Mystery Short Story: The Witness

Apr 27, 2024 | 2024 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Guy Belleranti

This story was originally published in May 2003 by the online mystery zine Shred of Evidence. Trigger warning for rape.

Dan O’Leary dropped from Anna Peavey’s bedroom window and melted into the darkness of the neighboring alley. He oozed confidence now, was no longer worried about the still form lying on the bedroom floor.

Stupid woman, Dan thought. She’d fought like a wildcat, knocking the wig and glasses from his face. He still remembered the look on her face, the fear. It had excited him more than he thought possible. And it had angered him, for he suddenly knew she recognized him.

Dan came out of the alley, and cut across the street to the all-night grocery parking lot where he’d left his pick-up. Never park at the scene. That was his motto. Cars were much easier to trace than a disguised face seen in the dark.

He tossed the plastic bag containing his “work clothes”— cheap jeans, pullover shirt and nylon gloves— on the seat, and started the engine. He’d have to dump them this time. They were too messed up to keep.

He’d been under his truck changing the oil when Anna had arrived at the duplex earlier that day. After a good look at her legs he’d slid out to see more. Golden-haired and shapely — just how he liked them. He’d tried to flirt with her. Women usually found his rugged looks attractive, but she’d only flashed a big diamond engagement ring at him.

Lou Bailey, his nerd-faced landlord, her fiancé? Dan couldn’t believe it.

Later Dan had followed her to her apartment on the east side. He’d overheard her tell Bailey she couldn’t go out that evening, that she had to work until ten. Plenty of time for Dan to force her bedroom window and hide inside.

beerDan threw the bag of clothing in a dumpster behind a closed restaurant, then headed on to his favorite bar. A few beers and a game of pool— those are what he needed now. He pulled the diamond ring out of his pocket one more time, then shoved it back, whistling. The night hadn’t been wasted. Not at all.


Dan swung his pick-up into the wide curve of his street a couple hours later, and sucked in his breath. Two figures stood in the driveway beside an official-looking car. One was Bailey. The other, facing away, was it a cop?

He fought back panic. Impossible. They couldn’t have traced him.

He pulled into the curb, sat there a moment, motor idling, his confidence returning as they made no move toward him. He was sure now. They didn’t know.

“It’s Anna!” Lou Bailey sobbed as Dan approached. “Someone attacked her. She’s at Valley Hospital. Just came out of surgery.” He yanked his thick glasses off, wiped his eyes, and started up the walk to his half of the duplex.

Dan jumped when the other figure spoke. A cop, yes, but a woman cop. “Detective Martinez,” she said, flashing her I.D. “I take it you’re Dan O’Leary, Mr. Bailey’s new renter.”

Dan stared at her, and nodded. He didn’t like it that she already knew his name. He didn’t like it that Anna Peavey wasn’t dead. “Ms. Peavey… Is she hurt bad?”

“Yes. But fighting. With luck maybe she’ll be able to talk by late morning or early afternoon.”

Damn, Dan thought. “You, uh, haven’t any leads then? No one was seen leaving her apartment?”

Detective Martinez stared at him a moment, then sighed and shook her head. “Ms. Peavey managed to crawl to her phone and call 911. What she gasped to the operator before she passed out is all we have to work with.”

Dan waited for her to continue. “What did she say?” he finally blurted.

“Suppose I could tell you that,” the detective said. “It’s sure to be in the papers. Gasped for help, then said, ‘Lieutenant… he attacked me.’”

“Lieutenant?” Dan relaxed.

Detective Martinez shrugged. “Could be her assailant wore a military uniform. Mr. Bailey unfortunately, can’t think of any acquaintance who fits that bill.”

kitchenDan tried to keep from grinning. The cops had nothing. Nothing as long as Anna Peavey didn’t talk again. He cut across the lawn as the Detective drove off, pausing as he passed Bailey’s brightly lit kitchen window. The jerk was sitting there at the table, crying like a baby!

Dan spat in disgust, and hurried on. He had a job to do. He had to silence the Peavey broad before she said anything more.

Dan searched among his assortment of disguises, the plan already forming in his mind. Yeah, there it was— the white doctor’s coat he’d once worn to impress a pretty young thing. Wear that along with the glasses. Get into her hospital room and inject a drug into her. He had all sorts of pilfered drugs locked away. Maybe he’d use some of the stuff he’d stolen from that vet’s office. The stuff used to put animals into permanent sleep. Yeah, he could be in and out of her room in seconds.


Dan parked in Valley Hospital’s spacious lot just before sunrise. She had a private room – number 327. It’s quite easy to learn a patient’s room number if you say you’re sending flowers. flowers

He straightened the glasses on his nose and walked boldly through the main entrance. His hand, resting casually in the white coat’s right pocket, held a loaded syringe.

Dan rode the elevator to the third floor, exchanging smiles with a nurse who got on as he got off. He kept his step steady and assured like a doctor on his early morning rounds. He was getting close now. 321. 323. 325. He slowed his pace until a nurse had passed, gave a quick look around, and slipped quietly into room 327.

Early morning light was beginning to filter its way into the room. He approached the bed, removed the syringe from his pocket, and froze.

The bed was empty.

“Drop the syringe and put your hands behind your back!”

Dan recognized the voice of Detective Martinez even before he turned. His glance darted toward the window.

“Three stories is a long jump, O’Leary,” Martinez said. “But there’s another detective waiting below if you want to try.”

“How… how’d you know,” Dan muttered, wincing as a uniformed cop snapped handcuffs on his wrists.

“I didn’t for sure. But you seemed pretty jumpy last night, and your asking if anyone was seen leaving Anna Peavey’s apartment started me thinking. Lou Bailey never told you where she’d been attacked, so how could you know it was in her apartment? Then, there’s our witness.”

“Witness?” Dan stared.

“Yes. Anna Peavey. I suddenly realized her words to the 911 operator led right to you.”

“To me? What the hell are you talking about?”

Martinez smiled coldly. “I didn’t have enough cause to search you or your place for her missing ring, but figured if I was right, you’d feel you had to silence her. So, we had you under surveillance. We had Ms. Peavey moved out of this room the minute you pulled into the parking lot.”

“Very clever,” Dan sneered. “But you’re dreaming if you think that broad told 911 anything useful. I’m no lieutenant. Never even been in the military.”

Martinez shook her head. “Anna Peavey wasn’t saying lieutenant. What she was saying was Lou’s tenant.”

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Guy Belleranti lives in Tucson, Arizona. He writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, puzzles and humor for both adults and children. His work has been published by over 230 different publishers including Woman’s World, Highlights for Children, Mystery Magazine, Bards & Sages Quarterly, Humpty Dumpty, Scifaikuest, parABnormal Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. He also writes children’s material for many educational publishers. He worked for many years in school libraries and has been a volunteer docent educator at the local zoo for many years. His author’s website is


  1. Great story. Well written.

    • Thanks, Pat!


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