|TEN SIDES TO EVERY STORY
By Stephen D. Rogers
"Nattuck Police Department. Your call is being recorded." And if this was another person asking how the high school team had done
today, the tapes were going to the Chief.
"My name is Joan Winslow. I live at 32 Shrewsbury Lane. I'm in my office, which is a separate structure on the property, and I just
saw the lights go on in the house. My husband's not due home for hours, and I can see that his car's not in the driveway."
As there had been a series of burglaries in the area, the dispatcher checked the status monitor to see the location of the nearest
cruiser. "Who else has keys to your house?"
The caller cut him short. "No, that's my husband pulling in now. He'll probably think I quit working early and he'll be surprised by the
The dispatcher jumped at the sound of a sharp snap.
Joan screamed. "He shot him."
The line went dead.
* * *
Officer Pomales slowed as the dispatcher came over the radio.
"We have a 911 call at 32 Shrewsbury Lane. Possible burglary, possible shots fired. The female caller disconnected and has not
responded to call-back."
Pomales thumbed his radio and turned on his flashers. "I'm only two blocks away."
As Pomales reached 32 Shrewsbury, a woman ran towards him from the side of the house.
* * *
Joan stopped when she saw the officer's hand drop to his weapon. "My husband is still in there with the burglar."
She watched his eyes glance at the house and then snap back. "Could you see all the exits?"
"Not the door on the other side, the slider from the living room. Aren't you going to go in and help my husband?"
"Just waiting for backup." Keeping his eye on the house, he brought her over to the cruiser and told her to sit in the front seat. Joan
shook her head. It was foolish for the officer to stand there doing nothing since any burglar would have seen the flashing lights.
As another cruiser pulled up, the officer jogged over to meet it.
Joan closed her eyes.
* * *
Gladys was happy to finally have a receptive ear. "I knew it was just a matter of time."
Detective Anderson pulled out his notebook. "Why do you say that?"
"Some people just look for trouble." She leaned forward. "They didn't have a very good marriage. I heard them argue more than
"Did they fight about anything in particular?"
"I wouldn't listen to their private discussions. I do know this though--that woman spends too much time in her darkroom. The
chemicals in there are so dangerous that she wouldn't even store them in her house. The fumes can't be good for her."
"Did you see any evidence of strange behavior?"
Gladys thought for a moment, weighing memories to see which would be more telling. "Well, for one thing, she started doing this
show on the community radio station about how to take better pictures. How can she demonstrate that on the radio?"
* * *
Bill welcomed Detective Anderson into his house and brought the officer into the production room, hoping to bolster his nerves by
surrounding himself with his radio equipment.
"I was in here all night until you rang the doorbell." He pointed to a panel with two lights. "The green light means someone is on the
telephone, and the red light means someone is ringing the doorbell. Otherwise, I'd never know someone was trying to reach me when
I was in here working."
The detective glanced around the room as if he was familiar with the equipment. "Did you buy all this yourself?"
"Radio has been a lifelong love affair. The station couldn't afford this as they're dependant on donations. I had the room, the
knowledge, and the finances."
"You were working in here tonight?"
Bill relaxed, knowing he was on safe ground. "A radio program. I was laying the sound effects on a show that we staged here last
"You wouldn't have heard anything out of the ordinary tonight then."
Bill wondered what the detective expected. Hadn't Bill already shown that he couldn't have heard anything? "No, not with this
production-grade soundproofing. I didn't even hear the shot."
* * *
Detective Anderson handed Joan a paper cup of water and motioned towards me behind the two-way mirror. "We're being taped. It's
official policy, every interview and interrogation has to be recorded. That way there's no need to question what someone said."
Joan nodded and sipped her water without turning to look at the mirror. So many did as if they would be the first to see something
behind the glass. "Thanks for taking time to talk to me. Do you have any leads to the burglar who killed my husband?"
"So far, no one in the neighborhood saw anything out of the ordinary, no masked stranger running through their backyard."
"The neighbors respect each other's privacy."
"We also haven't found any unexplained prints or fibers in your house."
"You mean you're nowhere."
Most people didn't understand that methodical police work took longer than the crime. "We're collecting evidence. It's just a matter
of time until something breaks our way." How far did he go, how quickly? "Everybody makes mistakes. For example, a professional
burglar should have known you
were on the property."
"The office is also a darkroom. I had all the lights off."
Detective Anderson shook his head. "I'm talking about a professional, the type of burglar that's been hitting the homes in the area.
He wouldn't have made that mistake."
"Perhaps my burglar wasn't a professional."
"Perhaps your husband wasn't killed by a burglar." He wondered if he had crossed the line, but she held his gaze.
* * *
Captain Jorgeson tried to rub the kink out of his neck as he answered the telephone. "Yah."
"This is Anderson."
Reaching for a pen, Jorgeson used his ever-present pad to make notes as Anderson summarized the 911 call and the findings thus far.
"You're kidding me. The husband wasn't shot?"
"That's right. It looks like someone clubbed him with a table lamp."
Jorgeson rolled the information around in his mind. "Is there any evidence at all of a gunshot?"
"Nothing but the testimony of the wife and the neighbor."
"That's the neighbor who wouldn't have heard anything in the first place?"
Jorgeson laughed. "I don't suppose you've been able to dig someone up who saw this neighbor run from the office back to his house
before the cruiser arrived."
"No. That neighborhood is big on privacy hedges."
"And then they wonder why they get burglarized." Sometimes he thought that the only people dumber than criminals were the citizens
who let them get away with it. "Are you going for a search warrant?"
"I just wanted to talk to you first."
* * *
Judge Tan looked past the search warrant in her hands to Detective Anderson standing before her. "As usual, your format is flawless,
but I question the strength of your cause. This looks dangerously like a fishing trip." She felt more than saw the officer stiffen.
"Bill has the equipment and the ability to have faked the 911 call, thus freeing up Joan to be in the house killing her husband. There's
sure to be evidence of what he produced in that studio of his."
"Have you been able to tie Bill and Joan together?"
"She does a show at the radio station where he works."
"Have you been able to unearth anything more definite?" Judge Tan was tempted to remind the officer that he and she also worked
together and no one assumed that they were lovers and co-conspirators.
Detective Anderson shifted on his feet. "Not at this time."
Judge Tan returned to the search warrant. Although she respected Anderson's hunches, that didn't give her license to invade
someone's privacy. "I think you may have rushed this. In any case, your suspect probably erased the tape that day before you
questioned him. And if he hasn't because he thinks
he might need it for blackmail or bargaining, he probably won't, which means you have time to discover something more incriminating
against the two of them."
* * *
Michael put down his sandwich as Anderson entered the room. "You guys have great sound quality on your 911 tapes."
"It's a new system. Did you find anything useful."
That was Anderson, about as much fun as vacuum cleaner. "Of course, I'm a genius."
"The bad news is that I can't tell for certain if we're listening to an actual telephone call or the playback of a tape. Whoever put this
together knew how to use his equipment."
"But the good news is?"
Michael felt flushed from the excitement of sharing a discovery, even if it was with a dead fish like Anderson. "I was able to isolate
the sound of someone breathing in the background. Someone not the caller who is reporting the crime. Someone who’s breathing is
regular as if what the caller is saying isn't important."
* * *
If you're reading this, I guessed wrong, and Joan found some other way to get rid of me. I was sure she and her lover would jump all
over the opportunity to copycat the recent rash of burglaries, but they must not have decided not to use my gun, which I'd sabotaged
in order to catch them in the act. I hope at least they don't get away with it.