Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Poisoned Dancer by Alex Artukovich

A murder mystery solved by the best detective in Los Angeles - or rather, his mother; by Alex Artukovich

I'm thirty-two and already one of the top homicide detectives in Los Angeles County. Colleagues often ask the secret to my rapid success. I tell them the same thing every time; my mother helps me whenever I get stumped.

They all laugh and assume I'm being funny. But it's the absolute truth. My mother has assisted me in a number of cases throughout my career. Any time I get stuck and can't make heads or tails of a case, I'll call her. She always comes through.

Her powers of reasoning and deduction are unparalleled. If she wanted to she could have become one of the best detectives in the country. But she never wanted a career in criminal justice. The long hours and tedious procedures were too unappealing to her. Helping me solve cases, or in many instances solving the cases entirely on her own, is merely a hobby, something to keep her busy at the start of her twilight years.

I receive all the credit, a point I'm not especially proud of, while she does much of the detecting. She doesn't care. She does it for the mental challenge, not the notoriety. And if the notoriety gets passed on to her son, advancing his career, she feels that's all the better. I don't like it, but that's how we've got things worked out. If I have to swallow my pride, then so be it, as long as crimes are being solved.

It will all come out eventually. People will discover that I'm a fraud and my mother is the true talent. That's why I'm writing these journals. When the truth finally does surface I want to be ready with an undistorted depiction of all our most interesting cases.

In just a few years we have joined on a number of cases, nearly all fascinating and notable. The case involving a Pasadena restaurant owner comes to mind. Another case, humorously dubbed the Merchant of Venice because it involved a street vendor from Venice Beach, also comes to mind. Yet I'm going to begin with one of our earlier cases, a case that demonstrates just how quickly my mother can solve even the most puzzling of murders.

The victim was an aspiring dancer living in a Burbank apartment. She was discovered on her kitchen floor dead from cyanide poisoning.

Poisoning is one of the most personal methods of murder. Rarely does a person poison a stranger. It is always somebody the murderer knows. Yet through my investigation I couldn't come up with a single personal enemy.

The girl hadn't any embittered ex-boyfriends. She got along well with the other dancers at her studio. The employees at the café she worked all liked her. She only had a select number of friends, all of who were torn up by her murder. Her family was in another state, but even so they were in good relations. I couldn't figure it out. Who would want to poison a person who seemingly didn't have a single enemy in the world?

After investigating for two days I couldn't make an ounce of headway in the case. I had zero leads and no suspects. I decided to call on my mother. When I arrived at her home she was in her front yard bent over a plot of dirt with a gardening shovel in her hand. She has always had a green thumb and her knowledge of plant life has proven useful in more than a few cases.

She was wearing her familiar gardening outfit: white rain boots, kneepads, khaki shorts, sleeveless t-shirt, and a large brimmed straw hat. She plunged her gardening shovel into the soil, dusted her hands, and stood up. She had a blade of grass on the end of her sharp nose and a few dirt smudges were smeared across her high cheek bones. Strands of wispy silver hair dangled from all sides of her hat and beads of sweat ran down her forehead.

She opened her arms and beckoned me closer for a hug. I obliged her with an embrace. When we pulled apart, her head was tilted in rebuke.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she said.

"Tell you what?" I asked.

"That you and Cynthia broke up."

I was surprised that she knew Cynthia and I had broken up, but not too surprised. My mother could figure out the most complete details about a person just by observing them.

"You've been broken up for a week and you haven't even told me," she said with a tisk. "The work hours were too much for her."

She was spot on, Cynthia and I had broken up exactly one week ago because I wasn't spending enough time with her.

"Did Cynthia tell you this?" I asked.

"Nobody told me, I just read the signs."

"What signs?"

My mother turned on the hose and began washing the dirt off her hands. "Well," she began, "when you hugged me I could smell tobacco on your clothes. I know Cynthia is allergic to tobacco smoke so you've refrained from smoking since the two of you were together. But now you smell of tobacco and that square imprint in your pant pocket can only be a box of cigarettes. Also your shirt isn't ironed especially well. This means Cynthia is no longer ironing your shirts and you're stuck ironing them yourself. As far as the time of your break up, I just needed to gauge the growth of your facial hair. I know Cynthia hated facial hair and wouldn't let you go more than one day without shaving. The length of your beard tells me you haven't shaved for a week so you must have been separated for at least that long."

"And the reason for our break up?"

"Just looking at your car I can tell you've been spending far too much time at the station."

I curiously viewed my car but couldn't see the signs she was referring to.

She decided to answer my gaze. "Your parking spot at the station is underneath a pine tree and there must be a hundred pine needles below your windshield. It's apparent you've washed your car recently so for that many pine needles to accrue in so little a time tells me you've been spending a tremendous amount of hours at work. Cynthia is a girl that needs attention. You haven't been providing her with much. Hence, I assumed that was the reason for your break up."

Her blunt, eerily accurate knowledge of my most private affairs, with so little as a glance, would unnerve most people in my position, but I was immune. I'd had an entire adolescence to get used to it.

It wasn't easy growing up with a mother as deductive and observant as mine. I couldn't get away with anything. If I broke something in the house she knew it was me. If I snuck out late she knew where I went. The first time I drank she knew exactly how many beers I consumed. The first time I smoked pot she knew exactly how many hits I took. She even knew when I lost my virginity and reminded me to always practice safe sex.

I wanted to kill her, but I knew that was impossible. She was far too crafty and would sniff out my plans in a second. So I just got used to it. I accepted the fact that my mother was going to know every little thing that occurred in my life and if she didn't approve, so be it. I knew I was generally a good person and that should be enough for her; and it was.

She understood that I wasn't perfect and if you put any adolescent under a microscope you won't like what you see. And although she caught me every time I did something wrong, she usually didn't punish me. I think she would have preferred not to know so much about my life. But reasoning out clues and behaviors was like breathing to her, she just couldn't turn it off. Whether she wanted to or not she knew the intimate details of everybody in her life.

It was too much for my father. He couldn't stand being with a person who knew his every thought and move. He began having an affair and my mother easily found out. She couldn't fathom why he did it. For him to think he could keep an affair hidden was mindboggling to her. But I'm fairly certain he wanted to get caught. They eventually separated. My father remarried a few years later but my mother has remained single.

Unlike my father, I grew to admire my mother's special abilities. When witnessed in the right setting it turned me on to criminal justice.

I mentioned earlier that I was essentially a good kid, but there was a short time where I was running around with a bad crowd. I didn't know they were unsavory characters, I simply thought they were cool and I envied their carefree, disrespectful attitudes. My mother knew they were troublemakers and tried to make me see the light of day. I ignored her warnings. Although they had an edge to them, they weren't doing anything terribly bad when I was around. Then my mother's jewelry went missing.

After applying her skills of deduction she easily determined my friends to be the culprits. I adamantly defended them. There was no way my friends would steal from my family, I told her. They wouldn't do that to me. She didn't argue and let the subject drop.

The next day she did something extremely odd; she invited me and my friends inside for snacks. She hated my friends so I was shocked by the magnanimous action.

Waiting for us on the kitchen table was a gigantic bowl of Oreos and four glasses of milk. We attacked the cookies like ravenous wolves. My mother entered shortly after with a pair of latex gloves and a gallon sized Ziploc bag. She carefully collected my friends' empty milk glasses and placed them inside the Ziploc. My friends and I watched in confusion.

"So," my mother matter-of-factly began, "I know you boys stole my jewelry. I now have your fingerprints on these glasses. If the prints on the glasses match the prints on my jewelry box, all of you will be going to juvenile hall, unless I have every bit of my jewelry returned to me. You can leave it in my mail box. But if I check that box tomorrow morning and none of my jewelry has been returned, you can guarantee I'll be turning this evidence over to the police."

My friends were horror stricken. I was overwhelmed with embarrassment. I apologized for my loony mother and implored my friends to ignore her. They didn't say a word. They all shared a nervous glance and then hastily fled the house.

I turned to my mother and spewed the most hateful words I could summon. She didn't respond. She let my anger run wild until I couldn't think of any more venomous things to say. I stormed up to my bedroom and didn't come out all night.

The next morning I woke up exceedingly early. I wanted to be the first to check the mail box. I wanted to see it empty so I could point to it and tell my mother just how foolish and awful she was. I pulled down the mail box door and peered inside. My heart sank. Inside was every piece of my mother's jewelry.

My adolescent psyche never felt more betrayed. These seemingly cool guys, who called themselves my friends, were stealing from my family. They were just a bunch of punks. I couldn't believe I didn't see it and was sickened with myself for defending them. I never wanted to be so blind again. I wanted to be like my mother. I wanted to be able to spot wrongdoers in an instant and use my intelligence to administer justice.

I felt awful about all the terrible things I said to her. I brought all her jewelry into the house and laid it on her bed. At that moment she awoke. She looked at her jewelry and then at my crestfallen face. She could tell I was genuinely remorseful. She beckoned me closer and gave me a hug.

From that point on I looked at my mother's abilities in a whole new light. They still annoyed me and continually infringed on my personal life, but I recognized the power they held for good. When put in the right setting her talents for observation, deduction, and behavioral reaction could be used as a tremendous tool against the criminal element. It's what spurred me towards my current profession. However, in all my studying and training I've yet to develop her talents for detection. This is why I am constantly in need of her assistance, like in this case of the poisoned dancer.

My mother finished rinsing the gardening dirt off her hands and asked the reason for my visit. I told her I needed help on a case. She asked for a quick detail. I told her a young woman was discovered dead from cyanide poisoning in her Burbank apartment.

"Okay," she said. "Let me just shower, change, and do the dishes. Then we can go."

I thought I heard her incorrectly. "Did you say do the dishes?"

"Yes," she said without hesitation.

"Forget the dishes," I said. "Just get changed."

She threw her hands on her hips and cocked an eyebrow. "I can't just leave them."

"Yes you can. There's a girl in the morgue and a killer on the loose. Screw your dishes."

My mother huffed. "Fine, you do the dishes while I get ready."

"No, the dishes can wait till we get back."

She lowered her most serious gaze upon me. "Jonathon Theodore Royal, I am not leaving this house with my kitchen looking the way it does."

It was obvious she wasn't going to bend on this one. "Fine," I said. "I'll do the dishes. Just get ready!"

My mother returned to her content state and promptly bustled into the house. While she showered and changed I went into her kitchen and washed a mound of dirty dishes. This was just how I imagined being a detective would be, me in my mother's house, washing her dishes.

I finished as my mother stepped out of her bedroom. She wore an ivory blouse, pearl necklace, black pants, and heeled shoes. Her hair was fully done and all her make-up was applied. She looked like she was going to an art gallery, not a crime scene.

We pulled up to the dead girl's apartment twenty minutes later. Her complex was sandwiched between nearly a dozen other apartment buildings. The building itself was two stories with twenty-four units in all. Past the entrance, enclosed by the units, was a large open air garden. All the apartments faced inward towards this garden. Living in the garden was an assortment of flowers, trees, potted plants, and general garden décor. A knee-high row of shrubbery surrounded it.

The victim's apartment was on the second floor. She lived in unit number twenty-three. She and unit twenty-four shared a common staircase. The open air staircase didn't lead anywhere but to the front doors of these two units. At the foot of the staircase were the doors to the two units below them and a few steps away was the garden.

My mother and I ascended the stairs to the victim's apartment. There was a police officer standing outside her door, guarding the crime scene. He curiously eyed my mother. I introduced them to each other. The officer snickered as he shook my mom's hand.

"Take a lunch break," I ordered.

With a smirk and a nod, the officer was gone.

I moved aside some police tape and we entered the apartment. My mother immediately gasped. Thinking she had already spotted a clue, I eagerly asked what she had found.

My mother's eyes were locked onto the window curtains. She hurried over and carefully ran her fingers down the seam. "These are the exact curtains I need for my bedroom."

I groaned and asked her to focus on the case. She took out her cell phone, snapped a picture of the window curtain, and then resumed her investigation.

She inspected the rooms in a casual manner. Occasionally she would stop to straighten a crooked picture or fluff a stale pillow. I kept reminding her that we were at a crime scene and to try and touch as little as possible. She apologized and said she wouldn't do it again, but then a minute later she would straighten something else.

"Who discovered the body?" she asked.

"She was discovered by the apartment manager and her best friend," I answered. "She and this friend were supposed to meet up at her apartment and then drive together to a dance audition. The friend arrived and knocked on the door but nobody answered. She called the victim's cell phone but also got no answer. She had passed the victim's car in the parking lot so she knew she was home. The friend figured she'd overslept and was still asleep. She pounded on the door to try and wake her up but the music speakers inside were turned so loud that it was useless. Fearing her friend would miss the audition she went over to the apartment manager and begged him to unlock the door. He gave in, got the key, and unlocked the apartment door for her. That's when they discovered the body."

"What was the time of death?"

"She had been dead for twelve hours before anybody found her."

"So she was poisoned three days ago," my mother stated to herself.

She was ready to inspect the room where the girl had died. I led her to the kitchen. On the linoleum floor was a chalk outline of the dead girl's body. My mother's first gaze wasn't to the outline but to a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. My mother shook her head with a tisk.

"That's why I can never leave the house with dirty dishes still in the sink," she remarked. "What if I'm killed? Strangers like you and me will poke around my house and think I was an awful housekeeper."

"Don't worry," I replied. "If you're ever killed, I promise to go to your house before anybody else does and do your dishes."

"Thank you," my mother said.

She eyed the shattered glass cup on the floor. On a few pieces of broken glass were traces of orange juice.

"Was anything besides the orange juice poisoned?"

I was impressed by how fast her mind worked. "Yes," I answered. "The milk and a bottle of soda."

"So the murderer wasn't with the victim when she was poisoned," my mother mused. "The only reason you'd poison all three drinks is if you couldn't be around to see which drink she would choose. It mustn't have been somebody she was close to. A close acquaintance could be there at the time of the poisoning. Whoever killed this girl didn't know her well enough to share her company. A person like this would most likely have needed to sneak into her home when she wasn't there in order to plant the poison."

"According to her best friend, she never left her door unlocked, even when she was home. I checked the door lock and didn't find any signs of tampering. I also checked each window and every one of them was securely locked with no signs of forced entry."

"Somebody must have used a key then," my mother stated.

"I asked her best friend if she loaned out any spare keys. She said no, she was her closest friend and even she didn't have a key."

"The apartment manager has a key," my mother reflected, "but I doubt he would poison her and then let her friend into the apartment the following morning."

My mother fingered her pearl necklace in contemplation. "A spare key must be outside then."

She walked to the front door and I followed. The area just outside the doorway was tiny. It was two steps to the next apartment's front door, and from the back wall to the start of the stairs was also two steps.

My mother ran her fingers along the top of the door frame. She discovered nothing but dust. She bent down and peeked under the doormat which read, "Home Sweet Apartment". She found no key, and there was nowhere else to look; the area was too small and bare to conceal anything else. Her spare key theory seemed to be a flop but she didn't look disheartened.

"I didn't expect to find a spare key up here," my mother said. "Anybody who actually wants to keep their key hidden wouldn't hide it in a place with so few hiding spots, or so close to their front door for that matter. But it doesn't hurt to check."

She set the doormat back down. She was about to stand up when something caught her eye. She got down on all fours and bent forward until her nose was an inch away from the doormat. Her eyes squinted as she carefully studied the doormat. With a pinching motion she pulled out a bit of dirt. The dirt crumbled between her fingers as she quizzically rubbed her thumb and index finger together.

"What did you find?" I eagerly asked.

"Clay soil."

"What does that mean?"

"It's not an especially common dirt for the doormat of an apartment. It's a specialized soil used mainly for gardening."

She turned to the garden below and descended the stairs. I closely followed. She paused by the doorstep of the bottom apartment, cocked her head with interest, and then walked towards the garden. She intently viewed the front row of shrubbery.

"This is where somebody entered," she said pointing to a specific section of the shrubbery. "And this is where they exited." She pointed to another part of the shrubbery, two steps away.

"How can you tell?"

"The leaves and branches are most disturbed in those areas," she answered. "The branches are bent forward here, so that's where they entered. The branches are bent backwards there, so that's where they exited."

I closely examined the shrubbery. It was subtle and barely noticeable, but there were signs of disruption.

She walked around to the other side of the garden and we entered it from the opposite end. She bent down and scooped up a small handful of clay soil. She contently dropped the dirt and slowly walked forward, her head studying the ground.

We came upon a tall iron decoration that held three potted plants. One of the potted plants was set at knee level, the other was set at waist level, and the third was set at eye level. We spotted a footprint below and my heart raced. My mother bent down and carefully viewed it.

"The person we're looking for is five foot two and partially disabled," she stated.

I inspected the footprint. I could see that the owner had a small foot but I didn't understand how she surmised the exact height and a disability.

"How do you know that?" I asked.

She reached into her purse and retrieved a tissue. Then she reached into the highest potted plant and pulled out a key. My eyes widened in awe.

"If you look at the footprint," my mother began, "you'll see the front end is buried much further down than the back end, meaning that this person was putting all their weight on their toes. So in order for them to reach the key in this potted plant, they had to stand on their tippy toes. Since the pot isn't too high, I'd figure only a person about five foot two would have to stand on their tippy toes."

"And the disability?"

"Look here," she said pointing to four small circles indented in the ground nearby. "The pattern within the circles and the perfect spacing suggest a four legged walking cane."

"But how did this person know a spare key was hidden here?" I asked myself aloud.

My mother squinted and closely examined my cheek. For a second I thought the next clue was on my face. She grabbed hold of my chin, licked her thumb, and rubbed away a dirt smudge.

I brushed away her hands. "Thanks, but I can wipe my own face."

"Okay," she said and pulled back her hands.

I wiped my face and tried to refocus. I slipped on a latex glove and asked for the key. I contemplatively held it, trying to figure out who could have known of its hidden whereabouts.

My mother decided to answer my thoughts. "The person knew the key was hidden in this potted plant because they had seen her place it there."

"How do you know that?"

"Before we came out to the garden I noticed clay soil on the downstairs neighbor's doormat. The neighbor can clearly see our position from her living room so it's likely that the neighbor had known of the victim's spare key hiding place. It seems as though the neighbor went into the garden to get the key, wiped their feet on the girl's doormat, came back to the garden to replace the key, and then wiped their feet on their own doormat."

I looked at the ground. It did appear as though the footprints had copied themselves, supporting the idea that this person went to the potted plant twice.

We returned to the victim's apartment to test the spare key. I inserted the key into the lock and turned it. We both heard the lock slide over. It was definitely the victim's spare key.

"Time to talk with the neighbor," I said.

We descended the stairs and knocked on the first floor apartment with the clay soil on its doormat.

"One moment," a disgruntled voice called from the other end. It was a long time before anybody reached the door. We heard a few locks being turned and then the door was flung open.

A crotchety old woman stood in the doorway. She was just over five feet tall with a four-legged walking cane at her side. She was annoyed with us before we even said anything.

"Yes?" She impatiently asked.

"I'm detective Royal," I said. "Do you mind if we talk with you for a few minutes?"

The peeved old woman moaned and doddered back to her armchair. The door was left open so we assumed that that was her way of inviting us in. My mother entered first and I followed.

The room was musty and stale, desperately in need of an open window. The old woman brushed her cat aside and sat down. The armchair she sat in was an antique, so was her coffee table, sofa, and nearly everything else in the room. Even the woman's cat was an antique. Judging by its shedding hair and listless eyes, I estimated the feline to be a least twenty years old.

My mother and I waited for the old woman to offer us a seat. The offer never came so we remained standing.

"So what do you want?" the old woman irascibly asked.

"To talk about the murder you committed against your upstairs neighbor," my mother bluntly answered.

I turned to her in astonishment. There were several protocols when questioning a suspect and my mother had just blown past all of them. The old woman merely scoffed.

"Please," she haughtily said. "I did no such thing."

"You're lying," my mother replied. I tried to signal her to be quiet, but she ignored my gestures and kept talking. "You killed that girl and we're certain of it."

"Why would I kill my upstairs neighbor?" The old woman virtuously asked. "I didn't even know her."

I wondered the same exact thing. We may have had a footprint and some dirt on a doormat, but we were completely lacking a motive.

"You may not have been acquainted with the girl," my mother began, "but you definitely knew her. She was the bane of your existence. The person you could never ignore."

The old woman let out an amused cackle. "What in the world are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about an ongoing disruption to your monastic way of life," my mother said. "Just from looking around your apartment I can tell you've lived here for many years. The faded colors of the walls tell me that. I can also tell from the indentation of your armchair that they have been sedentary ones. Your misanthropic greeting tells me you care little for visitors and your ghost-white skin tells me you never go out. You have neither a television nor a radio which tells me you prefer silence. You don't even crack a window for fear that some outside noise will creep through. You fill your time with books, sewing, and jigsaw puzzles, all things that are best enjoyed without sound. You want nothing to do with the outside world and can't stand when the outside world breaks through your quiet fortress of solitude."

"I don't like to be bothered," the old woman blithely replied. "Is that a crime?"

"It is when you poison your upstairs neighbor because she's making too much noise," my mother roundly answered. "I know she was a loud tenant. While up in her apartment I came across her electricity bill and noticed it was remarkably high, which means she couldn't live without having every single appliance in her apartment turned on. The knobs on her speakers were turned to the highest levels possible, and I'd imagine they were rarely lowered. Glancing at her work schedule she often came home late and glancing at her alarm clock she never woke up early. She was up all hours and it stands to reason that the television and radio were up as well. She was a dancer and judging from the worn down carpet in the center of her room a hard working one at that who often practiced at home. She lived to make noise and your austere lifestyle couldn't handle it. And looking at the broom handle marks on your ceiling I can tell just how crazy she drove you."

I looked up and was astounded by all the marks I viewed. There were easily over a thousand. By this point the old woman lost her standoffish arrogance and began to shuffle uneasily in her chair.

"So you wanted her dead," my mother continued, "and looking at the overabundance of empty apple bags by your trashcan I can see how you did it. That's a lot of apples for somebody who wears dentures and never has visitors. But that's because you weren't using the apples, only their seeds. If apple seeds are boiled in water until all the water has evaporated the resulting residue is cyanide. When enough seeds are boiled you can create a dose lethal enough to kill a human. When you felt you had enough poison you waited for the girl to leave her apartment. You walked into the garden to retrieve her spare key, a key you knew about because you had seen the girl place it there from your living room window. You stalked up to her apartment, poisoned every beverage she had in her refrigerator, returned the key to the garden and returned to your own apartment. Then you stayed in your apartment like you always do and waited for your noise problem to go away forever."

"You can't prove one bit of this ridiculous story," the old woman said.

"As luck would have it, we can," my mother unflappably said. "You left something behind when you entered that girl's apartment. Something that puts you in the kitchen before the murder took place."

This was all news to me. Nothing was found in the kitchen that directly pointed to this old woman. If there was, my mother hadn't mentioned it.

"I notice your cat likes to shed," my mother said. "And your clothes like to pick up the fallen hairs."

The old woman tensely looked down. Her sweat suit was covered in cat hair.

"We've got some great technology now," my mother continued. "If we like, we can take a hair from your cat, compare it with the cat hair we found in the victim's apartment, and know whether it belonged to your feline. With all the cat hair on your clothes right now, it's not surprising some of it fell off inside the girl's apartment. And a jury will find it awfully suspicious that hair from your cat was in the victim's apartment just before she was killed. Coupled with the footprints in the garden and the gardening soil on the two doormats, I'd say a conviction is guaranteed."

The old woman remained bitterly silent.

My mother turned to the aging feline. "So we're just going to take one of these hairs and our case should be complete."

The closer my mother came to the cat, the more unsettled the old woman became. My mother picked up the cat and combed out some hairs. Suddenly the old woman let out an embittered groan.

"What was I supposed to do?" she sourly asked.

I inwardly gasped and leaned closer. My mother kept an even, expectant face.

"Every day she made noise," the old woman bleated. "I hadn't had a single day's peace for over a year. And nobody did a thing about it. I told the apartment manager repeatedly that she was making too much noise and you know what he did? He called me a chronic complainer and told me to live with it. I called the police but they never got her to do anything but lower the noise for a second and then the moment they were gone she would turn everything back up. I banged on the ceiling nearly every day but she just ignored me. I wrote her notes asking her to be quieter and slipped them under her door. She was quieter after she read my first note but not enough. So I wrote more notes. But she just got louder. Then I started finding my notes waded into a ball and thrown on my doorstep. I knew then that it was never going to stop. I thought about moving but how can a woman at my age move? I live on a fixed budget in a rent controlled apartment. I couldn't afford to live anywhere else. I was stuck in this apartment with an upstairs neighbor who was purposefully ruining my life. In my mind there was no other choice. I may have poisoned her but it was only because she was killing me."

The old woman pounded her cane on the floor and then remorselessly turned away. She was finished talking.

My mother stared at the old woman without an ounce of pity. "I'm sure the girl's mother will understand why her daughter needed to die."

The old woman snorted. I took out my handcuffs and began the process of arresting her. A police officer arrived shortly afterwards and took her away in a squad car.

I had plenty of paperwork to do at the station but first I had to drop my mother off. On the car ride over I mentioned how fortunate it was that she came upon the cat hair in the victim's apartment.

"I didn't find any cat hair in her apartment," my mother casually confessed. "But I knew she poisoned that girl, and I knew she would believe the possibility of her cat's hair falling off her clothes and landing in the girl's apartment."

I laughed and proudly turned to my mother. She never ceased to amaze me. With one clever, strategically placed lie an entire case got wrapped up in an instant. I only wished I had half her skills and intelligence.

We arrived at her home and I walked her to her door. She offered me food but I told her I needed to get back to the station. She insisted I take some food with me. I told her not to bother but she wouldn't let me leave. So by the time I walked back to my car I had half a chicken, a loaf of bread, a cup of soup, two slices of pie, and a bottle of cranberry juice in my hands.

Almost a year later a jury found the old woman guilty on all counts of first degree murder and the judge sentenced her to life in prison. It was within the noisy walls of the state penitentiary that she was to spend the remainder of her years, never to receive the peace and quiet she so desperately longed for.

6 comments:

  1. i think this would make an excellent tv movie, maybe the first of a series?
    excellently described characters and crime and not a wasted word.
    well done

    michael mccarthy

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  2. Very nicely done. Well-written and interesting.

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  3. Great job! Reads well, keep me engrossed and had all the right twists and turns. I agree, great TV series.

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  4. Very intriguing and well-written. I couldn't wait to hear what mom said!!!

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  5. Hope this will be a series! What mystery will mom solve next!?!?

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  6. What delightful characters. Even the victim seemed like a real person.

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