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All evidence pointed to Frank Fortini. "He has motive," the homicide chief told his men. "Frank's Uncle Gregor, the victim, just won the state lottery. Frank and his brothers are Gregor's only relatives and would inherit the $14 million prize.
"Also, Frank had opportunity. Gregor was a paranoid guy living in an isolated cabin. He always kept his doors locked and hated strangers. Since there was no forced entry and no sign of a struggle, we know Gregor was attacked by someone he knew and trusted.
"To top it off, we found direct evidence at the cabin. There were fresh tire tracks, perfectly matching the tires from Frank's mountain bike. And ..." The chief was getting angry. "And we found a ticket from today's lottery near the scene—with Frank's prints on it.
"The only trouble is . . ." The chief pounded the table. "He has an alibi. On the night Gregor was killed, Frank was breaking into Avalon Hardware. Normally there'd be nothing to steal. But the store manager neglected to take the day's receipts to the bank. An alert patrolman looked through a window and saw Frank prying open the cash register. The coroner says Gregor was killed at the same time Frank was being read his rights."
"Frank's a petty robber," Jake Fortini later told the police in his brother's defense. "He'd steal the pennies from your loafers, you could count on it. But he'd never kill."
Frank's other brother was a teller at Avalon's only bank. "I saw Frank right after I got off work," said Emil Fortini. "We had a couple drinks. Frank seemed a little hard up for money, but that was normal."
Frank had little to say in his own defense. "I keep my bike in an unlocked garage. Anyone could have used it. As for my uncle, I haven't been up to his cabin in a week."
The homicide chief scratched his head. "I don't have any hard evidence. But I have a pretty good idea who did it and how the murder was committed."
What was the chief's theory?
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.
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