Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: James Glass

Detective Gail Summers arrived at the residence of 65 Ocean Drive. The spacious beach house overlooked the Gulf of Mexico as waves rolled onto the shore.

From the bedroom door, Gail examined the room from top to bottom and side to side. Every crime scene told a story. One only had to read the clues and take in the evidence.

On the bed lay the dead body of Richard Barrington. By all accounts it appeared the man had died in his sleep. But over the years, she’d learned appearances could be deceiving.

On the end table was an ashtray with a cigarette that had burned down resembling a long worm. Smoke still wafted into the air. Next to the ashtray was a half-empty bottle of champagne—Dom Pérignon. Gail didn’t know anything about champagne, but she guessed this must be a very good brand. Beads of condensation formed along the outside of the bottle.

She noticed two crystal flutes next to the bottle. One was half-full. The other knocked onto its side. Gail leaned down and took a whiff from the one tipped over. There didn’t appear to be any champagne poured into this flute. No smells or residue in the glass or on the table either.

The ME pulled out the thermometer and stuck in into the decedent’s side.

Gail pointed. “What’s the body temp, Doc?”

“Ninety-five degrees.”

“What’s that say about time of death?”

“With the room temperature at seventy-two degrees, ballpark guess is about five hours.”

Gail looked out a large window above the bed. She had an unobstructed view of the beach. A heron stood on one leg at the end of a dilapidated pier. She loved coming to the Gulf as a kid, and now her days were busy catching killers.

She continued to gaze as the last remnants of the sun descended over the horizon. It was an impressive display of red, orange and yellow.

Gail turned her attention back to the scene and studied the room again. After a second pass, she realized there were two details that didn’t fit. Someone had been in the room after Richard Barrington died.

What are the two details?

Tip: Both are on the end table.

The first thing that doesn’t fit is the smoke wafting from the cigarette.

Although the cigarette had burned down to nothing, this would have only taken minutes, not hours, which means there shouldn’t have been any smoke.

The second thing that doesn’t fit is the condensation on the side of the champagne bottle. The condensation would have evaporated due to the bottle should be closer to room temperature after five hours.

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