Author's Note: Look, it's my new mystery story! Just so you know, each chapter will be a different mystery and there is also a hint of romance. I hope you enjoy my first crack at a mystery. : )
I was sitting in my office engrossed in a crossword puzzle, when the phone rang.
"Hello?" I asked.
"Hello Diana. This is Ms. Francis, the owner of Sugar Doodles bakery," Ms. Francis answered.
"What seems to be the problem?"
"I'll tell you the story from the beginning. I was late for work, and when I got there the front door was slightly open. I know for a fact that I locked the door the night before and that nobody else could get in without picking the lock. Anyway, at that moment, a man in a tan trench coat walked by, and he seemed in a hurry. I didn't get a good look at him, but he seemed suspicious. I went into my shop to find that the cash register was completely empty, the jars of jam in the front display were gone and there was a dead guy in the middle of my floor! I called the police and they said they would only help if you agreed to be a part of the investigation," She explained.
"Well, you called the right place. I'm on my way."
I hurriedly grabbed a jacket and put on my red fedora, or as I liked to refer to it as, my crime solving hat. I got into my car and drove to Sugar Doodles. When I arrived, there was police tape on the door and there was a crowd of onlookers and press across the street, trying to peer in. I got out of my car and I was bombarded by cameras flashing and multiple voices at once.
"Ms. Holly, can you tell us what's going on in there?" A man named Kevin Jacobsen asked. He was wearing a tan trench coat.
I usually don't answer press questions, but this man happened to catch my attention. "Mr. Jacobsen, is that coat yours?"
He looked at me, confused. "Yes, why do you ask?"
I continued walking inside. "No reason."
I walked in to a frantic Ms. Francis and a group of officers, including a forensic specialist I knew personally and a few others.
"What a pleasure it is to see you again Ms. Holly!" Lieutenant Young exclaimed.
"We've been over this Al; please just call me Diana."
"I'm sorry Diana," He apologized.
I smiled. "Don't sweat it. What information do you guys have on the victim?"
Al nodded his head at the forensic specialist. "He's the one you need to ask."
I walked over to where Charlie Gray was kneeling and got down next to him.
"What do we know about the victim?"
He smiled at me. "I should've known they'd ask you to help with the case. Anyway, his name's Jason Coleman, age 25. I'd say he's been dead for about 5 hours. They'd have to do an autopsy to figure out the cause of death, but that's not up my alley."
I examined the area around the body briefly while Charlie began packing up his gear. "No sign of blood. That means he either wasn't killed here of he was killed by poison of some sort."
"Good observation Diana. Ever think about joining the forensics team?"
"Stop flirting with her Charlie and get your information back to the lab," Lieutenant Young cut in.
"Yes sir," Charlie quickly stood up and rushed out the door.
I sighed and stood up so I could talk to Ms. Francis. We went into her office so we could talk privately.
"Ms. Francis, do you have any idea who might want to rob your store?"
"I have 2 suspects. One is Carl who works at Bolton's Grocery, and the other is Gerald from Scottsville Bank."
I got out my writing pad to take notes. "Please explain why you suspect them."
"Well, whenever Carl comes in, he always buys a jar of my homemade strawberry jam and he's about the same age as that dead guy was. The other day, Gerald came in demanding a special 'Banker's discount.' We got into a bit of a dispute about that and I banished him from my store," She explained.
"Was strawberry the kind of jam that was stolen?" I asked.
"I don't see how that is relevant, but yes it was."
I finished jotting down notes. "Thank you Ms. Francis. Do you have any more jars of strawberry jam?"
She gave me a jar of jam and I left Sugar Doodles and headed to the forensic lab. I always liked to go over my cases with Charlie before I would check out my suspects.
I walked into the lab and was greeted by Charlie with a grin.
"I assume you've got some suspects you want to discuss," He said.
I smiled. "You know me too well. Anyway, I have 3 suspects. Ms. Francis thinks that Carl from Bolton's Grocery did it due to his love of strawberry jam and his close age to the victim, but she also suspects Gerald Walker from Scottsville bank because of a dispute she had with him a few days ago. I suspect Kevin Jacobsen from the Scottsville Gazette because he was wearing a tan trench coat. Oh, and the kind of jam that was stolen was strawberry."
He paused to think for a moment. "Okay, so you're looking for someone who likes strawberry jam, has a connection to Jason Coleman, and wears a tan trench coat, right?"
I nodded. "That's the most I know at least."
"Well, each of those guys fits at least part of the description. It could be any of them," Charlie stated.
"Thanks for listening Charlie. I'll be sure to call and update when I hear something. You'll do the same?"
He smiled. "You bet."
I left and got into my car. I figured I would start by talking to Carl, so I called him up. I had no idea why he was in my cell phone contacts, but I didn't really think too much into it.
He paused before saying anything. "Diana? Why are you calling me?"
"I need you to stop by my office. I have a few questions to ask you," I stated.
"Why can't you just ask me questions now?"
"Come on Carl, just stop by for a visit."
"Okay. I'll be there soon," He replied and then hung up.
I couldn't ask him anything over the phone because it would be harder to tell if he was lying. Sometimes, physical actions can help tell if someone is lying.
I got to my office before Carl did and I waited outside for him. After an extra ten minutes, he arrived. He got out of the car and I looked to see if he was wearing a trench coat. He was wearing the same old red letterman's jacket that seemed to brighten his carrot orange hair. The jacket was his brother's. I knew Carl in high school, and he didn't play any sports. I took him inside and he sat in the chair opposite to mine.
"So what did you need to ask me?" He paused for a second. "Wait, are you going to ask me out?"
"No, Carl. I'm sorry. I'm here to ask you about something different," I replied.
He seemed disappointed. "Oh…well lay the questions on me."
"Do you know a guy named Jason Coleman?"
He took a moment to think. "Yeah, he just moved to town a month ago. I ran into him at the video store and we ended up becoming best friends."
"Did you guys ever get into a fight or something?"
"No, we're on really good terms," He said.
"Do you have anything against Ms. Francis?"
He looked at me questioningly. "No way! Why would I? She's an awesome lady and she makes awesome strawberry jam."
"Carl, I'm sorry to tell you this, but Jason Coleman was murdered and his body was found in Sugar Doodles bakery," I mentioned.
"You're kidding! You thought I was a suspect?"
"Yes, but you've cleared your name. I have 2 other suspects that I need to check out, so I'll let you know who did it," I assured.
"Thanks Diana. I'll talk to you later," He said, taking leave.
After Carl left, I decided to call up Charlie and give him the update on the case.
"Hey Diana. What have you heard?" He asked.
"Carl's not the killer," I replied.
"Okay. What information proved him innocent?"
"He was best friends with Jason Coleman, but they never had a fight in their friendship and he was on good terms with Ms. Francis. Plus, his jacket's red and certainly not a trench coat," I explained.
"Well done Ms. Holly. Now, what's your next plan of action?"
"I don't know who I should talk to first, Gerald or Mr. Jacobsen," I remarked.
"Neither until tomorrow. It's 8 o'clock at night. The bank and the Gazette office both closed an hour ago," He pointed out. I didn't know that much time had passed.
I sighed. "Well then, I should be getting home. I'll talk to you after I talk to the next suspect."
"Okay. Have a good night Diana."
"You too Charlie."
We hung up and I gathered my things and went home. I knew that there probably had been a story about the case on the news, and that my roommate and good friend Valerie Brooks would be curious. As soon as I walked through the door of the apartment, I was greeted warmly with questions, much like I had at Sugar Doodles earlier.
"Diana, I just saw something about a murder on the news! They asked you to help, right?" She asked.
"You know that they did. Anyway, so far out of my original 3 suspects, we're down to 2. I'll get to the others in the morning," I explained.
"So buddy, do you want to go skating?" She smiled.
"Normally I would love to go, but I've been investigating the whole day. I'm exhausted," I replied.
"Oh, how was Charlie?" She questioned.
"How did you know I talked to Charlie?" I wondered.
"Even if your case doesn't involve forensics, you call him and review with him. In fact, I think you have a crush on him," She declared.
"My job doesn't really leave room for romance…but I suppose I do like him a little," I mentioned.
"You can be an awesome crime solver and have a boyfriend," She pointed out.
"I guess you're right. Unfortunately, that isn't relevant. Maybe in between cases. Anyway, good night Valerie," I said.
"Good Night Diana," She replied.
The next morning, I visited the Scottsville Gazette's office building with 2 cups of coffee. I figured that Mr. Jacobsen needed something to start up his morning, just like I did. I walked in with the coffee and searched the row of cubicles until I spotted the man I was looking for. He was a chubby man, and his hair was thinning and turning grey. His tan trench coat was draped over the back of his chair.
"Hello Mr. Jacobsen," I greeted.
"Diana Holly, what a surprise! What brings you to my lowly cubicle?" He asked.
"I just have a few questions to ask you. We can go somewhere more private, if you'd like," I suggested.
He looked at me curiously. "Sure. We can just go outside, no one's mucking about this time of day."
He stood up and took his coat off the chair. We walked out of the building and I handed him a cup of coffee.
"Thank you. Anyway, what did you want to ask me? Wait…I'm a suspect aren't I?" He asked.
"Don't worry Mr. Jacobsen; I'm trying to clear your name. If you are in fact guilty, it will be better if you tell the truth now. The police aren't as nice about it as I am," I mentioned.
"Alright, what do you want to know?"He wondered.
"First, do you like strawberry jam?" I asked.
That question took him by surprise. "No, I'm very allergic to strawberries."
"Do you have any reason to be mad at Ms. Francis?"
"No, not at all; She's good friends with my wife," He replied.
"Has your wife gotten into any disputes with her lately?"
"No. They're both almost exactly alike; they have nothing to fight about," He explained.
This wasn't adding up. Mr. Jacobsen was basically the only one in town who wore a trench coat.
I paused. "Have you let anybody borrow your coat recently?"
"Yes actually, I lent it to this fellow I met over the internet who apparently lives here in Scottsville. I saw an advertisement that he needed a trench coat for a costume party, so I met up with him and let him borrow it. I can't remember where, but he works downtown somewhere," He told me.
"Do you remember his name?" I questioned.
"No. If I saw him, I bet I could point him out," He commented.
"When did this man return your coat?"
"He brought it to me yesterday, right after I got back from that crime scene yesterday. I believe we saw he each other," He said.
"We did see each other. Thank you for all of your information Mr. Jacobsen," I said.
"Before you go, I have to ask. What does my coat have to do with any of this?" He asked.
"It quite possibly could've been used to disguise a murderer. I'll make sure the authorities know that you had nothing to do with the murder, and instead it was your coat," I assured.
He smiled warmly at me. "Thank you very much Ms. Holly. You are absolutely wonderful."
I returned the smile. "It's all in a day's work Mr. Jacobsen."
I bid adieu to the reporter and headed for downtown. Scottsville Bank was located in the downtown area, and maybe, just maybe, I would meet the man who borrowed Mr. Jacobsen's coat. Whoever he is, he must be the killer/robber.
I walked into the bank and looked for Gerald Walker. I finally found him at the teller's counter. He was tall; he had to be at least six foot. He had jet black hair, an Oscar-winning smile and therefore all the single young girls in our town were after him. Well, except for me. Somehow, the fact that I wasn't interested in him, caused him to find me appealing. I still don't understand that logic. I waited patiently in line until I arrived at the front.
"Well well, if it isn't Diana Holly. What brings you here doll?"He asked, trying to be flirty.
I looked him over briefly and noticed a spot on his white shirt. "Is that a strawberry jam stain?"
He looked embarrassed. "Yeah, but how did that get there?"
"You were obviously eating strawberry jam. Tell me Gerald, do you know a man named Jason Coleman?"
"Ugh, that guy was SO annoying. He stole my fan club," He remarked.
"Your fan club?"
"Yeah, these girls from town set up a fan club for me because I'm awesome, but then that Jason guy came and got them all distracted," He explained.
"Did you borrow Mr. Jacobsen's trench coat?" I asked.
"Why? Did you see me in it? Did you think it looked good on me?" He asked quickly.
Right at that moment, my phone buzzed. "Hold the line; I've got to answer this. I'll be right back."
I stepped away and pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. It was Charlie, so of course I answered it.
"Hello?" I answered.
"I assume you've already seen at least one of the suspects by this point," He stated.
"Both, actually. Charlie, get in touch with Lieutenant Young and his team. I've figured out who the killer is," I replied.
"Wow, really? Consider us on our way," He declares.
"See you in a bit," I smiled, even though he couldn't see it.
I went back to where Gerald was and pretended to flirt with him. It was so repulsive to be flirting with him, but I had to do it to hold him off until Charlie and Al arrived.
Finally, after thirteen excruciating minutes, my help arrived. Al, Charlie and the rest of the team walked over to where I was with Gerald.
Gerald looked nervously at them. "How can I help you guys?"
"Gerald Walker, you are hereby under arrest for the murder of Jason Coleman and the robbery of Sugar Doodles bakery. Anything you say can, and will be held against you," Al said. Two of the other officers went over and put Gerald's hands behind his back.
"I should've known you were trying to put me behind bars, Diana. You're not the flirty type, and you've been flirting with me for 10 minutes," Gerald stated.
"Actually, it was 13 minutes and it was just to distract you," I corrected.
I watched as they whisked Gerald away and then noticed that Charlie was looking at me.
"What?" I asked.
"How did you figure it out?" He wondered.
"It was easy, starting with the strawberry jam stain on his shirt. Then, he referred to Jason Coleman in the past tense, and it hasn't been announced who was murdered in the news yet. Lastly, he admitted to borrowing Mr. Jacobsen's trench coat," I explained.
"No wonder they hire you for all the cases. You are the best," He smiled.
"Oh, by the way, Jason Coleman was poisoned with cyanide," I mentioned.
"How would you know that? We won't get the toxicology report back for another 6 weeks," he pointed out.
"Gerald smelled like bitter almonds," I stated.
"Diana Holly, you are remarkable," He said, bewildered.
"You've just got to use your brain." I said.
Gerald Walker was sentenced to life in prison at the state penitentiary, and it was all over the news in little old Scottsville for a good month. I guess it just proves, nothing ever happens in Scottsville…