Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Richard Ciciarelli

Detective Sara Berlin walked through the casino expecting every eye to be on her, but the patrons were much too absorbed in their gambling to pay any attention to her.

“What’s the situation?” she asked Sergeant Carl Reddy when she had reached the check-in desk.

“Interesting case,” Reddy answered. “From what I’ve gathered, four out-of-towners checked in here yesterday – an uncle and his three nieces. They take a family vacation every year.” He paused.

“And?” Berlin urged.

“And the uncle was found dead in his room at about 4:30 this afternoon by a maid. Someone smashed him over the head several times with the bedside lamp.”

“Think it was one of the nieces?”

Reddy shrugged. “Probably. That group didn’t know anyone else here. A couple in the room next to the uncle’s heard an argument between a man and a woman in the dead man’s room at three o’clock.”

“Where are these ladies?”

“I put them in the manager’s office.”

Berlin entered the manager’s office to find three women sitting and fussing nervously.

“Ladies,” she said, “you know why you’re here. I have some questions for you.”

A thirty-something woman nodded. “You think one of us killed Uncle Jack.”

“And you are…?”

“I’m Hetty MacDonald. I’m the elder stateswoman of the group.”

“Would any of you have a reason for wanting your uncle dead?” Berlin asked.

“Unfortunately, yes,” Hetty said.  “Every year Uncle Jack takes us somewhere to vacation. He said it kept the family close. We always fly – Uncle Jack goes first class and we fly coach.”

“And that’s the reason you’d want him dead?”

“No, no,” a second woman put in. “I’m Leila. No, on the plane coming here Uncle Jack sat next to some slick-talking religious leader.”


“Yes,” put in the third niece, Caroline. “This guy convinced Uncle Jack that to save his immortal soul he had to give up all his worldly goods.”

“When we landed,” Hetty said, “Uncle Jack told us this would be our last vacation. Once we got home he was changing his will to leave his entire fortune to that crook’s church.”

 “He was going to keep only enough to live modestly on,” Leila said.

“How much was your uncle’s estate worth?”

“Millions,” Caroline said. “Uncle Jack always bragged about his wealth. That’s probably how that religious quack found out.”

“We think your uncle died at around three o’clock,” Berlin said. “Where were you all then?”

Hetty spoke first. “I’m not much of a gambler, so I spent all afternoon at the indoor pool. It’s way too hot for me to go outdoors.”

“I was at the slot machines,” Leila said. “I went there right after lunch and didn’t leave until three-thirty. I remember looking at a clock on the wall as I left.”

“And I,” Caroline said, “wandered around the casino all afternoon. I played some blackjack, some craps, and roulette. This is our first time in Las Vegas, and I wanted to be able to tell my friends I really gambled.”

Berlin turned to Sergeant Reddy who had been taking notes.

“Did you get everything?”

Reddy nodded.

“Good. Because one of these ladies probably killed their uncle.”


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