"Murdered?" Private Investigator Sheryl Spaniel inquired, standing next to a police officer on the baking streets of southern California.

"That's right," the stodgy policeman replied. He had a large moustache that nearly obscured his mouth. "Miss Eleanor Jone was murdered in her own backyard. She was found sprawled on the ground with a gardening stake in her back."

"Gardening stake…" Spaniel murmured, writing it down in her little notebook.

"I'm afraid that's not of much use," the rotund cop said regretfully. "It came from the ground a few feet away. She has a wonderful garden."

"Is she an avid gardener?" asked Spaniel, flicking dust off her page.

"No. From what I know, she has a gardener that does absolutely everything for her. Waters the plants, pulls weeds, plants flowers, mows the lawn, everything."

"Would he want to kill her?"

"I have no clue. He's a Spanish immigrant. He gets low pay, if you want to know. But I don't think he hates her that much. I can give you his address, if you want."

"Thanks," said Spaniel, pulling off her jacket. "It sure is hot out."

"You said it," the man agreed. "This draught sure is the pits."

"It's been going on for a week and a half, right?" Spaniel asked absentmindedly.

"Yeah. Hope it ends soon."

"Me too."

"Mister Miguel?"

"Yes?" asked the nervous gardener. He was small, dark, and spoke with an accent, making his speech very difficult to understand.

"I understand that you are the gardener for Eleanor Jone."

"Si! Senorita Jone!"

Spaniel spoke levelly, looking for his reaction, although it could never be used as evidence. "Miss…Senorita Jone has been murdered."

"Oh no!" the gardener exclaimed, horrified. He began chattering away in Spanish, obviously upset. At first Spaniel tried to write it down, but finally gave up.

"Senor Miguel, please," Spaniel said soothingly. "I need to ask you a few questions."

"Yes," the gardener agreed, a little edgy. "Questions."

"You are Miss Jone's gardener, and you come every day, correct?"

"Si!" he said, bobbing his head.

"Were you there today when she was murdered?"

"No, Senorita! I was not there for a whole week! I swear it! I have a sick mother to attend to, so I could not come!"

"I see," she said, writing this down. "Did you know her well? Did you like her?"

"Senorita Eleanor was very kind! She would bring me out a drink when it was hot! She was like my sister!"

"Thank you, Senor Miguel. You were very helpful."

"Mister Blackbird," began Spaniel, addressing the tall man sitting across from her. "I understand that you are Eleanor's ex-husband."

"That is right," the man replied coolly. His arms were muscled, but smoothly, so they were barely noticeable. He wore sunglasses and had short sandy hair.

"After you divorced her, you moved to Nevada."

"That is also right."

"But this week, you were back here in California."

"Yes, on a business trip."

"Where was this business?"

"Right in this city. I did work here once. I was going to come visit Eleanor, but before I could come out, the police called. They said she was dead and I was going to be questioned." Blackbird said, sounding a little cheated.

"Why did you divorce?" Spaniel wondered, sounding careless, but paying strict attention.

"We tried to have kids for the longest time, but it never worked. I work all the time, so I just wanted to stay there and work hard, but she wanted me to come home. I got tired of wanting kids, but she didn't. She kept insisting we didn't give up, while yelling at me for never being home. It just wasn't working, and we were never peaceful together. It was for the best." Spaniel couldn't help but noticed how wistful he sounded.

The investigator glanced around. Blackbird had requested that they talk here, in Eleanor's backyard. The body was gone and the blood had been cleaned, but it still felt eerie, as if her spirit was still around. They were sitting on the patio in little plastic lawn chairs. The backyard was beautiful. All sorts of flowers grew. They were marvelous colors: bright reds, pinks, purples, yellows, blues, and oranges. The lawn was cut perfectly short and shining like an emerald. What a gorgeous backyard. Too bad it was the site of a crime…

"Did you love Eleanor?" asked Spaniel boldly.

Unflinching, Blackbird replied, "Yes. Even though we had our differences, I loved her."

Spaniel noted the use of the word "loved" instead of "love."

"Thank you," she said gratefully. "Thank you very much."

That night, Spaniel sat in the police station consulting the pudgy officer from before.

"So…" he asked, not quite daring to hope, "Did you figure it out?"

"I can't tell you why," replied Spaniel, "But I can tell you who."

Who killed Eleanor Jone?

The answer is at the bottom of the page. Do not look until you have your answer or you just can't figure it out.

The writer apologizes for not using the correct punctuation when speaking in Spanish. Her keyboard can not do it.

Who killed Eleanor?

It was the gardener. California was in the middle of a draught, meaning it was not raining at all and it was very hot and dry out. It had been hot and dry for a week and a half. The gardener claimed that he hadn't been to Eleanor's house for a week, but he was the one who watered the plants and cut the lawn. Without him, it would be in ruins. Although it was during a draught, the flowers were bright and the grass was short and emerald colored. Someone had obviously been taking care of the yard. Therefore, Miguel was lying.