Harriet Murmer was scheduled to testify against her ex-husband, a capo in the Domino crime family. The FBI had to keep their witness safe and they chose the Convent of Perpetual Solitude, a walled, all-women enclave in the heart of Manhattan. It was perfect. No self-respecting mobster would dare shoot up a community of nuns.
On the second week of Harriet's stay, the FBI's confidence was shattered—as was their case, as was Harriet's skull—by a shell from a .44 magnum. Just as the sisters were gathering for evening vespers, a gunshot echoed through the convent's stone archways. Sister Margaret Mary announced the news. Her tight, starched collar bobbed up and down as she gulped. "Ms. Murmer is dead."
The FBI found their witness in her room on the third floor. "I don't know how an assassin could have gotten in and out without anyone seeing him." Mother Superior shivered.
"Maybe he didn't get in and out," special agent McCormack replied. "Have any new sisters arrived recently?"
In fact, there were three new arrivals. Sister Margaret Mary was from Cleveland. "I was on the second floor when I heard the shot," the older nun said. "I hid in a corner, in the shadows, more frightened for myself than for our poor guest. A few seconds later, I saw Sister Juliana coming down from the third floor. She didn't see me, but I definitely saw a gun in her hand. After she passed by, I went upstairs and found the body."
Sister Juliana was a transfer from Patterson, New Jersey, and admitted to carrying a .22 handgun.
"When my brother heard I was coming here, he made me take it. Seems he was right. When I heard the shot, I grabbed my gun and headed downstairs. I didn't see a thing."
Sister Ursula had been in a third-floor bathroom. After the shot, she claimed to have heard a man's voice, talking to himself as he walked down the hall. She was the last to arrive at the vespers chapel.
Whom should the FBI hold for further questioning?
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.