Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Peter DiChellis

Detectives Janessa Ann Harley and Brandon Druckett sat in the bleak Robbery-Homicide squad room, ready to hear last night’s recorded phone calls. Desperate for a fresh lead to revive their stalled murder investigation, Harley had convinced the police chief to authorize a $5,000 reward for any information that led to the killer’s arrest. Harley and Druckett answered most of the 1-800-TipLine calls themselves, but also reviewed recordings of calls handled by other officers.

The police chief’s parting words about the reward echoed in Harley’s ears. “I’m counting on you,” he’d said. “This better work.”

Harley recalled the investigation. Police discovered Sylvester Peppercorn’s body at 11:07pm in the kitchen of his restaurant, The Pinnacle Diner, which was located atop the city’s steepest hill. Evidence revealed what had happened: A burglar jimmied the back door after the eatery closed, but Peppercorn hadn’t left yet and discovered the intruder. The tall, athletic owner fought with the burglar and BAM! got whacked on the head with a 20-lb cast-iron frying pan. The killer then ransacked the restaurant, stole its cash, and wiped away any fingerprints.

Peppercorn had called his wife ten minutes after his usual 10pm closing time to say he was headed home. But he still hadn’t arrived when her weekly checkers tournament ended just before eleven. He didn’t answer his cell phone either, so she called the police.

Harley recapped the investigation’s last hope, as if saying it aloud would make it happen. “No place to park on the hill at night, maybe a witness noticed somebody suspicious walking around. They’ll finally speak up to get the reward.”

“If we’re lucky,” Druckett said. “Otherwise we’ll get nothing but crackpots.”

Harley hit the playback button, the recorder beeped, and the detectives listened as the first caller spoke to the officer who handled the TipLine last night.

“What can you tell me, sir?” the officer asked.

“A clown from the circus did it,” the man said. “He ate breakfast at the diner last year and sent his eggs back. Clowns always scared me. How soon do I get the five thousand bucks?”

Beep. Next recording. A kid, trying to sound grown up.

“This is the phone company, testing our equipment. Say these words really fast: eye-godda, wee-wee, eye-godda, wee-wee.”

Beep. A man’s voice.

“A skinny little guy done it. I seen him casing the joint the day before. Nasty tattoos all over his arms. Looked like a jailbird. Then me and my girlfriend seen him come running down the hill the night of the crime. Right after ten sharp. He’s your man.”

Beep. A woman.

“His wife killed him. He loved me, not her. He promised we’d run away to Mexico. You might think she’s a sweet lady, but she’s jealous and vicious.”

Beep. A man.

“Was a big stocky fella. Shaved head and strong lookin’. Walked up the hill fast, without a huff or a puff, just as I strolled into The Shamrock Tavern that night. This was shortly before twenty-two hundred, or four bells First Watch as we said when I was a Navy lad. Ten p.m. to landlubbers. He’s the one you’re lookin’ for. And may God Bless Irish Whiskey and the U.S. Navy.”

Beep. The kid again.

“This is a survey. Did you ever get crabs at the beach? Hee-hee . . . never mind!

Druckett groaned. “Enough,” he said. “Crackpots.”

“Mostly,” Harley said. “But one call sounded promising.”

Harley and Druckett investigated the lead from that promising call. They arrested the killer three days later.

Which call led to the killer, and why was it promising?

Please click here to reveal the answer.

Copyright 2016 Peter DiChellis. 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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