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 [F] Mystery Net Community  / Writing Mysteries  / Mysteries By Members  / Solve-it-Yourself and Puzzle Mysteries  /

The Case of the Lethal Tip, By: Nell Bowen
E.B. Cliftwood, 52, ran a small ad agency from his home. On this chilly, damp November day he had the fireplace going in his office. It was Friday afternoon, and being the creative head, he'd been enjoying his new computer set-up. He had three employees. His secretary, Wanda, was a pretty, young blonde whom he'd hired 8 months ago.Barkley Harris, 64, was office manager for 22 yrs. From his antique walking stick with the gold tip and his black patent pumps, to his costly ties with the diamond stick pin, he was a fastidious, if not eccentric dresser. Dean Randall, 42,attractive and ambitious, had been an accountant with the firm 8 years. Cliftwood's office faced the front driveway. Wanda had the office next to his. Across the hall were the offices of Randall and Harris. At 5:25 Wanda entered Cliftwood's office and found him dead on the floor with a head wound (which, it was established, was caused by a long, narrow, blunt-tipped instrument).She immediately summoned the police who were only blocks away. Arriving in less than 5 minutes, Detective O'Toole politely avoided the 3 spaces reserved for the employees. Upon entering E.B.'s office, he noticed that there seemed to be a dampness on the carpet around the area of the body. He also observed that a glass of liquid had been spilled on the desktop. He went into Wanda's office for questioning. She stated that at 5 pm. the accountant, Dean Randall, hollered goodnight and left. Moments later, the doorbell rang. She opened the door to find Randall standing there in the rain, requesting the office umbrella which he said he'd return on Monday morning. She handed it to him and shut the door. She then took E.B. his usual glass of water, which she always placed on the desk blotter in front of him, in order for him to take his daily pills. Looking out of his office window, she saw Randall's car pull out of the driveway. She went to her office to gather up the day's discards for the paper shredder. At 5:05 Barkley Harris dropped in and told her to have a nice weekend. She heard the front door slam shut. She proceeded to the paper shredder in the back of the house. At 5:20 she entered Cliftwood's office to stoke the fire as she usually did before leaving, and instead discovered his dead body. Detective O'Toole noted a memo on Wanda's desk from Cliftwood containing an apology and stating that instead of the raise he'd promised her, he would have to let her go because his wife had discovered their dalliances. Confronted with this evidence, Wanda broke into tears declaring that she loved him and could never kill him. Back in E.B.'s office, O'Toole stood looking out of the window, hands clasped behind him, mulling the entire situation over. Suddenly, he went out to the driveway, re-parked his car in Harris' parking space, then summoned the two men to return to the office at once. They both arived around 6:30 pm. O'Toole had them give their statements. Dean Randall admitted that around 4:50 pm he and Cliftwood had "words." He told Cliftwood that the expensive computer was too frivolous a purchase given the agency's financial problems. Cliftwood mentioned that with the new computer, Harris' job had now become obsolete and he'd intended to fire him before his retirement pension kicked in, thereby saving the firm a lot of money. He also suggested that Randall "juggle the books" in favor of the company. Irate, Randall refused. Cliftwood subtly suggested that his wife might find out about the elicit affair he and his previous secretary were having. Incensed, Harris said he'd think it over, and left. He got home at 6 pm. only to be told by his wife that he must return to the office immediately. He arrived at 6:30. Barkley Harris stated that the raised voices caused him to enter the hallway but that he'd retreated back to his office within a few minutes so as not to be caught eavesdropping. He'd said goodnight to both Wanda and Cliftwood and departed about 5:05. His parking space was closest to the front door, next to a flower garden. Walking to his trunk to place his walking stick inside, he never saw the heap of mulch at his left rear tire that the gardener left, which had turned into a mudpile from the rain. He stepped directly into it, ankle deep. Disgusted, he promptly went to buy another pair of shoes, then home, where his answering machine directed him to return to the office at once. At 6:30 he noticed the detective's car in his spot, and parked elsewhere. By midnight, O'Toole had finished conferring with the crime lab and was now ready to confront the killer.

Previous MessagesEarliest MessagesOutlineRecent Messages (1 previous message)
Nell Bowen - 10:25am Jun 26, 1998 PST(#2 of 11)

I was so panic-stricken to be in under the 5000 word limit that I didn't know how to print the story properly in the space provided. Please forgive me. It's my first time and I guess I have to learn the ropes. Geez! It all looks like one big run-on sentence! Also, if you DO read this story, I typed in a wrong name. I meant Randall but said, "Incensed 'Harris' said he'd think it over and left." Oh well -- I gotta lot to learn.

Simon - 10:25am Jun 26, 1998 PST(#3 of 11)
It ain't easy being green

Nell~ Good story! You did have a few problems in the formatting, but at least it was readable. I like how all your facts fit together at the end. After reading, I thought it was Randall, too, but for a different reason... I thought that the water on the floor came from the killer's shoes. Since Wanda never went outside, and Harris's shoes had mud on them, not just water, then that leaves Randall... Thanks for posting your story here!

Nell Bowen - 10:25am Jun 26, 1998 PST(#4 of 11)

Simon: Thank you so much for your kind words. Your theory about the wet shoes is simply brilliant and makes my story even more airtight. Mind if I use it as part of O'Toole's deduction? (next story will be much neater. Promise!)

Simon - 10:25am Jun 26, 1998 PST(#5 of 11)
It ain't easy being green

Nell~ Sure, you can use my solution as part of your story, if you like... And not to disagree with Barbara, but I didn't really have a problem reading it. Yeah, it could have been neater, but I wasn't bothered by the formatting. The story grabbed my attention and I didn't really notice the way it was presented. Like Barbara said, I guess it really depends on the individual reader...

Dana Gerr - 10:25am Jun 26, 1998 PST(#6 of 11)

I'm new to this wonderful site, so I hope I am posting this correctly! I liked how descriptive you were in the beginning of the story - it really helped me to picture the charecters. Keep writing!

Spooky Lady - 04:24am Dec 18, 1998 PST(#7 of 11)
I have a cold.

I caught on to the clue about the damp patch, but thought it would have come off of his shoes as well.

Liked this story.

Maxi Ge - 06:17pm Sep 26, 1999 PST(#8 of 11)

If that was your first tme I think that yu went extremelly well. I have written many "clinchers" for High schools and community news letters but none of them are as good. It is hard to give your self limits when you are in a role with good ideas isn"t it. and once again good job and keep it up, I'll be waiting for your next one

Lucy LaChance - 02:27pm Apr 21, 2000 PST(#9 of 11)

Nell, Good job. I'm new to this site and reading everything I get my curser on, so I hope to see you here again with a new story. This really captivated my attention. Keep it up. Lucy

Maggie Cat - 03:10pm Jun 12, 2003 PST(#10 of 11)
"No fur, no paws, no tail. They run away from mice. They never get enough sleep. How can you help but love such an absurd animal?"- Catnip For The Soul

Nell, I know it's been a while since you posted this, but it's a very good story.

I actually missed the water bit, and was seriously considering Wanda (I have an intrinsic distrust of people who 'discover' bodies.) although I really didn't have a clue. Then again, I have a tendency to overlook the obvious.

Diana Wolf - 05:20pm Jan 16, 2004 PST(#11 of 11)

Nell - I like the subtle misdirection with the walking cane's tip and the tip at the end of the umbrella. The water tricks were great hints for clues. I'm not so used to reading stories with sentences forced to be jammed together, but you did quite well under these limitations. I got so involved in your storyline, I forgot my own inadequacies with reading without spaces. I realize this is a lot later in your life than when you first posted, but please write and post more of your excellent work.

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 [F] Mystery Net Community  / Writing Mysteries  / Mysteries By Members  / Solve-it-Yourself and Puzzle Mysteries  / The Case of the Lethal Tip, By: Nell Bowen

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