This is the third installment for Short Story Wednesday. If you missed the first two you might want to catch up by going
Sam jogged into his office just in time to answer the phone. The coroner’s preliminary report stated the cause of death as strangulation by jump rope around 11 p.m. Sunday. No other marks were found.
Shortly after that Mrs. Whitington entered the station, her purse held tightly against her body, as though Sam might snatch it away from her.
“I’ll just take a few notes.” Sam settled into his leather desk chair and motioned Mrs. Whitington to the guest chair.
“Well, the Catholic Church—that’s my church—and the Baptists were holding their fall bazaars during the same weekend. Mrs. Feeney at City Hall forgot to write down our reservation for the square. So you can imagine everyone’s surprise when we both started to set up our booths yesterday afternoon. Father Pendleton was already at the podium to begin the opening prayer when Reverend Burns of First Baptist went up the steps to talk to the Father.
She tugged on her skirt, which was already well below her knees, and continued.
“At first you couldn’t hear what they were saying. But you could tell by the way their arms were flying, they were very angry—especially Brother Burns. Then they started shouting. Brother Burns said he was tired of the Catholics always trying to out-do the Baptists and that God knew where the Father’s heart really was. He said God would see he got what was coming to him!”
Sam stopped his note-taking and looked up. Mrs. Whitington appeared indignant.
“So you’re saying God killed the Father?”
“Well, of course not! I’m saying Brother Burns killed him.”
“Oh, come on now…”
“You don’t understand, Sheriff, this is a vicious rivalry that goes way back. Yesterday afternoon was just the…the last straw!”
Sam closed his notebook. “Well, I appreciate you coming in.”
“Aren’t you going to haul him in? I don’t think you should go easy on him just because he’s a man of the cloth. After all, we’re talking about murder…”
Mrs. Whitington got up to leave, but Sam stopped her. “Where were you at 11 p.m.?”
“I was at the church.” Her voice was unsteady. “I wanted to talk to Father Pendleton.”
“And did you find him?”
“No, he wasn’t in his room.”
“Why so late?”
“I wanted to talk to him before Sister Mary Ellen did.” Her voice cracked. “She was going to tell him I forgot to reserve the Gazebo and that’s simply not true!”
“Did you see anything,” Sam hesitated, “out of the ordinary?”
“No. I did think it was strange the Father wasn’t there.”
“Okay, you can go now,” said Sam. “Oh wait. Can I have the lipstick you’re wearing?”
“Why?” Her question rang with fear. She rummaged for the tube in her purse and handed it to him. “You don’t think I killed the Father, do you?
“At this point everyone’s a suspect.”
As Sam ushered her out, Mrs. Whitington and Sister Mary Ellen passed each other coldly on the station steps.
“Sister, please take a seat.”
“Oh, Sheriff, can you believe this horrible tragedy?" Sister Mary Ellen dabbed a tissue at her dainty nose. "I’m sorry to bother you, Sheriff. I know you must be terribly busy, but I’m told you have the school’s mascot.”
At first Sam was confused. “Oh, you mean the parrot?”
“I’d like to take him home, if that’s okay.”
“I’m afraid we have to keep the bird--evidence, you understand.”
“Oh.” The sister sounded disappointed.
“But, I'm glad you came,” Sam added. " I need to ask some routine questions.”
"Well, alright." The sister sat primly in the guest chair adjusting her frock.
"Did you hear the discussion between the Father and Reverend Burns on Sunday?’
“No, but I’ve never seen Father Pendleton so upset!”
“Did he say anything to you after the bazaar?”
“Yes. He told me to pray for the Baptists.”
“Where were you around 11 p.m. on Sunday?”
“I’m in bed by 10:00 every night.”
“Is there any reason why the Father would put the parrot in the car?”
“On warm nights he kept him there, otherwise St. Petey’s squawking would keep him awake.”
“And one final question. Do you know anyone who would want to kill Father Pendleton?”
“Other than Brother Burns and the Baptists, he was beloved by everyone.”
The parrot began to screech from the supply room, “Sister! Sister!”
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The Jump Rope Murder.