by Guy Belleranti
The story Inside Job was first published in the January 3, 2006 issue of Woman’s World Magazine.
I brought the big car to a screeching stop in front of the small, neatly landscaped house. My partner, Detective Danny Dayton, was standing under a streetlight with a uniformed cop.
“Forensics and the M.E. are on the way, Connie,” Danny told me. “Apparently, the victim, Regina Croft, returned home from shopping and surprised a burglar. Her body and groceries are blocking the front door. Follow me around back, and I’ll get you inside.”
I followed. The scene was as Danny described. The victim, a middle-aged woman, lay just inside the front door, a bag of spilled groceries spread around her.
“Any witnesses?” I asked.
Danny shrugged. “The patrolman out front says the folks on both sides and the lady across the road all heard screams. They’re waiting in their homes for our questioning.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Then I guess we better get started.”
Wayne and Marcy Miller were first. The 60-something couple lived next door.
“We understand you heard screams,” I said.
“There were two screams,” his wife said. “I nearly had a heart attack. I ran back inside and found Wayne putting on his coat.”
“I was pretty sure the cries came from Regina’s place, and I thought I better go check on her,” Miller explained.
“And?” I asked.
“And I did. George Fairly, the young fellow living on the other side of Regina, was outside. He yelled that he’d seen someone running away, and took off. I rang Regina’s bell and called out, but got no answer.”
“Then what?” Danny asked.
“I tried the front door. It would only open far enough to get a head in. Regina’s body was pressed against the inside, blocking it.”
A heavy-set woman charged toward us as we left the Millers, and asked. “Are you the police?”
I smiled. “Yes. Detective Perosi, and this is Detective Dayton. You are–”
“Sandra Bishop. I live across the street.”
“Anything to tell us?” I prodded.
Danny and I exchanged glances. “No, they didn’t say anything about that,” I said.
“Hmm. Well, Regina recently inherited a lot of valuable coins and jewelry.”
“Who knew this?” asked Danny.
“The Millers, George Fairly, most of the neighbors, I guess.”
“Can you tell us anything else?” I asked.
Sandra Bishop stuffed her hands in her coat pockets and shook her head. “Only that I heard some terrible screams come from Regina’s place. Maybe George Fairly, Regina’s other next-door neighbor knows something.”
Fairly invited us inside, nodding when I gave the Miller’s account of hearing the screams and going over to investigate. “Wayne went to check on Regina, and I tried to pick up the creep’s trail.
“Pick up the creep’s trail?” Danny asked. “What do you mean?”
“Regina’s cries pulled me outside just in time to see someone run out her front door.”
“Man or woman?”
“I couldn’t tell. The sun had set. Anyway, he — or she — was moving real fast.”
“Which direction?” I asked.
“Back behind the Miller’s. There’s nobody living back there — great place to escape into.”
I drew Dayton aside. “Let’s see what forensics and the medical examiner have found.”
“Perp made a mess,” a forensic detective told us. “Dumped out drawers, tore through the desk in the living room.”
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Yeah. Window in the rear bedroom was wide open.”
“How about old coins and jewelry?” asked Danny.
“Didn’t find any of those, but we did find an expensive-looking bracelet outside.”
“No. In back on the ground below the open bedroom window.”
“Thanks,” I said. Danny and I went in search of the M.E.
She told us they had bagged a heavy glass bookend, but there were no prints. “Cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head,” she said. “Death was instantaneous.”
“So she just fell to the floor and that was it,” Danny mused. “I was hoping for something more.” He looked at me. “Killer’s probably long gone by now, Connie.”
“On the contrary,” I said, “I think our murderous burglar is quite close at hand. Let’s get a search warrant.”
“Search warrant?” Danny stared at me.
“Yes. Our culprit might’ve dropped a piece of jewelry, but the rest of his haul is probably right on his premises.”
“His?” Danny said.
“Uh huh, ‘his’ as in George Fairly. Fairly said he saw a person run out Regina Croft’s front door, but that can’t be true. Her body kept the door from being opened far enough for someone to run out that way.”
“Say, that’s right!” Danny said.
I smiled, and went on. “And since Croft died instantly she couldn’t have crawled to the door after the killer left. Instead, I believe Fairly left by the bedroom window, and in his haste to escape he dropped the bracelet.”
And the rest of the stolen goods are probably hidden in his house!” Danny exclaimed.
Our subsequent warranted search proved me right, and Fairly broke down and confessed.
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