by Guy Belleranti
This story was originally published in the February 24, 2004 issue of Woman’s World.
Janice Dillon flinched as Tony Rosaro charged past her and out the door of Kim Brennan’s half of the duplex.
“Help…murder!” Janice cried, running into the yard.
Tony swung a wild glance back in her direction, then jerked open the door of his red sports car and piled inside. Once…twice the engine sputtered. Then it died. He leaped back onto the pavement and came at her, grabbing her roughly. “I didn’t do it. I loved her.”
A small crowd of people had gathered by then, including an off-duty policeman who burst forward and wrestled Tony to the ground. “You all right, ma’am?” he asked.
Janice nodded shakily, “Yes. But Kim…the woman living next to me… Oh, I don’t know if anything can be done for her. I think he’s killed her.”
“Tell me everything that happened, Ms. Dillon,” Detective Molly Mulroy said. She and her partner, Detective Stanley Dawson, had been in the vicinity and arrived almost immediately, giving Janice little time to concoct a story.
Not that Janice was under suspicion, but she knew Tony would continue to claim he was innocent, and knew, in fact, that he was.
Janice nodded. “I’ll try.” She sat on the concrete stoop in front of the duplex, making things up as she talked. “I was sitting at my kitchen table having cereal and coffee while I read the morning paper. Suddenly I heard Kim scream. Our kitchens share the same thin wall, and the sound of it chilled me. I hurried out my front door and in hers. Tony was standing over her. He saw me and…” Janice bent her head and pretended to sob.
She’d had a very close call, had shoved Kim’s head against that sharp counter edge, and then almost been caught on the scene by Tony. Thank goodness the jerk had entered the house noisily, calling Kim’s name. That had given her time to duck into a corner, had given her the opportunity to make it appear he was first on the scene.
“He saw you and what, Ms. Dillon?” Detective Mulroy asked.
“His eyes,” Janice said. “They had this terrible hate in them.” She looked up and met the woman’s own dark eyes. “He’s always scared me. He’s been in prison, you know, and was often mean to Kim. And now he’s finally done it—killed her. I ran for the front door screaming, and he started after me. Then, at the last minute, he cut for his car. But he couldn’t get it started.”
“Did you actually see him attack Ms. Brennan?”
Janice forced out a couple more sobs and thought quickly. Should she say yes, and add to the strength of the case? No, better not. Tony would accuse her of lying, would know she was lying, might even then tumble to the fact that she’d killed Kim.
“No,” Janice said, “I just saw that look on his face and the anger in his eyes when he saw me.”
Detective Mulroy nodded, but before she could ask anything more her partner stuck his head out the door of Kim Brennan’s place. “Molly, there’s something you should see in the bedroom—a spilled jewelry box.”
“Wait here,” Mulroy told Janice. She followed Dawson inside.
Janice put her head in her hands and this time wept real tears. She didn’t know how much longer she could hold it together. She hadn’t meant for Kim to die. She had just wanted to burglarize the place, to swipe Kim’s valuable jewelry and a few of her expensive knickknacks.
She’d had a copy of Kim’s backdoor key made months before when she’d taken care of Kim’s houseplants, so getting in wasn’t a problem. But she’d never got the chance to set up a burglary scene, for Kim had returned from her Sunday morning walk unexpectedly early and caught her with the jewelry box in her hands.
“I’d like you to go with me into your kitchen for a moment, Ms. Dillon,” said a voice in her ear.
“What?” Janice blinked and looked up into Detective Mulroy’s grim face. “My kitchen?”
“Yes. To try a little sound experiment.”
“Oh.” This woman cop was a sharp one all right, wanted to check out her story of hearing Kim’s cry through the wall before she accepted Tony as the guilty party.
The woman detective sat down, propped an elbow on the bare table, and spoke into her cell phone. “Okay, Stan, go ahead.”
Almost immediately a man’s shout came from the other side of the wall.
Janice bit back a grin.
“Thank you, ma’am,” Mulroy said.
Janice saw her out, then sank onto her sagging couch and laughed. She’d done it! And Tony—well he didn’t have a chance. With his nasty temper, police record, and flight from the scene he’d easily be convicted.
Now what? Nosy neighbors? Reporters?
Detectives Mulroy and Dawson stood there. “You’ve been lying to us,” Mulroy said. “You didn’t rush over to Ms. Brennan’s in the middle of your breakfast.”
“Of course I did,” Janice snapped.
“Then why wasn’t there anything on your kitchen table when we made that sound test? No bowl, cup, newspaper—nothing.”
Janice opened her mouth but no words came out.
“And if you lied about that… Yes, I’m betting we’ll find your fingerprints on Ms. Brennan’s jewelry box, as well. Ma’am, I think you better come with us.”
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