AN ILL WIND by R.T. Lawton

With the evidence technicians packed up and gone, Detective Jack Costa gazed out the open window of the beachfront house. Out there in the windy sunshine, young kids ran along the water’s edge. Their kites with long tails danced high above the sand dunes.   

Jack felt a twinge of guilt. He ought to be spending more time with his own kids instead of working all these long overtime hours. After work was finished here, maybe he’d stop on the way home and pick up a couple of kites.

One of the other detectives stepped up behind him.

“Here’s our witness. Name’s Tori Robinson. Says she works here.”

Jack paused to watch a seagull run toward the water, launch itself into the air and soar high over the waves. All work now, Jack turned away from the window to face the distraught young woman.

“You called the police?”

“Yes,” replied Tori between sobs. “I work for Mister Kinion.” Tears rolled down her smooth cheeks, trailing mascara down one side.

“I know this is difficult for you,” Jack said, “but I need to ask some questions.”

“Go ahead.” Tori sniffed. “I’ll do my best.”

He took out a small notebook. “What type of work do you do here?”

“I’m a ghost writer for Mister Kinion’s manuscripts. He dictates his novels into a recorder, then I arrange the words into a readable format.”

Jack hesitated. “I’ve read a couple of his books. Go on.”

“We finished our latest novel, so I went out to buy wine for a celebration. When I got back, Larry–Mister Kinion, that is–was dead on the floor with a pistol in his hand.”

“You’re saying suicide?”

“Yes, he’d left a note on the table by the open window.”

Jack pointed at the window where he had been watching the seagull earlier. “This one?”

“Correct.”

“We didn’t find a note.”

“As I told the other detective, it blew out the window, across the beach and into the ocean.”

“Even if we found it now, the paper would be waterlogged,” commented Jack. “I assume you read the note before it blew away?”

“Yes. Initially, I found Larry’s body and couldn’t understand why he would do such a thing. This was supposed to be a happy time. Then I saw the note and it explained everything. I put the note back where I’d found it, and immediately called nine-one-one.”

“What was in the note?” prompted Jack.

Tori dabbed at her eyes.

“There’s something I should probably tell you first. During the five years that we worked together, Larry and I gradually fell in love.”

“And?” inquired Jack.

“And when I went to the store for the wine, Larry was going to call his wife and ask for a divorce so we could get married.”

Jack let the ensuing silence linger.

“Larry evidently made the phone call,” Tori finally continued, “because the note said his wife refused to divorce him. And, now that she knew about us, she was going to ruin him with information from Larry’s past.”

“Did Larry say what that information was?”

“No, he just said he’d be finished as a best-selling author, therefore suicide was the only way out.”

Jack considered her words.

“Did you see anyone else near the house?”

“As I was coming back, a small red car passed me in the opposite direction. Mrs. Kinion drives a red sports car, but I couldn’t be sure it was her.”

“How long were you gone?”

“Two hours.”

“May I see the wine you bought?”

“Sure,” replied Tori. “It’s a Pinot Noir that Larry and I liked.”

Jack removed the bottle from the brown paper sack and observed the label.

“A nice touch,” said Jack. “Just a few more questions if you don’t mind.”

“Of course,” replied Tori. “Anything to help.”

At that point, Jack figured it was going to be a long day. He mentally went over an easily observable fact. Since seagulls launched themselves into a strong wind, that meant the wind was blowing inland, not toward the ocean. Tori Robinson had been caught in her first lie. So much for any suicide note.

There’d be no kite-flying with his kids for Jack tonight.


R.T. Lawton is a retired federal agent, served three years on the Board of Directors of the Mystery Writers of America and has almost 100 short stories in various publications, with over a third of those appearing in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine..


Copyright © 2016 R.T. Lawton. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. 

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