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The Body and the Suit
by Patricia Harrington

Old Man Bradford lay slumped over his desk, a knife in his back. Sheriff Tom Rawlings studied the scene with his deputy, Susan Brown. She’d responded first to the housekeeper’s 911 call.

On the desk was the telephone with a listening device and a stack of papers. The one on top read: Last Will and Testament. Behind the desk, against the wall, was a tall knight’s suit of armor.

Rawlings pointed. “Think that belonged to some ancestor?”

“Who knows? Bradford was an eccentric coot.”

The sheriff muttered, “I bet it’s been a month of Sundays since anyone stayed in this creepy place.”

“Hannah Simpson came each day, cleaning the house and fixing meals. She found Bradford when she brought his breakfast. Said she had to unlock the study door when he didn’t answer. She and Bradford had the only keys to the study—found his key in his pant’s pocket.”

“Anyone else staying here?”

“Yup. Three folks. Bradford’s niece, Jane Travis; a nephew, Stevens Whitman; and Geoffrey Green, the old man’s lawyer. According to his lawyer, Bradford planned to eliminate either the niece or nephew from his will. He’d called the two down for the weekend—wanted the satisfaction of telling one of them, ‘no goodies for you’.”

Rawlings examined the door and windows. “No sign of forced entry. How about the rest of the house?”

“Nothing. Hannah keeps her ring of keys on a peg in the kitchen. Any one of the guests could have swiped the ring in the middle of the night and returned it before she showed up.”

Rawlings leaned over the body. “No signs of struggle—the killer must have been waiting, hiding. Maybe in the armor . . .?” He stepped close to it. "How would you climb into it?”

The sheriff and deputy had put on latex gloves to examine the scene. Rawlings said, “Give me a hand,” and the two lifted the armor off the stand and laid it down.

Brown whistled softly. “Bradford must have been deaf, not to have turned around when this clanked and moved.”

The sheriff pointed to the phone with its listening device. “Looks like he was. Let’s check this out and then talk to Hannah.”

The two examined the armor. “Nothing caught inside,” Rawlings said. Then he picked up the steel, mesh gloves and held up the right one. “Blood specks.”

“The lab guys are on their way.”

The sheriff nodded and stood up. “Betcha a dinner at Mabel’s they won’t find prints. Let’s ask some questions.”

* * *

Hannah wrung her hands in the interview and said, “Bradford was deaf as a post and too stubborn to wear hearing aids. He was cantankerous—but I put up with it. Oh, where will I find another job at my age and with my arthritis?”

After a few more questions, the sheriff dismissed Hannah and called in the lawyer. Geoffrey Green shrugged and said, “I don’t know which relative Bradford wanted cut from his will. He demanded that I be here this weekend and make out a new one.”

“Why didn’t you have Bradford come to your office instead?”

Geoffrey looked down and sighed. “You’ll find out eventually. Bradford owed me thousands of dollars in unpaid fees. I thought if I came here . . . I could force him to pay me before rewriting his will.” Geoffrey slumped in his chair. “My practice is dying, clients want younger lawyers these days . . .” Face strained, the lawyer said, “I didn’t kill him.”

When the nephew came in, he refused a seat. Stevens was short, stocky and defensive. He glared like a bulldog at the sheriff. “I didn’t like the skinflint, but I’m not dumb enough to kill him while staying in his house. And I’m not answering any questions without a lawyer—and not that senile bird Green.” The sheriff tried a few more questions and then let the nephew go.

Shortly after he left, Bradford’s niece, Jane Travis, strode in wearing a sweaty T-shirt and running shorts. The tall, young woman smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry about my uncle, but I had nothing to do with his death. I took a long, morning run—I’m an exercise nut, don’t you know.”

After she left, Rawlings turned to the deputy. “Well, that’s an interesting bunch. And I think I know who killed Bradford. It had to be someone strong and tall enough to take off the tunic top and clamber into it. That leaves out the attorney and Hannah. They’re both too old. And the nephew isn’t tall enough to fit in the armor—but now, that tall, athletic niece, she fits the bill . . . or the suit, don’t you think?”


Patricia Harrington is the author of the Bridget O'Hern Mystery Series -- "A sleuth seeking bliss and finding bodies." Her new book titled DEATH COMES TOO SOON is now available. CLICK HERE to order from Amazon.com.

Pat is donating a portion of her online book sales of DCTS to two animal rescue groups helping Hurricane Katrina victims.

She writes to Ye Editor: "Everything is going well here. Have a story in the Seattle Noir anthology (Akashic Books, New York) coming out in May, '09. Working on A Rum Mystery, a Golden Age amateur sleuth novel set on the Caribbean Island of Antigua."

Visit her excellent website: www.patriciaharrington.com.

And read more of Pat's stories at USADS:
Sharp Eyes
Innocent Beginnings

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