Not Even a Mouse: A Rona Shively Short (Chapter Six)

I stood for a moment trying to think of a response. “No, I’m not going to tell her. If you hate your job, that’s your business,” I said.

“Listen, I’m sorry I sound so bitchy,” she said, “it’s been a very bad week and I just don’t feel like being here tonight, that’s all.”

“Believe me, I understand that,” I said, hoping I sounded like someone who gave a shit.

“I can’t lose this job, it’s all I’ve got,” she said. “Please, please don’t say anything.”

I really just wanted her to let go of my arm, so I shrugged a little to loosen her grip, “I won’t say a word,” I said. She seemed to calm down a little and finally, I was free to walk away from her. Geez, lady, take a pill or something.

I looked around for the guy with the cart. He had, once again, disappeared. Where the hell did these people go? The cart was still sitting in the middle of the room, but he was nowhere to be found. I ventured out into the hallway and headed in the direction of the kitchen. I was thinking maybe it was his break time. As I rounded the corner and looked inside, all I could see were three snack machines lining one wall beside the oven and a small table sitting in the middle of the room. On the table were two plates of cookies. One was full of gingerbread men; the other was full of sugar cookies in all kinds of Christmasy shapes. I thought about getting one, but then remembered that I wasn’t here to eat cookies. In the far corner of the room, I saw another table which held a three-foot tall Christmas tree that was decorated with all kinds of ornaments and ribbons. Nothing suspicious there, unless cute makes you nervous.

I walked back out of the kitchen and decided to look around for the Warehouse. Mrs. Clos hadn’t really told me where this was located. I thought that was strange since the problem actually wasn’t with the assembly line. She didn’t make much sense, but what the hell. It was a job. I walked back down the hall and past the assembly room. I tried not to be seen as I made my way past the door. All I needed was to be chased down by Ms. Paranoia. She worried me a little, but I didn’t think she was stealing anything. She’d crack under the pressure.

I continued walking and all the while I was thinking that this house did not look
this big from the outside. There was no way there could be all of this space between the rooms. I passed the door of the room where Mrs. Clos had shown me the Move ‘N Shaker demo. I took a moment to put my ear to the door just in case something might be happening in there. It was quiet, so I walked on. There was one more door at the end of the hallway. I reached for the knob and when I walked through, I found myself outside.

“What the hell!” I said. It was getting chilly and I hadn’t brought my jacket. Ordinarily, the chill didn’t bother me, but tonight I was feeling particularly sensitive to everything. I needed to finish this job as soon as possible. These people and this place were creeping me out.

I turned to try the door again and it was locked. “Shit!” I said. This meant I had to go all the way back around the house to get back inside. As I started trekking across the yard, I noticed a man standing about five yards from me. He was smoking a cigarette and leaning against what appeared to be the garage. I wasn’t sure, but it looked like he was laughing at me. I gave him a nod and then decided I should probably go talk to him. The only problem with this was that I didn’t have my gun nearby. I’d left it in the Jeep. Maybe, I’d wait.

I headed for the front of the house, looking back occasionally to make sure he wasn’t following me. He was still standing there, smoking. By the time I reached the front of the house, I decided to go ahead and go to the Jeep to get my gun. I opened the driver’s side door and reached under my seat to retrieve it. Panic shot through me as I realized that the gun was missing. It got worse when I shut the door and turned to find the smoking man standing right next to me.

“Jesus!” I said, “Where the hell did you come from?”

“I’m sorry, did I startle you?” he asked, sneering at me. His voice was squeaky and he looked greasy.

“Yes, you startled me. How did you get up here so fast?” I asked. Startled was an understatement, I’d probably have had a heart attack if there hadn’t been so many frigging Christmas lights illuminating the yard.

“What do you mean?” he asked, “Weren’t you looking for me?”
I looked at him and saw that he was the guy with the cart from inside. Smartass. “Well, yeah, I was looking for you.”

“What did you need?” he asked.

“I’m doing some market research for Santac and I needed to ask you about the Move ‘N Shaker,” I said, hoping I sounded like I knew what I was talking about.

“Are you sure?” he asked, “Patty didn’t put you up to this?”

“Patty?” I asked, now I was really confused.

“Patty, my ex-wife,” he said, “She didn’t send you to check up on me?”

“I don’t know any Patty,” I said, “I’m working for Mrs. Clos.”

He eyed me cautiously and then stepped back. “So, you aren’t here to see if I’m still working?”

This guy was thick. “No, I’m not here to see if you’re still working. You’re not the only one I’m talking to,” I said.

“Okay, then. What did you need to ask me?” he said.

“For starters, I wanted to ask where the warehouse is located,” I said, “I’d like to take a look at it.”

“What do you need to do that for?” he asked.

This guy was starting to get on my nerves. “It’s part of the study,” I said.
He took my word for it and then indicated that the large building beside the house was the warehouse. That probably should have been obvious to me from the beginning. We walked over and he let me in the door without saying a word. I had half expected to see row after row of toys and other items stacked from floor to ceiling. What I saw instead was a colorful, snow-scaped showroom complete with a miniature train set that was running loops around stacks of merchandise that were situated in little piles throughout the building. It looked more like a department store Christmas display than a warehouse. “Wow!” I said.

“Pretty cool, huh?” he said.

“Really cool,” I said, still looking around. I felt like a kid in a candy store.
It was really something. Again, I heard the Christmas music playing in the background and as I looked around, I saw that the entire floor of the warehouse was covered with that fuzzy white stuff that looks like snow. The whole place looked like a big North Pole yard sale.

“I’m really proud of it,” he said, smiling wide to reveal a mouth full of yellow teeth.

“You did this?” I asked. I could hardly believe that someone so skeezy-looking could create something so beautiful.

He nodded and then pointed to the little picket fences that encircled each pile of toys. “I built those fences, myself.”

I was really impressed. That’s saying something because I’m never impressed. I realized that I needed to get back to the matter at hand. Standing here gaping at the winter wonderland wasn’t getting me the answers I needed. I hadn’t even made sure that this was the guy I was supposed to be talking to. I turned to him and said, “You’re Dirk Morris?”

“That’s right, I’m him,” he said. He had cheered up considerably since scaring the hell out of me at the Jeep.

“Okay, then,” I said, taking out my notebook to jot some things down. “What can you tell me about your experience working with the Move ‘N Shaker line?”

“My experience?” he asked. He scratched his head. “I’ve been working with this line for the last year. I guess that’s pretty much my experience.”

“No, I mean, have you enjoyed working with the product?” I asked him, realizing just how stupid that sounded out loud.

He looked at me like I was stupid, so I rephrased the question. “I mean, what’s your favorite part of working on the Move ‘N Shaker line?”

At this, he scratched his chin and said, “Well, I’d have to say that it’s this part.” He pointed to the warehouse. “I like bringing the stuff out here and making it look nice.”

I wrote it down just to look like I was doing something significant. The whole time I was thinking, “This is the tough guy with the cigarette? Mr. Merry Maker?”

“Well, that’s great,” I said, “I think that’s about all I’m going to need.” He told me how to get back out to the house and I thanked him for his participation. I didn’t think he had anything to do with any thievery. He could have used a makeover, but a lack of good personal hygiene didn’t make him a suspect in my eyes.
I looked at my watch. It was eleven thirty; time for shift change. I headed back inside the house to see if I could find Monte Bergman. As I stepped inside, everything was still. I had a feeling I was about to find my thief.

Come back later for Chapter Seven!

Until next time…

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A Fun Time was had by all…

at my very first Tea & Mystery discussion on Thursday, August 28th. There was a wonderful group of people assembled at the New Carlisle Public Library in New Carlisle, OH. We talked about mystery books and why we love to read them. We talked a little about the mystery films and television shows that we enjoy and we even solved a mystery together! Congratulations goes to Elizabeth Shoemaker (pictured below)! She was the winner of the Whodunit contest and took home her very own Rona Shively T-Shirt!

It was nice to spend the evening with people who enjoy reading mysteries as much as I do. We had a very lively conversation about the different types of mysteries out there and were even able to give one another recommendations on other mystery authors we might enjoy reading.

My next Tea & Mystery event will be at the Clark County Public Library in Springfield, OH on September 10th at 7 p.m. If you would like to attend, call for details on how to register. The number is (937) 328-6903.

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Konrath gives me the creeps…

That’s why I like him! Please take a look at my review of his latest book, Fuzzy Navel:

Five Star Creepy!!!

My favorite thriller author of all time, J.A. Konrath has given us yet another reason to lock our doors at night. Prepare to be creeped out, because you can’t sit alone and read Konrath without feeling the need to check under the bed and in the closet for unwanted visitors. This book had me looking over my shoulder for days.

Not to give away details about the story, the villain, Kork is holding Lt. Jack Daniels’ loved ones hostage and she’s hell-bent on revenge. You won’t be able to stop reading this until you’re sure everyone is safe. But can you be sure?

Daniels is a wonderful character, hilariously funny and human. Fuzzy Navel is the best in the series so far and I can’t wait to see what the next installment brings.

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My sister, my husband and I were brainstorming yesterday about who could play the part of Rona Shively if I were to be able to make this mystery series into a movie. This lead to discussion about who would play Norm and some of the other characters. It was fun to daydream, but we really had a hard time trying to figure out just the right people for the job. What we came up with was this:

For In the Wash:

Rona Shively-Neve Campbell

Norm-Greg Kinnear

Charlie-Jason Bateman

Delvecchio-Sylvester Stallone

For Under Lock and Key:

Trey-John Cena

Jane-Natalie Portman? Still thinking about this one…

Ted McCafferty-Lee Evans

Sally Jacoby-Bridget Fonda

For the newest book, Keeping the Faith (not yet published)

Garrett Shaw-Colin Farrell

Although we haven’t really been working towards making a movie, it’s fun to dream! Got any ideas on who would make a good Rona Shively Story character? E-mail them to me here and I’ll post them on the blog.

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Chuck Norris

I figured that by simply titling this blog, “Chuck Norris,” lots of people would want to read it. Sorry, I have that crazy song running through my head these days and I can’t seem to leave it alone. You know, the “You Can’t Stop Chuck Norris,” song. In case, you haven’t had the pleasure, here’s a link to it: Chuck Norris.

Lately I haven’t gotten to do much writing. I’ve just been trying to keep my head on straight, dealing with morning sickness and my husband’s knee injury. We’re having one of those years already. It’s bound to get better, so I’m trying to stay optimistic. Fortunately, I’m entering the second trimester of my pregnancy and the morning sickness has let up some. I’m actually starting to feel a little more energetic, too. This is good because I’ve got lots to do this summer to get ready for the new baby.

Aside from that, I’ve been doing lots of thinking about the third installment in the Rona Shively series. I’ve been thinking that I don’t much like the direction I’m headed in and I’m most likely going to rewrite the entire thing. Something about it just isn’t clicking for me. Although I hate to scrap what I have, I know I wouldn’t be happy with the story going out as it is. So, I’m starting fresh and hopefully, I’ll have something wonderful by the time it is all said and done.

For those of you who might be waiting for the next Rona Shively story, just bear with me. I promise to have a great story out by next year. Keep checking my blog and my website for information. I’ll try to post updates over the next few months.

Until next time…

Writing Mystery vs. Fiction…Preference or Passion?

I’ve always loved a good mystery. In reading, I prefer a good whodunit to almost anything else. Whether it’s the witty charm of a Kinsey Millhone or the brazen determination of a Stephanie Plum, I would never choose to read straight fiction over a mystery novel. I think this is why, when I started writing my own books, that I chose to write a mystery series. Although I had little experience with writing this genre, I was compelled to try my hand at putting together storylines that sort of drag the reader into a big mess. Was I successful? Who knows? That, in and of itself, is a mystery.

I was once told by a famous author that I should never have tried to journey into the intricacies of writing mystery without first having tried my hand at mainstream fiction. Her exact words were, “I advise novice writers to conquer the basics of characterization, plotting, tone and narrative in straight fiction before launching into the mechanics of the mystery.” Not bad advice, but certainly a little discouraging for the aspiring mystery writer. If I had no desire to read straight fiction, how would I go about writing it? My plot ideas always come out the same way, someone gets killed or wronged in some other way, my main character tries to figure out who is responsible for it, and everyone eventually finds out who, what, when, where, why and how. I like to throw in some awkward situations for entertainment value and occasionally, my characters have substantial epiphanies that keep them motivated to figure out what has happened. I’m not sure I could comfortably write straight fiction. I couldn’t stay interested enough in what I was writing.

Before I wrote the first two books in my Rona Shively mystery series, I checked out nearly every mystery writing book in our local library and looked at hundreds of websites on how to write, plot and develop your voice. I wanted to make sure that I was doing the right things and that my writing technique followed whatever patterns a good mystery writer should follow. After all, my qualifications for writing a mystery were pretty much made up of my tendency to read three mysteries at any given time, watch shows like Law & Order, CSI, and reruns of The Rockford Files, Charlie’s Angels, and Starsky and Hutch. I have an inquisitive mind, what can I say?

I have thought about branching out into other genres and have even gone so far as to write a short horror story. In my mind, it still played out much like a mystery, only scarier than normal. The reason I write this post today is because I am at a point where I’m considering taking my mystery series in a new direction. In thinking about where I’ve been and where I would like to go with my writing, I know that I still want to be a mystery writer. I only hope that my series gets better and better with each intallment. In spite of my lack of professional experience, I want to be able to put together stories that are as compelling and entertaining as those I enjoy reading. My favorites, Janet Evanovich, Lisa Scottoline, Sarah Strohmeyer, and even Sue Grafton have inspired me to continue writing and trying to make my characters as intriguing and engaging as those they present.

For writers, do you have a preference of genre? If so, which ones? And what led you to that preference? I am wondering if any others out there feel that it is important to be an avid reader of your genre in order to effectively write within it. Readers, feel free to add your two cents. Just a conversation starter on this dreary Tuesday morning.

Until next time…

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! 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!