith

Tag line:    Josephine Miller learned the hard way that, when push comes to shove, it’s always all about money!

Police characters:   Det. Kristine Kay.  Sgt.  Bill Morgan. 

The gist:   The story begins with Josephine, an elderly woman, in the hospital with a broken leg.  Her dress, her best outfit, had dirt and leaves clinging to it and she was brushing it off and rubbing a black spot on the back of it while she spoke to police.   She claimed someone pushed her down a ravine.  She told Det. Kay that she believed one of her relatives wanted her dead.  And it could be any of them she said, as they all stood to inherit plenty.  She explained that her Cousin Arlene arranged for a family bus trip.  At a scenic stop the family got out to take photos.  Josephine was going to stay on the bus with Cousin Henry but his snoring drove her out.  She walked over to a flowerbed by a ravine and that’s when she claimed she was pushed.

Sgt. Morgan had gathered the relatives in a waiting room.   One of the relatives had a photo of the group from that stop. The group was posed in front of a cave.  Missing from the group in the photo were three people; the driver Cousin Conrad who stayed back because Henry was still in the bus; Aunt Marian who is afraid of caves; and Cousin Walter who won’t let anyone take photos of him since he had a run-in with the law.

Aunt Marian, who is afraid of bats in caves, said that Henry had walked up to her and asked her for a loan.  She said the discussion became a bit heated. She noted that Josephine had also turned Henry’s loan request down earlier today.   Henry did not deny asking the ladies for a loan and said Josephine told him he’d have to wait for his inheritance like everybody else.

Conrad, the driver, claimed he had been tinkering under the hood as he is a mechanic and owns an auto repair shop.  The group came back from the photo stop and Arlene told him Josephine was missing so he went with the group to look for her. They found her unconscious in the ravine.

Henry, who had been napping, told the police he had heard Marian and Henry arguing but he couldn’t see them because the hood of the bus was up. 

Det. Kay knew who did it.

Crime scene:    The photo stop on a bus tour.

Clues:  The black spot on the back of Aunt Josephine’s dress.

Suspects:  Everyone except Henry who didn’t get off the bus.

Red herrings:    The fact that Walter has a police record.  The fact that Walter was asking people for money. 

Solution:   Conrad knew the dozing Henry wouldn’t be able to see over the hood of the bus so when he had the opportunity he pushed Josephine down the ravine while the rest of the group was over by the cave. The black spot on the back of Josephine’s dress was grease from Conrad’s hand.  He admitted his auto repair business was floundering and he wanted his share of the money now.

My two cents:    I struggled with this story because of the bus.  When you charter a bus, they don’t let you drive it.  It comes with a qualified licensed bus driver.  You have to have a chauffer’s class license.  And Conrad certainly wouldn’t be tinkering under the hood of a chartered vehicle. They’re locked for one thing.  I don’t believe charter buses have front engines.  They’re in the rear.  The front part is taken up by a huge window.   All this bothered me.

With that aside, Tracie did have three people who were questioned.  She also had good red herrings although it was a bit heavy handed in pointing at our ex-con.  I thought the black spot was dirt so it was a good clue.  No problems with her police work.


Joyce Ackley said...

tI read the story in WW, but I don't remember if the bus was referred to as a charter bus or not. I was curious about the issues you brought up and I did a little research. Nothing in depth - just a quick Google search. It is possible to rent a 15 passenger bus, or even one that seats more. One ad said "No CDL license required." For the family members mentioned, it seems highly possible one of the smaller buses, such as the 15 passenger one, would be adequate. I also looked up engines, and some buses have front engines.
Like I said, I don't know what the actual story said. But I was curious enough to look up some of the other things.
I thought this was very well written. I enjoyed it.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. All good points. I think my days of chartering buses as a travel agent colored my thoughts as I read the story. They could have even rented a Winnebago, which is self driven.

I may have to stand corrected on this one and award a 4th star. I too enjoy Tracie's stories.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tamara said...

I thinkg it's a good WW mystery with a clever clue. Good for you, Tracie.

Chris said...

One of the best mysteries in a while, I thought. Liked the build up and the fact that the clue (the dirty mark on the dress) was there, but put in right at the start so that by the time the reader reached the end they could have forgotten it.

The business about hiring the bus didn't even dawn on me as incorrect as I immediately thought mini-bus rather than a full sized coach. We have all sorts of self-drive vehicles for hire here as long as you hold a full licence - that is for manual vehicles, not automatics. I think the rules for self-drive are governed by the length of the wheel-base, but I'm no expert. For me, this was a good, solid mystery.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. Yes, the more I think about it the more I realize they wouldn't charter a big bus for that handful of family. That's the image that popped into my mind and it stuck there. But I see I'm off base.

I thought the clue was good. I didn't connect the mechanic's greasy hand with that spot. I like the way she inserted it quickly into the story and then moved on to more complicated sections.