Title: The coffee-break bandit
By Author: Laird Long
Tag line: One of the firm’s employees had sticky fingers, and Max Mann, office manager, was going to find out who it was…
Police characters: None.
The gist: Someone stole $200 of petty cash from Bea’s side drawer while she was on coffee break. She always took her break between 10:15 and 10:30. Bea immediately reported the theft to Max, the office manager. Max quickly determined who was in the office and who was out in the field and began to question the three possible perps. He asked accounts payable clerk, Annabeth, where she had been for the last half hour. She said she had been at her desk working all morning and as a new employee she hoped he was happy with her work. Next he visited the Sid the salesman’s office. When asked if he knew anything about missing petty cash the salesman showed Max his telephone which showed he was on a sales call from 10:13 to 10:32. The last person he asked, Leslie the accounting manager, didn’t respond well to what she saw as an accusation and said she was nowhere near Bea’s desk this morning, then added, “Why doesn’t Bea put the money in a locked drawer anyway?”
After speaking with the three possible suspects, Max knew who did it.
Crime scene: Office.
Clues: The time of the theft.
Suspects: The three employees, Annabeth, Sid, and Leslie.
Red herrings: Annabeth had no real alibi. Leslie knew the money was in an unlocked drawer.
Solution: Max never mentioned the time of the theft, but Sid the salesman immediately knew what it was and had created himself an alibi with the phone call. Sid admitted that his commissions were light and he needed the money.
My two cents: Although this was a simplistic tale with an easy clue I found it entertaining because of the style. Author Long captured a film noir flavor with this piece.
“I shoved a chair out with my foot, shut the office door with my hand. My office is that small, my responsibilities that large. I’m Max Mann, the firm’s office manager, the one they all come to with problems.”
I can almost see Max with the sleeves rolled up on his crumpled white shirt, in need of a haircut, with an overflowing ashtray on his desk. Great characterization. I’ll even overlook the trite ‘a light bulb switched on’ because it fits the style of the tale.
Long used the ever popular three-suspect pattern and inserted red herrings. The piece was well written. I couldn’t find any errors of any sort. I’m inclined to give it 5-stars for the interesting twist to an old story format.