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MURDER BY THE BOOK
A Mystery Mini
BY DEVORAH FOX
An ordinary work day at the western Massachusetts Sugarloaf Inn turns more chilling than the winter weather when staff member Candy Wadsen makes a gruesome discovery. Her day goes from bad to worse when Candy realizes that Detective Sergeant Dan Petrowski suspects her of committing the crime.
A big man in a quilted hat with earflaps, puffy brown parka with black fur collar, brown slacks, and heavy boots strode through the door. He spotted Tom Scott and they talked for a few moments.
The stranger approached her desk. “Sheriff’s Department, Sergeant Dan Petrowski, Detective Division,” he said. He whizzed a badge in front of her eyes.
A sergeant, Candy thought with surprise. With his smooth-skinned face, Detective Petrowski didn’t look much older than she. Must be one heck of a detective to be sergeant already. Well, he might be young but he was reassuringly beefy.
“Mr. Scott here tells me you found the body,” the sergeant said, stuffing heavy gloves into his pockets. He bounced impatiently on his heels. “Where is it?”
Wordlessly, Candy pointed to Sleink’s office.
“Stay put,” the detective said and went to take a look.
“No problem,” Candy mouthed. She didn’t think she could even stand on her wobbly legs, much less leave. She peered around the corner. Through the open doorway, she saw Petrowski lift Sleink’s left hand and feel for a pulse. She noted with a touch of nausea that the fountain pen remained firmly in Sleink’s grasp the whole time. Petrowski put Sleink’s hand back exactly as he had found it. He jotted something in a small spiral-bound notebook. He mumbled into a cell phone then returned to the outer office. He pulled a chair over and sat down next to Candy, practically knee-to-knee.
“Eh-yuh, he’s dead,” he said.
Candy nodded, too numb to point out that even she could see that.
“And you are? … He asked for her full name, her home address and phone, and her position at the Inn, simple questions she managed to answer. He recorded it all in the little notebook.
He tilted his head towards Sleink’s office. “That your boss?” he asked.
“Did you kill him?” Sergeant Petrowski asked.
“Me? Me! No!” Candy sputtered. “What makes you think I could do something like that?”
“No sign of forced entry. No sign of a struggle. Seems to me it had to be done by someone who could just walk into his office, pick up the letter opener, and get close enough to him to stab him. That’d be you, wouldn’t it?”
“Well, yes, I could have but I didn’t. I swear it.” Innocent or guilty, the accused in the mystery novels that she read always “swore” that they didn’t do it. Candy never found that particularly convincing and yet here she just said the same thing. Her heart pounded. Ice-cold blood clogged her veins. Could Sergeant Petrowski really suspect her?
“Well, one thing’s for certain, you didn’t do it this morning. This man’s been dead about eight hours,” Petrowski replied. “Did you kill him last night?”
“I didn’t kill him. I didn’t do it, please believe me,” Candy cried. She reached for a tissue from the box on her desk. “You’re scaring me.”
Petrowski got to the tissues first and handed her one. The look in his round brown eyes made her think of a puppy caught gnawing a slipper. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t mean to. Why don’t you tell me when you did see him last.”
“Five o’clock, yesterday,” Candy said through sniffles. “Or thereabouts. When I left work.”
“Where was he when you left?”
“There, in his office. At his desk.”
Sergeant Petrowski wrote in his little notebook. “What was he doing?”
Petrowski’s left eyebrow went up. “Shopping?”
Candy told him about the new pen catalog. “He collected lots of stuff. He’s got some of it in his office.”
“Go in there?” Candy gulped. She was quite sure she didn’t want to go into Sleink’s office ever again, much less now, with his corpse still in it.
“Eh-yuh,” Petrowski said. “Don’t touch anything. Just point it out to me.”
Candy stood in the doorway and focused on Sleink’s desk rather than on the man’s body. Sleink’s trifles decorated the huge highly polished desk. The tall-backed leather chair was a luxurious companion. She pointed out the leather pencil cup. “Those are all fountain pens. They’re very expensive. Some of them are antiques. The letter openers, too. Before he got into pens and letter openers, he was into scissors. Manicure scissors, buttonhole scissors, paper scissors─all kinds of scissors. Before that it was pocket knives.”
“Man was fond of sharp objects,” Petrowski observed. “Too bad he didn’t collect stamps. He might still be alive.”
A multi-genre author, she has written a best-selling epic fantasy series, “The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam,” as well as an acclaimed mystery and a popular thriller, and co-authored a contemporary thriller with Jed Donellie. She contributed short stories to a variety of anthologies, penned several Mystery and Fantasy Short Reads, and has several five-star ghostwriting projects to her name. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she now lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with rescued tabby cats … and a dragon named Inky.
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