Can you solve this mini-mystery?



By Richard Ciciarelli



Detective Anne Sharma stood looking at a mess of wooden stems, black and shriveled leaves and dead blossoms, surrounded by vibrant green, yellow and orange marigolds.

“Did the chief really assign me to a case involving dead flowers?” she wondered.

“You see?” Sharma’s thoughts were interrupted by the voice of Mabel Griffith. “My prize roses. Ruined by some vandal. And I would have won the city’s gardening contest for the third consecutive year.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Sharma said. “Do you have any idea when this could have happened?”

“I began noticing my roses were looking sickly a few days ago. And things got progressively worse. That’s about how long it takes for weed killer to take effect, so I’m guessing someone sprayed my flowers on Monday or Tuesday.”

“Good. We have a possible starting point. Who came to your house on those days?”

“No one,” Griffith said. “And if I did have any visitors, they wouldn’t have come back here. I don’t allow anyone in my garden.”

“Then the vandal must have come at night,” Sharma said. “I noticed your fence gate is well oiled and makes no noise when opened. That allowed someone to sneak in. Now, who would want to damage your roses?”

“I can give you three names,” Griffith said, counting on her fingers. “Karen Burgess, Jane Willis and Lorraine Paxton. All ladies I’ve beaten in past garden shows and all who entered again this year.”

“And you think one of them did this to prevent you winning for a third time?”

Griffith nodded.

An hour later Anne Sharma stood at the door of Karen Burgess.

“Mabel thinks I killed her roses?” Burgess said. “Why? Mine are ten times better than hers. Mine are a rare cross breed. I’m sure to win this year’s competition.”

“Ms Griffith doesn’t think so,” Sharma said. “She claims you have the kind of weed killer used to destroy her roses.”

“Just about every gardener in the city does,” Burgess said. “It’s how we keep unwanted growth out of our plant beds. If you ask me, Mabel knew she was going to lose and sprayed her own flowers as an excuse to avoid being embarrassed by the judges.”

Next Sharma visited Jane Willis.

“Mabel said that?” Willis said when Sharma explained the situation. “Well, that doesn’t surprise me. She always did live in her own little world.”


“Meaning she thinks she’s the world’s greatest horticulturalist and everyone else is jealous of her. So we all have the same kind of weed killer. So what? That doesn’t mean we’d use it on someone else’s plants.

“And I’ll tell you another thing: If I were to spray her garden, I wouldn’t stop at her roses. I’d spray everything, even the marigolds she uses to keep bugs away.”

Sharma’s last stop was at the home of Lorraine Paxton.

“She’s got a lot of nerve accusing me,” Paxton said. “Sure, I have weed killer here, but I’m not the only one.”

“No, but you did enter the garden competition in the rose category,” Sharma said.

“So did a lot of others,” Paxton said. “If you ask me, Mabel should never have won the last two competitions. Her roses were nowhere near as good as mine. I think she paid off the judges. That would be something she’d do.”

Detective Sharma returned to police headquarters and plopped into her chair.

“Tough case?” Sergeant Jerry Hobbs asked.

“Ridiculous case is more like it,” Sharma said. “I wasted a whole day on a bunch of roses that were sprayed with weed killer.”

Sharma’s eyes widened.

“That’s it!” she said. “I know who sprayed those roses.”



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Copyright 2020 Richard Ciciarelli. 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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