Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Herschel Cozine

Gladys, my mother-in-law, has been a permanent fixture in our household, having moved in after her divorce ten years ago.  Has it only been ten years?

Gladys takes a keen interest in my work as a police detective, taking it upon herself to solve my cases for me.  It makes me look good at headquarters, but I have to live with her superior attitude.  It may be a small price to pay, but it is another aggravation in our somewhat strained relationship.   

She took an immediate interest in my latest case.

I had arrived home after spending the last several hours investigating a fatal shooting in a tough neighborhood noted for violence.  The victim was a teenage boy. 

“Did you talk to him before he died?” Gladys asked.

“Yes,” I said.  “I asked who shot him.  All he could tell me is that the boy’s name was ‘Butch.’ He didn’t know his last name, or where he lived.”

“Did he say anything else?”

“He said he couldn’t remember the boy’s telephone number.”

“It’s strange he would know it in the first place,” Gladys said, plumping her well-fed body down on the sofa.

“Not at all,” I said.  “The kids in that neighborhood may not know each other’s full name or even his real name.  But with smart phones these days, they always know the phone numbers.  They hardly talk to one another face to face anymore.  I don’t think they would be able to communicate if they didn’t have their phones.”

“And he said he couldn’t remember the attacker’s phone number?”

I nodded.  “He said, ‘Phone number.  I forgot.’  It was the last thing he said before he died.”

I let out a huge sigh.  “So here I am with a killer known only as ‘Butch.’  There must be a hundred or more kids named Butch.  No address.  No last name.  No phone number.  And no witnesses.  At least there are no witnesses who will talk.  They don’t like cops down there and they aren’t about to rat on each other no matter how serious the crime is.”

Gladys was not listening.  I could tell by the look in her beady eyes that she was having one of her famous flashes of insight.  But I had no idea what I had said or done to precipitate it.

“What a strange thing to say,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“Phone number.  I forgot.”

“What’s strange about it?”

“I should think he would say, ‘I forgot phone number’.”

I scowled in annoyance.  “What difference does it make?  The kid was dying.  He was having a hard time talking at all.  And he wasn’t a Rhodes Scholar to begin with.”

Gladys pointed a finger.  “As usual you overlook little details.  This could be important.”

“I don’t see how,” I murmured, too low, I hoped for Gladys to hear.

“This isn’t going to be easy.  I’ll spend the next week or more scouring the neighborhood looking for Butch.  I won’t even know if I find him.  No one will talk to me, and I wouldn’t believe them if they did.  It’s hopeless.”

“You’re the one who’s hopeless,” Gladys said.  “You must have flunked Detecting 101 at the police academy.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked

Gladys stood up, the pillow she was sitting on clinging to her like a malignant growth.

“Oh, father of my grandchild and husband of my daughter, it pains me to say this.  But you weren’t cut out for this type of work.”

She picked up a pad and pencil and wrote something on it.  Ripping off the page, she handed it to me.

“Call this number.  Unless I miss my guess you’ll have your man.”

She started for the door.  “Call me when dinner is ready, Sherlock.”

I scratched my head as I studied the numbers. I knew they would be right.  I knew, too, that it would be several days before she told me how she figured it out.  That’s just the way she is.

How did Gladys know the boy’s phone number?

Please click here to reveal the answer.

Copyright 2016 Herschel Cozine. 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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