Mollie Goodall burst into the Sheriff’s Department anxious to tell Louise her news. Mollie was Sheriff of Watango County, Texas, and Louise was her secretary.
“Well, girl,” Louise said, “how was your lunch?”
Mollie grinned. “I didn’t go to lunch. You know how I’ve been wanting a grandfather clock for my foyer? I found the perfect one at a great price. They’re delivering it on Saturday.”
“Great! I can’t wait to see it.”
“Come by this weekend and let me show it off. Did I miss anything around here while I was maxing out my credit card?”
“There was another home break-in. The Griswold’s this time. Sam’s working on it.”
“Darn it! That makes six in the last three months.” She headed for her office. “Get Sam on the phone, please.”
By the time Mollie settled in at her desk, Louise buzzed her. Mollie punched the blinking light. “Hi, Sam. How’s it going on that break-in?” Sam Reynolds was her Chief Deputy.
“We’re checking for prints, but my guess is whoever broke in wore gloves. They also disabled the security system.”
“They weren’t amateurs.”
“That’s what I’m thinking. That narrows down the suspect list. I’m checking out three with priors. Willie Scoggins is at the top of the list.”
“Sure sounds like his work. Let me know if you need anything.”
* * *
Mollie busied herself with work for two hours, thinking about how great her new purchase would look in her foyer. Shortly after three o’clock, Sam called.
“Mollie, all three of my suspects have strong alibis. One was in the dentist chair and one was in traffic court at the time. Willie Scoggins claims he was fishing with his cousin at the time of the robbery.”
“I’m sure the cousin will back up his alibi.”
“No doubt. Too bad we can’t search Willie’s place. We’d probably find stuff from the Griswold job and some of the other break-ins.”
“If he has a good alibi, we can’t get a search warrant, but we can haul him in for questioning. Bring him in, Sam, and let me have a crack at him.”
* * *
An hour later, Mollie entered the interrogation room.
Willie Scoggins looked up at her and scowled. “I’m sick of this, Sheriff! Every time somebody steals something in this county, you roust me. I should sue for harassment.”
Mollie sat across from him at the small metal table. “Relax, Willie. If you can verify your whereabouts at the time of the robbery, we can rule you out as a suspect.”
He tilted his chair back and hooked his thumbs in his belt. “No problem. I was fishing with my cousin up at Denton Lake this morning. Didn’t get home ‘til almost noon.”
Mollie questioned him for twenty minutes, but he stuck to his alibi. Finally, she said, “Okay, Willie. We’ll check your story with your cousin just to make sure.”
A smirk flashed on his face. “So, I guess that means I’m free to go.”
“I guess so. Thanks for coming in. By the way, how was the fishing?”
“Not bad. Caught a few bass.”
“My husband and I were thinking of trying Denton Lake this weekend. What’s the best way to get there?”
“Only way I know is straight up Keller Road.”
“Thanks. If you went that way today, I guess you got stuck in the big traffic jam.”
Willie frowned. “Huh?”
“That big store on Keller Road, Johnson’s Furniture Outlet, caught fire early this morning and burned to the ground.”
“Oh, yeah. Big mess. Fire trucks all over the place. I had to detour around it. Can I go now?”
“Sorry, Willie, you’re not going anywhere. You’re under arrest. Now that your alibi is blown, we can get a warrant and search your place. I’m sure we’ll find what we need to put you away for a long time.”
“Wait a minute. I told you where I was this morning. Denton Lake, fishing with my cousin. Ask him.”
“Oh, we will, but I don’t think he’ll lie for you in court after I explain the law about perjury to him. You lied, Willie. You said you had to detour around the big fire at Johnson’s Furniture Outlet. There was no fire at that store this morning. As a matter of fact, I bought a grandfather clock there at lunchtime.”
Earl Staggs earned all Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
Copyright © 2017 Earl Staggs. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.