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Lee Harris

The Silver Anniversary Murder

Lee Harris The Silver Anniversary Murder
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Country of final manufacture:

US

Excerpt from book:

1


"Is this Christine Bennett Brooks?"

The voice in my ear was female, no-nonsense, and of indeterminate age. "Yes," I acknowledged. "Who's this?"

"Are you the one who solved the murder of that man in Oakwood last year?"

"Yes, I am."

"You've looked into several murders in the last years, haven't you?"

"Yes." If I sounded tentative, it was because I didn't know where this was going and I was somewhat intimidated both by the voice and by the direction of the words.

"Well, here's another one for you. A body will be found later today. I want you to be the first to know. I think you may enjoy looking into this death."

"Are you telling me someone has died?"

"I don't believe I said that."

My heart did something crazy. "Ma'am, is someone about to die?"

"I don't think I said that either."

"You--you aren't doing anything to harm yourself, are you?" I was trying to figure out how I could alert the police while keeping this woman on the line when I had only one telephone in my home.

"Let me repeat what I said, Mrs. Brooks: A body will be found later today. I'm not saying where it will be found or whose body it will be--whose body it is," she corrected herself.

"Who is this, please?"

"Mrs. Brooks, you are wasting your time and mine. I have things to do. I simply wanted to give you a heads-up, and you're making it very difficult for me. Today is my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. I remember how happy--and beautiful--I was as a bride. I remember how handsome and strong and loving my fiance was--my husband by the end of the day. Sadly, all things end."

"Please," I said, feeling panicky. "Don't do anything you'll regret. Don't--"

"I assure you I have no regrets. I just wanted to say thank you for listening to me and to tell you--" She stopped.

"Yes?" I said anxiously.

"And to tell you--Just a moment."

I thought I heard another voice and then the sound was muffled. "Hello?" I said. "Are you still there?"
There was a sound, loud and explosive. "Hello?" I said again.

The phone on the other end clattered to the floor or onto a table, and a few seconds later, as I shouted frantically into my phone, a dial tone pierced the silence. A chill passed through my body. Reverting to my oldest instincts, I crossed myself. Then, without hanging up, I put the phone down on the kitchen counter, grabbed my bag and keys, and ran out to the car.


"Just try to stay calm, Mrs. Brooks," the police officer said.

I had made for the Oakwood police station as fast as I dared. They knew me because Jack, my husband, is an NYPD detective lieutenant, and he has pals among the Oakwood police. I appreciated the uniformed officer trying to calm me, but it did no good. I was nearly in tears, less coherent than my usual fairly calm demeanor, and certain that I had witnessed a shooting over the phone.

"I'm fine. Please listen to me. Something terrible has just happened. Can you trace a call if the caller has hung up?"

"Possibly, but it depends on the circumstances. Would you start from the beginning and tell me what happened?"

I told him about the phone call, the female voice, as much of the conversation as I could recall. "And then there was another voice."

"On the phone?"

"No," I said with irritation. "There was another person on the woman's end of the call."

"Man or woman?"

"I think a man. I didn't hear anything clearly. But she stopped talking to me and started talking to him."

"And then?"

"And then," I said, swallowing, "there was an explosion--a gunshot, I think. And the phone fell. And then a dial tone came on the line."

"Sounds like a prank to me."

"Officer, please. She said a body would be found. I wasn't talking to a child. This was an adult woman. Oh yes, she said today was her wedding anniversary. Her twenty-fifth, I think she said. That would make her forty-five, give or take. I don't think this was a prank."

"We'll look into it."

I don't want to say he was lying to me, but I felt he was placating me, not addressing me as an equal. "I left my phone off the hook," I said urgently. "Is there something you can do right now to find out where the call came from?"

"Oh, you did?" He sounded almost joyous. "Wait here a minute."

I stood in front of the classic high counter and watched him disappear into an adjoining room. I looked at my watch. At least fifteen minutes had elapsed since I put the phone down in my kitchen, since the gunshot rang in my ears. If someone was lying wounded in a house here in town, we could save him if we got there soon enough. Three long minutes passed. I was alone in the outer office of the Oakwood police station.

The phone rang, startling me. Someone inside must have picked it up as it stopped in the middle of the second ring. Come on, I thought. Do something.

The officer returned, a man in civilian clothes behind him. "This is Detective Palermo," the officer said. "Mrs. Brooks. Her husband is Lieutenant Brooks of the NYPD."

"A pleasure to meet you. I've met your husband. Jack, isn't it?"

"Yes. Will you try to trace the call?" I was in no mood for chitchat.

"Let's go back to your house and see what we can do. I'll follow."

I dashed out to my car, hoping he would move quickly. His car was parked closer to the building and he waited until I had turned into the street before he pulled out of his space. Less than five minutes later I was unlocking my front door.

"I just put it down without breaking the connection," I said, handing him the phone, which was making unpleasant noises.

"That was the right thing to do. You can dial a code to get the number of the last call made to this number. If you'd hung up and someone else had called while you were out, that's the number we'd get. This way we'll get the number of your strange caller."

I was relieved I had done the right thing. He took the phone, broke the connection, then turned it on again and dialed a few digits. He had taken a pen and a small notebook out of his pocket, and he wrote down a phone number as I watched. Then he dialed it.

He must have listened to twenty rings or more before he hung up. "Sorry," he said. "No one answers."

"Can you get an address?" I knew I was sounding pushy but I was certain that someone was lying dead or was dying in that house, and it was his job to find them.

"Give me a minute. Why don't you sit down and relax, Mrs. Brooks. We'll get to the bottom of this."

I was too keyed up to relax, whether sitting or standing. I walked away from him and stood at the entrance to our family room, looking away. He punched in a number, identified himself as a police detective, and asked for information on the number he had written down. It didn't take long.

"OK," he said, sounding more casual than I felt. "I've got an address. I'll be on my way and I'll let you know what happens."

"I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to follow you in my car. The woman who called said she knew who I was, but I didn't recognize the voice. I'd really like to know what's going on."

"Sure," he said,


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