True Colors: Mystery Short Story

Apr 14, 2018 | 2018 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by John M. Floyd

True Colors was previously published in the anthology Seven by Seven, in April 2006.

“He’s dead,” Nicole Finney said. Teary-eyed, she led Officers Payne and Tyler down a dim hallway. Morris Dunn lay facedown in his office.head on desk

“This happened when?” Payne asked.

“Ten minutes ago.”

“What’d you see?”

Nicole drew a shaky breath. “Nothing. I was up front at my desk with the copier repairman when we heard shots. We thought Mr. Dunn was the only other person in the building.”

“Go on.”

“Well, when I got back here, whoever did it was gone. But the copier guy…he said he saw the killer. Holding a gun.”gun

“He saw him?”

“Her. He talks funny, but this was clear. He said, ‘It was a woman. A woman with wet hair.’”

The officers exchanged glances. It had been raining all day. Whoever killed Dunn must’ve just come inside.

The frightened repairman had left, Nicole said. Tyler quickly phoned in orders to locate him. Meanwhile, employees Hilda Harper and Pam Brady stomped in with rain hats and umbrellas. Their hair—Harper’s gray, Brady’s blond—was as dry as Nicole’s. They received the news in stunned silence. umbrella

When asked, Nicole revealed that there was also a back entrance from a covered garage. “I can only see the front door from my desk,” she said, “but anyone entering the back has to key in a door code.”

Then, a break: Dunn’s appointment book. He was to meet his wife at noon today—around the time of the murder.

“Describe the wife,” Officer Payne said.

Nicole wiped her eyes. “Nice enough lady. Fiftyish, redheaded, hot-tempered.”

“Seen her today?”

“No. If she was here, she used the back door. She and the employees all know the code.”

Suddenly a woman swept in, using that very door.

“I’m late, Nicole, is Morris—”

Mrs. Dunn stopped short. The policemen solemnly informed her of her husband’s death, then stepped away. “Her hair’s dry too,” Tyler whispered. “And check this out.”

Another appointment-book entry said: HILDA’S EXIT INTERVIEW 4 P.M.

“Looks like Hilda Harper’s getting the axe.”

Over the next hour they questioned everyone. Mrs. Dunn had been shopping all morning, the stone-faced Ms. Harper was resentful about being fired (enough to shoot her boss?), and the attractive young Pam Brady appeared more upset by Dunn’s death than his wife was. This suspicion was verified by Nicole Finney.

“Yes,” she said, “Pam and Mr. Dunn were having an affair. And yes, Mrs. Dunn knew. So did Pam’s husband.”

Not that that helped the case. Betrayed spouses are often vengeful, but Mrs. Dunn’s hair didn’t look rained-on, and even if Pam Brady’s husband came here today soaking wet, the person the repairman saw in the hallway had been female. There was no solid evidence against anyone. Mrs. Dunn and the employees were allowed to leave.

“So how’d the killer get in?”
Tyler said, as the lab team wrapped up. “The wet-hair description suggests the front door, but it was in plain view. And the back door requires a code.”

The officers were pondering that when the copier repairman was brought in.

“I told Mith Finney what I thaw,” he said. “The woman had wet hair. And a pithtol.”

“Your name, sir?”

“John Wandolph.”

Payne looked up from his notepad. “John Randolph?”

“That’th wight. Wandolph.”

Payne blinked and turned to his partner. “It’s Mrs. Dunn. She did it.”


“He talks funny, Nicole said. Remember?” Payne jumped to his feet. “The killer didn’t have ‘wet’ hair—she had red hair.”

Both cops rushed out into the rain. Russell, left alone and confused in the office, stared after them.

“Who talkth funny?” he said.

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John M. Floyd’s short fiction has appeared in The Strand Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Mississippi Noir, The Best American Mystery Stories, and many other publications. John is also a three-time Derringer Award winner, an Edgar finalist, and a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. His seventh book, The Barrens, is scheduled for release in summer 2018.


  1. Good story, John. I especially loved the last line.

  2. John,

    Cute story!

  3. Very clever, John. Still so proud of you.

  4. Great story, John. Loved the ending.

  5. Thanks, everybody, for the kind comments. This kind of story is ALWAYS fun to write.


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