Friday, February 6, 2015

Appearing in issue #5, February 2, 2015

Title:  Snow emergency

By Author:  Laird Long


Tag line:     The freshly fallen snow, dazzling white, didn’t blind the sheriff to the killer’s identity!

Police characters:   Sheriff James Prescott and Deputy Sheriff March.

The gist:   Sheriff Prescott was investigating the murder of Red and the theft of his Liberty gold coins he hoarded in his cellar.  The grisly discovery of Red’s body had been made by the mailman.  The battered body was found near the entrance to his storm cellar. The police found snowshoe tracks running from the road onto Red’s property and snowmobile tracks alongside the road.  The tracks were still visible and the frozen body of Red was covered in only a trace of snow telling the police that the murder and theft had happened after the snow storm had ended Sunday night and before the roads were cleared Monday night.  The snowshoe tracks were unique only in their actual depth in the snow which was rather shallow.   The snowmobile tracks were even less revealing.  Red’s place had been ransacked.

The police narrowed the suspects down to three men due to the fact that some random stranger wouldn’t have been out snowmobiling after a major storm and happen to have a pair of snowshoes handy and also know about the rumored gold stash.  Suspect #1 was Collier, a local old-timer who was slight and sprightly.  The two men had been friends until the day Red chased Collier’s grandchildren away with a loaded shotgun.  Collier admitted that Red had once told him about his gold horde in the cellar when they had been pals. Suspect #2 was Bryan, a phsy-ed teacher and all around outdoorsman.  Trim and athletic, he’d only been in town about six months and a background check revealed he had some serious financial troubles.  He had no grudge with Red, admitted to hearing the gold rumors, but didn’t know where the gold was supposedly hidden.  Suspect #3 was Jack, a burly 300-pound lumberjack who had had a recent run-in with Red about cutting trees too close to Red’s property. 

Sheriff Prescott dismissed two of the men but wanted to question the third one again.  Who did he suspect?

Crime scene:    Red’s shack.

Clues:    The weight of the men and the whereabouts of the gold.

Suspects:  Collier, Bryan, or Jack.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  Jack was too heavy to have left the slight snowshoe prints.  Collier knew the gold was in the cellar and wouldn’t have ransacked the house looking for it.  Bryan heard the rumor about the gold but didn’t know where it was.  He went out to investigate, and was caught by Red, so he killed him to keep him quiet.

My two cents:    It was only rumored that crazy old Red had a stash of gold coins, why were the police calling this a murder and theft? Without proof that there was ever any gold at all, never mind any missing coins, this should have just been a murder investigation.

The clue about the suspect’s weight has been done before, but the clue about the house being ransacked was a good one.  Collier knew the gold was supposed to be in the cellar, he wouldn’t have wasted time looking through the house.  The author slipped this clue in seamlessly.

The story read well, and the pacing was good.  The characters were believable and the situation was believable.


bettye griffin said...

I missed that clue and actually thought it was Collier!

Good story.

Chris said...

I got the clue about the depth of the footprints, but missed the one about the place having been ransacked, meaning the thief didn't know where the coins were... although a clever thief might do that anyway, to throw the cops off the scent. Neatly done story.

Would all the neighbours have had snowmobiles? If so, are their tracks like car tyres, individual to the make of vehicle?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. The story had a light dusting of snow on the body and the shoe prints, fuzzing up the tracks. Perhaps a tire impression would have helped, but in that kind of weather condition they wouldn't have been able to get a clear one. This author even covered that base. But in talking about tire tracks, tires pick up stones and get cuts and dings. Each tire leaves its own unique track behind, unless it's a very new tire. (The same goes with the bottom of our shoes.) It is very possible to match a tire to an imprint.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Bettye. I thought it might be the new guy in town only because he was new. I also missed the ransacked clue.

Julia said...

Missed the "ransacking" also; thought this one was very good, though I would have liked it to have more back-and-forth conversation. But that's just a personal preference of mine and I can see where it would have been difficult to get the same density of information out there just by having dialogue. I've seen that author's name before, but not for a long time.