Larry Walton gripped the edge of the table in his murdered sister’s kitchen. “I knew something was wrong before I even came in the front door.”

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“I could hear Helen’s TV blasting away. She never played it like that.”

“It’s not loud now, “ said my partner, Detective Danny Dayton.

“That’s ‘cause I muted it after phoning 911.”

Danny scowled. “You shouldn’t have done that. Shouldn’t have touched a thing.”

“So I screwed up. I’d just found my sister shot dead for crying out loud. That and the TV’s blaring canned laughter made me want to puke, okay.”

Danny and I left Larry Walton with a uniformed cop and headed outside. Maybe someone from the neighborhood had seen something

“The brother’s loud TV story stinks, Connie,” Danny muttered as we descended the front porch steps.

“You just didn’t like the guy,” I said.

“You’re not kidding there. But I don’t like his story either. He could’ve made it up to cover why he was in the house and supposedly finding his sister.”

I shrugged. “Could be, though it’s also possible the killer’s someone else, someone who did turn up the TV’s volume…maybe to mask the sound of the gunshot.”

A plainclothes detective named Collins was standing beside a heavy-set woman dressed in bright pink jeans. Seeing us he waved us over. “This is Sally Mackey. She lives across the road. She has some information that could be important.”

“Not could be important,” the woman said. “It is important.

I gave the woman a friendly smile. “I’m Detective Perosi, Ms. Mackey. And this is Detective Dayton,” I said. “What do you have to tell us?”

“Helen’s murder—I just know it has to be tied into the burglary!”


“So you haven’t heard. Last Monday night someone broke into Helen’s house.

She was at her mystery readers group. The thief stole money and jewelry. Of course the police came, but after they left Helen was less than impressed. She told me she was going to do her own investigating.” Sally wiped a tear from her cheek. “That’s the way Helen was. Took no guff from no one. And now the thief’s killed her!”

“You can’t be sure of that, ma’am,” Danny said.

Sally gave him a withering look. “Ha! Okay, maybe not one hundred percent sure, but pretty darned near.” She turned back to Collins and me. “I’ve three suspects in mind. Want to hear them?”

“Certainly,” I said. I whipped out my notebook, and saw both Danny and Collins roll their eyes. Still, both leaned forward as Sally Mackey began talking.

“Her brother Larry tops the list,” Sally began. “That’s his beat-up red pickup parked in the driveway. Is he claiming to have found her?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“Ha! Very convenient for him. He was always hitting on Helen for money. Then, last week, Helen told him no more. She’d learned he was spending the money on alcohol and gambling. So that’s his motive for the burglary. He needed the dough and Helen cut him off. His being on the scene this morning could mean Helen connected him to the burglary. It could mean he came to silence her.”

“And then called 911?” Collins asked.

“Sure. Larry may be lazy and greedy, but he’s not dumb. He couldn’t just drive off afterwards. Someone might have seen his truck out front. So he had to do what an innocent man would do.”

“Interesting,” I said. “Who’s your other suspects, Ms. Mackey?”

“Nancy Temple and her husband George. Nancy is Helen’s niece. She lives up the hill in a falling down shack of a place. She’s Helen’s only other close living relative. George and Nancy aren’t any more responsible than Larry. Helen cut off her handouts to them last week, as well. I was there when she did it. Even heard her say she might change her will and leave everything to charity.”

“So one, or both, burgled her?” Danny asked.

“Wouldn’t surprise me. They both knew Helen kept quite a bit of cash on the premises. They also knew she had plenty of valuable jewelry. And to top it off, this morning I saw—”

“Spreading lies about us, Sally?” interrupted a male voice. A man and woman moved into our group. The man’s blue eyes glittered as he ground a cigarette under his heel.

Sally flushed. “W-why should you think that, George?”

“Because we overhead you,” the woman beside him snapped. She turned to me.

“I don’t care what trash Sally’s been telling you, but I wouldn’t have ever hurt my aunt. The same goes for George.”

“Then you know Helen Schaefer’s been murdered?” Danny asked.

Nancy Temple waved a hand, the bracelets on her wrist clinking. “Of course. Sawall the police cars and ambulances down here, then overheard what Sally was saying to you.” She gave the heavy woman an angry look. “That’s really vile, Sally, to try to pin such horrible crimes on us.”

“I’m not trying to pin anything on anyone,” Sally snapped. “I’m just stating facts. Which leads to what else I was about to tell these detectives—I saw you leaving Helen’s early this morning, Nancy. How do explain that?”

Nancy paled. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about seeing you from my bedroom window around 8:00.”

“Well, it couldn’t have been Nancy you saw,” George said. He snapped his lighter and lit another cigarette. “She’s been home all morning. Haven’t you, dear?”

Nancy hesitated, and I pounced. “If you were at your aunt’s earlier you better tell us.”

Nancy clenched her hands. “So what if I was.”

“Nancy!” George said.

“It was while you were out jogging, George. But I didn’t see Aunt Helen. I wanted to borrow some coffee, but she didn’t answer the bell.”

“Did you hear anything?” Danny asked. “Voices? A gunshot?”

“Gunshot? Is that how she....” She blinked her eyes and bent her head down, sniffling.

George put an arm around her. “There, there, dear.” He glared at us. “I doubt Nancy heard anything over the television noise. And just because Sally says she saw Nancy from her bedroom window doesn’t make it so. Sally, herself, could have been at Helen’s. Maybe she had just killed the poor woman when Nancy rang the bell.”

“Why, that’s not true!” Sally cried.

George shrugged. “I hope for your sake it’s not, Sally. But can you prove it?”

He took his wife’s hand. “We’re going back home now. If you want to speak to us further you can do so there… but without Ms. Big-Mouth and her venom.” They left us, walking hand in hand up the hill.

“Oh, I hate that man!” Sally Mackey cried. “If Larry’s not the killer, then he certainly is!” She gave me an imploring look. “And Nancy was at Helen’s earlier. That’s the honest truth. Maybe I didn’t see her actually step out Helen’s front door, but I did see her stepping off Helen’s porch.”

I studied Sally for a moment, then nodded. “Thank you, ma’am. You can return home for now.”

She opened her mouth, then closed it with a “Humph!” sound.

Collins gently took her arm. “Come on, ma’am. I’ll walk you across the road.”

“What a group!” Danny said after a moment.

I nodded.

“Is that your only comment?” Danny complained.

“For the moment,” I replied. “There was something somebody said.... Let me think a minute and maybe it’ll come to me....”

Danny waited. He’d worked with me long enough to know my quirks.

“Yes!” I said after a minute. I smiled. “Danny, I believe we can now haul someone downtown. We’ll want to get a search warrant, too.”

“For what? The gun? Stolen jewelry?”

I nodded. “Exactly. The killer may still have one or both.”

“And just who is this killer?”

“George Temple.”

“How do you figure it’s him, Connie? Not that I’m disagreeing, but it seems to me that the brother, Temple’s own wife and even the Mackey woman could’ve done it.”

“Yes, but Temple let slip an incriminating comment.”

“And it was....”

“That he doubted Nancy had heard anything over the television noise.”

“So. She probably wouldn’t have. You yourself said the killer might have used it to cover the sound of the gunshot.”

“That’s right. But how did George Temple know the television was on, much less turned up to high volume?

“Well, uh....” Danny blinked. “Damn, that’s right! How’d I miss that? He couldn’t have known...unless he was at the scene!” He grinned at me. “Nice work, partner.”

At first Temple refused to say anything.

But when a search turned up some of Helen Schaefer’s jewelry hidden under the spare in the trunk of his car he went against his lawyer’s advice and ran off at the mouth.

“I didn’t want to kill her,” George Temple. “But the stupid woman didn’t give me a choice. She’d found a crushed cigarette on her patio and was convinced I’d left it there before breaking into her place. I tried to convince her that wasn’t proof, but she just laughed at me. She said the cops would get my DNA off the cig and maybe my fingerprints, too. She said that if I returned everything I’d taken by noon today she might cut me a break, but I didn’t believe that for a second. She just wanted me to turn over the stuff so she could really nail me. Whatever, I couldn’t return it all if I’d wanted to. I’d already spent the cash and sold some of the jewelry. I stopped at her back door during my morning jog, still determined to reason with her, but she just laughed at me. She didn’t laugh when I pulled out my gun and turned up the TV.”


# # #

Morning Murder by Guy Belleranti
originally published February 4, 2009



Guy Belleranti has been published in many venues, including Woman's World, Crimestalker Casebook, Mysterical-E and Down in the Cellar.

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