Sunday, March 22, 2015

Appearing in issue #13, March 30, 2015

I'm posting this early as I'll be out of town next week.

Title:  Leaky alibis

By Author:  John M. Floyd


Tag line:     Sheriff Jones and Angela Potts were on the trail of the killer who’d wronged Mr. Wright…

Police characters:   Sheriff Jones.

The gist:    Yesterday someone had shot Alderman Wyatt in his office at City Hall.  He had had no appointments for the time around his death and no evidence was left at the scene according to the Crime Scene techs.   No strangers were seen in the area and no one heard anything unusual except one gunshot at around 2:00 in the afternoon. 

Sheriff Jones suspected one of three people.  Bernard was the HR manager who had an office on the third floor across the street in the courthouse.  Bernard’s wife, Deb, was having an affair with Alderman Wyatt.  The second suspect was Attorney Miller who was hot-headed and was the father of Alderman Wyatt’s wife.  The third suspect was the wronged wife herself, Melissa.  Melissa was a circuit clerk who had an office on the ground floor of the courthouse.

Alderman Wyatt and Deb thought their affair was a secret, but most everyone in this small town knew about it.  Two of the suspects did not have good alibis.   Attorney Miller had left a Rotary Club meeting at 1:50.  The meeting location was only one block away, giving him enough time to get to Alderman Wyatt’s office by two.  Wife Melissa had no witnesses to confirm her claim that she had been alone working in her office at the time of the murder.  Melissa claims that she had eaten lunch and then went straight to the HR manager’s office for a meeting.

The third suspect, Bernard the HR manager, had an assistant that backed up his alibi saying he was in his office all day, and in fact skipped lunch.  The assistant told police that she remembered Melissa arriving there at around 2:10 o’clock because she had an appointment about an HR matter. The assistant said she was sure of the time because Melissa had put down her very wet umbrella right next to some papers and they all got wet.  Those documents were being picked up very shortly, so the assistant had her eye on the clock while she reprinted them.  Melissa’s meeting lasted for about twenty minutes.

Sheriff Jones noted that it had rained very hard yesterday between noon and four.  When Ms. Potts asked about security cameras, Jones said there was none in the municipal government building, and that there was no budget for cameras there, unlike the federal buildings.

Mrs. Potts knew who had killed the alderman.

Crime scene:    Alderman Wyatt’s office.

Clues:    The rain.

Suspects:   The HR manager, the wife’s father Attorney Miller, or the wife Melissa.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   The wife, Melissa, was the killer.  Her office was in the same building as the HR manger.  She claimed she left her office and went directly to the HR meeting.  She had no need to go outside in the rain, yet her umbrella was wet.  Her husband’s office was across the street.

My two cents:    The tag line was cute, as was the title.

This story worked on all levels.  The police work was good.  John covered the security camera angle. There was motive.  It was well written and the pacing was crisp.  Mrs. Potts and Sheriff Jones worked well together.  In this story he had stopped by her house for a piece of pie and they were talking about yesterday’s murder. Although not police protocol, in this small town these two characters do that often, and she usually sees things that he misses.  The clue was handled very well and slipped in in pieces. First you were told where her office was when the suspects were being discussed.  Later you learned that she had an appointment with the HR manager and was there around the time of the murder.  Then you heard about her ruining some papers with her wet umbrella.  

Nice job, Mr. Floyd. Probably the best clue I’ve read in a long time.

Five stars.


Bernadette said...

I actually wasn't keen on this one - the wet umbrella screamed at me as soon as it was mentioned! Just goes to show you can't please all of the people...

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Bernadette. When I first read the story and saw the umbrella thing, I went back and reread the time of the rain and thought that part was just locking in the time. I didn't pay attention to the opening remarks about where her office was. Fooled me. I liked that the clue was spread out a bit and not in your face. Well, at least not in my face... :). You were sharper on this one than I was.

And you know I'm not a big fan of Mrs. Potts, but I couldn't find anything wrong with this story. It was actually a good story in that she wasn't mean to him, he had done his police work and was mulling over the details, and of course she picked up on something he missed... but that's the MO with these Potts/Jones stories. The story wasn't too gooberish and had a more modern feel to it. I hope this trend continues. I like John and I don't like smashing his stories.

Chris said...

The wet brolly clue leapt off the page at me, too, and was then hammered home with the secretary needing to reprint the wet paperwork. Honestly, I didn't think this was one of John's finest. Usually I'm a fan but so much info was crammed into the paragraph where Sheriff Jones was telling Angela about the three suspects that I had to read it several times to get it clear in my head. Not my favourite of his, I'm afraid.

Mary Jo said...

Yeah, Jody, I think you must have read this too fast. The wife might as well have been wearing a sign that said, "I did it, Mrs. Potts, choose me!"

However, John Floyd knows what WW will buy and he can laugh all the way to the bank.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris and Mary Jo,
Yes, John slipped it right by me that the wife's office was across the street. I didn't catch it. I thought it was perfectly normal to have a wet umbrella in a pouring rain. I thought the wet papers were just a way to set the time for her alibi. I was leaning towards the hostile father. He had the time and the motive but I couldn't find the incriminating clue for him. Haha... I didn't find the incriminating clue for the real killer either.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't figure this one out either, even though I knew it had to do with the wet umbrella...

Bettye Griffin