Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Richard Ciciarelli

Detective Carla Jones crossed through an immaculate kitchen into a living room that looked as though it were hit by a cyclone.

"What happened here?" she asked.

Sergeant Sam Whitney turned to her.

"Neighbor saw the back door open and called us. Looks like someone broke in and was looking for something. Didn't know the owner was home, I guess."

Whitney pointed to a body on the floor.

"Tom Nixon. Stabbed with a scissors. There's a basket of yarn over there. Killer must have grabbed the scissors out of there and used them when Nixon interrupted."

"Any family?" Jones asked.

"Wife and two kids. They're in the family room in the basement. That's a mess, too. So's the rest of the house."

Jones walked down a flight of stairs to the basement family room. Like the living room, it had been torn apart.

Sitting on a sofa were a woman in her forties, a fragile-looking teenaged boy, and a girl who looked to be about twenty.

Jones introduced herself.

"Do you have any idea what the intruder could have been looking for?" she asked.

"My husband used to brag to all his friends that he kept a lot of money in a locker at his club so we couldn't get it," Sharon Nixon said. "He said he'd hidden the key to that locker somewhere in the house where no one would ever find it."

Jones noticed bruises on Sharon Nixon's arms and face.

"Did you have an accident, ma'am?"

"Yes. I'm very clumsy, I'm afraid."

"Oh, Mother," the young girl spat, "tell the truth. My father was a bully, Detective. He abused my mother, my brother and me — until I left for college last year. That was the best thing that ever happened to me."

"Maria's right," the teenaged boy said. "I was never very good at sports. Father said I was an embarrassment to him. He constantly pushed me around, trying to get me to fight back. When I wouldn't, he'd hit me harder."

"Lenny, Maria, these people don't need to know our business," Sharon said, a tear in her eye.

"I have to ask where each of you was today when this break-in occurred," Jones said.

"I was at the Laundromat," Sharon said. "I wanted to wash some blankets and bedspreads, and my washer is too small for that. I had to use the commercial washers at the Laundromat."

"I was at the library," Lenny said. "I'm taking a summer class at the university to get extra credit toward my high school graduation next year. I was doing research on the poet John Milton."

"And I was out looking for a job," Maria said. "Preferably one that would keep me away from this house as much as possible. You can see my mother is in denial about what goes on here. Well, I'm not. I intend to move out as soon as I'm financially able."

Jones nodded and went back upstairs where she met Sergeant Whitney.

"I ran a check on the family," Whitney said. "There's a history of the wife and kids checking into the emergency room for various injuries. Goes back several years."

"I figured that from what the daughter said," Jones said. "You know, I don't think an outsider broke in here today. I think it was one of the family that was looking for Mr. Nixon's locker key."

"And he stepped in to stop the search?" Whitney asked.

"Yes. And I believe I know who our killer is."


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