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Whodunit?: A Mystery Short Story

IN THE July 7 ISSUE

FROM THE 2018 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by Guy Belleranti

Whodunit? was originally published in Woman’s World in 2007.

A chilly breeze blew through the open window, but Martha McGuire didn’t move an inch. Slumped over her laptop, she had written her last mystery novel.laptop

My partner, Bart, pointed at a bloodstained paperweight. “That looks like the weapon, Gavin.”

I nodded and studied the rest of the room. An overturned coffee mug beside the victim’s left elbow had spilled its contents onto the otherwise immaculate ceramic tile floor. I searched outwards, all the way to the window, but saw nothing else, not even a scuff mark. Hopefully, forensics would have better luck.

A gust of wind hit me in the face, and I stepped back. “Bart, while forensics goes over the room, let’s see if we can jog our witness’s memory about the man she saw climbing out this window.”

Ellen Grimes, the victim’s writer friend, shook her head from her seat in the living room. “I never said it was a man.”

“You mean it was a woman?” Bart asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you start at the beginning,” I suggested.

Ellen wiped away a tear. “Every Tuesday evening Martha and I meet to discuss writing. But tonight, she didn’t answer the door. The doorbell wasn’t working, and the rain was coming down so hard I figured she hadn’t heard my knock. I tried the door, found it unlocked and headed for the den. I called out, then caught a glimpse of someone going out the window. Then…I saw Martha.” rain

“This person climbing out the window,” said Bart. “Man…woman—”

“All I caught was a blur.” Ellen sobbed. “Who would want to hurt Martha?”

“Good question,” I said. “Does she have any children who’ll inherit? Or a bitter ex-husband?”

“She never married. She—Wait! Giles Torland.”

“Who?”

“Martha’s boyfriend. I don’t know what she saw in him. He drinks too much and was always asking her for money.”

“And today Martha told him they were finished,” came a voice from the entryway. A woman dressed in a robe and white tennis shoes advanced into the room with a uniformed policeman by her side.

“This is Betty Hunt, the housekeeper,” the policeman said. “Lives above the detached garage.”

Bart and I exchanged glances, then I swung on Ellen. “Why didn’t you tell us someone else lived on the premises?”

“I-I’m sorry,” she stammered. She stared at the housekeeper. “Betty, I thought you were out of town visiting your daughter?”

“Came back early,” the housekeeper said. “Returned a little before 7:30 tonight at the height of the storm. That’s when Martha told me she’d broken up with Mr. Torland.”

“You saw the victim at 7:30?” Bart asked.

“Yes.” Her face suddenly paled. “But I didn’t kill her!”

“Of course you didn’t,” Ellen soothed.

“What did Ms. McGuire say exactly?” I asked.

“That she’d dumped Mr. Torland earlier today.”

“There wasn’t anyone else in the house when you saw her tonight?” I asked.

“Not that I know of. Martha did say Ellen would be coming later, and that I wouldn’t be needed. So I went to my quarters and took a hot bath. When I looked out around 8:15, the rain had stopped and several police cars were pulling into the drive.”

I was about to ask her for Torland’s address when a disheveled-looking man with liquor on his breath was escorted our way. Giles Torland, it turned out.

“Why’re all you cops here?” he asked, his speech slightly slurred.

“Martha McGuire’s been murdered,” Bart said. “But maybe you already knew that?”

“Martha murdered?” Torland glared at the two women. “You!” he yelled at Ellen. “And you!” he said to Betty. “Which of you killed her?”

The housekeeper’s hands clenched.

“You’re drunk,” Ellen snapped.

“What if I am? You were jealous of Martha, even accused her of stealin’ your ideas.”

“That’s not true.”

Torland swung on the housekeeper. “And you’re a thief. Martha caught you taking things.” He moved menacingly toward the woman. Bart and I quickly blocked his way and led him back outside.

“Hold this man in a squad car,” I ordered an officer. I looked at Bart. “Let’s see what forensics has turned up.”

The news wasn’t good. “Except for the spilled coffee, the room’s clean,” a detective told us. “And there’s no useful fingerprints on the paperweight or window frame.”coffee

“How about outside?” Bart asked. “With all that rain earlier there’s gotta be footprints.”

“Nope. Not a trace. Rain must’ve washed them away.”

Bart scowled. “Looks like we’re at a dead end, Gavin.”

“On the contrary,” I replied, “I think I know who our killer is.”

Bart stared. “Who?”

“Ellen Grimes,” I said. “She said it was raining when she arrived and that she saw someone going out the window. However, if that were true the rain would have blown into the room with that wind. But the tile was dry. That means no one went out the window during the storm which means Ellen was lying.”

We confronted Ellen and she broke down. She’d killed Martha in a fit of angry writer’s jealousy. By the time she’d opened the window to fit her story the rain had stopped.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast!

Guy Belleranti lives in Tucson, Arizona. He writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, puzzles and humor for both adults and children. He’s been published in over 200 different publications including Woman’s World, Bards and Sages Quarterly, Liquid Imagination, Big Pulp, The Saturday Evening Post, Scifaikuest, Highlights for Children, Jack and Jill Magazine, MysteryNet, Crimestalker Casebook. Two of his flash mysteries were nominated for Derringer awards and he has won cash awards in many writing contests. When he’s not writing he works in a school library & volunteers as a docent educator at the local zoo. His author’s website is www.guybelleranti.com/

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sheryl SensNo Gravatar July 10, 2018 at 8:29pm

Loved it!

Reply

2 Gail FarrellyNo Gravatar
Twitter: @gailfarrelly
July 12, 2018 at 2:43am

Fun story! Enjoyed it.

Reply

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