Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Richard Ciciarelli

Police Detective Julie Gardner read the report on the city's latest murder.

"What do you know about this?" she asked Sergeant Bob Wakely.

"It's an odd case," Wakely said. "Yesterday we got a call from Harvey's Tire Shop over on Third Street. Seems somebody called the shop and gasped into the phone, 'I've been shot by my niece...' Then there was silence."

"Harvey's has caller ID, so he called us with the number of the person who phoned him. We traced the call to Annie Foster's house. When we got there we found her dead."

"Interesting," Gardner rubbed her nose. "Have you checked on the late Ms. Foster's nieces?"

"Yep. She has three. We rounded them up. They're in the interrogation room now."

Gardner smiled. "I think I'll pay them a little visit."

When Detective Gardner entered the interrogation room, three heads turned in her direction.

"Well, ladies," she said as she sat down and placed the murder report in front of her, "I assume you know why you're here."

"Yes," a red headed woman said. "We were told someone shot Aunt Annie. I suppose that means you suspect us."

"That's right. Your aunt made a phone call saying one of her nieces shot her. Unfortunately she died before she could say which one. I'd appreciate it if you'd each give me your name and tell me where you were at about four o'clock yesterday afternoon. Let's start with you." Gardner pointed to the red head who had spoken before.

"I'm Emma Zellman. You may have heard of me. I do a lot of local theater. I've been trying to make it to the big time for several years, but this is a tough business.

"A year ago my husband divorced me. He was tired of paying for acting and voice lessons that weren't getting me anywhere. I asked Aunt Annie for a loan, but she refused. She said I was in her will and would get my share when she died.

"Yesterday I was home making phone calls. To make ends meet, I've taken a job as a telephone solicitor for a local charity. I made calls from noon till six before calling it a day."

Gardner turned to a woman whose hair was obviously bleached blonde. "How about you?"

"I'm Rachel Quincey. I own a small notions shop on Main Street. When a big national chain store came into town, my little shop began to suffer. I asked Aunt Annie for financial help, but she told me she wasn't about to invest in a shop that had no future. Like Emma, she told me I'd get a share of her estate when she died.

"Yesterday I spent the whole day in my shop packing up stock. I have to close the place down and leave by Monday."

"And you?" Gardner looked at the last niece, a woman with graying hair.

"I'm Marie Roberts. I'm a housewife. My husband is the breadwinner in the family. Or at least he was until he got injured at work. His insurance just barely paid for the hospital bills, and now we have no source of income. I asked Aunt Annie to help us out temporarily. You can guess what she said.

"Yesterday I was running around town all day grocery shopping, picking up my husband's medicine and looking for part-time work."

"I sympathize with you ladies," Gardner said. "Really I do. But that's no excuse for one of you to murder your aunt."


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