Can you solve this mini-mystery?
THE CHINA DEBACLE
By Adrian Ludens
“We have three persons of interest,” Patrolman Hall reported. “Each one says they had nothing to do with what happened, but all were in the vicinity of Nancy Dixon’s home in the last hour.”
Inspector Rebecca Lawton nodded. “Let’s look inside first.”
Nancy Dixon’s home was immaculately clean—except for the shattered television screen and a china hutch emptied of its contents. Shards and fragments of smashed dinnerware covered the floor.
Hall flipped a small notebook open. “Ms. Dixon drove to the grocery store at approximately three o’clock. She returned an hour later and found this. She said the dinnerware was expensive and came from China.” He paused and furrowed his brows. “But she also said the dishes were from her grandmother, so I’m not sure if her grandmother is from China, or what.”
“Are you sure she didn’t say it was china from her grandmother?” Rebecca asked, suppressing a smile.
“Oh, right.” Hall blushed. “That makes more sense.”
“Any sign of forced entry?’
“No. Ms. Dixon said she was in the habit of leaving the back door unlocked.”
“Who are our suspects?”
Hall led her back outside and consulted his notebook. “We have her boyfriend, Stuart Jones.”
Rebecca’s gaze fell on a tan guy in a faded rock t-shirt reclining on the hood of a Mustang parked in the driveway.
“According to Ms. Dixon, he drove off after the two of them had an argument.”
“Before she left for groceries?” Rebecca asked.
“But she returned first.”
Hall nodded. “Right.”
“Okay, go on.”
“Margie Martinson lives across the street. Ms. Dixon says Margie has repeatedly made offers to purchase the dishes and has been getting pushy about it.”
Rebecca assessed the matronly woman who smoked furiously as she waited. Rebecca noticed the woman was barefoot.
“Finally we have Mike McQuay, who lives next door. He was mowing his lawn when we arrived.”
Shirt soaked with sweat, McQuay met her gaze impatiently. He scuffed one ratty tennis shoe on the driveway, leaving a green smear of grass clippings on the concrete.
“Mr. McQuay,” Rebecca said as she approached. “Do you know anything about what happened here today?”
“Just that some stuff got broken in there.” He pointed at the Dixon home with his chin.
“Did you see anyone enter or leave your neighbor’s house?”
“Nope,” McQuay replied. “But I was busy mowing and wasn’t really paying any attention.”
“Thank you. How about you, Mrs. Martinson; see anyone coming or going?”
“I heard her boyfriend go roaring off first,” the woman said. “Then, right when I got to the living room window to see what the fuss was about, she drove away too. Right after that Mr. McQuay came out of his garage with his mower and I went back to painting my toenails.”
“Would you mind showing me the soles of your feet?” Rebecca asked.
The other woman looked surprised but turned, leaned on the Mustang’s hood, and lifted each foot. Rebecca saw a slight film of grit, probably from when the woman walked across the street barefoot, but nothing else. Rebecca nodded to herself. Then she flashed Stuart a warm smile. “So you’re the boyfriend.”
“I am,” he replied.
“Ms. Dixon says you two had an argument.”
“We did. I hopped in my ’Stang and drove around on the highways to cool off. I cruised around for about an hour and just happened to come back right after Nancy did. Shame about her stuff; I know it meant a lot to her.”
Stuart shook his head.
Rebecca turned to Officer Hall. “I’ve seen and heard enough to take a suspect into custody for further questioning.”
Who is the prime suspect?
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