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Kvetch-22 by John H. Dromey
Cover Artist: James Steidl - Fotolia.com
Gumshoe Review Story  
Date: 30 September 2013 /

What if the little old lady, neighborhood busy body was more like Miss Marple? Or, what if she was just making frivolous complaints? How would she be perceived by the local police? Would they listen or blow her off? Well, we wondered and John H. Dromey sent in one possible scenario.


Kvetch-22

by John H. Dromey


Detective Ross was no fool--he sensed something was amiss the minute he saw Lieutenant Tierney do an abrupt about face in the middle of the squad room and scurry back to his office. A split second later Detectives Bruce and Murray grabbed for their phones and Sergeant Lacy buried her head in a file folder.

The sudden, unaccustomed silence was broken only by the steady tread of approaching footsteps. Overcome by curiosity, Detective Ross glanced toward the source of the sound just in time to see Molly Sullivan clutching her oversized purse beneath her ample bosom as she made a beeline toward his desk. Hers was a familiar face at the 27th Precinct.

"You've filed complaints with us before, haven't you, Mrs. Sullivan?"

"Oy, have I ever. I don't schlep myself down here just for the exercise."

"What are you up to by now? About two dozen?"

"Twenty-two, but who's counting?"

"Apparently, you are, Mrs. Sullivan."

"So I am. I don't like to be a nudnik--that's a sheker, of course, but only a little white one. Let's just say, I don't particularly enjoy being a busybody, Detective Ross, but someone has to kibitz law enforcement, or the lack thereof, in an underserved neighborhood like mine."

The detective didn't need to ask his zaftig, gray-haired informant why she talked the way she did. Although she herself was Irish through and through, Molly either played cards or participated in a coffee klatch on an almost daily basis with Sarah Goldberg, Esther Finkleman, and Miriam Stein. Some of their colloquialisms had rubbed off on her. The jury was still out with regard to the exact origin of Mrs. Sullivan's chutzpah, but she certainly had that in abundance.

"We've done all that the law allows," Detective Ross explained patiently. "Late last month, we staked out your apartment building for three days in a row. The first day we apprehended a handful of suspected drug dealers, but not a single one of them had enough product on him to be charged with anything other than possession. They were back on the street before our officers finished doing their paperwork. The next two days were a complete waste of our limited resources. The men on stakeout didn't even spot a jaywalker."

"I have an explanation for that, Detective Ross. Would you like to hear it?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"Of course, you do. You can listen to me now, or you can wait until later, after my friend Mrs. Goldberg talks to her son the doctor who's a very good friend of your captain."

As mentioned earlier, Detective Ross was no schlemiel. He sat up straighter and reached for his notepad. "I'm all ears."

"I'm not surprised your investigation came up with bubkes," Molly began. "What a mishmash! Pardon my French, Detective, but your unmarked car stuck out like a turd in a punchbowl."

She waited to see if he wrote that down. He didn't.

"There's obviously a stash of illicit drugs concealed somewhere inside my apartment building," Molly continued. "On a busy day the street dealers are in and out of there every few minutes. What you need to do is search the building."

"We can't do that without a warrant and no judge will even consider issuing one unless we show probable cause. Our hands are tied."

"Mine aren't, and I'm not here just to schmooze. I have a complaint."

The detective shook his head. "That isn't anything new."

Molly waggled her index finger at him. "Oh, yes, it is. I have a brand-new complaint."

"Let's hear it."

"I was assaulted."

"What? You were... I'm sorry to hear that, Mrs. Sullivan, but it seems you've come to the wrong person. I don't handle sex crimes."

"Not that kind of an assault, Detective." Molly rotated her thick purse to reveal a knife buried to the hilt was sticking out of the other side. "This kind. Somebody tried to kill me."

"Who?"

"I know, but I probably shouldn't say. You'll just tell me all of my evidence is purely circumstantial, which I suppose it is."

"Where did the assault take place?"

"In the hallway outside my apartment. It was dark--the lights were on the fritz--and my assailant was dressed entirely in black. He caught me by surprise and struck me hard enough to knock me down. I landed on my toches."

"What then?" the detective prompted.

"Nu, as you can imagine, I felt like a klutz, but since I was more shocked than hurt by the incident, I had the presence of mind to play dead until I heard the mamzer who stabbed me get in the elevator."

"Tell me, Mrs. Sullivan. Do you always carry your handbag pressed against your, uh... chest?"

"Yes, indoors and out, as a precaution against purse snatchers. There are gonifs everywhere."

"What makes you think you know who your assailant was?"

"I recognized the knife."

"Now, we're getting somewhere. Whose knife is it?"

"It belongs to Mr. Weinstein. He lives in an apartment just down the hall from mine."

"So, you're here to file a complaint against Mr. Weinstein for attempted murder?"

"No," Molly said. "Why would I do that? He's a mench—an honorable man."

"You just said that's his knife sticking out of your purse."

"Yes, but he didn't put it there."

"Who did then?"

"The super of my apartment building."

"Why? What possible motive could he have?"

"Retaliation for my interference with his trade in illegal drugs. Your stakeout cost him three day's profit."

"And you know this how?"

"Who else has both a master key he could use to get into Mr. Weinstein's apartment to steal a knife, plus an apartment of his own that's conveniently located on the ground floor for easy access by the drug dealers? If you need a sympathetic judge to issue a search warrant, try Mrs. Finkleman's nephew."

"I may do that. There's just one stumbling block, though," Detective Ross said. "How can I be absolutely sure you weren't attacked by your neighbor?"

"Mr. Weinstein is Orthodox. Never in a million years would he have tried to stab me with a knife reserved for dairy. That wouldn't have been kosher."

About the author:

John H. Dromey was born in northeast Missouri. He's had short mystery fiction published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, The Literary Hatchet, Woman's World, and elsewhere, as well as stories (in various genres) in a number of anthologies (both print and electronic).
Kvetch-22 © John H. Dromey, October 2013

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