Authors: Janis Lane
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Cozy, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #45 Minutes (22-32 Pages), #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
“So your opinion as to the cause of Neal Harper’s death was that he accidentally tripped over a cat and fell down the stairs?”
“Okay, Mr. Wilson. That’s all for now. You’re not leaving town any time soon, are you? I might need to chat with you again.”
“I’ll probably be here for another month. Is that enough time?” he questioned.
“Sure. I have your address and phone number. It was good of you to come in to talk with us. Good-bye for now.”
The two men shook hands then Carl left the room.
Kevin sat musing for a moment, then leaned over and wrote rapidly in his book. Then he got up and stuck his head around the door.
“Eddie, will you get your partner and the two of you come in here for a moment?” He sat back down, opened his desk drawer, and withdrew a chocolate bar. Lunch was a long time ago and he hadn’t had time to eat.
“What’s up?” Eddie’s young, handsome face broke out in smiles when he saw Kevin’s candy bar. “Got any more of those?” he asked.
Kevin glared and ignored the question.
Jill, filling out her uniform amazingly, rounded the corner, her long blond hair hanging down her back in a French braid, her leather boots making a jangling noise as she approached.
“Okay,” Kevin said. “Let’s go over the evidence one more time. Jill, you and Eddie came in before the rescue squad arrived and found Neal Harper stretched out in front of the door. When the medics got there, they checked, said he was dead, passed him by, and went upstairs. Am I right so far?”
They both nodded, Jill eying his half-eaten candy bar.
“When you got up the stairs, you found Miss Michelin and Mr. Wilson sitting on the floor in the hall with Miss Harper. The medics arrived shortly afterwards and began working on Miss Harper, who was bleeding from the head.”
They both nodded again, knowing from experience not to speak until he requested them to.
“Did you see any cats?” Kevin asked abruptly, his pen poised.
“Cats?” Eddie asked, the beginnings of a grin on his face.
“Cats? As in Kitties?” Jill asked. “Little furry creatures that say meow and chase mice?” She gave him that wide, Swedish-bikini-team grin.
“Nope.” They shook their heads, both chuckling.
Fowler drilled them with his eyes.
“I’m not kidding. Did you see any animals running around the house?”
Eddie and Jill both broke into laughter, causing a frown to ripple across Fowler’s face.
“What’s so blasted funny?” he asked, his blue eyes going glacier.
“Well, that woman had more than two dozen china cats sitting around everywhere, most of them over by a big window, but I don’t think they had anything to do with this accident.”
“Did you look all over the house?” Fowler asked, feeling foolish. “In the cellar and all upstairs?” Again he knew the answer, but . . .
“Of course,” Eddie said. “You taught us to do that yourself.”
Jill nodded in agreement.
They had searched the house thoroughly.
“Did you see a china cat sitting by the body?”
They looked at each other and then at him in surprise.
“Nope. I didn’t. No evidence of anything alive. Did you, Ed?”
Ed shook his head no.
“Sorry, guess we missed that one,” Jill said. “But I can tell you for sure we’d have spotted anything close to the body,” she added with confidence.
Fowler had had enough.
“Okay, that about wraps it up. I’ll see you two tomorrow.” He left the room after they did and wandered down the hall to Chief John McCall’s office. He poked his head inside the door, seeing his boss with a phone pressed to his ear. The chief waved him in.
“What do you have?” he asked after he hung up the phone.
“A dead thief, an injured elderly lady in the hospital, a kooky visiting writer, and a worried next-door neighbor. A few puzzles to boot, but I think I about have them solved.”
“Miss Harper. Do you remember her? Retired English teacher taught most of the kids in town?”
The chief indicated he did know.
“Nephew of hers has been bugging her, trying to get custodial care. Tried to have her declared incompetent to take care of herself. Failed. Judge threw it out. But Harper didn’t give up, it seems.”
The chief punched an intercom and asked for two cups of coffee.
“Neighbors found him dead at the foot of the stairs. We found both pockets stuffed full of a wad of money and several pieces of the old lady’s jewelry. Must have taken it by force. She was pretty banged up, but doc says she’ll pull through.
“Neighbors heard the ruckus, came in, and called the medics. Wilson, the kooky writer, had heard a male voice yelling at Miss Harper earlier so he went and got Miss Michelin from next door to come and check on her.
“That’s a wrap, then? Accidental death from a fall down the stairs? Sounds like he deserved it.” The chief got up, walked to the window, and back again.
“I remember Miss Harper myself. Gentle lady, never hurt a fly.” He poured sugar in his coffee from a packet on his desk.
“Well, he did deserve it, but that kooky writer says that house was full of cats and it’s his theory that a cat tripped the thief up.”
“So? What kind of cat did she have?”
“None, at least not a live one. Eddie and Jill say the house was full of cats, but they were china—porcelain ones. The writer swears he’s allergic to cats and saw a live one. Says it bothered his allergies even though he’d had a shot earlier.”
“He seem like a stable individual to you?” his boss asked skeptically.
Kevin nodded slowly. Man seemed quite normal if a bit stuffed up.
“What was the cause of death?”
“I say let’s leave it right there.” The chief sipped his coffee and glanced out the window.
“Only one peculiar thing that doesn’t add up, not that it particularly changes anything,” Fowler said, rubbing his chin.
The chief, well aware Fowler hated loose ends, asked, “What’s that?”
“Coroner’s report ruled the death accidental. He also said Neal Harper’s pants at the ankles were covered with animal hair—probably cat.” He paused, looked out the window, and rubbed the bridge of his nose before continuing. “Orange cat.”
Chief McCall flashed a startled expression before resettling his usual bland mask over his face. Silence between the two stretched as they contemplated this information. The scent of old coffee, tired leather shoes, and dusty filing cabinets lingered in the still air.
“Probably had it on him before he got there,” the chief offered as Fowler nodded thoughtfully, staring down at the frayed cuffs on his pants.
“Yeah. A person, especially a clumsy man with his pockets loaded with goodies he stole from a nice, elderly lady, can pick up cat hair anywhere.”
“Accidental death. Close the case.” The chief stood up in dismissal.
Fowler nodded and left the room.
Some things were better left alone and unsaid.
As he reentered his own office, he noticed out the window the pretty, young artist and the visiting writer holding hands as they hurried down the sidewalk to share a ride, probably on the way to the hospital to check on their mutual neighbor.
Fowler sat down to write up his report. Who was he, after all, to question justice in whatever form it manifested?
Read more about Detective Fowler in the full-length cozy mystery novels,
MURDER IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
MURDER IN THE JUNKYARD
MURDER IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
A killer is attacking respectable citizens in picturesque Hubbard, NY, and leaving corpses on their front steps in the middle of the day. Detective Fowler isn’t certain who causes him to lose the most sleep, a certain sexy reporter with bouncing curls and sparkling black eyes, or the elusive psychopath creating panic in his small-town community. Together, the detective and the reporter race to find the monster in their midst and return the town to the desirable place where people come to raise their families in peace and contentment. Can they sort through their differences to find romance even as they search for a determined stalker with murder on his mind? The clock ticks down on a man in a rage with a deadly mission.
Available now on Amazon:
MURDER IN THE JUNKYARD
Detective Kevin Fowler is furious that low life has targeted his town where people live in blissful safety. Brenda Bryant is out junkin’ for good things when she stumbles over the grotesque body of a man beloved by no one. Suspense heats up when large sums of money are found in two different places. Drug money is suspected and Brenda targeted by someone who wants the money returned. Detective Fowler faces surprise after surprise as he peels back the surface of Hubbard, New York and deals with its shocking underbelly. Meanwhile romance infiltrates the group of friends with a wedding in the making.
Available now on Amazon: