Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)
TITLE: Fatal Clues
By Kelly Klepfer
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With the name Abercrombie I expect stupid jokes.
I expect them, but don't have to like them, especially delivered by rookies so young they haven't discovered the beauty of sleep.
I'm prone to jokes, too. But mine are funny -- even if I'm the only one laughing.
With coffee in hand, I circle the corpse. Simple. Clear cause of death, unless the skin's bluish tint and the rope around the neck hid something deeper, buried for the coroner to uncover.
My job is gruesome. The coroner's is worse. Which is fair, he brings in more Benjamins.
My rookie, Betty, I've been calling her Boop all month, loves crime scenes. Boop leans in so close that her breath flutters the dead man's hair. I grab her shoulder. "Hey, the guy's had a rough night, he doesn't need you landing on him."
She gives me a hard stare then rolls her eyes. "Whatever. That lipstick smeared on his face?"
"The suicide note says he was despondent over a broken relationship. Maybe it's freshly broken."
"I want to talk to the woman who kisses all over some guy and then breaks up with him."
"We gotta get a warrant first."
Boop's mouth dropped open, giving her a confused puppy look, all she needed to complete it was a tilt. "Seriously? You already have a case against her?"
"Suicide ruled out?"
"Usually suicides don't put wineglasses, one with a suspicious residue, neatly in the sink, and they never leave incriminating messages on the answering machine."
"There were no messages on the machine. I checked."
I dangled the evidence bag holding the tiny tape. "That's because she dropped the tape she replaced on her way out, along with a lipstick covered tissue."
"Did you listen to it?"
"So how do you know its incriminating?"
I shrugged. "There's enough to get the interest of the DA. Now we just have to find the woman who doesn't want to be attached to our quiet friend."
Boop scanned the room, looking for pictures, something personal that would give us a hint of our black widow's identity.
I sifted through my mental notes, stored in my brain – the computer of choice. Residue in the glass…did he plan to sedate her, or vice versa? Date rape snafu or premeditated murder?
Somewhere we'd find a cell phone, which would net pay dirt. Another hint we didn't face a suicide, who'd get rid of the phone before killing themselves?
Criminals, especially panicked first-timers, always left fatal clues.
While Betty Booped around, I slid open the slats on the window blind. An unfamiliar vehicle, not there when I'd arrived, sat at the end of the street. One cruiser, lights off, sat in front of the building. Betty and I shared an unmarked around back.
I flicked my fingers, closing the blind. "I'm going out for a stretch."
Boop nodded as she paged through the caller ID for the third time.
The cold air slapped me in the face. No one would sit in a car on a frosty night unless they had a darn good reason. I circled behind the building and took a stroll down the alley.
As I drew closer, I began noting details -- a maroon American-made mini-van, about as innocent as it got. Mud caked the back license plate, hmmm, a little cold for mud, not likely to have been four-wheeling. Finally, the glow of a cigarette -- a neon beacon -- through the cracked driver's window.
A quick return to the alley, a duck-walk down the next driveway, a gawk through the lovely honeysuckle bushes planted by a green-thumbed friend of justice, and I got what I'd come for. I scribbled in my notebook, punched in a few numbers on my cell phone and craned to see the driver.
Per my instructions one of the uniforms popped open the front door of the apartment building, splashing light into the street. With perfectly timed reflexes the van started, rolled -- without lights -- to the corner and disappeared into the night.
Now talking to headquarters, I entered the apartment of the newly deceased. "Yeah, bring both Mr. and Mrs. in; we have plenty of questions to go around."
Betty raised an eyebrow.
I smiled. "Time to question some guilty people -- my favorite. Boop, you play good cop. When you get a rookie, you can pick."
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