Friday, August 8, 2014

Appearing in issue #32, August 11, 2014

Title:  Cool in a crisis

By Author:  Joan Dayton

Tag line:     The thief targeted an easy victim.  Or so he thought!

Police characters:   Chief Wagner

The gist:    Ms. McGillicuddy, head librarian, spoke to a group of book club ladies about all the home invasions that had hit the news in a neighboring town.  She said the police chief informed her, and asked her to pass along, that he believed the thief was targeting their town next.  It was noted that most people in the town don’t lock their doors.  The thief tended to case the neighborhood, see who was home, who lived alone, and then broke in and stole cash hidden in odd places.  He never took TVs or large items, which is why neighbors might never see anything suspicious.  So far no one had been hurt.  And no one had actually ever seen the thief, so it wasn’t known if it was a man or woman.  Two of the ladies, Ruth Ann and Maribel (friends since third grade), took in the info and noted that they were always out at the same times each week; Wednesdays at the book club, Thursdays it was lunch at Joanne’s Diner, and Saturdays it was the movie matinee.

When Ruth Ann got home that day she surprised a man dressed in workman’s clothes in her kitchen.  She noted he was on the small side and didn’t appear to be armed.  He had been rifling through a drawer where she kept her grocery money.  “Hey, you’re not supposed to be back yet,” he said.  The phone rang.  The man told her not to pick it up. She thought fast and told him if she didn’t her friend would be worried, so he let her answer the phone.   It was Ms. McGillicuddy who claimed she was calling all the book club ladies to see if everyone was okay.  Ruth Ann told her she was fine but when she called her friend Mable to please tell her she couldn’t make lunch tomorrow. 

Within five minutes four patrol cars pulled up to Ruth Ann’s house, summoned by Ms. McGillicuddy.  How did she know something was amiss?

Crime scene:    Ruth Ann’s home.

Clues:    The ladies’ schedules and the name Mable.

Suspects:   Unknown.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  When Ruth Ann asked Ms. McGillicuddy to give a message to Mable, Ms. McG recognized the warning.  Ruth Ann would never call her friend the wrong name and they never missed Thursday’s lunch.

My two cents:    The thief said Ruth Ann wasn’t supposed to be home yet, but the book club was over.  So…she was supposed to be home. That part didn’t work for me.  I think a quick line about the library meeting breaking up a bit early should have been included to keep the timeline straight.  Ruth Ann calling her old friend by the wrong name was a great move on her part.  But Ms. McG telling the police she knew it was a plea for help because these ladies never miss lunch is a bit lame. 

The story said within five minutes the police got there.  Why was the thief still there?  Having tea, was he?   He had his money, he could have warned Ruth Ann to not call the police for twenty minutes or he’d be back, or some such threat, and dosey-doed out of there.  Five minutes is a long time.  Don’t think so?  Try standing on one foot for five minutes and see just how long it is.

All in all not a bad solve-it-yourself.  I don’t pay much attention to names in stories so I didn’t catch the wrong name clue.  I thought maybe Ms. McG got to thinking that something might be off because Ruth Ann would probably not have someone else call her friend to cancel lunch.  I know – that was a stretch, but remember I didn’t catch the name.   For a minute there I thought maybe Ms. McG was involved and had told the thief when people would be home from the book club meeting.  I thought her call was a little suspicious, sort of checking to see if all went well or not.

4 stars because of the timeline thingy.  Can you tell I got tired of typing McGillicuddy? 


Tamara said...

I agree with your critique, Jody. I kind of suspected it had something to do with use of the wrong name, but I couldn't figure out why. I think if I'd been the caller I might have said, "Who on earth are you talking about?" rather than assumed there was a burglary.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. Good point. And if she was suspicious she could have asked Ruth Ann, "Are you okay? If you need me to call the police just say goodbye."

Also the cops burst in the door at Ruth Ann's. I didn't note that in my slash and burn because it didn't seem worth the mention, but what if Ruth Ann was okay and was just taking a bath? What if she didn't see the cruisers pull up (they often don't use lights and sirens as that alerts the bad guys that they're there) and he bursts through the door and she shoots him? I guess that's for another story...

Mary Jo said...

Try and get the police to send anyone out on such a call, much less four cars. Not unless someone was killed. Yes, I know they were waiting for something to happen, but nevertheless...

Even so, I thought it was a well written story and a fun read.

Jody E. Lebel said...

Another good point. I got the feeling they were in a small town. Might not even have 4 cruisers. When I lived in Southwick, Mass, we had 16 police officers and 3 cars to cover all shifts.

Mary Jo said...

The girl on the desk at our police department told me that they have four police cars to cover a town of about 80,000 people. Petty criminals more or less have free reign.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. Wow. So, it's a great place to rob the bank, huh? Here's what we do. We call in four or five crimes at once, a domestic disturbance, a bar fight, a peeping Tom, and a bomb scare at the library. (sacrilegious I know). Then when they're all running around, we get the goods.

Hey, that's a good WW story...

Chris said...

I enjoyed this story but you're right about those niggles, Jody. As always, we don't know what edits were done so maybe the criticisms are unjustified, but we can only comment on what ends up in the mag. I agree, no thief is going to be hanging around passing the time of day with the victim for five minutes, and the chances of four police cars roaring up to sort out a B&E are slim to say the least. Still, it was nicely written and I liked that the change of name was the solution.

Mary Ann said...

I agree with the comments, too. The part that stood out for me was that the thief would hang around and talk to the victim. Seems unlikely. But it was nicely written.