Jessica has called the suspects together to reveal the identity of Michael Sutton's killer. Think you have it figured out? Let's see if you're right…
"What is the meaning of this?" Stephen asked testily as he entered the room, the last of the suspects to arrive.
"Mrs. Fletcher's figured it out," Chief Bale replied impatiently. "Now sit down and be quiet while she explains."
To my surprise, Stephen said no more and complied, sitting down beside Angela and looking up at me expectantly.
"Well," I started, searching for a kind way to deliver the news. No matter how many times I do this, it doesn't get any easier. "As you all know, Michael Sutton was murdered last night in his study, stabbed in the back with his own letter opener."
No one said anything, so I continued, "He was found facing the door of his study, which implies that he knew his killer and that the person in question was in the room with him at the time. Unfortunately, he left us with no dying clue, as victims sometimes do in their last moments, so I've had to rely on your testimonies."
I studied their faces for a moment. They were all expressionless. "You all had opportunity and motive to kill him," I said. "Stephen and Gloria, you were abused by him. Carl, you were neglected by him. Angela, he'd tried to rape you earlier that day…"
"What?" Carl straightened at this, looking from me to his daughter. "He…he tried to…?"
Angela nodded, tears brimming in her eyes.
Carl's face contorted in rage. "That evil, stinking lowlife!" he growled. "That miserable, foul excuse for a human being…!"
"Please, Carl," I said. "I know this is hard for you. But please let me continue."
Carl glared at me for a moment, and then sighed and nodded, staring at the floor.
"And Lionel," I said, "you stood to gain a small fortune if he died."
"But I didn't kill him!" Lionel yelped, fear suddenly filling his eyes.
In the corner, Bale smiled smugly as if to say, "Yep. That's our killer."
"I didn't say you did, Lionel," I said patiently. "I'm just pointing out the facts. You did, after all, inherit a nice amount from him when he died. True, that doesn't automatically make you the killer, but it doesn't exclude you, either."
Lionel didn't reply.
"Carl had a hidden motive," I resumed, looking at him. He looked up at me, shocked. "Carl was next in line to inherit the family business, a very profitable one too, if this house is any indication of that. Am I right?"
Carl nodded slowly.
"And Gloria," I said, turning toward her. "Although you initially seemed truly upset by your husband's death, I suspect that your show of mourning was merely an act. Later, as we were examining the study, you watched the whole thing emotionlessly, as if being in the room where your husband had been murdered didn't bother you."
Gloria stiffened but said nothing.
"So which one of you killed him?" I asked rhetorically. "You all had alibis, although some were rather weak. Lionel and Gloria can't have anyone confirm theirs, and Stephen and Angela alibi each other. Only Carl has an airtight alibi for the time of Michael's death."
Carl relaxed as I said this.
Gloria spoke up, sounding tense. "But Jessica, you know who killed him, don't you?"
"Oh yes, I do," I said. "I figured it out a few minutes ago, when Chief Bale here made a comment. It meant nothing to him, but it made me remember something. Something that didn't add up. Something I'd overlooked." And I turned to Angela and said, "When I asked you where you were when Michael was killed, you told me you were with Stephen in the guest bedroom, watching the sunset and debating what to do about your uncle's attempted rape, correct?"
Angela nodded, looking confused and a little frightened.
I shook my head. "My dear, that simply isn't possible. You see, the guest bedroom window faces the front lawn, that is to say, east. The sun sets in the west, which would mean the other side of the house. Chief Bale mentioned earlier that he thought I was looking for shadows at noon, and that reminded me that, as we arrived at the house this evening at sunset, the front of the house was in shadow because the sun was setting behind it. You couldn't have possibly been watching the sunset from your room, so that means you were with Stephen in the study when the crime was committed. Yes," I added as Stephen jumped slightly, "you had to be with her, Stephen. After all, you provided alibis for each other, so you both had to be in on it. I imagine that you both went to Michael in his study, hoping to reason with him and convince him to forget about his threat. Of course, things didn't go as planned, one of you lost control, and while he was walking away from you, probably to open the door for you to leave, you grabbed the letter opener and killed him."
There was a ringing silence following this. Then Angela burst into tears and buried her head in her hands. Carl wrapped his arms around her soothingly, a shocked and pained expression on his face. Stephen sighed resignedly and looked at the floor. "It was all my fault," he said. "I was afraid, for both Angela and myself. I thought he would go to the police and tell them it was me who had tried to rape Angela, and I wouldn't have stood a chance against my father, he held too much power. I tried to plead with him, I told him I would forget about it if he did, but…he just laughed. He laughed!" Stephen's voice was rising. "He laughed and said that maybe he'd tell them just for the fun of it! And then he started talking about how good Angela looked, how he wanted to…to…" He broke off, laying his face in his hands and sobbing.
After a pause, Stephen took a deep breath and continued, "I…I lost control. I was so angry that he would stoop so low as to dangle this over my head. The letter opener was lying on the desk, and I grabbed it when he turned his back to me. Before I could stop myself, it was over. "I rushed Angela back to the guest room with me and we came up with the story about being there the whole time. I never once thought about the sun setting at the other end of the house. I guess I was too frightened to recall which direction the room faced." He looked over at Gloria, who was gazing at him in shock. "I'm sorry, Mother. I'm so sorry."
Gloria hugged him and said, "It's okay, son. It's okay. I don't blame you."
There was an awkward silence. I broke it by saying, "You know, I'm sure a judge will take pity on you two. If you play your cards right, you can convince a jury to possibly lessen your sentence."
Stephen nodded but said nothing. Bale spoke into his radio, "Send a squad car up to the Sutton house," and walked over to the couch. "Son, I'm afraid I have to put you and Angela under arrest. You have the right to remain silent…"
Did you figure it out? Did you guess correctly? Or were you utterly clueless? I'd like to know what you thought. Please leave a review!