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
“Why’s that?” I
“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.
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
Danny and I left
Larry Walton with a uniformed cop and headed outside. Maybe
someone from the neighborhood had seen something
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
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.”
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
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?”
said. I whipped out my notebook, and saw both Danny and Collins
roll their eyes. Still, both leaned forward as Sally Mackey
“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
“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.”
said. “Who’s your other suspects, Ms. Mackey?”
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
“So one, or both,
burgled her?” Danny asked.
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—”
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?”
and I pounced. “If you were at your aunt’s earlier you better
her hands. “So what if I was.”
“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
“Did you hear
anything?” Danny asked. “Voices? A gunshot?”
“Gunshot? Is that
how she....” She blinked her eyes and bent her head down,
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
“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
“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.
took her arm. “Come on, ma’am. I’ll walk you across the road.”
“What a group!” Danny
said after a moment.
“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....”
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?”
“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.”
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
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.”