Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Carol E. Ayer

Detective Mel Davidson dropped his nearly-full coffee cup into the trash and looked longingly at his donut before subjecting it to the same fate. How ironic that policemen were stereotyped as habitual donut eaters. In his experience, he never had the chance to actually finish one before he was called to a case. And the one time he'd tried to eat in the car had been a disaster. He'd spilled hot coffee onto his lap, dropped his donut onto the brake pedal, and narrowly missed crashing into the back of a big-rig.

With his stomach growling in protest, Davidson drove across Hillmont, his windows tightly closed on this chilly winter day. He reached his destination, parked on the street, and locked up his car.

He knocked on the door of 515 Lake Lane, where he'd been called to investigate a residential burglary. Tom Knowles, a tall dark-haired man of about 30, answered the door and led Davidson inside.

After some preliminaries, Davidson asked him, "When did the burglary take place?"

Knowles stroked his beard. "Last night sometime. I was at a party over in Oakdale. Got in around three. A few hundred dollars, my computer, my flat-screen TV...they're all gone."

The detective looked around, noting that Knowles wasn't much of a housekeeper. Dust lined every surface. The floor was a dingy gray and looked like it had never been mopped. There were unsightly streaks across the windows.

"How did the burglar get in?" Davidson asked.

Knowles looked sheepish. "I'm afraid I forgot to lock one of the windows in the bedroom. I'd opened it for some fresh air yesterday afternoon. I closed it but didn't lock it."

"You had a window open in this weather? It's practically freezing."

"It was only for a few minutes."

Davidson nodded. "You'll be contacting your insurance company, I take it?"


"Why don't you take me around and I'll take notes of exactly what's missing."

Knowles led Davidson around the single story house, pointing out where he'd kept his computer, his cash, and a CD player. Lastly, he pointed to the TV stand. Davidson noted the outline in the dust where the TV had once stood.

"I think I have everything I need," Davidson said. "I'll just go talk to the neighbors to see if they were aware of anything unusual last night."

The neighbor to Knowles' right seemed glad to have a visitor. She introduced herself as Betty Fielding, invited Davidson inside, and offered him coffee. Davidson sank into the recesses of her floral couch and accepted his coffee in a delicate pink cup obviously meant for tea.

"No, I'm afraid I didn't see or hear a thing," Mrs. Fielding said after Davidson told her about the burglary. "I suffer from insomnia so you'd think I would have heard something. Did the burglar break the window?"

Davidson shook his head. "No, unfortunately it was left unlocked."

"Well, then. I don't know how I can help you."

"I appreciate your taking the time to see me, in any case."

"Detective, do you have grandchildren?"

"I'm afraid I don't have the pleasure."

"Would you like to see some pictures of mine? I have ten, all told."

"Actually, I really must be going," Davidson said quickly. "Thank you anyway." He put down the untouched coffee and made his goodbyes.

The detective next knocked on the door to the left of Knowles' house. A middle-aged woman answered, looking flustered. She wore a scarf around her head and carried a fuzzy duster in her hand.

"I'm sorry to interrupt your housecleaning, Mrs. Hollister," Davidson said after they'd introduced themselves and he'd told her the purpose of his visit.

"Oh, it's perfectly fine," Mrs. Hollister said. "I wanted to take a break anyway. How about some coffee?"

Davidson nodded. He still hadn't completed a full cup that morning, and he felt a caffeine withdrawal headache coming on.

As Mrs. Hollister left for the kitchen, Davidson looked around.

"You certainly keep your home clean," he called to her. "Not a speck of dust to be found."

With the statement out of his mouth, Davidson knew he had figured out something. He hurried into the kitchen.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Hollister," he said. "I'll have to pass on the coffee. Thank you for your help."

Davidson returned to Knowles' house and knocked at the door.

When Knowles answered, Davidson told him, "You're under arrest."

Why did Davidson arrest Knowles?

Please click here to reveal the answer.

Copyright 2013 Carol E. Ayer. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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