by B.K. Stevens
Enjoy this never before published Valentine’s Day mystery short story. You can check out our other 2 Valentine’s Day mystery short stories in our Terrific Tales section.
“One of them tried to kill me!” Sharon Burke said. She looked as striking in person as she did on television–slender but shapely, with carefully fluffed long blonde hair framing a perfectly oval, utterly wrinkle-free face.
Detective Bridget Diaz, by contrast, was short and solidly built, her dark hair pulled back in a stubby pony tail. She and her partner, Sergeant Jack Carlson, sat on the red plush couch in the local anchorwoman’s expensively furnished office. “Let’s start at the beginning,” Bridget said. “Tell us what happened.”
Sharon handed her a heart-shaped red box with a typed note. “From your secret valentine,” it said. “I found this on my desk when I came back from lunch. Naturally, since today’s February 14, I assumed it was a Valentine’s Day gift from a fan. I started to bite into a chocolate but noticed an odd smell, like bitter almonds. So I went to the university and asked a chemistry professor I know to run some tests. That candy’s laced with cyanide!”
Jack nodded. Long-limbed and bristling with energy, he was still in his early twenties and had passed the sergeant’s exam just weeks ago. “Sounds like attempted homicide, all right. You said you suspect two of your co-workers?”
“Yes. We all have offices in this suite. Brian Murphy and Marcy West were here while I was at lunch, and the receptionist says nobody else came by. They’re the only ones who could have put the box on my desk.”
Bridget wrote down the names. “Why would they want to kill you?”
“Brian’s my co-anchor,” Sharon said, tossing her hair back. “We dated for a while, until I saw how much he’s been dragging our ratings down and realized what a loser he is. So I dumped him, months ago. He won’t give up, though. Yesterday, he proposed and offered me a sapphire ring. When I said no, he exploded.”
Jack let out a low whistle. “That’d give him a motive, all right. Who’s Marcy West?”
“Our producer.” Sharon snorted. “She’s pathetic, such a drab, mousy little thing. Lazy, too. She keeps nail polish in her desk drawer. Obviously, when I’m not around, she’s doing her nails instead of working. I confronted her about it yesterday and said I’d get her fired. The look she gave me was–well, murderous. So, you’ll question them both?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Bridget said, still taking notes. “That’s standard procedure.”
“Fine. When you decide which one’s guilty, let me know, and I’ll film the arrest. Then you can both be on the news. Won’t that be exciting?”
A uniformed officer stood outside the producer’s office. Inside sat a short, slim woman with light brown hair and deep, dark blue eyes. “I heard someone tried to poison Sharon,” Marcy said.
“And we heard,” Jack said, narrowing his eyes, “that she threatened to fire you yesterday.”
Marcy shrugged. “She yelled at everybody yesterday–she always yells at everybody. I’ve learned to ignore it. But why is there an officer outside Brian’s office? Did Sharon accuse him? Don’t believe her. She’s jealous because he gets more fan mail than she does, and she’s angry at him for ending their relationship.”
“We heard she ended it,” Jack said.
Marcy shook her head sharply, three times. “No. He broke it off, after just a few dates. It didn’t take him long to find out how nosy and controlling Sharon is, and to realize that she’s–well, honestly, that she’s not very bright. But you can’t suspect Brian. He’s a wonderful person–kind, fair, helpful.”
“Thanks.” Bridget shut her notebook. “Let’s move on, Sergeant.”
Jack’s eyebrows shot up. “Already? Shouldn’t we ask her about–”
“No, we’re done here. Time to talk to Brian Murphy.”
Brian had the broad shoulders and smooth good looks almost all local anchormen share. Today, though, his forehead was creased, his mouth tense. “There’s no reason for you to have someone outside Marcy’s door. She’d never hurt anybody.”
“Let’s talk about you.” Jack drummed his fingers on the desk. “So you proposed to Sharon yesterday, huh? And you tried to give her a sapphire ring.”
Brian looked stunned. “No. I never proposed to Sharon. I bought a ring, but not for her. I’m surprised she even knows about it.” He opened a drawer and showed them a silver ring with a dark blue stone. “I bought it because–well, just because I liked it.”
Jack laughed harshly. “That sounds likely. Come on, Murphy. Tell us the truth. You wanted to marry Sharon, didn’t you? And when she said no, you decided–”
“That’s enough,” Bridget cut in. “Thank you, Mr. Murphy. We have all the information we need.” She stood up, shook his hand, and left the office.
Jack trailed after her. “What do you mean, all the information we need? Who tried to poison Sharon?”
“Nobody.” Bridget walked briskly through the lobby. “Think about it. With everything going on these days, would any journalist eat candy without knowing who sent it? Candy that appeared mysteriously with a typed, anonymous note? Of course not. Who’d try to murder a journalist that way?”
He frowned. “So who put the candy on Sharon’s desk?”
“Sharon did. She faked everything. It was a pretty stupid scheme, but as Marcy said, Sharon’s not bright. We’ll find out how she got the cyanide and then charge her with filing a false felony report. She could get five years.”
“I still don’t get it,” Jack said, shaking his head. “Why would Sharon fake an attempted murder?”
“To boost her ratings with a hot story.” Bridget pushed open the door leading to the street. “She said ratings have been dragging, remember? I’m sure she wanted revenge, too. She’s mad at Brian for dropping her and falling in love with Marcy.”
Jack stopped walking. “Wait a minute. He’s in love with Marcy? How can you know that? How could Sharon know that?”
Bridget stopped walking, too, and crossed her arms against her chest. She sighed. “As Marcy said, Sharon’s nosy. She must’ve searched Marcy’s desk. That’s how she knows Marcy keeps nail polish there. Sharon must’ve searched
Brian’s desk, too. That’s when she found the ring.”
“The ring he bought just because he liked it?”
“No,” Bridget said patiently, “the ring he bought for Marcy. Didn’t you notice how the sapphire matches Marcy’s dark blue eyes? I’m sure Sharon noticed that, and I’m sure it confirmed her suspicions. Brian and Marcy kept their relationship secret because Sharon’s so jealous and temperamental, but they obviously care about each other. When we talked to Marcy, she focused on defending Brian, not herself. And when we talked to Brian, all he cared about was trying to protect Marcy. Those two are in love, all right. I bet he’s going to propose after work today, and I bet you anything she says yes.”
Jack scratched his head. “You’re sure about all this? You’re sure Brian didn’t propose to Sharon yesterday?”
“Of course not.” Bridget smiled. “Really, Jack. Who proposes on February 13?”
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section.