Time’s running out…

Don’t forget that I’ll be giving away a special Heartbreaker Prize Package for Valentine’s Day and the only way to enter this contest is by commenting on the blog.

Each person who comments on the blog today through Valentine’s Day will be entered into the prize drawing! Included in the prize will be a copy of one of my books, some candy, and some other great items! Don’t miss your chance to win!

Deadline is 12:01 a.m. on February 14th! I’ll announce the winner on Valentine’s Day!

Good luck!

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How about a free book?

I’m giving away one free copy of Under Lock and Key, the second book in the Rona Shively series. Here’s the catch, to enter, readers need to be able to answer the following four questions about the first book in the series, In the Wash:

1. What kind of car does Rona drive?

2. What does Rona’s friend, Norm do for a living?

3. What is the name of the Mexican restaurant where Rona and Norm have dinner?

4. What are the names of Rona’s two pet fish?

You’ve probably figured this out already, but you’ll have to read In the Wash to find the answers. Send your answers to me at lonestoryteller@yahoo.com and I’ll draw the winning entry on Sunday, April 20th! Good luck to you!

And the Grand Prize goes to…

Karen Docter! She submitted a guess for one of the earlier mini-mysteries and although she didn’t win a weekly contest, she is now the winner of a great prize package including a $20 gift card for Barnes & Noble, autographed copies of my books, In the Wash, Under Lock and Key and the collection of short mysteries featured in this contest, A Little Bit of Murder! Congratulations to Karen!

To order a copy of A Little Bit of Murder: Short mysteries to confuse and amuse, you can check out my storefront at Lulu.com! It’s only $10.95 and makes the perfect gift for the mystery lover in your life! Order your copy today!

As for this week’s mini-mystery winner, well…no one guessed it! So, here’s what happened:

In the meantime, it was discovered that Marguerite had left the kids at her mother’s and came back to town to check up on things. She had arrived at the condo to find a strange woman sitting in her living room reading over contracts. Before the woman could explain what she was doing there, Marguerite had screamed at her telling her to get out of her house. The woman, flustered at the attack, tried to tell Marguerite that Ted had gone across the street to check on something. She was finally able to tell her that the police had asked him to identify a body or something. Marguerite had turned white as a sheet and headed over to the apartment to see what was going on. The coroner’s wagon was parked in front of the apartment building where the attendants were loading a body into the back. She asked them who it was and they told her that they couldn’t give details. She started to go into the apartment building, but was stopped by an officer at the door.

“What happened here?” she asked, “My husband was brought over here to identify a body, I think?”

“Who are you, ma’am?” the officer asked her.

“I’m Marguerite Halford, I live across the street,” she said, pointing to her condo.

The officer radioed someone and then told her that she could go on up. When she got to the apartment, she saw the blood on the kitchen floor. She saw Ted standing there talking with the police officers and she ran toward him. He hugged her and then asked her what she was doing there. “Where are the kids?” he asked. He hadn’t wanted them to know what had happened to Grace. She told him that she had gotten all the way to her mother’s and that Sam had been crying for his blanket. She told her mother that she would get the blanket and come back so that they could spend the rest of the weekend with her. Ted thought this was strange, but he let it pass.

“Did Grace know Tess?” he asked Marguerite.

“I don’t know, I don’t think so,” she said, trying to conceal her nervousness.

“The victim had one of your credit cards on her when we found her,” an officer told Marguerite.

“One of my credit cards?” Marguerite asked, feigning surprise, “What was she doing with that?”

“Good question,” the officer said. “How long had she worked for you?”

“Oh, she’s been with us about three years,” she answered.

“Did you ever have a problem with anything coming up missing before?” he asked.

Marguerite was silent for a moment and then said, “No, not that I’m aware of. You don’t think she stole the card. Surely there’s an explanation.”

“If there is, we’ll probably never know it now,” the officer said, shaking his head.

The police officer gave Ted and Marguerite permission to leave the scene and the two of them headed back across the street to their condo. Marguerite called her mother to let her know what had happened and that she would be back as soon as she could. Ted called his client, who had left the minute Marguerite had gone across the street. He needed to smooth things over with her so that the boat sale wouldn’t fall through. They had sat there, looking at each other for several moments when Ted said, “What the hell was she doing over there?”

Marguerite just shook her head. She said, “She was such a sweet girl, who could have done this to her?”

The two of them decided that Marguerite should go back to stay with the kids and that Ted would join them tomorrow afternoon once he had finished working on the boat deal from earlier this evening. They spent the next few days trying to figure out how to tell the kids that Grace wouldn’t be coming back. After that, Marguerite started looking for a new sitter. She and Ted had been getting along very well and she had since given up on the notion that he had been cheating on her. It was still nagging at her a little, but she wasn’t as worried about proving it now.

Weeks later, the investigation revealed that the killer had been female. The fingerprints on the blood-soaked package had belonged to none other than Marguerite Halford. When she was interrogated, she revealed to the police that she had found evidence that Grace had been sleeping with her husband, Ted. The evidence she was referring to was the pair of lacy underwear that she had shown Grace just weeks before. She had talked the girl into taking the pictures knowing that there would be no visitors because she thought Grace had been having an affair with him while she was working at their home. Knowing that Tess’s ex-boyfriend James was still a known threat and that people would most likely think that he had broken in and killed Grace by mistake she had taken the kids to her mother’s at noon that day and then came back to Tess’s apartment. She figured that once she was alone in the apartment with her, she would confront Grace about her relationship with Ted. The gift had contained the pair of underwear that she assumed Grace had left at her house. A small card had been tucked inside and it had read, “I know it was you, bitch.” She had planned this big elaborate confrontation where Grace would open the package and then she would attack her, but when it came down to it, she had lost her nerve and acted out of rage. She had planned to take the camera and the gift with her when she left the apartment, but she had been so flustered that she ran out of the apartment without the camera or the gift. She was further enraged when she realized that there was a strange car outside her condo and that it appeared that Ted had a different woman in her home that night. She had been wrong on all counts.

Grace hadn’t been having an affair with Ted. The underwear had in fact, been a gift for Marguerite. Ted had wanted to spice up their love life by buying her some fancy lingerie. He hadn’t wrapped them because he had wanted to slip them into her dresser drawer along with a rose on Valentine’s Day. He had tucked them under the mattress on his side of their bed thinking that she’d never look there. It just so happened that she was flipping the mattress when she discovered them. Poor Grace had been killed for no reason. Her instincts about Ted had been right; he wasn’t having an affair at all.

Marguerite was sentenced to life in prison and Ted, well; he started dating his neighbor, Tess just six months after Marguerite went to jail.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s mini-mystery and the last few weeks of the contest. I’ll be doing this again in a few months, but for now, keep checking back for news and contests! Thanks for playing!

The Final Mini-Mystery…

Here is week #5’s installment. Good luck!

Out of Focus
By Rebecca Benston

Grace Martin was a photographer. She was twenty-three, single and desperate. She had been struggling to make ends meet by working two part-time jobs and taking on assorted freelance projects. One of her part-time jobs was as a waitress for a local family eatery called Mack’s. She had been there since high school and was getting tired of the same old routine and had actually given her two weeks notice three times in the last two years in hopes of getting away from the place.

Her other part-time job was as a babysitter for a woman who had a part-time secretarial position for a local tax attorney. Her name was Marguerite Halford. She had two small children, Hattie and Sam. They were three and four, respectively. One evening when Grace was preparing to leave, Marguerite asked her a strange question.

“You’re a photographer, right?” she had asked.

“Sure, did you need some pictures taken of the kids?” Grace had asked, hoping for another project.

“Well, not exactly,” she said, “It’s kind of complicated. Can you hang on for a second while I make sure the kids are still down for their naps? I don’t want to talk about it in front of them.”

Grace nodded, “Sure, I guess so.” She was puzzled. What kind of craziness was she about to hear? Marguerite had already shuffled out of the room to check on the kids and when she came back in, she was carrying what appeared to be women’s underwear.
Grace’s brow furrowed as she looked at Marguerite’s hands. “What’s that?” she asked.

“This is why I need pictures,” she said nervously.

“I’m sorry; I don’t understand what you need…” Grace said, “You need pictures of underwear?”

The color rose in Marguerite’s face and she said, “Oh, no, no, not the underwear. It’s not mine. That’s the problem. I found them here and I’m worried…” She took a deep breath before she continued, “…I’m worried that Ted is having an affair.”

Grace’s hand flew to her mouth involuntarily. She had been working for Marguerite and her husband Ted for the past three years and this was a little awkward to hear. “Oh, I see,” she said.

“Yes, and I was wondering if you had any experience in taking pictures without someone knowing you’re taking pictures,” Marguerite said. “I need to know who she is.”
“Well, I-I don’t know, I usually don’t do distance shots,” Grace started to say. She looked at Marguerite, whose face was flushed and filled with tension. “I mean, I’m not sure I could get a good enough shot with the equipment I’ve got.”

“I’ll buy you what you need,” Marguerite said, “I need these pictures so that I can go to an attorney. Would you be able to set up somewhere nearby and possibly catch something this weekend?”

“Geez, I guess, I mean, where?” Grace said.

Marguerite had obviously been planning, she answered, “I thought you might be able to set up in the building across the street. I know a lady who lives over there.”

The two of them talked about how Grace could get a shot of Ted this weekend. Marguerite was going to visit her mother with the kids this weekend and Ted would be alone at the apartment. Grace could use Marguerite’s friend Tess’s apartment to set up her camera equipment. It was directly across the street and should be ideal for the kind of shots that Grace would need. Tess was out of town and Marguerite was actually feeding her pets and taking her mail in for her every day, so she had a key to her apartment. This is what had given her the idea in the first place. Marguerite told Grace to go out and get the equipment she needed to take the pictures and to put it on her credit card. She told

Grace that she would pay her $1,000 for pictures that showed anyone other than Ted or family members entering the apartment. It should be easy enough as long as Ted didn’t decide to take his escapades on the road instead of bringing his lover to their home.

Grace left Marguerite’s apartment feeling low. Although she should have been happy, she felt bad that Ted was deceiving Marguerite. She felt especially bad for the kids. She wasn’t sure if she was doing the right thing by trying to help, but she really needed the cash. She reasoned that it would serve a good purpose if Ted really was cheating on Marguerite. If he wasn’t, then she could help put Marguerite’s mind at ease by reporting that she hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary. Maybe the underwear had been a gift he had bought for her. She hadn’t asked Marguerite where she’d found them. Maybe Ted had just hidden them until he could wrap them up for Valentine’s Day. These thoughts kept her up all night and when the alarm clock finally went off at 7 a.m. the next morning, she felt as though she hadn’t slept at all. Her mind was so cluttered and she had to go to work at Mack’s at 9.

She decided to go to work, stop off at the camera store for a telephoto lens for her camera after she finished her shift at 2 p.m. and then head over to Tess’s apartment to set up for that night. It was Friday and Marguerite had told her that she and the kids would be heading for her mothers by 1 o’clock. Grace didn’t want the kids to see her going into the apartment building, so it was good that they would be gone by the time she got there. Ted worked until around 5 or so and would probably get home by 6. She didn’t want to run into him, either. Although it was only five hours, her shift at Mack’s went very slowly. She had only six tables during the whole lunch rush and managed to pick up a useless $12 in tips. She left the restaurant at 2 and headed over to the camera equipment store to look for what she needed.

When she talked to the clerk, she asked which lens would work better for long distance shots. She knew, but she needed to talk to someone to take her mind off of what she was preparing to do. The clerk tried to sell her some outrageous piece and she quickly told him she only had half of what that lens cost to spend. He changed his tune and gave her the right lens and she also purchased a tripod and some extra film. She left the store, satisfied with her purchases. These would come in handy after this project. She might even be able to start doing more landscape work. This made the idea of taking pictures of a cheating husband slightly more palatable to Grace.

Grace drove over to the apartment building across from Marguerite’s, stopping to get a sandwich on the way. She was relieved to find a parking spot in the lot behind the building. She hadn’t wanted to park on the next block and carry all of her equipment down the street. Within fifteen minutes, she had let herself into the apartment and set up the camera. The window in front of the apartment had a direct line of sight to Ted and Marguerite’s front door. The apartment building they lived in was more like a condo. Each unit had a door in the front, so there was no question that visitors going in that door would be there for Ted. Once the camera was ready, she took a couple of test shots and then decided to sit down and eat. She looked around the apartment she was in and saw several pictures on the fireplace mantel. They were photos of a Border collie decorated with the usual, cheesy bandana around its neck. These appeared to be the only photographs in the apartment and none of them included a human being. There were no dog bowls around, so Grace assumed that the dog had either passed on or that it was someone else’s pet.

As she studied the room, Grace noticed that there was little in the way of clutter. The apartment was tidy and Tess had decorated it very tastefully. There were contemporary white couches arranged around a plain black table. A clear vase with two white roses sat in the middle of the table. The flowers hadn’t wilted, so they must have been recent purchases. This made the hair on the back of Grace’s neck stand on end. What if Tess wasn’t out of town? What if Marguerite had the dates wrong? If Tess came home, how could she explain what she was doing in her apartment with a camera aimed across the street? She didn’t know the woman and she was pretty sure that Marguerite hadn’t told her what she was up to.

She hurried through her sandwich and threw away her trash. Now that she had herself sufficiently worried, she wasn’t sure if she should just pack up and tell Marguerite no one had visited Ted or not. It wasn’t quite five o’clock and she really didn’t want to stay in the apartment very much longer. She looked out the window and to her surprise, saw that Ted’s car was already in the driveway across the street. She hadn’t seen him pull up because she had been in the kitchen eating her dinner. As she watched the street, another car pulled up to the curb in front of the condo. She watched in amazement as a woman got out and walked up to the door. Ted opened the door and the woman stepped inside. All this time, Grace had been watching but hadn’t thought to snap a picture. She smacked herself in the forehead and decided to go ahead and take a few pictures of the car. Now she would have to wait until the woman came out to get a shot of her.

While she was standing there looking out the window, someone knocked on the apartment door. She froze. She couldn’t answer the door so she just stood there and waited for whoever it was to give up and go away. They knocked a few more time and after about five minutes, they must have left. Grace tiptoed over to the door and looked through the peephole. No one was in the hall. She took a deep breath and opened the door. A package had been left in front of the door. She picked it up and took it inside the apartment, forgetting to lock the door behind her. Seconds after she had put the package down on the counter, someone burst through the door and grabbed her from behind. She struggled, but the assailant had her in a choke hold with one hand over her mouth. Moments later, Grace lay on the floor of the kitchen in a pool of blood. She had been stabbed to death and the package she had brought in from the hallway was beside her, unopened and soaked in Grace’s blood.
A neighbor had seen someone run down the hallway from Tess’s apartment. She had called the police because she knew that Tess wasn’t home, but saw that her door was wide open. When the police arrived, they found Grace in the apartment and they assumed that she was Tess. Later, upon closer investigation they discovered that Tess was, in fact, out of town and that the person who had been killed did not live in the building. Grace had no identification with her other than Marguerite’s credit card. She had left her purse in the trunk of her car because she’d had so much to carry with the camera equipment. Mistakenly, after checking the name on the card with their database, the police had gone across the street to see if Marguerite was home or if it was her on the kitchen floor of Tess’s apartment. Ted had told them that Marguerite was visiting her mother out of town. The police had asked Ted if he could come over and help them identify the body at Tess’s apartment.

He had gone without hesitation because he knew Tess and he also knew that she’d had some trouble with an abusive ex-boyfriend in the past. He had been meeting with a client at the condo and he left her there to read over the contracts he’d prepared for the sale of her boat. He was a boat salesman. When he got to the apartment and saw Grace there, he told the police that this was their babysitter. He was puzzled as to why she was here and he noticed that there was a camera set up at the window. The police asked if the camera was Tess’s and Ted had told them it was probably Grace’s. He told them that she was a photographer, but he wasn’t sure why she would be over here with the camera. He didn’t think she even knew Tess. The police took the camera as evidence and later found that there were pictures of the car in front of Ted’s condo. They also bagged the gift that was beside Grace’s body as part of their investigation.

Okay, folks! It’s all up to you! Can you guess what happened to Grace? Who is responsible for this? What is going on? Send in your guess by Friday, February 8th for your shot at the $20 gift card and an entry into the Grand Prize Drawing! I’ll be giving more details about the prize package later in the week!

Good luck to you!

No Winner?

BB’s Mini-Mystery #4 must have been tough. No one sent in a correct guess. So, I’ve decided to add the $10 gift card for this week to next week’s prize package which means that Mini-Mystery #5 will be for a $20 gift card! I’ll also be drawing for the Mini-Mystery Grand Prize next week after I announce the winner for #5! For now, here’s the solution to Mini-Mystery #4:

The solution:

Erika looked past the barrel of the gun and saw Dr. Reed standing on the other end of it. He said nothing as he fired and then walked quickly away from the scene. He had been Mrs. Holtz’s doctor and just two week’s ago, Mr. Holtz had told him that his neighbor had recommended (which Erika hadn’t) that they try a certain medication. He had mentioned Erika by name and so, the doctor figured she made a point of telling older patients that they needed to pressure their doctors into dealing with drug reps. When he had received the call from Erika about his other patient (the old lady in the elevator), he decided he had to do something.

He was angry at her for meddling in his patient affairs. She had no right to pressure him into giving his patients free drugs that might not even help their conditions. He’d always had a negative attitude towards pharmaceutical companies because he felt like they were part of the problem with the health insurance industry. The whole mess cut into his bottom line and he was sick of it. He had been able to stall the investigation by blocking the security cameras in the lobby until he could take care of his problem. The police had discovered his fingerprints on the camera lens and arrested him just three days later.

You just never know.

I hope you’ll stop by on Monday to see what Mini-Mystery #5 brings. Remember, the stakes are higher with a $20 gift card on the line. I’ll also be drawing the winner of the Grand Prize from all of the entries I receive, not just the winning guesses! Winners will be announced next Saturday!

There’s more to come…

BB’s Mini-Mystery #4

must have stumped you all! I had no winning entries this week! In light of this, I have decided to hold off on selecting a winner until noon tomorrow. So, if you still want to take a shot at it, get your guess in to me by noon on Saturday, February 2nd.

Surely someone out there can figure it out!

Good luck!

BB’s Mini-Mystery #4

Here you go:

An Ounce of Prevention
By Rebecca Benston

Erika Johnson was a pharmaceutical sales representative. She worked for one of the big names in the pharmaceutical industry and had a large client base that had been built up over the course of five years. She had started out wanting to be a social worker, but when she figured out that she wouldn’t be able to make enough money doing social work, she answered an ad in her local paper and the rest was history. As a sales rep, she made good money and she still felt like she would be helping people because she was offering samples of medication which doctors could then pass on to their patients. At least, this was how she rationalized it.

She had just dropped off her usual week’s worth of samples to the largest medical group in town and was waiting for the elevator, when she encountered an elderly woman who asked her, “Are you able to give samples to individual patients?”

“Oh, no, ma’am, I’m sorry,” she had responded, “I’m not qualified to make the diagnosis required to dispense the samples. You can ask your doctor for samples the next time you’re in.”

“Well, my doctor won’t give me samples, I’ve asked him,” the lady said in a feeble voice, “I can’t afford the regular medication and they tell me if I don’t take it, I could have a heart attack.”

“I’m really sorry, but I just can’t,” she had said to the woman. She thought for a moment and then asked, “Which doctor is it that you go to?”

“Dr. Reed, up on the third floor,” she answered.

“What medication was it that you needed?” Erika had asked.

The lady gave here the names of her medications and Erika had told her that she would check with the doctor to see if he wanted some samples to hand out. The two parted ways with the older woman thanking Erika profusely for making the effort. Erika made a note in her calendar to visit Dr. Reed and then got in her car and drove home.

Although it was a little unusual, Erika called Dr. Reed’s office and asked if she could speak with the doctor regarding a patient of his. She told him of her encounter with the elderly woman in the elevator and he agreed that he would talk with his patient about the medications. Two weeks later, Erika paid a visit to Dr. Reed’s office, dropping off samples of the medications that the older lady had requested. She only had two of the three medications, but it was better than nothing. When she left the building, she felt like she had really done something useful and so she went out and treated herself to dinner at her favorite Mexican restaurant. Dr. Reed had been pretty easy to talk to and he had agreed to pass on samples to those patients in his practice who might benefit from the drugs. Satisfied that she had done the right thing, she ate her dinner and then went home to prepare for work the next day.

As was her usual ritual, she put her suitcase and materials by the door so that she would be ready to start early in the morning. She set up her coffee pot to brew at 5:30 a.m. and then set her alarm clock to wake her at 5:45 a.m. Generally, she got up and showered before having coffee. She grabbed a cup to go and then headed out to the garage with her briefcase and samples. She usually ran into the same few people in the morning on her way to work. The neighbor, Essie Holtz was usually out walking her little dog in the courtyard. Her husband, Mr. Holtz was usually headed to his car at the same time as Erika. He often offered to help her with her bags and she usually refused. There was also Mrs. Taylor who lived across the street from the apartment building. She was usually up sitting on her porch waiting for the newspaper delivery boy.
On this day in particular, Mr. Holtz wasn’t heading to his car. Erika noticed that Mrs. Holtz wasn’t out walking the dog either. Mrs. Taylor said hello to Erika and waved her over. She told her that Mrs. Holtz had been rushed to the hospital last evening and that Mr. Holtz hadn’t yet come home. Erika told Mrs. Taylor to let her know if anything else happened while she was at work today. She wasn’t terribly close to her neighbors, but she felt terrible hearing of Mrs. Holtz’s illness.

Exactly one week later, Erika heard that Mrs. Holtz had passed away. As it turned out, she’d suffered from a severe heart attack and the doctors hadn’t been able to help her. She hadn’t been taking her medication because her husband’s insurance had run out after he’d retired from his job three months earlier. Erika went to work feeling depressed and just plain disgusted at losing her neighbor. She berated herself for not having been a better friend to the Holtz’s and for not checking with Mrs. Holtz to make sure she’d had everything she needed. She could have gotten her some medication if only she’d have asked.

The day didn’t improve much when Erika encountered the same old lady in the elevator she had met last week coming from Dr. Reed’s office. The old lady didn’t speak to her this time and Erika felt an uncomfortable silence as the elevator moved slowly down towards the lobby of the building. Feeling obligated to check, she turned to the older lady and asked her, “Were you able to get your samples from Dr. Reed?”

The old lady gave her a sharp look and then said, “He’s never offered me any samples, you probably didn’t even give them to him.” She didn’t say anything else to Erika and when the elevator doors opened, she shuffled past Erika and out the front doors of the building without looking back. She got into a car that was waiting by the entrance to the building. Stung by the exchange, Erika stood there in the elevator as the doors closed again. She waited for a moment and then pushed the button for the lobby so that the doors would open again. When they opened, she was staring down the barrel of a gun. Without a word, the person behind the gun fired and Erika’s lifeless body dropped to the floor.

The police were at the building within minutes and the investigation was on. They spoke with everyone in the building and got a list of everyone who had come and gone within the last two hours. They also got the security camera’s videotape for the lobby area. The whole thing was just bizarre and ask Detective Mathis was finding out, there was absolutely no reason for something like this to have happened. Erika was well-liked by all of the doctors and their office staff. She was generous and had a great personality. She wasn’t overbearing and she seemed to genuinely care about the work she was doing.

“It was as if she hoped she was making a difference,” said Nancy Atherton, the receptionist at Dr. Powell’s office. She cried as she spoke to the police, wiping her tears as she spoke of Erika’s visits to their practice.

Another receptionist, Judy Cook said, “I can’t imagine who would want to hurt someone like Erika.”

The building was shut down for the day while the crime scene was investigated. It was a Friday, so they had the weekend to try and figure out what had happened before people started coming back through on Monday.

What do you think? Who was this elderly woman? Did she have anything at all to do with Erika’s murder?
If not, then who killed her? Take a shot! You could win a $10 gift card! Send in your guess by Friday at 5 p.m. EST!

BB’s Mini-Mystery #3 Solved!

Congratulations to Tami Williams of Phoenix, AZ! She figured it all out! She’s got a $10 gift card coming her way!

Here’s what happened:

The investigation showed that there were three sets of fingerprints at the crime scene. Darnell, Betsy’s and another set. The third set belonged to Sally Metzger. As it unfolded, Sally broke down during the interrogation. Her sister, Beverly Whitford, had killed herself earlier in the year after breaking up with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend was Darnell Wooten and he had broken her heart. Sally decided to play a game with Darnell.

Darnell had already told the others that he would lock up when Sally arrived. They had gone home leaving him and Sally alone in the gym. He had called Betsy while Sally was there listening and when he had finished the conversation, she had whispered something in his ear that had driven him crazy. She lured him into the weight room that night with empty promises of a passionate interlude. Once they were in the weight room and he had laid down on the weight bench, she had injected him with a drug that had caused him to lose consciousness. This she had gotten from her friend, a young doctor whom Darnell had also dated.

As he drifted into unconsciousness, she placed a set of barbells across his throat and began to add weights to either side until she was sure that they were crushing his windpipe. She heard something out front and quietly slipped out of the weight room and hid behind the counter. She saw Betsy heading for the weight room and made her move. By the time she was in her car, Betsy had discovered Darnell.

Unfortunately for Sally, she had been so blinded by the need for revenge; she hadn’t taken the necessary precautions to keep from being identified. She hadn’t worn gloves because it hadn’t occurred to her that they wipe down all of the barbells each evening. She had been too focused on making Darnell pay for her sister’s death. Such is the fury of a woman scorned.

The next Mini-Mystery will be posted on Monday, January 28th! Make sure you check back with us!

BB’s Mini-Mystery #3

Dead Weight
By Rebecca Benston

Darnell Wooten worked at a local fitness center. He was a personal trainer and was fairly well-liked by his co-workers and clients. Maybe, a little too well-liked by some. He had plans to get a degree in Physical Therapy and go to work for a rehabilitation center. He was just three classes away from graduation when he was found dead in the gym’s weight room.

Three months prior, Darnell’s clients included a doctor, a college football player, assorted college cheerleaders and the occasional housewife. The nearby university sent plenty of business his way. It had been rumored that Darnell played the field and that he often became romantically involved with his clients. Although he was generally discreet, he’d had his share of confrontations with angry boyfriends and even husbands.

He had been dating a local cheerleader named Betsy Jantzen for the past six months. Before that, he had spent some quality time with the wife of a local attorney. Before that, he had befriended a shy, young art student, Beverly Whitford and a waitress, Darla Hughes, who frequented the gym. Both of whom he dumped without explanation and both of whom were devastated by the breakups.

On one evening, his girlfriend Betsy stopped by to see if he would like to meet her for dinner later. She just happened to see him locked in an embrace with a fellow trainer, Tandi Gershwin. She walked over to him, tapped him on the shoulder and then stood there until he turned around. He broke free from Tandi and when he turned around, he said, “Betsy, hey, what are you doing here?”

“The better question is what the hell are you doing here?” she snapped. Tandi backed up a step and turned to lean against the counter.

Darnell grabbed Betsy’s hand and walked her away from where they had been standing. “Hey, Tandi’s grandmother passed away, I was just consoling her. She’s upset.” He was smooth and he had a million excuses ready to use at any time. He just hoped that she hadn’t been there a few minutes before the hug when he had been flirting and snapping at the straps on Tandi’s leotard.

She thought for a moment and then seemed to be okay with what he had said. She asked him about their dinner plans and then went on her merry way, turning to wave at Tandi on her way out. When Betsy had left the parking lot, Darnell went back to Tandi and told her that Betsy was under a lot of stress and that she had just overreacted. Tandi didn’t really care because she had a boyfriend and considered this to be just harmless flirtation. Nonetheless, she agreed to meet with Darnell later that evening after he had dinner with his family.

This is how Darnell got through the days. He juggled relationships and made sure everyone thought he was the good guy. In reality, he was a cheater, a liar and a hopeless jerk. Darnell eventually met his match in a woman named Sally Metzger. She was an attractive, albeit overweight, mother of two who came into the gym to work on losing the extra pounds she had gained after her second child was born. She worked with Darnell for close to three months and had made great progress, losing a whopping thirty pounds. By the time she was ready to tell Darnell she no longer needed his services, he had started to notice that she was looking pretty good. The prospect of a new conquest loomed large in his mind. He decided to make his move.

On their regular rotation, Sally was to do a variety of floor exercises and follow it up with nautilus. She was just getting up from doing a series of push ups when Darnell gave her a pat on the rear end. She looked around at him and said, “What was that?” She wasn’t angry; in fact, she had been smiling when she said it.

“Oh, nothing,” he said, “I’m sorry, my hand must have slipped.”

They exchanged a few comments and then agreed that he should come and have a drink with her later. She wasn’t married and she had a babysitter for the evening. The met as planned and from there, the affair began. She was, by far, the most intriguing woman Darnell had ever pursued. She was smart and now, after losing the weight, he found her to be amazingly attractive. After a couple of weeks, he decided that he was going to go ahead and dump his girlfriend Betsy. He had only been stringing her along in case things didn’t go well with Sally. He decided to call her and tell her on a Thursday evening.

Betsy picked up the phone on the third ring and said, “Hello.”

“Betsy, hey, it’s me,” he said.

“Hey, I wasn’t expecting to hear from you today,” she said, sounding pleasantly surprised.

“Yeah, well, I wanted to call and talk to you,” he said, “I’ve been doing some thinking.”

“About what?” she asked, puzzled at the serious tone in his voice.

“Well, I’ve been thinking that this just isn’t working out, you know,” he said.

“What isn’t working out?” she asked.

“Us, dating, it’s not been going the way I wanted it to,” he said, “and I really don’t want to drag it out any longer.”

“Drag it out!” she shrieked.

“That’s what I mean, you’re too moody for me and I just don’t feel like we’ll ever get past it,” he said, still maintaining a calm demeanor, “I just want to call it quits and move on. I do wish you the best.”

“Now wait a minute…” she was saying and then she heard the dial tone. He had hung up on her. He had broken up with her over the telephone and then topped it all off by hanging up on her before she could respond. She was furious. She hung up the phone and then grabbed her coat and purse from the wall hook on her way out the door. She wasn’t going to let him get away with this. When she got into her car, she drove straight over to the gym. He had called her from work, so she knew he would still be there. It was almost closing time and there were only a few cars in the parking lot, none of them familiar to her.

She slipped into the gym unnoticed. No one was at the counter and it appeared that the place was nearly empty. She could hear the sound of weights clanging in the weight room so she decided to head in that direction. He was probably back there trying to impress Tandi with his bench pressing. When she got to the doorway of the weight room, she looked inside and started to say, “Don’t bother trying to impress her…”

Before she could get the words out, she gasped at the sight before her. Darnell was lying on the weight bench with a heavy barbell resting on his neck. He wasn’t moving and when she went over to try and lift it off of him; she couldn’t even move the thing. She ran out to the counter to find help, but there was no one around. The lights had been turned off and it looked like someone had shut the place down at the same moment she had discovered Darnell. She picked up the phone on the counter and dialed 9-1-1. When the paramedics arrived, they pronounced Darnell dead at the scene. Betsy was taken into custody by the police and an investigation ensued…

Who killed Darnell? Why? Think you can figure it all out? Send your guess to me by Friday at 5 p.m. EST. I’ll announce the winner on Friday night!

Good luck!

BB’s Mini-Mystery #2 Winner?

Here’s what happened:

Standing behind the gun was Regina, Westmiller’s wife. She had long suspected Westmiller was having an affair with someone, but she wasn’t sure who. He spent many nights out without so much as a phone call. He talked incessantly about his friend Art and seemed way too interested in what he was doing every evening. She had followed him on several occasions and found him leaving board meetings only to visit Art at his home. She knew that Art was single and that he was a little on the eccentric side, though she had never pegged him as a homosexual. She had changed her mind about this when she intercepted an e-mail message that Art had sent to her husband earlier in the week. The message had said, “I’ve got something for you and I think you’re going to like it.” Mistaking this cryptic message for something flirtatious instead of what it had actually been, a message about the money the two were embezzling, she began planning her revenge.

First, she had paid a homeless man to call the house and threaten her husband. She figured she might be able to scare him into spending less time with his friend by making him think that he was suspected of impropriety. She hadn’t actually known that he was trying to take money; it was just something she had made up. When that didn’t seem to work, she had sent him the package with the dead snake hoping that he would be so creeped out that he would confide in her. He hadn’t. Instead, he hadn’t even mentioned it when he had called her that day. He had called her after his board meeting to say that he wouldn’t be home until late. He had some things to take care of at the office.

She was overcome by rage and decided that she would go to Art’s house and confront him. She expected to find her husband there, but when she arrived, she found Art dead on the floor. She had hurried out of the house and back to her car, driving away quickly to avoid being spotted. On the way out back to her house, she passed Thornton. He was headed toward Art’s house. She had been right about the two of them, she thought to herself as she turned around and headed right back to Art’s house. She pulled the dainty little gun she kept for self-defense out of her glove box and headed into the house. She saw Thorn standing over Art’s computer, phone in hand. She didn’t even give him a chance to explain. She shot him…three times…in the heart.

When the police came, Regina was standing in the hallway. The gun had dropped to her feet after she’d fired the shots. The police quickly handcuffed her and hauled her away. Upon closer investigation, they found that she was only responsible for one of the murders. Coughley had been killed by someone else entirely. Further investigation and an eye witness produced a suspect almost immediately. Mr. Chandler, the Mayfield Family Shelter director had been so enraged by Westmiller’s report that the estate money from Mr. Thompson wasn’t going to be what they expected that he had gone directly to Coughley’s home after the meeting and the two of them had exchanged words. Things had gotten heated and Mr. Chandler had stabbed him, killing him instantly.

Not exactly a professional exchange, but money has a strange effect on some people. Standing there in Coughley’s opulent home, Chandler thought about his humble apartment and his measly $30,000 per year salary as shelter director. He looked around at all of the fine things that Coughley had afforded by shuffling money around and his jealousy overtook him. Before he knew it, the knife was in Coughley’s chest and he had blood on his hands. He took off, hoping that he hadn’t been seen. Unfortunately for Chandler, a homeless man had been hanging around the neighborhood checking the trash cans for things he could resell. He saw everyone that came and went that night and he went straight to the police.


Well, folks, this one must have been tough. Though she didn’t guess both killers, this week’s winner Angela Robinson, did guess that Westmiller’s wife had killed him. That’ll do! Congratulations to Angela! Your $10 gift card will be in the mail asap! And the names of all those who sent in a guess will be entered into the drawing for the Grand Prize in week five!

Keep watching for next week’s Mini-Mystery! It’ll be posted on Monday, January 21st.