Witness to Murder: Mystery Short Story

Mar 2, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Guy Belleranti

This story was originally published in the 2002 summer issue of Crimestalker Casebook.

Sally Peale flattened herself in the back corner of Maureen Mitchell’s bedroom closet, hiding behind the longest evening gown.

“This makes no sense, Sally,” Maureen’s nephew, Brian, shouted from somewhere near at hand. “I know you’re upstairs. You can’t escape.”

Sally choked back a sob. She’d really thought Brian loved her. No way had she ever expected him to turn on her like this.

Once more Sally saw Maureen plunge down the staircase. Once more she saw the expression on Brian’s face, the hardness in his eyes, as he turned that horrible stare upon her. stairs

She’d stumbled backwards, away from him, tried to talk and reason with him, but he was beyond listening, his once handsome looks twisted into a mask of rage. Then, suddenly, he’d come at her, and all she could think was to protect herself. She’d grabbed up the small potted plant from the table on the landing near the head of the stairs and swung it. By some miracle she’d connected. Then, she’d run.

She hadn’t been able to get downstairs – Brian had staggered to his feet in time to block access – so she’d run the opposite direction, turned the corner of the upstairs hall and dived into one of the rooms. Maureen’s bedroom as it turned out.

A quick glance from the window and she’d known it was out as an escape route. No tree nearby, no trellis, nothing. Just the cactus garden two stories below.

So she’d ended up in the closet, hoping Brian would not find her.

“You can’t escape, do you hear me?” Brian sounded even closer than before, so close she could even smell his aftershave and hear his heavy breathing.

What am I going to do, Sally thought. Oh what am I going to do?

The closet door jerked open.

Sally snapped her eyes shut and held her breath. No! Please, no.

Ten, fifteen, twenty seconds passed, and nothing happened.

She opened her eyes, saw light from the bedroom spilling in, but only part way. Not far enough to expose her hiding place. Thank goodness he hadn’t bothered to turn on the closet light.

“You’re leaving me no choice, Sally.” Still shouting, but now also sounding a little weary. “I wanted to talk to you first, but….” The floorboards creaked as he moved away.

Sally sucked in fresh breaths of air. Talk to me first? And then what? A terrible thought hit her, one she should have considered sooner.

She shoved the dresses aside, stepped toward the open closet door. She must get out of this house at once!

Sally peeked around the edge of the closet opening. If he was still in the room…if he saw her…. But he wasn’t.

Then where? The terrible thought tore at her again. Got to get out of here fast.

Still, Sally didn’t move from the closet. Precious seconds ticked away as she shrunk back into its shadows, thinking, gathering courage.

She needed a plan, a strategy. He was out there, somewhere in the house, in the hall…in one of the rooms…upstairs, or maybe even downstairs. Waiting. She could never expect to take him by surprise again. He was much stronger then her. Probably couldn’t outrun him either.

Once more Sally crept forward to peek out the closet’s door.

Still clear.

Her glance moved around the room, took in the bed and its frilly spread, the large walnut dresser and the mirror above it. She needed something to defend herself with, but would there be such a thing in this room? She didn’t have time to go through all the drawers. Brian might be back in any second and start searching more thoroughly, and then….

Please, let there be something.

What was that on the top of Maureen’s dresser? Something shiny.

Sally rushed from the closet, grabbed up the gleaming object. A small scissors. It would have to do.scissors

She crept to the main doorway, heart pounding. Now or never. She stepped into the hall.

All clear.

She reached the hall’s corner, sucked in a breath, shoved back her long black hair with a shaking hand and made the turn.

Still no Brian.

The stairs were up ahead. She must get down them fast.

Sally grasped the railing and plunged down, feet flying. Get to the door, make a run for it. She could do it. stairs

She was stepping over Maureen’s twisted figure at the bottom when Brian sprang out of the shadows.

“Got you!” His large hands locked on her left wrist, twisted it painfully.

“No!” Sally swung the scissors with her free hand, heard him cry out and felt his grip loosen. She swung the scissors again, and he was no longer holding her at all.

“You stabbed me!” He fell back, pressed a hand to his shoulder.

Sally raced past, the scissors slipping from her fingers as she clawed at the front door knob. Then she had the door open and tore outside, tripping on the porch step as the bright Arizona sun blinded her. She threw a hand to her eyes.


Oh no, he was right behind her.

She sprinted toward the road without looking back, heard another sound. Sirens.

“Help!” Sally stumbled to a stop as one squad car, then a second, screamed around the corner. “Help me! Please. He’s—”

“Easy, ma’am,” a big cop said leaping from one of the cars.

She clutched at the man’s shirt, tears smearing her vision. “He killed her…his Aunt Maureen. He tried to kill me, too.”

“Wait a minute. Slow down. Who—”

“Brian Cullen. It was awful. He pushed her down the stairs. When he saw I’d seen him, he trapped me in the house. If I hadn’t found a pair of scissors to protect myself with, I’d be dead, too.” scissors

She heard a footstep behind her, released her grip on the policeman’s shirt and swung around. Brian had moved to within only a few feet of her.

“Keep him away from me! Please, don’t let him hurt me!”

“That’s far enough, Mr. Cullen,” the big cop said. He turned back to Sally as two other cop’s blocked Brian’s pathway. “Now, ma’am, you were saying—”

“He’s a murderer.”

“And the victim, ma’am?”

“Haven’t you been listening to me? His aunt. I saw it all. He shoved her down the stairs. Then he tried to kill me.”

“Then why’d he phone us, ma’am?”

“Phone…you?” Sally stared at the cop’s sober face, and her terrible thought returned, the thought that Brian would call the cops.

Then, suddenly, Sally turned and charged around the other cops, pounding Brian with her fists. “I did it for you, Brian. For us. Don’t you see that? With all the money you’ll inherit, and the house and property, we could’ve married and been set for life!” She continued screaming as strong arms grabbed her, as the police snapped handcuffs on her wrists and took her away.

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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/


  1. I enjoyed this muchly, thanks!


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