Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Richard Ciciarelli

"Got an interesting one for you, Boss," Sergeant Bill Conroy said to Lieutenant Amy Wentworth. "Got a witness who was in the park last night and saw a murder. He came in as soon as he could and reported it. We checked it out and found the body."

"Why didn't he call it in when it happened?"

"Couldn't. He's deaf. He can only communicate through sign language, and we needed someone who could understand him. He can read lips, though."

"What's his story?" Wentworth was intrigued.

"He was walking through the park and took a short cut through the bushes. Before he could come out into the open, he spotted two men standing under a streetlight. He was close enough to read their lips.

"One guy was poking the other in the chest and looked upset. He was saying, 'I want the money tomorrow or your family starts having some unfortunate accidents.'

"The guy he was poking begged for more time, but the first guy said no. Then the second guy pulled out a knife and stabbed the first guy several times in the chest and ran away."

"Did our witness get a good look at the stabber?"

"No. He was wearing a hood and dark glasses. Even at night. Probably didn't want anyone to know who he was. But our witness says he had a distinct Spanish accent."

"Who's the victim?"

"Big Bennie Bartholemew."

"Bennie the Bookie?"

Conroy nodded. "We went to his place and got his records. He had three Spanish clients."

"Get them," Wentworth said.

"One step ahead of you, Boss. They're in room four."

Wentworth found three men sitting around a table in room four.

"Carlos Vega?" she asked, consulting a list Conroy had given her.

A small, mustached man nodded.

"I understand you owe Bennie Bartholemew some money."

"Yeh. I had a bad streak with the horses this month," Vega said, his Spanish accent thick. "I got till the end of the month to pay up."

"Tomas Diego?"

A large man raised his hand.

"Says here you owe Bennie a couple of thousand."

Diego shrugged. "No big deal. I'll win it all back. The football teams I picked haven't been covering the spread lately. Things will turn around."

His accent wasn't as pronounced as Vega's.

"And Ricardo Gomez." Wentworth looked at the last man. "What's your story?"

Gomez smiled, showing a gold tooth. "I put some money down on a couple of boxing matches. They was supposed to be sure things. I think they was fixed."

Like Vega, Gomez's accent was thick.

"Well, you're all off the hook. At least with Bennie," Wentworth said. "He was stabbed to death last night. I need to know where you all were at about ten pm."

All three men acted surprised.

"I was home watching TV," Vega said. "My wife and kids went to the movies. Some animated thing."

"I was at The Bodega Bar," Diego said. "Watching football on the big screen TV in the back room."

"And I was at my girlfriend's house," Gomez said. "Can you keep that a secret from my wife?"

Wentworth shrugged and left the room.

"Shall I bring our witness in to see if he recognizes one of them?" Conroy asked.

"No need. I think I know who stabbed Bennie the Bookie," Wentworth said.


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