Sherman on the Scene

“You’re the crime scene technician?” Sherman asked the slovenly, middle-aged man who had just arrived at the front door of the murder site. “May I see some I.D?”

The man was dressed in a police windbreaker and carried a crime kit. He flipped open his wallet and showed the laminated identification. It was a well-worn card, and the photo was curling slightly at its edge. The photo matched the man’s face and Sherman let him in.

Despite all the crime scenes the pudgy detective had visited, he’d rarely been left alone at one. But five minutes ago, Wilson and his men had been called away to deal with a confirmed sighting of the perp. Sherman wasn’t all that fond of car chases and opted to remain at the scene.

“A technician’s coming,” Wilson informed him as he and his men left. “Don’t let anyone else in.”

“Which room?” The technician looked bored but competent.

Sherman led him towards the back of the impressive house, talking as he went. “The victim is Oliver Lasky, a corporate bigwig. The killer broke in and bypassed the security system. That, combined with other facts, makes me think it was a hired professional.”

They walked into the sumptuously decorated bedroom. A man in his early forties lay just inside the bathroom, a ribbon of red trailing from a single gunshot wound to the head. The bedroom itself was a mess—broken lamps, torn sheets, feathers from a burst pillow.

The technician played with the corners of his mustache. “What a mess.”

Sherman shrugged. “Mr. Lasky saw him coming and put up a struggle. The maid and the gardener arrived in the middle of all this. They heard the gunshot and saw the killer running out the back. They gave us a rough description. In his rush, the killer might have left something—fingerprint, hair follicle, bullet casing…”

“Well, that’s my job,” said the technician. He was putting on gloves and opening his crime kit when the doorbell rang again.

Sherman left him to his work and returned to the front door. A woman wrapped in a fur stood on the front porch, leaning against a marble column. Leaning against another column was a youngish man in a hand-tailored suit.

“The police informed me of my husband’s death,” the woman said coolly as she tried to push her way inside. “I want to see him.”

“Mrs. Lasky,” Sherman said. It wasn’t much of a deduction. “I believe you and your husband were estranged.” That wasn’t much of a deduction either.

“He’s still my husband and this is still my house. Let me in.”

The youngish man now stepped forward. “I’m Mr. Lasky’s business partner, Ed Burton,” he said with an ingratiating smile. “Are you with the police?”

“I’m with them, yes,” Sherman answered. “And I can’t let anyone in.”

“This is illegal,” Mrs. Lasky fumed.

“Actually, it’s not,” said Sherman. He continued to hold his ground, preventing the widow and the partner from gaining entry. This standoff ended when Sherman’s cell phone rang. He closed the door in their faces before answering.

“Sherman?” It was Sergeant Wilson. “We’ve found another victim. It’s an unidentified man killed behind a strip mall about a mile from you. A witness described the same sort of man seen by the maid.”

Sherman thought for a moment. “Sergeant, come back here. Now. There’s someone you need to talk to.”

What does Sherman suspect?

What triggered his suspicion?

THE SOLUTION

Nervously, Sherman waited in the front room. Every instinct but duty told him to flee the scene. Less than a minute later, Wilson and his men drove up. Sherman ran out to greet them, nearly knocking over Mrs. Lasky on the way. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he shouted. “I let the killer into the crime scene.”

“You did what?” Wilson shouted back.

“He must have left some evidence in the bedroom. He came back to destroy it.”

Wilson motioned his men to go around back, then drew his gun and entered the house. “What are you talking about?”

“That body you found at the strip mall. I’m guessing that’s the real crime scene technician. The assassin killed him, then took his equipment. He went to a photo machine in the strip mall and changed the man’s I.D. Then he came here, pretending to be the technician. I let him in.”

Sherman’s explanation was interrupted by the sound of gunfire from behind the house. Both men waited. “Sarge?” a voice called out. “We got him.”

“Thank goodness,” Sherman sighed. “I should have known his I.D. was fake. The card was laminated, and yet the photo was curling at the edge. Obviously, he glued his own, new photo on top of the real technician’s photo.”