Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Richard Ciciarelli

Detective Anne Crosby looked at her partner, Sgt. Joe Barnes.

"Okay, run that by me again, please."

Barnes consulted his notebook. "This is one of those reality TV shows," he said. "There were four contestants who had to design clothing for different models each week. They have to design the clothes, cut the cloth, and do all the sewing themselves.

"Then the TV audience votes on which design they like best and the contestants get points for each vote. At the end of the series, the person with the most votes gets a one million dollar contract to design the costumes for a blockbuster movie."

"And the victim?" Crosby asked.

"Victim is Roxanne Devereaux. She held a huge lead over the other three, and with only two weeks left, it appeared she was a shoo-in to win."

"Until somebody cut her hot streak short."

"Cut is right," Barnes said. "The medical examiner says it looks like someone stood behind Devereaux and stabbed her in the back with her own scissors."

Crosby shuddered. "Any prints on the murder weapon?"

"No. Seems all the contestants wear surgical gloves when they work so they won't get body oils on the fabrics."

"Where are the suspects?"

Barnes pointed to a row of doors.

"Each one has his own workshop, complete with drawing board, cutting table, sewing machine, and all the necessary tools and materials."

Crosby nodded and walked to the door to her far left. After knocking she entered and introduced herself.

"I'm Alfie West," the young man inside said in answer to Crosby's question. "The other policeman told us Roxanne was murdered. I suppose you think one of us killed her."

"It had crossed my mind. With her dead, who would probably win the contest?"

West shrugged. "It's a toss-up. Roxanne had as many votes as the rest of us combined. We were all pretty even."

"What gave her such a great advantage?"

"She was different. Whenever we had an assignment, three of us did things about the same way. Roxanne was always unique."

"Like how?"

"Well. We had to design a bathing suit for a pretty model. Three of us came up with two-piece suits in bright colors: red, yellow, orange. Roxanne did a one-piece in royal blue. The audience loved it."

"Where were you at noon today?"

"Right here working on this week's assignment — something formal for a full-figured woman."

Crosby nodded and left, next entering the workroom in the middle.

"Sue Maple?" she asked. "I'm investigating the death of your competitor, Roxanne Devereaux. Someone stabbed her with a pair of scissors."

Maple looked up from her work.

"The fashion industry is a cut-throat business," she said. "Were there any fingerprints on her scissors?"

"No. The killer wore gloves. Where were you at noon today?"

"Right here working on my project for this week. What do you think?"

Maple held up a sketch of a black gown.

"It's not easy coming up with something for a bigger woman that looks elegant."

"You might have it there, though," Crosby said.

"Can't go wrong with basic black."

Crosby left Sue Maple and went to the last workroom.

"We were told Roxanne was murdered," Maggie Barton said. "I figured it was a matter of time before you cops got around to questioning us."

"Where were you at noon?"

"Right here trying to come up with something different from what Alfie and Sue might do this week. That seemed to work for Roxanne, so I thought I'd try it."

Crosby peered at the sketch Barton was making.

"It's a pants suit," the designer said. "I figure the other two will go with dresses, so my design will be distinctly different."

"Well, good luck," Crosby said, and she left to join Sgt. Barnes.

"Forensics boys figure the murderer may have got blood on his hands," Barnes said, "so we're going to search for bloody surgical gloves."

"I can tell you where to look first," Crosby said.


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