by Guy Belleranti
Edie Cunningham left Sarah Bracey's house the same way she'd come, by the back bedroom window. An easy drop to the grass, a noiseless dash through the darkness, and she reached the alley.
I've got to get away from here, Edie thought, ripping the rubber gloves from her hands, and stuffing them beside the small flashlight in the hip pocket of her jeans. Got to get away from here and that body on the study floor.
She'd only meant to throw a scare into Sarah . . . mess her house up a bit while she was at work to pay her back for stealing Doug. But Sarah hadn't been at work. Or at least not at work waiting tables at the restaurant.
Edie had found that out when she'd sliced through the screen in the building's open back window, when she'd slipped inside and crept down the short hall.
She'd frozen in place in that hallway, frozen right in the doorway of Sarah's study. For Sarah was home, hunched before her computer, talking fast and emotionally to herself, stewing over some point in her latest partially completed, stupid mystery novel. Talking to herself . . . crazy!
Then Sarah had turned and seen her. She'd risen from her chair, croaked out her name and come at her, demanding to know how she'd got inside, yelling she was going to phone the police.
And Edie had snapped. She'd cursed Sarah for turning Doug against her, then had grabbed the smaller woman and shoved her, smashing her head against the corner of a file cabinet.
"I didn't mean to kill her," Edie muttered as she burst out of the alley. But kill her she had. Sarah hadn't any pulse and had no longer been breathing.
Edie whipped out her car keys as she reached the curb where she'd left her pickup. She jammed the flashlight and gloves into the glove compartment and started the engine.
Never park at the scene. That's what Sarah's master criminal had declared in an earlier book, a book written while the two women were still friends. And a smart idea it was, Edie thought. Thank you, Sarah.
She merged in with the sparse late evening traffic, breathing easier at last. Was there anything she'd overlooked? Would she be a suspect? No, how could she be? The police would just think it was a burglary gone bad.
Except nothing had been taken. She'd pulled no drawers out, hadn't disturbed any of Sarah's belongings.
What would Sarah the rotten mystery writer do? What direction would a police investigation take in one of her crummy books?
Of course! The husband, or, the boyfriend. Doug. His fingerprints had to be all over Sarah's place, and he had a police record for drunk and disorderly conduct.
Edie pulled into the lot of a convenience store. She'd made Sarah pay. Now it was Doug's turn.
She hurried over to the pay phone outside the store and dialed Doug's number. Be home, Doug. Be home without an alibi.
"Hello?" Doug's sleepy voice asked after the fifth ring.
Wonderful. Home and nodding off, the perfect fall guy.
"Hello?" he said again.
Edie hung up. Now she just had to be patient and wait for Sarah to be found, for the investigation to lead to Doug.
Her phone rang late the next morning.
"Edie? Oh, Edie, thank God you're there. I need your help."
"Doug?" Edie breathed his name, at first forgetting how she hated him. Then she remembered, and the bile rose in her throat. He'd dumped her for Sarah, had said she was too clinging, had called her a crazy control freak. Crazy? Ha! He should've heard Sarah ranting away while she wrote. Then he'd know who was crazy.
"The police," Doug went on. "They've got me down at the Center Street station and. . . . Oh God, I think they're planning to arrest me."
"Why don't you call Sarah?" Edie asked acidly, a cruel smile twisting her lips.
"She's . . . she's dead. Someone broke into her house last night and. . . . Oh, I can't believe this. The police think I. . . . They think it was me."
Edie curled her lip into a grin. "Was it?"
"What? My God, Edie. I thought you'd support me. I thought despite everything. . . . We go back a long way. I thought you'd vouch for me. Couldn't you at least come down and-- Oh, I've got to go. But please -- just come." He hung up.
Doug's words repeated in her head as she drove. He needed her now, had come to his senses and seen at last she was the only woman for him.
"You shouldn't have dumped me for Sarah, Doug," she muttered. Yes, she was responding to his call, yes she would put on a good little show of sympathy, but inside she was gloating.
I'm Detective Cassidy, ma'am," a broad-shouldered, graying man greeted. "And this" -- he nodded at an attractive black woman -- "is Detective Williams."
Edie followed both through the noisy squad room. So Doug was locked in one of the cells here. Good!
"In here, please." Detective Williams indicated a small room containing three straight-backed chairs and a small table.
"Edie looked around. "Is Doug--"
"Oh we've had to let him go, Ms. Cunningham. Just after he called you."
"What do you mean? What--"
"The search team found some new evidence -- interesting evidence," Detective Cassidy said. His tone turned grim. "And as a result, Edie Cunningham, I'm placing you under arrest for the murder of Sarah Bracey. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right. . . ."
Edie's mouth opened, then closed as she listened numbly. "This is Doug's doing, isn't it?" she whispered when he'd finished. "He made up lies, told you things. . . ." She broke off, seething.
"No, Ms. Cunningham," said Detective Williams, "he didn't have to tell us anything. You, and Sarah Bracey told us everything we need to know."
"Me? Sarah?" For the first time Edie noticed the tape player on the table. Cassidy pressed PLAY and voices came out at them. Sarah agonizing over her mystery plot, and then suddenly breaking off and calling Edie by name. Edie replying, cursing, a scuffling sound. . . .
"Where'd you get that?" Edie screamed.
"Apparently Sarah Bracey spoke some of her thoughts into a tape recorder
whenever she wrote so she wouldn't overlook anything, so she'd get things
down clearly," Detective Cassidy said. "And this time . . . she got things
very clear, don't you agree?"
Guy Belleranti lives among the mountains and cactus of beautiful southern Arizona. He writes short stories, poetry, short humor and puzzles for both children and adults. His work has appeared in many publications including Woman's World, Futures Mysterious Anthology and HandHeldCrime. He has short stories scheduled for publication in Crimestalker Casebook and The Eternal Night.
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"Clear Evidence" © Guy Belleranti. Used by permission
of the author.
Raven Electrick © Karen A. Romanko. Clipart by Corel®.