Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Beach Tale: Mystery by the Sea

Are you an aspiring Nancy Drew?  Have you always wanted  to assemble clues and figure out whodunit?  Here is your chance.  This short story has all of the clues, you just need to puzzle them together to find out who the guilty party is.  The solution is at the end.  Happy Sleuthing!

“Mystery By the Sea"
A Sleuth-It Yourself Mystery”

          Thank goodness for the ocean breeze, I thought as I finished my walk and crossed the sand towards home.  The thermometer had topped out at 102 degrees a few hours ago.  The trek along the shore with waves bubbling at my ankles and bay breezes blowing over my skin had cooled me off and re-energized my mind and body. I felt ready to get back to work.  As I headed for the stairs that led up to my carriage house apartment, the elderly woman who lived in the main house came running to meet me.
          “Cassie, I need your help,” Mrs. Williamson said, wringing her hands in that nervous way she had.
          “What’s wrong?”
          “My ruby and sapphire necklace, the one given to my great-great-grandmother by a crowned prince in Europe, has been stolen.  And the thief is in my house right now!”

         “Come with me,” I said, taking the woman by the hand and tugging her towards the steps.  “We’ll call the police.”
          “No, you don’t understand,” she said, standing firm on the patio.  “I invited my daughter and two nieces over today to discuss which of them would inherit the necklace.  I got it out to show them and left it on my nightstand, only now it’s gone.  One of them took it and I want you to come figure out which one is the thief.”
          “I’m not a detective,” I said.
          “But you write such clever whodunit novels.  This is your chance to solve a real mystery.”  This time Mrs. Williamson did the tugging, and I followed along, reluctant but intrigued by the challenge. 
          She led me to the living room which offered sweeping views of the bay.  Three thirty-something women stood near the window, talking and sipping iced tea.   
          “Girls,” Mrs. Williamson said, “I’d like you to meet my new tenant, Cassie Hanover.” 
          The ladies turned to great me.  Mrs. Williamson introduced them one at a time.
          “This is my sister’s daughter, Amy,” she said. 
          Amy was a mousy woman with thin brown hair pulled into a pony tail.  She wore a mauve-toned sweater set, black capris and ballet slippers.  No make-up, no jewelry.  She didn’t seem like the type who would ever have occasion to wear a jeweled necklace, but she might benefit from selling it.
          “This is Janet, my brother’s daughter.” 
          Janet was on the opposite end of the fashion spectrum from her cousin.  She wore a black-and-white designer outfit.  Her blond hair was piled in an elegant chignon and her extreme make-up seemed more suitable for an appearance on stage than a visit with her aunt.  She had diamonds dripping from her wrists, fingers and ears, but her throat was conspicuously bare.  I couldn’t help but think Mrs. Williamson’s necklace would be the perfect thing to complete the outfit.  While Janet appeared to have plenty of money at her disposal, there were some things—like heirloom necklaces—that money can’t buy. 
          “And this is Sue, my daughter.  Pardon her appearance, but she’s just returning from a dip in the ocean.”   Sue wore a jewel-toned beach cover up, from which stretched long, tanned legs.  Her flip-flops were designer, as were the sunglasses perched atop her curly red hair. 
          Sue gave me the once-over, then asked, “She’s not some long-lost offspring who also has claim to the necklace, is she?”  Hmmm, did I detect a proprietary note in Sue’s voice?  I could see how if her mother owned the necklace, Sue may feel entitled to it, but would she go so far as to steal it to keep it out of the hands of her cousins?
          “Cassie is not in any way related to you,” Mrs. Williamson said, “but right now nobody is going to get the necklace, because it’s been stolen!”
          Amy gasped.  “When?”
          “This afternoon,” Mrs. Williamson said.
          “I saw two teenage boys running from the house when I came back from the beach,” Sue said.  “They were wearing ski masks and dark sweatshirts and heavy jeans. I bet they snatched it.  I’m going to call the police.”  Sue raced out of the room.
          Mrs. Williamson followed, begging Sue not to call just yet. 
          As far as I could tell, in addition to the unknown teenagers, each of the three cousins all had opportunity to pocket the heirloom necklace.  But as a mystery writer, I would be remiss if I didn’t also include Mrs. Williamson on my suspect’s list.  After all, she must be experiencing cash flow problems or she wouldn’t have rented out her carriage house apartment to me, a total stranger, after it had sat empty for five years.  Could she be trying to pull the old fake-theft insurance scam? 
          I excused myself and wandered off to take a peek at the scene of the crime before the police arrived. 
          When I returned downstairs, two uniformed police officers stood by the windows asking questions of all four women.  I looked at all of their feet and said, “Officers, no need to question these ladies. I can tell you who stole the necklace.”
Have you figured out who stole the heirloom necklace?  
Check the solution below to see how 
good of an amateur sleuth you are...

Solution:  Cassie realized Sue had fabricated the story of the teenagers because it was too hot out to be dressed as they were.  And when Cassie wandered into Mrs. Williamson’s bedroom, she found sand on the floor near the nightstand but nowhere else.  The only person with sand on her feet was Sue. Questioned by the police, Sue admitted she had stolen the necklace twenty years ago (she needed the money to pay off gambling debts) and had replaced it with a cheap copy.  She didn’t want her mother to discover that, so had taken the fake necklace herself and tried to blame it on teenagers.  

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