Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Adrian Ludens

“What a way to spend a Saturday morning!” Patrolman David Hall remarked. “Last night’s thunderstorm sure did a lot of damage.”

Inspector Rebecca Lawton nodded. “Where’s the deceased?”

“Back yard.” Hall led the way to the body. A gray-haired man lay sprawled on his back in the wet grass.

Hall began to recite from his notepad. “Mr. Lane Kasey. Retired. Widower. No children.”

Rebecca studied the dead man’s features. Wrinkled, weathered skin indicated a lot of time spent in the sunshine. But he had died during a thunderstorm. Lawton found it ironic.

“We’ll get statements from the neighbors.” Hall said. “Maybe someone saw or heard something.”

Rebecca looked around at the leaves, branches, and debris the storm had caused. She heard the distant buzz of a chainsaw.

“There will be a lot of that this morning,” Hall remarked. “The storm pulled down some trees too.”

Rebecca noticed a fallen evergreen near the fence and walked over to it. She ran her fingers over the smooth top of the stump. Rebecca returned to the body and knelt for a closer look. It lay near the yard’s midway point, head nearer the house, feet pointed at the garage. She pulled on a pair of latex gloves and tilted the man onto his side. Dark blood caked the back of his head and the back of his shirt. More blood turned the green grass beneath him a dark, reddish-brown. Rebecca eased the body back down and stood.

Hall approached with a club-like branch in a clear plastic evidence bag. “Here’s the limb that struck Mr. Kasey. If he was outside during the storm, it could have broken off and hit him.”

“It’s certainly possible.” Rebecca turned and pointed at the house closest to the fallen tree. “Has anyone spoken to the occupants of that house?”

“Not yet.”

“Then let’s go see if anyone’s home.”

A surly looking man wearing a bathrobe answered her knock. “Yeah?” He ran a hand through curly black hair.

“I’m Inspector Lawton, this is Officer Hall. May we ask you a few questions?”

“All right.” The man pulled the bathrobe tighter around him.

“Your name, sir?”

“Gary Odens.”

“Have you been outside today?”

“Nah. I always sleep in on Saturdays. You woke me up.”

“My apologies. What can you tell me about Mr. Kasey, next door?”

“Honestly? He’s pushy. Always has to have his way.”

“Do you interact with him often?”

“We’re both retired. I got my garden, and he’s always puttering around outside doing yard work, so yeah, I see him a lot.”

“You won’t be seeing him after today, I’m afraid.” Rebecca said. “He’s dead.”

Gary Odens stiffened, his mouth fell open. “What happened?”

“We don’t know yet, but he may have been struck by a falling branch during the thunderstorm.”

“It sure was a doozy. My garden got hit hard too.”

“May I see it?” Rebecca asked.

“My garden?” Odens looked surprised. “Okay.”

He led them around the side of the house. The garden was planted close to the wire fence that separated the yards. The fresh stump and fallen tree were parallel to the garden.

“When did that tree come down?”

Odens shrugged. “Maybe it fell during the storm.”

“Do you own a chainsaw, Mr. Odens?” Rebecca asked.


“May we look around to make sure?”

“I know my rights. You need a warrant.”

“Then we’ll return with a warrant, Mr. Odens.” Rebecca warned. “And you and I can have a long talk about the argument you and the victim had earlier this morning.”


 Why does Rebecca suspect Mr. Odens?

Please click here to reveal the answer.

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