Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)
TITLE: As Easy As Pie
By Ann Grover
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“You have a clear view of the Hamptons’ yard from here. You didn’t see anything?”
“Nothing. The shadows were deep,” replied Betty, as she set napkins and forks on the gingham-covered table.
“Mmm.” Gus scribbled in his notebook. He eased himself into a chair, keeping one eye on the pie Betty placed beside his plate. Fruity fragrance rose from vents in the sugary crust, and Gus’s mouth watered.
“Coffee?” The pot hovered.
“So, you’re saying you heard sounds in the side yard and then found Phil Hampton. You phoned the police. They arrived along with the ambulance.”
“That’s right. Pie?”
“Thought you’d never ask.”
Betty sliced through the flaky pastry, then lifted out a generous piece of peach pie for the constable, sweet syrup dripping onto his plate. He forked up an amber mouthful, then closed his eyes in rapturous enjoyment as he chewed.
“Pure delight, Betty.”
Twenty-four hours before...
“I don’t know what to do, Betty. Phil’s been asking for more money. Frank and I can’t keep giving to him.”
Betty reached for Marg’s hand as Marg went on.
“We’ve given him money, food, helped him find jobs. He doesn’t work at any of them for very long.”
“Some kids just don’t grow up. It’s not your fault.”
A tear slid down Marg’s cheek. “It feels like my fault. We should have been better parents. Been firmer. Or been softer. Oh, I don’t know.”
Betty thought how easy it had been to be spared the dilemma of children, as least it seemed to her, to not have to deal with the pain of waywardness and rebellious hearts. She had devoted herself to her Missionary Circle, a busyness and a weariness at times, but at least it didn’t keep her awake nights.
“Frank and I are going away for a few days. Would you watch the house for us?”
“Certainly, dear. You relax. Everything’ll be fine. You’ll see.”
Twelve hours before...
Betty awoke with a start. Silently, she slid from beneath her bedspread and drew on her robe. Slipping two fingers between the slats of her blinds, she checked the front lawn. Nothing.
Quietly tiptoeing down the hall, she followed the moon’s light into the kitchen. Keeping in the shadow, she scanned her backyard, and then surveyed the Hamptons’ next door. Still nothing. The brilliance from the moon intensified the gloom beneath the shrubs and trees.
Suddenly, a shadow broke free from the dimness and climbed the porch stairs. Betty watched as the shadow - a man - struggled at the door, but gave up and moved to a nearby window. It moved effortlessly.
Betty exchanged her slippers for loafers and her robe for a jacket. But what could she do? Whoever was breaking into the Hamptons’ house had to be stopped and scared away. She could see lights roving from room to room.
After a moment’s thought, Betty reached into her refrigerator freezer and grabbed something. Then, she stepped onto her back porch, pulling the door closed silently behind her. She waited in the shrubbery.
She didn’t have to wait long.
The robber cleared the window, and toting his booty, walked boldly down the driveway. Betty pitched her frozen package with all her might.
It hit its mark. The man slumped to the ground.
Betty cautiously approached him.
He was breathing evenly. She felt around for her icy weapon and found it a few feet away.
Betty returned to her kitchen and set the package in the sink. Picking up the phone, she dialed with trembling fingers.
Eleven hours before...
Sirens pierced the darkness.
Betty tried to ignore the wailing cry while a kaleidoscope of colour whirled on her ceiling. Voices called to one another and metal screeching on metal disturbed the night.
Again, Betty slipped two fingers into the blinds and watched as the ambulance pulled away from the curb. Several policemen were searching in the grass with flashlights.
“Anyway, Betty, it was a blunt object. Phil’s suffering from a concussion.” Gus wiped crumbs from his chin.
“Can’t say I feel sorry for him. He was robbing his parents blind. Silverware. Jewelry.”
Betty remained silent.
“Funny thing. We can’t find the weapon.”
“Would you like more pie, Constable? I baked it with last summer’s peaches.”
“Don’t mind if I do. The peaches taste fresh-picked.”
Betty cut him an extravagant slice.
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