The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?
(Image credit: Flickr user Peter Lewis)
Jonah came down for breakfast one morning looking tired and worried. "Did you hear a gunshot last night?"
"Gunshot?" His mother stopped pouring cereal into a bowl. "Around here?" Carol Bixby and her son lived on a cul-de-sac with only one other house nearby.
Jonah nodded. "I heard Mr. and Mrs. Grover next door fighting, and then I heard a gunshot. I was so tired, I just went back to sleep, but I'm sure it was a gun."
"You were dreaming," his mother said. "I didn't hear anything."
"Your bedroom's on the other side of the house," Jonah replied. "And you're a sound sleeper. Can we go next door and check it out?"
Carol smiled. "You think the Grovers killed each other? Jonah, you spend too much time with me at work. Not everything is a crime."
But Jonah insisted and Carol knew that the only way to shut him up was to give in. So they both put on jackets and walked across to their neighbors' split-level home. On the front lawn was a "Sold" sign. After months of trying, the Grovers had sold their house just yesterday and were moving to Sacramento, California.
Jonah was about to knock when he heard a banging sound coming from inside. "You see?" he said. Without even thinking, he turned the knob and pushed open the door.
Mr. Grover was alone in the living room, pounding a nail into the wall. "Carol? Jonah?" he said, surprised. "Just a second." And he took a picture from the floor and hung it on the nail. "Come on in," he said, turning to greet them.
Carol blushed. "Sorry to disturb you, Bob, but Jonah thinks he heard something last night. Were you and Dora..." She didn't know quite how to say it. "Were you guys arguing last night?"
"Arguing?" Bob Grover looked puzzled. "No. Dora left yesterday to close on the house in Sacramento. The new owners of this place are coming by any minute for a final walk-through."
"Do you mind if I have a look around?" Jonah asked. "I mean, I don't think I've ever seen your whole house."
Carol and Mr. Grover stayed in the living room chatting, while Jonah disappeared into the back rooms. He didn't know what he was looking for, perhaps some evidence of foul play.
The master bedroom looked rumpled and ordinary. Had Mrs. Grover really left yesterday? Jonah checked a closet and saw three suitcases piled high on a shelf. In the master bathroom were the usual cosmetics and toiletries around the sink, but no evidence to suggest Dora hadn't gone away for a few days. He wished he was a trained detective like his mother.
Jonah returned to the living room and finally remembered something. "Mr. Grover?" he said. "Wasn't there a rug in this room?"
"Very observant," said Bob Grover. "Yeah, it was too big for our new house, so Dora gave it to her niece across town."
A minute later, Carol and her son were walking back home. "Well, that was embarrassing," she muttered.
But Jonah wasn't embarrassed, he had just realized. "Mom, you need to call a judge and get a search warrant."
"Mr. Grover shot his wife in that house. If we wait too long, he'll get rid of the evidence."
WHAT CONVINCED JONAH THAT MR. GROVER SHOT HIS WIFE?
The whodunit above was provided by American mystery fiction author Hy Conrad.
In addition to his work in mystery and crime puzzles, Hy was also one of the original writers for the groundbreaking TV series Monk.