|Can you solve this mini-mystery?|
By Richard Ciciarelli
Police Detective Brenda White kicked the flat tire on her police cruiser.
“This is not the time for this,” she muttered.
“Trouble, Detective?” a voice called.
“Mr. Mayor. Yes. I’m on my way to a murder scene and this happened.”
“Jump in. I’ll give you a ride.”
White climbed into the passenger seat and the mayor drove off.
“Who’s the victim?” the mayor asked.
“I’m not sure. I was just told it’s a middle-aged man, slight build, weasely looking. That’s all the Chief told me when he assigned me to the case.”
“Well, good luck, Detective. I hope you can solve this case quickly.”
The rest of the trip passed in silence. At a seedy motel on the outskirts of town, the mayor dropped White off next to several police cars.
“I’m sure one of those officers will give you a ride back,” he called as he drove away.
White spotted a patrolman she had worked with in the past.
“Sergeant Morales,” she called, “what have we got?”
“Driver’s license says the victim is Andrew Collier. Lives over on West Street. We have a crew on their way to his place now.”
“How about the crime scene?”
“For a joint like this, it’s pretty clean. The forensics crew found only one fingerprint on a nightstand near the bed. We don’t know whose it is, but it doesn’t match the victim.”
“That thing could have been there for weeks,” White said.
“We’ll see.” Morales added, “Collier was strangled, and it looks like the killer used his bare hands. The forensics guys say they can lift a print from Collier’s neck. If the print on the nightstand matches the ones on his neck…”
“Let’s hope it does. Do we have a time of death?”
“Based on temperature and lividity, somewhere around midnight.”
“There’s nothing else I can do here,” White said. “I need a ride back to the station. Come on.”
As the two officers headed toward Morales’ car, the door next to the murder room opened and a woman’s face peered out.
“Excuse me, Miss,” White said. “You may be able to help us. Have you been here all night?”
“Yes,” the woman answered. “Does this have to do with all the shouting last night?”
“Yes. I’m passing through on my way to Florida and got tired, so I stopped here. I was sound asleep when I was awakened by two men arguing in that room.”
“Did you hear what they said?”
“One said something like ‘I’m not paying any more’ and the other one said ‘Then I guess I’ll have to go to the newspapers.’”
“Sounds like it,” White nodded. “Did you see either man, Miss?”
“I’m afraid not. After that it got quiet and I fell asleep again.”
White got the woman’s name and she and Morales went to the police station where she found a report on her desk.
“Your men examined Collier’s room,” she said. “They found a bankbook with deposits of a thousand dollars on the first of every month.”
“Yesterday was the first,” Morales said. “Looks like Collier met his blackmail victim for the monthly payoff and his victim decided he had been bled enough.”
“Looks like,” White agreed. “Your men didn’t find any list of Collier’s blackmail victims, though. That will make finding his killer tougher.”
“We’ll run those fingerprints we found through our data base,” Morales said. “Let’s hope our killer is in there.”
White closed her eyes in thought. When she opened them, she was smiling.
“I know a place we can start with those prints,” she said.
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