The Voicemail Alibi

The cute little coupe was parked off to the side of the country road just steps from a scenic waterfall. The contents of the car were neither cute nor scenic. A young woman sat in the driver’s seat, her bloody head lolling out the open window. Sherman Holmes examined the bullet hole behind her ear.

“Want me to tell you how she died?” Sergeant Wilson could barely make himself heard above the roar of the falls. “The woman made a wrong turn and got lost. She stopped here. While she was parked, someone came up to the open window, shot her, then robbed her. Oh, and the time was exactly 2:17 p.m.”

Sherman looked puzzled. Then his gaze fell on the open cell phone lying on the ground just outside the car window. “She was on the phone to someone; that’s how you know the time?”

“Close,” Wilson said. “She left a message on her brother’s voice mail. He retrieved his messages around three and immediately called the police. Our boys started a search. They found her an hour later.”

I’d like to hear the voice mail message,” Sherman said. “And meet the brother.”

Sergeant Wilson drove his rotund, little friend across town to a cozy bungalow. Jerry Bass, the victim’s brother, invited them inside. He was only a few years older than his sister, although grief made him appear older. Wilson asked if they could listen to the message and Jerry agreed.

A mechanized voice spoke first. “Message received today at—2:17 p.m.”

“Connie here,” a woman said. “Jerry, I’m going to be late.” The connection was clear, with little interference or noise. “I’m taking a shortcut through Hopkins Forest and, of course, I got lost. I still have all my errands to do, so don’t expect me… Hold on.” Connie’s voice changed. “What are you doing? No. No. Don’t!” There was a deaf­ening gunshot, followed by silence.

“Someone just came up to the car and shot her?” Sherman asked as he put down the receiver.

Jerry still appeared to be in shock.  “If I didn’t know better, I’d say it had to be Kurt, her ex-boyfriend.”

“Yeah.”  Wilson frowned.  “Tell my friend about Kurt.”

Jerry turned to Sherman.  “He’s bad news.  Connie broke up with him three times.  They’d fight and he’d threaten her.  But every time, she’d go back to him.  I yelled at her so much.  ‘You gotta stay away from that loser.’  She finally left him for good.”  Jerry signed.  “And now someone else kills her – for her rings and a few lousy bucks.”

“What makes you think it isn’t Kurt?”  asked Sherman.

“I’ll show you,” Sergeant Wilson said and led the way out to the car.

They drove for fifteen minutes, stopping in front of a broken-down trailer surrounded by piles of debris.  “This is Kurt’s place.  It’s a good half-hour from that spot in Hopkins forest.  This afternoon, the Brothers of Mercy were canvassing the area for donations.   Brother Dominic swears – as much as a religious man can swear – that he was speaking to Kurt right here at 2:30 today.  He remembers because Kurt pushed him off the trailer porch and broke his watch.”

“And his watch was set to the correct time?”

“Yes.”

Sherman thought for a moment, then smiled.  “You don’t have to worry about alibis.  I’m sure your crime scene people will come to the same conclusion I just did.”

What does Sherman suspect?

What led him to that conclusion?

“And what conclusion did you come to?” Sergeant Wilson asked.

“That the body was moved,” Sherman replied. “Connie Bass did not die where she was found.”

“What are you talking about?” Wilson didn’t try to hide his amusement. “We have Connie’s voice, saying she was lost in the forest, followed by the gunshot.”

“Connie was lying, telling her brother she was someplace she wasn’t.”

“Why would she do that?”

“Because she was with Kurt; that’s my guess. Why else would she lie about a simple thing like her location? Her brother yelled at her whenever she went back to Kurt, remember?”

“And what makes you think the body was moved?”

“Because there’s no waterfall sound on the tape. You and I could barely hear each other over the roar. Connie supposedly had the window rolled down and yet there’s no background noise.

“My guess is they were fighting before she called her brother. Kurt heard her lying and that must have triggered his anger. Afterwards, after Brother Dominic dropped by, Kurt realized he had an alibi. All he had to do was transport the body to where Connie said she’d been.”