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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)

TITLE: She had Moxie and $100 for her Trouble
By Julie Arduini


“I’m not afraid of this lie detector test Mr. DeLapp, I mean Officer, or is it Captain? Well okay, I’m nervous, but I trust you and this test. I’m ready.”

Jenna Thomas was a junior transfer student at the State college in my jurisdiction. It was my last day at Troop E Headquarters in Canandaigua, New York. I was counting the minutes till retirement. Jenna strolled in with a tentative smile, a fair grip of a handshake, and a nervous wreck of a mother by her side. Jenna’s long brunette hair had one of those banana clips. Though I was mindful of my pending retirement I was still focused enough to discern Jenna didn’t strike me as a criminal.

Jenna was my last lie detector test of probably thousands. She spent the previous summer as a third manager at a shoe store in her hometown about an hour south. The bank never received the bag Jenna allegedly dropped the night before into their deposit. She closed with her boss and admitted she was last to touch the bag. The local police, drooling over a drama on Market Street, pressured Jenna to confess or else. Jenna, full of moxie, suggested they focus their energy on the drug deals she had to confront nightly when she had to walk to her car alone. The senior manager ran behind Jenna’s back to the police to accuse Jenna of taking the money, a small take of $1200, mostly in checks. Insurance covered the loss for the store. An open case, sure, but life and death? Naw, this was a breeze for my last day.

With kids like Jenna I liked to start off with small talk before taking them in the interrogation room. Although she was nervous, she was friendly. I learned when I was the county sheriff I interacted with her dad, part of the highway department. With that, Jenna trusted me. Her mother, what a tightly wound lady. I encouraged mom to get a cup of our hair on the chest coffee and relax. Jenna followed me.

I explained the entire test process. It’s hypocritical to put wires everywhere and say don’t worry, so I kept the fatherly chat going.

I could’ve asked the basics with my eyes closed. She hesitated when I asked about her alcohol consumption because we both knew she was under twenty-one. I asked the last question forty five minutes later. Jenna tried not to stare at the paperwork. I pushed the papers away and put my hands on the table.

“Jenna, overall you passed.”

She gave thanks to God and me and then stopped.


“You’re observant Jenna. There was one question you failed on. Want to know which one?”

Jenna drummed her fingers for about five seconds.

“Was it the one that asked do I know who did it?”

I nodded. She sighed.

“I don’t, yet I have a suspicion. Did my boss do it? I touched the bag last. I heard the coins.”

Before we finished out my career that afternoon I shared with Jenna her circumstances around the case. There was a rumor going around the famed street the store was located that a loan shark made a deal with a local businesswoman and they were looking for payment. All legitimate eyes were on the boss, not Jenna. Yet the boss was desperately trying to throw attention any direction but her own. The boss miserably failed the lie detector test. Jenna thanked me but I saw so many emotions on her face. Relief. Grief. Anger. Betrayal.

A month later at my retirement banquet my boss confirmed Jenna was in the clear, but there was nothing concrete against the boss either. The company wanted to put it behind them, but not before making the boss present Jenna a $100 check for her trouble. I can only imagine the tensions at that little party.

That was 17 years ago. I’ve made my retirement as far away from snow and law enforcement as I can, boating my way south. My sister let me know Jenna graduated and got a nice PR job with the county. Ironically, one of their organizations employed a director Jenna would supervise: her former boss. Whether Jenna handled her emotions with grace or revenge, well, that’s one I never heard anything more about.

Oh right---All these years later not one person called on the checks from that missing bank bag to say they never cleared.

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This article has been read 1051 times
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Sara Harricharan 04/12/07
Oooh! I love Jenna! She did have Moxie-and she was so realistic I felt like I'd met her somewhere before without knowing it. I liked that the mystery wasn't quite 'solved' too. Very fun to read! ^_^
Myrna Noyes04/13/07
Loved your title! :) This was a very good story with great dialogue and interaction between the man giving the test and Jenna. Nice job!
Kate Grey04/14/07
Enjoyed the story. :)
CeCe Lane04/14/07
I enjoyed this.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/14/07
I really enjoyed this mystery and the way you solved it. The last sentence was just perfect.
Marilyn Schnepp 04/14/07
I would definitely classify this as an unsolved mystery. Loved the Title and the whole Interesting plot, and kept my interest throughout. Nice job
Birdie Courtright04/17/07
Poor thing! You did a great job of developing Jenna's character.
Rita Garcia04/17/07
Great title, great story and great writing!
Loren T. Lowery04/18/07
This was a well-rounded story showing how time and patience can un-tie some mysteries and those that aren't maybe had no need to be in the first place. Enoyed your story.
Cheri Hardaway 04/18/07
Very nice. The opening dialog in the first person kind of threw me off at first, because the MC was in the first person also. But I think that was just a glitch in my own brain ;o).

What a big thing for a young person to come up against. Glad the truth came to light, at least about Jenna. As you said, we'll never know about the boss.

Good work. Many blessings, Cheri
Sandra Petersen 04/18/07
Great title!

I liked the setting and your MC. He sounded like a nice, fatherly type.

What a nice ironic twist, that Jenna's former boss would be her underling years later. I didn't mind so much that this mystery was unresolved, just like so many cases in real life.

Good job!
Joanne Sher 04/18/07
Love both of the characters - you did a wonderful job of making them real to us. I was definitely interested throughout in how this would end up. Good stuff.
Betty Castleberry04/18/07
I like the believable conversation between Jenna and the officer.
Your story flows smoothly, and was enjoyable to read. Well done.
Leigh MacKelvey04/18/07
I can't beleive I never read this until now! I saw the title a bunch of times and thought "What a great title!"
Just never got around to reading it. Sooo gald I did! It's a great story and I like the tone of the narrator. Reminded me of a detective book. Iliked the way the end was 17 years later. That was an interesting touch.Good job!
Joanney Uthe04/18/07
Loved the voice of the MC. Great story. I like how we think we know the answer, but it is never really solved. Also the poetic justice of Jenna supervising her former boss.
Tabiatha Tallent04/19/07
Great job. I loved that she got to supervise her former boss later on.
Bonnie Derksen04/25/07
This is great!
I agree with all the previous commenters. I love the voice of your MC.
The whole story is very creative and well written.
Good job.
Jacquelyn Horne05/18/07
An unsolved mystery. Very true to life, I'm sure.