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Murder on the Menu: A Mystery Short Story

IN THE March 21 ISSUE

FROM THE 2015 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by Guy Belleranti

Murder on the Menu was first published by Woman’s World Magazine in their March 14, 2006 issue.

SORRY, CLOSED MONDAYS read the sign on the door, but my partner Bart and I weren’t at the restaurant for breakfast. Murder was on the menu this morning and Liz Castle, co-owner of the Cozy Café, was the victim.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Anne Fleming, the café’s other co-owner, said tearfully. “We were supposed to have a business meeting, but now….” She averted her eyes from the figure sprawled on the restaurant’s kitchen floor.

“Do you recognize the knife she was stabbed with?” Bart asked.

“I’d rather not look, but yes, there is a knife missing from the rack. And that one…in Liz…it does have the same handle as the others.” knives

A uniformed cop stuck his head in the room. “There’s a man out front! Says he’s the business manager.”

“Oh,” Anne Fleming cried. “That’s Harvey. Harvey Stark. Thank goodness he’s here.”

We followed the cop into the dining area.

“Harvey! Poor Liz! She’s dead.”

“I heard,” the tall man responded. He dabbed his rain slicked hair with a handkerchief. “The policeman told me it was murder. If only I’d gotten here earlier, but the traffic’s a mess with all this rain.”

“You were expected at this morning’s meeting, then?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Stark. He turned to Anne. “Any sign of theft, Anne?”

“No. I don’t think there’s anything missing.”

I looked at my watch. 8:30. “So, ma’am,” I said to Anne Fleming, “we’ve been here ten minutes. When did you arrive?”

“A few minutes after 8:00. Liz’s car was in the lot. When I didn’t find her in the office I went to the kitchen and…Oh, who could’ve done this?”

“Exactly what I’ve been asking myself,” Stark said, “and the only person I can come up with is Martin Parker.”

Anne Fleming gasped. “You’re right!” She looked at Bart and me. “Martin Parker is – was – one of our cooks. Liz fired him yesterday.”

“Why?” Bart asked sharply.

“Because he kept messing up meal orders,” Stark said.

Anne Fleming nodded. “Yes, and when she fired him, he got terribly angry. Cursed at her and threatened he’d make her pay.”

“Do you have his address?” I asked.

“Of course. We keep all employee records in the office.”

“I’ll get it,” Stark said.

Bart and I accompanied him. “If Parker did it I hope you can nail him,” the restaurant manager said as he jotted down the address. “Maybe you can get his prints and match them to some on the knife.” He frowned. “Of course that might not prove much since he probably used it every day while working here.” knife

I took the address and then Bart and I headed out on the wet streets. Parker lived in a dreary apartment complex two miles away. When we reached his door Bart knocked. A minute passed, then a second. “What now, Lenny,” he asked me.

“Knock again,” I said.

Bart raised his hand and the door jerked open. The thickset, middle-aged man stared as Bart and I flashed our ID’s.

“Are you Martin Parker?” I asked.apartment

“Yeah.”

“Mind if we come in and ask you some questions?”

“What about?”

I watched him closely. “Liz Castle’s been stabbed to death.”

Parker barely blinked, but I saw his jaw clench. He made no move to invite us inside.

“She fired you yesterday, right?” I asked.

The man shrugged. “Yeah, but I’ve already got a line on a better job. Going in for an interview later this morning. ”

“Speaking of this morning,” Bart said, “where were you between 7:00 and 8:00?”

“Right here. Having my coffee and reading the paper.”coffee

“Can anyone vouch for that?” I asked.

“Nope. I live alone.”

“The knife used might have your prints all over it.”

“And it might not too.”

“We can drag you downtown….”

“Yeah,” Parker snarled, “I guess you can. But you might also want to drag in Liz’s partner, Anne Fleming and the manager, Harvey Stark. Fleming and Castle butted heads a lot. Fleming was pushing to change the café’, to make it trendier. Castle wanted to keep it a mom-and-pop place. As for Stark– he wanted to change things, too. He and Castle never got along.”

#

“I think we should’ve hauled him in, Lenny,” Bart grumbled as we got into the car. “And Fleming and Stark – we should haul them in as well.”

“Plenty of time for all of that, Bart,” I said. “Right now there’s something bothering me. Something about that murder knife.”

“The knife? Hmm. Well, any of the three knew where it was and any of the three could have used it. That I do know.”

“Very true,” I said, “but that’s not what I mean. Someone said something about that knife. Something that –” I snapped my fingers as it came to me. “Yeah! I’ve got it, Bart. I know who did it. I know who the killer is.”

Bart stared. “Who?”

“Harvey Stark. He said we might find Parker’s prints on the knife. Then he said that if we did find Parker’s prints on it that might not mean much since Parker used the knife every day at work, but how did Stark know the murder weapon was a knife? And even more importantly, how did he know it was one of the knives from the kitchen? We didn’t tell him, Anne Fleming didn’t tell him. None of us ever mentioned a knife at all, and Stark never came in the kitchen and never saw the body. We met him in the dining area.”knife

“Say, that’s right,” Bart said, excitedly. “The only way Stark could know the specifics of the murder weapon was if he he’d been the one to use it! Great thinking, Lenny.”

We acquired a search warrant and when we found Liz Castle’s blood on his coat, Stark confessed. He’d arrived at the restaurant early and found Liz in the kitchen. They’d argued about how Stark was trying to change the café. When Liz threatened to pull her money out of the business, Stark grabbed the knife from the counter and stabbed her. Then he left and returned later as if he was just arriving for the scheduled meeting.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

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/

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gail Farrelly
Twitter: @gailfarrelly
March 21, 2015 at 11:10am

Good story, Guy. I enjoyed it.

Reply

2 Earl Staggs March 22, 2015 at 7:10am

Good story, Guy. I always enjoy your work.
A recent post from Earl Staggs: AN INTERVIEW WITH TALL CHAMBERSMy Profile

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3 Guy Belleranti March 22, 2015 at 8:32am

Hi Gail and Earl. Great to hear from both of you! Thanks so much for your kind words.

Guy

Reply

4 Jody March 26, 2015 at 7:37am

Enjoyed reading this short story.

Reply

5 Guy Belleranti March 27, 2015 at 11:51am

Jody, I’m pleased you liked the story.

Reply

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