Palo Alto Weekly 15th Annual Short Story Contest
2nd Place - 12-14 year olds
by Patricia Bass
| About Patricia Bass
I was deep into my favorite radio soap opera, when my telephone
rang. Not an unusual occurrence, being that I am the Sheriff of
East Clarksville and almost the only cop in town. Almost,
because in a bizarre suicide bombing seven years ago my buddy Roger
got his arm blown off and bled to death. Almost the only
cop, because technically I've still got his arm in a tub of formaldehyde
in my linen closet.
Anyways, I answered the phone in my typical "do not disturb I
own a gun" voice. I rarely expect emergency calls, because our town
holds 132 people, and rarely do things get rowdy enough for them
to have a conversation of more than "'Mornin', Mrs. Smith" or "Excuse
me, sir, but your lawn mower ate my dog," much less rob a bank or
steal a handbag.
"Excuse me, sir," plied the female voice on the other line, "but
my husband's dead. I cordially invite you to my abode, 43 Walter
St., tonight as soon as possible to investigate this most devastating
"Of course, Mrs. I'll be right over." Well, there went MY soap.
Now I'd never know if Marcella and Philip ever tell Rachel if it's
her identical twin that's making Hortense jealous.
In ten minutes I jogged down to 43 Walter Street and rang the bell.
Donn Jacobs answered it politely and led me to the kitchen where
her husband lay with a kitchen knife through his back. Being the
gentle, genteel lady she is, Donna had mopped up the blood around
him and began to push him to the far corner of the room so she could
bring out a table. I took a look at him, prodded him with my foot,
and declared the death to be after four, within the last two hours.
He was named Bill, but we all knew him as "Tough Guy." Yes, it is
a queer nickname, but he got it in the army, so no one comments
"Tea, officer?" She inquired. I declined but sat with her and ate
crumpets with strawberry jam while I extracted evidence from her.
As I listened I began to notice that the strawberry jam had mold,
so I pretended to keep on listening as I scraped it off on the side
of the table. All I heard was that her home housed four servants:
a cook (Sue), a maid (Jane), a gardener (Dick), and a nanny (Gloria),
plus herself, her husband, and their infant child.
It was an interview impromptu and prompt to Sue, Jane, Dick, and
Gloria, where I came to learn that: a) they all loved Mr. Jacobs
(yeah right, or who killed him), b) Sue was playing croquet in the
backyard the entire time along with the rest, so they all had alibis,
and c) they could all verify the fact that Donna Jacobs was at the
market with her best pal and confidante, Betsy at the time of the
murder. Betsy would confirm it, I knew. So that makes alibis for
them all. I doubt Tough Guy will be avenged.
I came back inside and lied, proclaiming "Well, it's pretty late
so I'll head home, but I have a few clues, so don't worry." Which
was a complete and UTTER falsehood, being that it wasn't pretty
late, I was planning on hitting a few bars, not going home, and
I had no idea what to do about this case. On my way out I got myself
a glass of water which I swallowed in a gulp and sloshed on the
floor before I hastily ran out.
After sitting in my office for 2 hours, and smoking a pipe in the
style of Sherlock (although not shooting cocaine in the style of
Mr. Holmes, that's one aspect of him that's irresponsible, but look
who's talking) I decided upon the following: a) Yes I do understand
you are tired of lettered thoughts. I don't care. b) I am never
going to understand this case. c) I need to look like I understand
this case if I want to keep my job.
So the next morning I was up and ready to tell Donna Jacobs my
version of what happened to Tough Guy.
"Mrs. Jacobs, I am sorry about your husband, but I have figured
the case so don't fear a murderer on the loose," I said consolingly.
"Here's how it happened: Enter Tough Guy," I began, as I mimed his
movements. "He walks over here." I walked to the water I spilled
the night before. "Look! Water! So he tripped, and fell against
I pretended to slip and hit my head on the table, right where I
wiped the strawberry jam the night before. "His blood is still on
the table where he hit is head! Then he fell on the knife that was
on the table, and slid to the floor!" I finished with a smile of
"But wasn't the knife through his back?" Donna questioned. "Plus
if his head hit the side of the table, how could he fall on TOP
of a knife that-"
"It's too complicated for you to understand," I lied for the second
time in 24 hours. "I won't even bother."
"Oh well," she said. "Thank you Sheriff."
A case well done I thought.
Later that week Betsy (the pal and confidante) came to dinner at
Donna's, newly widowed.
"I love this food, Donna! " Betsy mumbled through a mouthful of
mashed potatoes. "It's great Sue can make this! Where did you find
such a good cook?"
"Childhood friend. We're very close. Steak?" Donna asked politely.
"Yes please." Betsy smiled out with bright red lipstick.
"Oh, and I love your cutlery Donna,Iām so happy we shopped
for them together! These dinner knives are marvelous!"
"Oh, I know Betsy," Donna smiled back through her black
veil, "they cut through even the toughest meat. "
Betsy giggled at their inside joke and thought of her identical
dinner knife at home. And her nearly identical husband.