Sergeant Wilson enjoyed an occasional breakfast with Sherman at the Baker Street Coffee Shop. What he didn’t enjoy were the homicide calls that so often came right in the middle of the meal. He was just finishing his Belgian waffle with fruit when this morning’s call took him to Gleason & Son Insurance, located on a lonely stretch of highway. As usual, Sherman tagged along.
A uniformed officer met them in the parking lot. “The victim is Gary Lovett,” the officer told them. “A Gleason & Son employee. That’s Neal Gleason and his sister, Patty Lovett. She’s the victim’s widow.” He was pointing to an anxious-looking duo, both in their late twenties. “Mr. Gleason discovered the body at about 8:30 a.m.”
Neal Gleason stepped forward. His statement sounded rehearsed. “When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw Gary’s car. Gary is often here early, though he’s always gone before noon. If Gary wasn’t Patty’s husband, Dad would’ve fired him long ago. The front door was open. Right inside the door I saw him, like that.”
Wilson examined the body in the doorway. The man’s head was a bloody mess, and it took the sergeant a while to realize that the rifle now bagged as evidence had been used as a blunt instrument, its wooden stock having been slammed into his head like a baseball bat. The body was cold and rigor mortis had already come and gone.
“That’s my husband’s rifle,” volunteered the widow. “He kept it here at the office. Last night at home, Gary got this phone call. He said he had to go the office and that I should just go to bed. I thought he might be going to see another woman. This morning when I woke up he was still gone. So I went to find him. I must have arrived here just a minute after my brother did.”
“I think we should probably call Dad,” Neal said.
That call wouldn’t be necessary, for at that exact moment, George Gleason was pulling into the parking lot. The burly insurance broker eased himself out of his Cadillac and wordlessly took in the scene, the body, the bagged rifle, and his two children.
Patty ran up to him. “Someone murdered Gary,” she moaned. “The police suspect us, Neal and me.”
Gleason hugged his daughter, exchanged glances with his son, then turned to face Sergeant Wilson. “I killed him,” he said softly and simply. “I met him here last night and shot him, right in the head. My kids had nothing to do with it.”
As the uniform took Gleason’s statement, Wilson stepped off to the side with Sherman. “You don’t have to tell me,” Wilson whispered. “I picked up on the clue, too.”
“Perhaps, old man,” Sherman said with a smile. “But did you pick up on the right clue?”
WHO KILLED GARY LOVETT?
WHAT CLUE POINTS TO THE KILLER?
“George Gleason didn’t have a chance to ask any questions,” Wilson explained confidently. “He saw the victim’s bloody head and the rifle and assumed Lovett had been shot. But, of course, he hadn’t been.”
“And that indicates his innocence?”
“Absolutely. He’s protecting his kids.”
“Which is exactly what he wants us to think.”
Wilson frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“Gleason wants us to think he’s making a false confession. He knew we’d pick up on his mistake and strike him off our suspect list. Very clever of him.”
”How do you figure that?”
“Because he knew Lovett had been killed last night. Lovett is often here early, but he rarely stays past noon. An innocent man would have assumed Lovett had been killed this morning. Only the person who telephoned him last night and lured him here would know when Lovett had been ambushed and killed.”