Can you solve this mini-mystery?

EASY AS 1, 2, 3

By Richard Ciciarelli

Detective Peggy Copleigh looked on as a forensics expert examined the body of the dumpy blonde who lay on the living room floor, her head bashed in by a fireplace poker that lay nearby.

"Who found the body?" she asked.

"Husband," was the terse reply. "In the kitchen." The man jerked a thumb to his right.

Copleigh and her partner, Jim Powers, went in the direction indicated to find a man sitting at a kitchen table, his elbows on the table, his hands holding his head. Three large paper bags filled with groceries took up almost the entire tabletop.

"Mr. White," Copleigh said, "could you tell me what happened, please?"

Tom White lifted his head, dropped his arms to his side, and sat back in his chair.

"I wish I knew," he said. "I went out to do the grocery shopping, as I always do on Friday. When I got back and pulled into the driveway, I noticed the back door was open. I knew something was wrong because Janice is very particular about keeping the doors closed at all times. Keeps the heat in in the winter and out in the summer.

"Anyhow, I came in, put the groceries down, and called out a few times, but there was no answer. I went into the living room and saw her lying there." White choked a little and went on. "I immediately came back in here and called the police." He pointed to a phone on the wall.

"Did your wife have any enemies?"

White shook his head.

"Janice was very opinionated. She ruffled a lot of feathers. The neighbors disliked her, but not enough to kill her."

"Maybe we should see about that," Copleigh said, and she and Powers went out the kitchen door and into the driveway of the White property.

"Let's start with the neighbor on the left."

A burly man answered the door and looked at the two detectives in confusion.

"Oh, I thought you were the White woman here to collect for another one of her charities."

Copleigh identified herself and explained why they were there.

"I'm Bill Todd. Sorry I was so rude, but that woman was a nut case. She'd sit on her front porch and watch whenever I went shopping. If I came home carrying plastic bags, she'd yell at me for polluting the environment. She was only friendly when she was collecting to save the whales or some rare bird. Then she got mad when I wouldn't donate."

"Did you see anyone go into her house today?"

"Are you kidding? You saw those high bushes she planted in her yard for privacy. They block the whole house."

Copleigh thanked Todd and she and Powers walked to the Whites' neighbors to their right.

"I'm Ron Lewis," the man said in answer to Copleigh's question. "Doesn't surprise me someone killed her. All she did was annoy people."

"Did that include you?"

"Sure. She used to complain all the time about my dog barking at night. I told her she should be happy. He was keeping deer out of her yard away from her precious flowers. Then she'd yell whenever the lawn people came to treat my lawn. Said I was contaminating the watershed. I don't even know what a watershed is.

"Do you know she made her husband mow their lawn with a push mower because motorized mowers put hydrocarbons in the air?" Lewis shook his head. "She was wacky all right."

As the two detectives headed back to the White house, Powers said, "Doesn't sound like there's any motive here. Maybe a stranger broke in thinking the house was empty and killed Mrs. White when he found out he was wrong."

Copleigh shook her head. "I don't think so. I think she knew her killer."


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