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A Director Dies

A Director Dies

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A Director Dies

203 Seiten
3 Stunden
Apr 19, 2013


A head tournament bridge director is murdered during a heavy thunderstorm and electrical blackout. But you don't have to know anything about bridge to enjoy this murder mystery so read on.
The Sheriff and local Police Captain are tasked with unraveling the clues which point to any number of viable suspects--the ambitious assistant director who now becomes the head director; the local unit president who had a major disagreement with the victim; the tournament co-chairs; the other directors; and on and on. Through all the twists and turns, the reader is challenged, along with the investigators, to figure out "whodunit," how and why, before the unexpected ending. The obvious isn't always obvious--or is it?

Apr 19, 2013

Über den Autor

After a lifetime of various occupations, I have at last found my niche - creative writing. Although I enjoyed most of the things I have done over the years and am proud of my accomplishments, nothing has given me more pleasure than sitting at my computer and bringing characters to life. I don't create them; they simply speak through me. I have been able to incorporate many of my personal experiences into the stories I tell, but naturally there is a lot of dramatic license necessary to make the stories happen. Brought up in Woodstock, NY during the 1940's and '50's, my formative years brought me in close contact with an abundance of music, theater and art. My parents imbued me with a true love of the arts. Aside from the fiction I have written, I also published a family history entitled "LONG TIME PASSING: History of a Jewish Family." For those who prefer more personal details, I have one son who is an attorney, a daughter-in-law who is also an attorney, and three lovely grandchildren, all teenagers at this writing. My original career was as a classical singer, which included a year at an opera house in Germany, followed by many less exciting endeavors. I ended my working life as a real estate agent, duplicate bridge director and teacher, and a brief stint as a legal assistant. But nothing has brought me the true pleasure I find in writing


A Director Dies - Ruth C. Howard



A loud clap of thunder shook the room, startling everyone and evoking a few fearful cries. It sounded like a regiment of troops marching along the flat roof of the convention center from one end to the other. Or perhaps they were bowling up there! Those who’d grown up back north likened it to the old story of Henry Hudson bowling in the sky, except that here he was using a roof in South Florida as his bowling alley.

Luckily for the hundreds of bridge players seated at their tables throughout the enormous room, the sound may have been a bit scary, but it didn’t interfere with their games. They were using bidding boxes which kept things fairly silent.

There were, of course, numerous side comments on the weather. A storm of this magnitude was an unusual occurrence for February in Florida. Many were sure that lightning strikes were hitting all around them, but the lack of windows allowed no more than guessing. Another particularly heavy clap of thunder startled the room into total silence.

But, as bridge players always do, they continued playing. Nothing could stop their game, not illness, not death (their partner’s or even their own), not war, not peace, not a thunder storm, not even 9/11, and certainly not murder.

The five directors who were scattered throughout the room also kept the game moving. A couple of them took a microphone to make unneeded calming remarks.

Charlotte Pendy, the head director, was taking her usual stroll through the room with a large canvas carry bag over her shoulder. Charlotte was a woman in her late 40’s, of medium stature, and dark blond hair projecting an air of authority. Some players knew, and some didn’t, that the bag she carried was full of money from the day’s entry fees. Charlotte kept that bag with her, where she could always feel and touch it, until later in the evening, when after the last entry fees for the day had been logged, it was given to the Unit Treasurer for deposit the next day. Charlotte always breathed a sigh of relief after turning it over, at which point it became someone else’s turn to guard the take.

Guessing games often entertained some of the players, as they tried to figure out how much Charlotte was carrying with her. Today was Friday and a big day in the tournament. The estimates ran from as little as $15,000 to as much as $25,000.

Charlotte had been carrying money this way for more years than she cared to remember, and nothing had ever happened to challenge her method of protection. Besides, bridge players were basically honest. Oh, they pilfered each other’s convention cards, pens, and other minor items they might find along the way. Actually it couldn’t even be considered pilfering, more like finding. Since many of them were pretty well off, the "paltry’ amount Charlotte carried was of little interest to them.

Duplicate Bridge was not a cheap game to play, if one actually pursued the tournament trail. There was at least one tournament somewhere in the U.S. every week, and usually more than one. Regionals lasted for about a week and Sectionals three to four days. The Nationals, high on everyone’s list, were held by the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) at least four times a year and took up about ten days. There were even tournament bridge cruises, which had become especially popular with the senior population since their inception a few years ago.

The ACBL supported by member dues, had the task of increasing membership and making and enforcing the rules of duplicate bridge. It also encouraged the local Units to instill an interest in the game among young people. Still, at this time, if one looked around the room at most tournaments, a guess of the players’ average age at around 70 wouldn’t be far off.

Kitchen bridge, the term players used for small games where four friends got together and just played bridge, chatted, and snacked, without the rules or rewards of duplicate, cost little or nothing. Tournaments involved travel costs, hotels, restaurants, entry fees and other miscellaneous charges. Only those primarily retired and of some means were able to do the tournament circuit.

Another heavy clap of thunder erupted, seeming to roll on and on causing shivers among some of the players. They began to dread having to drive the wet roads to their hotels, or home, or to the nearest pub to wind down after three full sessions of bridge in one day. They could only hope that the storm would have passed by that time. Thunderstorms in Florida could be heavy but rarely lasted more than forty-five minutes to an hour.

Charlotte was making her rounds throughout the room, nodding to the many players she knew and managing to make time for some small talk with her directors, all of whom were top professionals and well versed in the rules they had to enforce, and most of who were her good friends.

Suddenly, as she walked down the center aisle, the lights in the entire building flickered, dimmed and went out. There was no ambient light. Nothing. It was pitch black.

There were murmurs from many of the players, some of whom expected the directors to have a straight line to God so that the lights would be turned on immediately. The directors, however, unable to reach the Almighty for help, called out for everyone to stay calm and in their seats. Surprisingly, most did--surprising since bridge players are notoriously bad at taking direction.

Then a few people near the center aisle heard a sound, almost like a yelp, and then a thump, but no one got up to check it out. As everyone sat in the dark, the general sound of voices kept getting louder. Many couldn’t sit still any longer and, once their eyes got used to the dark, they simply started milling around in the dark. One lady tripped over something and fell. She screamed as she went down, then screamed again.

There’s something wet and sticky here, she called out. I can’t get up. I keep slipping.

Kent Hammond, one of the directors, ran up, out of breath and sweating. He tried to make his way to her through the ever growing crowd. At that moment, the lights came on again and he was finally able to reach her, putting his hands under her arms to bring her to her feet.

A sudden silence came over the room while everyone stared at the sight in the center aisle. Charlotte Pendy lay on the floor, her throat slit from ear to ear, blood all around. Her carry-bag was gone.

The lights had been out for only a little over ten minutes.


It took more than a few moments for the realization to take hold that something really bad had happened. The situation couldn’t have been clearer--Charlotte had been murdered and the money stolen.

Kent quickly got out his cell phone and dialed 9-1-1. He briefly explained to the operator what had happened and asked that the police are sent immediately. He was aware that it was too late for an ambulance and said so, leaving it to the operator to decide who to send.

In the meantime, the local Unit’s Tournament Co-Chair, Jon Hawkins, along with the other directors, instructed the crowd to take their seats again. They posted trustworthy people at each exit and ordered that no one leave the room. It took a few minutes but most were stunned enough to be glad to have some direction.

Is there a doctor here? shouted Jon.

Two men from opposite sides of the room came over. Both took one look at Charlotte and realized there was nothing to be done for her.

Better not touch her before the police come, Dr. Wilkes said. "We need to keep the scene the way it was as much as possible.’

Judy Adams, who had tripped over the body and was covered with blood, sat whimpering at the side of the aisle. Dr. Wilkes examined her briefly and found nothing broken or even sprained.

You may be a bit bruised for a while, but you’ll be fine. You’ll feel better when you can get the blood washed off.

Judy shuddered as she looked at the blood on her hands and clothes.

In the meantime, Kent, still breathing heavily, was mopping his brow with a paper napkin from the snack table."

Why are you so out of breath? Jon asked Kent.

Before Kent could answer, the sound of sirens penetrated the numbness of the crowd and within a few moments, there were police swarming through the doors. A tall, graying, slimly built man with a weathered face wearing a trim uniform took charge.

I’m Captain Ben Askew of the Palmetto Police Department. Who’s in charge here?

I am, at least partly, responded Jon. Along with my co-Chair and these five directors, I guess.

The Convention Center representative, who had been on night duty and had unfortunately been napping when the lights were out, groggily joined the group.

Can someone tell me what happened? Captain Askew asked. Obviously we’ll have to interview everyone, he continued, with a rather unhappy look as he saw the size of the crowd, but for now, just give it to me in a nutshell.

Before anyone could speak, the coroner came in with his assistant and a stretcher. Captain Askew pointed to Charlotte’s body so the coroner would know in which direction to push the gurney through the crowded room.

We haven’t processed the scene yet, he called to the coroner.

Then he turned to Jon.

We’d been playing all evening through the storm, Jon began. Then suddenly all the lights in the building went out. When they came on again, we found Charlotte here on the floor with her carry bag gone.

What was in the bag?

The day’s entry fees.

How much would that be?

No one really knows, answered Kent. Probably anywhere between $15,000 and $20,000. But this just doesn’t make sense. For years she’s carried the take around like that and nothing has ever happened. Why now?

That’s what we’ll have to figure out, the Captain replied. You said the lights went out, right?

Yes, replied Jon and Kent at the same time.

About what time was that?

I’d say nine or so. The storm was particularly heavy. I imagine lights all over the area went out.

Captain Askew was silent for a moment.

Now there’s a problem, he said. There was no loss of electrical power anywhere around here during this evening. This place is the only one reporting an outage.

Everyone standing around looked stunned.

Do you think someone turned it off specifically to get the money?

That’s certainly one possibility, responded Askew.

As he spoke, a strikingly handsome black man in a well-pressed uniform walked over with an air of authority. Many of the women in the room eyed him admiringly.

Hi Ben, he addressed Captain Askew. Looks like you’ve got yourself quite a job here.

Right on, Sheriff, the Captain responded respectfully.

I guess we’ll need to work together here, since jurisdiction could be in question. And besides it looks as though you’ll need more help.

We can use all the help we can get, Joe, agreed Askew.

He introduced Sheriff Joe Thurston to Jon and Kent. After shaking hands with them, he pushed a button on his communication device to call in reinforcements.

The other tournament co-Chair, Jennie Vining, joined the group. The remaining directors came up to ask what they could do. Laurie Willis, Janice Elver, Tom Bates, and Bill Shone, along with Ann Driver from the Intermediate/Newcomer section, had been standing to the side waiting to offer their services. All three of the women d were in tears. Tom and Bill were both visibly upset. Through all the back and forth, it seemed as if Charlotte had been forgotten. She’d been a good friend and boss and no one was sure what to do next. The tears finally got through to Captain Askew and Sheriff Thurston. They turned their attention to the body.

Would someone please explain to me who this lady is and whether she has any relatives here? Sheriff Thurston asked.

Laurie, trying to control her tears, answered his questions. …and she has no relatives here. She’s a widow, lives in central Florida, no kids, and her only relatives are her Mom and an older sister up in Kentucky. We all work together a lot and have in a way become each others’ families.

I understand, the Sheriff said, acknowledging Laurie’s explanation, but after the autopsy someone in her family will have to come down and take possession of the body. I don’t mean to sound unfeeling, but there are always these impersonal details that have to be dealt with. Do any of you know her mother and sister well enough to break the news to them, or do you think we should do it officially?

That stumped the group. Finally Jon, a born executive and leader, spoke up.

I don’t know her family, but I’m willing to call and tell them. I think it would be better coming from someone involved in the tournament.

I’ve met her sister a couple of times when she visited Charlotte, Janice said. I’m willing to do the job with Jon. And I have their telephone number.

That’s settled then, Askew agreed. Jason, he added, turning to a nearby policeman, We need to do a thorough search of this building, top to bottom. You’re in charge. Remember, you’re looking for both the bag with or without the money, and the weapon, probably a knife of some kind.

Jason nodded and set about organizing the other lawmen in and outside the building, again making sure no one could leave without permission.

You’ll need a lot more men, Sheriff Thurston noted. I have a good sized group coming in and they will work under Jason’s command.

Captain Askew turned to the Convention Center representative, Carl. Do you have keys to every nook and cranny of this place?

Yes, I do. And I’ve also called in reinforcements from the Convention Center staff to work with you.

Excellent! Askew and the Sheriff spoke together.

They noticed the coroner and his assistant removing Charlotte’s body on the gurney while the photographer continued taking photos of the crime scene.

Any thoughts? Thurston asked.

Only the obvious, responded the coroner. She died from having her throat slit. She must have died fairly quickly, considering the limited amount of blood on the scene.

Was the amount of blood enough to have formed a puddle someone could slip on?\

I would think so. You’ll see the puddle not far from where she lay.

We’d better take blood samples from the floor, as well as from the lady who slipped. I noticed that one director also had a little blood on his clothes. We need a sample of that as well.

Askew gestured to one of his officers to carry out his directions. The officer quickly put on his latex gloves and found Judy Adams and Kent Hammond. Neither objected to the removal of a sample

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