Friday, May 8, 2015

Appearing in issue 18, May 4, 2015

Title:  The cover-up

By Author:  Joyce Laird


Tag line:    Sheriff Clements quickly discovered which hand had been in the cookie jar!

Police characters:   Sheriff Bob Clements, Deputy Jeff Long

The gist:    Ms. Emma sat staring at an empty cookie jar, while her beloved cat sat in her lap.  $800 was missing from the jar.  Emma’s home was quite warm and all of the occupants were feeling the heat. Emma sat with her neighbor, May, her granddaughter, and her granddaughter’s boyfriend while the police questioned her.   Emma had been gone for a few days, and neighbor, May, had been able to enter the house to care for the cat.  Emma said her mailman knew she’d be gone, and also some of the seniors at her club. Emma’s granddaughter knew she was away. The granddaughter told the police that everyone knows that Grandma Emma keeps money in her cookie jar. 

 Emma left a spare key in the shed, which the handyman and a few others knew about.  May told the police she hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary while Emma was away.  While Emma was telling the details, Deputy Long groaned and looked away.  Emma started to cry and when the sheriff tried to put a consoling hand on her arm, the cat hissed and tried to scratch the sheriff.  May showed them the scratches she had on both of her arms that she got while feeding the cat.  May started thinking, then told police that she did hear the cat yowling two nights ago.  She said she went to check on the house but it was locked tight so she left.  At that point the granddaughter spoke to her boyfriend, telling him he’d better go and get changed for his interview he had in an hour.  The boyfriend nodded and wiped the sweat from his face with the sleeve of his sweater and got up to leave.

The Sheriff knew who the thief was.

Crime scene:    Emma’s home.

Clues:    The heat in the house, the cat that scratches, and the guy wearing the sweater.

Suspects:   The way the story unfolded there were numerous suspects, including the handyman. 

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  The solution was a whopping 106 words long, when probably two sentences would have done it.  The granddaughter’s boyfriend knew about the shed key, knew about the cookie jar, but didn’t expect to be pounced on by the cat.  He wore the sweater to cover up the cat scratches.

My two cents:    I’m having déjà vu with this story.  Cat scratches and a long sleeved shirt.  Seems like that’s been used more than once in the past year.

Police work.  This loses this author one star because police don’t interview all of the suspects together. 

Character work.  When Emma was telling her story, Deputy Long was groaning and looking around.  Nice guy.  He’s sitting with the victim, an old lady who is upset, and he can’t act proper?  There was no reason to have him act like a cad.  It didn’t add anything to the story.   I wish the cat had scratched him. 

Motive.  None was mentioned.

Clue.  Kinda easy.  It’s hot in the house and one guy has on a sweater.  Duh.

Writing/pacing.  Nothing to write home about.  AND the solution was 106 words long.  IMO more care could have gone into the story, and less fluff in the solution.

BTW: I’ve owned cats all my life.  They don’t scratch you when you put down their food. They don’t jump on you and attack you when you walk in the house.  I doubt this author has ever been around cats and thus I’m surprised she didn’t add the clichéd saucer of milk.


Tamara said...

I had déjà vu as well, Jody, but I think there was a story recently that involved a shed. What's with those long solutions lately? Are they the editors' creations? I can't imagine that WW writers are sending these in.

Jody E. Lebel said...


I'm not privy to whether the editors toy with the solution or not, but I wouldn't be surprised. They put their two cents in the body of the story, so why not the solution?

Mary Jo said...

I remembered the shed story, too. Nothing about cats, though. Actually, I kinda liked this story. Haven't you known old people who live this way. I don't know why the cat would scratch the hand that fed it unless May got between the cat and its dish. Why was the deputy groaning? Did he have a tummy ache?

I only wish I would hear something from the editors. Many months (like a year) go by and...nothing.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. When you say 'old people who live this way' what are you referring to? The heat in the house? The cat? The money in the cookie jar?

The groaning deputy is a mystery. Is he groaning because he's thinking the old lady is stupid to leave her money around? Even if that were true, he should be behaving much better.

I am beginning to think the days of us getting some kind of professional timely response on our submissions is over. They kind of have us over a barrel. I mean they do need us but they get SO many submissions that they
can forgo the old way of handling us in a courteous manner, and they'll still get hundreds of stories the next day. And the next. They're kind of like the DMV or the post office now. Maybe it's time to step into the modern age and go totally digital. You'd think a big conglomerate like their parent company would want to keep up with the rest of the world.

Mary Jo said...

I doubt that would improve things much from our point of view. Most publications do not bother with ANY communication unless they decide to offer the writer a contract. It is the old story that writers are a dime a take it or leave it.

I have seven stories in the WW shop right now (if they received them), two mysteries and five romances. I may never know what happened to them. I resubmitted two stories after seven months of silence, and one of those was five months ago. Johnene, where are you?

Tamara said...

This seemed to go downhill when they opened other publications. Perhaps they simply loaded additional duties onto the employees rather than hire new ones? I wonder.

Mary Jo said...

Tamara, I think that's the way most companies do business...let one employee (or more) go and expect the remaining one to pick up the pace. Or, as you say, add more duties to the current employees' workload.

So I am not the only one who is getting no response from WW?

Chris said...

I seem to remember we heard a while back that some postbags had been delivered to the wrong department in WW's building and it had taken a long time for the fiction team to get them. Maybe some just aren't getting there at all. Johnene and co can't reply to something that never made it onto their desks. But it is very galling to pay out so much on postage (in my case from the UK) and on doing stamp swaps to get the Global ones for my SAEs, just to hear nothing back. I think my reply rate is about one in three. Now, if I haven't heard from them in six months, I rework the story and try it with a different mag.

As far as this story goes, I agree there was feeling of deja vu over the shed and also the long sleeves in hot weather scenario. I think the last one was a schoolgirl who'd hidden a stolen bracelet or something on her arm and kept the sleeves of her blouse rolled down to cover it. So it was the same but different. As for why the cat would scratch for no reason, some are mistrustful of people who aren't their owners, so as a clue that was fine for me. My main feeling about this one was that it needed fewer suspects; having the world and his wife in the frame just complicated things unnecessarily. I also didn't understand why May would have 'phoned the Sheriff right away' if she'd seen a stranger going by. What, you can't walk down the street any more without someone thinking you're up to no good? Sheesh.

I know the star rating is your way of grading a story, Jody, but awarding none at all seemed a bit harsh. It had a beginning, a middle and an end, and a solution that did at least make sense, with no hidden extras we hadn't been told about before. You've mentioned there was 'no motive' but people steal from other people all the time. We don't need to know whether it's to pay for Granny's birthday gift, or get the latest phone, some people just give in to temptation. Yes, we've read similar stores before but haven't we said a dozen times that we need to study what they've used in the past to see what works for them. Full marks to Joyce if she's done just that.

Tamara said...

They are less like clockwork than they once were, and I received an explanation last year from Johnene that they'd added pubs and things had gotten misdirected. Should be cleared up by now, though, one would think, and that they would want to have an efficient operation. An ensured response was one of the attributes that made them so attractive to submit to.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. I agree there were too many suspects. Perhaps that was the author's way of throwing in a red herring.

As far as the star rating goes, every story has a beginning, middle and an end. There's no star for that. I don't want to have to guess at a motive just like I don't want to have to guess at the clue when it's not included in the body of the story. My star rating is in five areas and I keep it consistent each week for fairness: Clue, motive, police work, writing (pacing), and characters. I found this story lacking in all five areas.

Most of us have copied what works and submitted our own stories under that theory... only to get rejections. Joyce tickled Johnene's fancy. There's no way to study that as it changes from week to week. Sometimes it's just luck.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. Yes, THAT and the fact that they pay $1 a word. :)