by Guy Belleranti
This story was originally published by Woman’s World in their November 5, 2012 issue.
Sheriff Estelle Moon finished her inspection of Laura Taylor’s bedroom window. “No sign of forced entry. You sure it was locked?”
“I thought so,” the attractive sixtyish woman said. “But it was wide open when I returned home, and my jewelry was gone. So was my lovely music box.” She wiped away a tear. “It was the last present my late husband ever gave me.”
They heard the front screen door bang.
“Might be Deputy Howie,” Estelle said. But as they turned down the hallway and into the living room they instead saw an athletic-looking gray-haired woman in sweats standing in the foyer. “Laura! Those two police cars out front…the cop poking around the cactus in your yard with a flashlight…. What’s happened?”
“Oh, Maggie, while I was at bingo tonight someone broke in through my bedroom window and stole my jewelry.”
“That’s awful!” Maggie looked at Estelle. “You’re our new lady sheriff, aren’t you? Have you any leads?”
“The investigation’s just started, ma’am.”
“Oh. Of course. And no need to “ma’am” me. Name’s Maggie. Laura, have you told the sheriff about that strange man who was in our neighborhood today?”
“What strange—Oh, you mean that carpet cleaning salesman?” Laura picked up a brochure from the coffee table and handed it Estelle. “That’s what he left. But that was this morning, not this evening.”
“Still, you never know,” Maggie said. “And while I hate to suggest it, Laura, what about your niece? She knew you’d be out tonight. She heard you say no to Carl’s movie invitation, heard you say you’d already made plans to play bingo at the community center.”
“Kathy may have issues, Maggie, but breaking in and stealing—”
“She’s swiped stuff from you in the past.”
“Well, yes, but….” Laura sank onto the couch, frowning.
Voices sounded outside, and Deputy Howie entered with two people in tow.
“Carl!” Laura exclaimed. “Kathy!”
“No need to get up, Laura,” the lanky, silver-haired man said. “Deputy Howie has told us what happened. Good thing you weren’t here. Wish I’d been home, though. I might’ve seen the perp.”
The second person, a woman wearing a stained T-shirt and holey jeans, popped a piece of gum in her mouth. “Wish I’d been around, too, Aunt Laura. It stinks that some creep would take your jewelry!”
“He, or she, also stole your aunt’s music box, Kathy,” Maggie said. “The same box you were ogling earlier this evening.”
“What are you implying?”
“Nothing, darling,” Laura cut in. “Just tell us it wasn’t you, that’s all.”
Kathy looked around at the suspicious faces. “Okay, it wasn’t me.”
“If you could offer up an alibi,” Carl suggested, “that might help more.”
“Alibi?” Kathy balled her hands into fists. “Why should I need an alibi? Do you have an alibi?”
Carl stiffened, and his face turned red as Kathy continued. “You could have snuck out of the movie theater, come back here, and broke in. Everyone knew you were mad when Aunt Laura chose bingo over a movie with you. Or,” Kathy said, spinning around to glare at Maggie, “it could have been you. You pretend to be Aunt Laura’s friend, but it’s obvious you’re jealous of her beauty and money.”
“Or,” Kathy raged on, “what about the least likely suspect, Aunt Laura? What about you? Maybe nothing was stolen at all. Maybe you just hid the stuff somewhere and are hoping to rip off the insurance company.”
“Why I never…”
“Any of you could have done it!” Kathy screamed. And she raced out door.
Howie started after her.
“Wait,” Estelle said, catching up to him halfway to the curb. “Let her go for now. What we need is a search warrant. Then we’ll make an arrest.”
“Search warrant?” Howie asked. “For the niece’s place, you mean?”
“No. For Maggie’s place. She told Kathy that Laura’s music box had been stolen, but Laura never mentioned this to Maggie. Laura only told her that her jewelry was gone. Maggie couldn’t have known about the music box unless she was the thief.”
Armed with their search warrant Estelle and Howie found all the stolen valuables hidden in Maggie’s house. With a little questioning, Maggie broke down and confessed. She’d unlatched Laura’s bedroom window during a visit earlier in the day. Then she’d waited for Laura to leave for bingo, climbed in through the window, and done her stealing.
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