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Critic's Choice by Rekha Ambardar
Gumshoe Review  
Date: 01 April 2010 /

CRITIC'S CHOICE


by
Rekha Ambardar

Detective Doyle and his assistant, Sergeant Struthers studied the empty luxury sedan. Famed and acerbic food critic, Mathew Wilson, had been found dead last night behind the steering wheel at the edge of a nearby park. A thirty-two caliber revolver lay on the passenger seat with his fingerprints on it. The medical examiner's office had been called in to investigate and the autopsy report revealed powder burns on the right temple. The stomach contents showed recently-eaten cherries.

"Guess this one's a wrap," Struthers said. "Clear case of suicide."

"Looks like it," Detective Doyle said. "But I'd like to talk to the restaurant owners he reviewed in the Daily Portal before filing the report." Doyle was a stickler for rules and refused to take any short cuts in matters involving an untimely demise.

The dark blue sedan appeared spotless inside, and a careful search of the ground around the parked car disclosed only two apple cores, the stub of a theater ticket, and a sales receipt from a supermarket.

Ed Hansen, of the Hansen Supper Club, led them into his office at the back of the restaurant. "Sorry to hear the sad news," he said when they explained why they were there.

"Any reason why Wilson would have shot himself?" Doyle said.

"He was unpopular. He gave bad reviews. But don't take my word for it," he said. "You should ask Al Moreno of Moreno's Italian Restaurant. Wilson was blackmailing him about something."

~~~~~

Detective Doyle and his assistant found Moreno in his cluttered kitchen checking on the ingredients of a sauce when they went to see him.

He refused to talk to them at first. Then he said, "I'm not sorry to hear the news." Moreno looked sullen. "Wilson was blackmailing me about a mistake I made when I was younger. I was jailed for a few days for a felony."

"Why didn't you go to the police?" Detective Doyle asked.

"I would have, if it had continued," Moreno said.

"When did you see him last?"

"He came by last evening to harrass me again, at about five o'clock." Moreno washed the large ladle he was using and set it on the wooden counter-top.

"Did he appear depressed?" the detective asked.

"No."

"How did he get along with the owner of Hansen's Supper Club?" Struthers asked.

"Wilson was wheedling him out of a share of his profits in return for a good review now and then." Moreno closed the lid of a large utensil and wiped his hand.

~~~~~

Doyle and Struthers drove down to the Supper Club to see Hansen again.

"Darn right Wilson was chiseling me out of a percentage of my profits in return for a decent review," Hansen admitted. "He helped us all by checking out the way he did."

"When did you see Wilson last?" the detective asked.

"After the customers left and I was about to lock up." Hansen said. "Wilson came by with a bag of cherries from the supermarket and was snacking on them."

Doyle asked, "Was Wilson married?"

"There's another story," Hansen said. "Janie, the wife of the owner of Embers, Jack Bayliss, ran off with Wilson.

~~~~~

Detective Doyle and his assistant went to see Jack Bayliss, who was in the den, making calls to vendors. He looked up when they entered.

They introduced themselves and told him why they were there.

"How did you feel when your wife left you for Wilson?" Doyle asked.

"Sure. I was torn up at first when Janie left me for Wilson, but I figured they deserved each other," Bayliss said with a contented grin. "Now business is booming and I couldn't be happier." He played with the pen on his desk. "Janie did me a favor."

"Did you see Wilson recently?" Doyle asked.

"Yesterday when he dropped by to get the exact details of a recipe of mine for his column."

"How did he appear?"

Bayliss shrugged. "Normal. He wrote down the recipe on a small notepad, put it in a bag he was carrying and left."

"Guess we can file that report now, huh?" Struthers said as they left the Baylis home.

"Yes, but as murder, not as suicide," Doyle said, getting into the passenger side of their vehicle.

"Murder?" Struther said as he pulled out onto the road. "Why do you say that?"

"Think about it," Doyle replied. "The car was spotless, and the ground around it showed only two apple cores, a ticket stub and a sales receipt. If the stomach contents showed that Wilson had recently eaten cherries, the pits should have been somewhere in the car or outside it."

"Okay," Struthers said. "So Wilson was first shot, then moved to his car and the scene made to look like a suicide."

"Exactly. And as Hansen was the only one who mentioned Wilson had been eating cherries, he's the man we should be investigating." Doyle said. "How about we pay another visit to Hansen?"

"Fine with me." Struthers said as he drove in the direction of the Hansen's Supper Club.

About the Author:

    Rekha Ambardar has published over eighty stories and articles in print and electronic journals. Her stories have appeared in Eureka Literary Magazine, Futures Mystery Magazine, Orchard Press Mysteries, Nefarious, Shots Detective Magazine, Short Attention Span Mysteries, and Mysterical-e to name a few.

    She is also the author of two contemporary romance novels.

    Her other hat is that of Assistant Professor of Business at the International School of Business, Finlandia University, where she teaches courses in marketing, advertising, business communication, international marketing, and global economy.

Rekha Ambardar, April 2010.

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