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Lt. Tommy Echo of San Francisco Police Department was no slouch.  He wasn’t afraid to ask for directions or to seek out people who could help him solve enigmas.


After two weeks of beating his head against a wall he went to the experts, Retired Homicide Captains Betty Shapiro and Pauline Clucas.


Lt. Echo pushed his way into the Elbow Room, a police officer’s  hangout near Golden Gate Park.  Betty and Pauline sat at their corner of the bar.


Betty pointed to Renne Paturzo, bartender, owner and former Mission District Precinct Captain. While trying to mediate a marital dispute, he was shot three times by the irate wife. Renne took a disability retirement and bought the Elbow Room.


“Angostura Bitters, half a sugar cube covered in Maraschino Cherry Juice, then he muddles it, adds Jim Beam, a splash of soda and a crescent shaped orange slice,” Betty sighed. “The perfect Old Fashion. Captain Paturzo is a genius.”


“I prefer Manhattans,” Pauline said, reaching into a violet tote bag and extracting a twenty dollar bill. “My treat.”


Paturzo handed Betty the Old Fashion and reached for the twenty.  “Enjoy.”


“I got that Cap.” Lt. Echo intercepted the exchange with his own twenty dollar bill. “Let me buy these Ladies a drink.  I need their expertise.”


Minutes later, in a booth in the rear, underneath a poster advocating Police Recruitment, Lt. Echo began. “Ladies, this one has me baffled.”


Betty and Pauline leaned in. “We’re listening,” Betty said. “Keep it simple, Lieutenant.”


“We love a good puzzle.” Pauline added. “So take your time. A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.”  


Lt. Echo gulped down a swig of Heineken and began. “I’m trying to solve a murder and I’m going nowhere.”


Betty stirred her Old Fashion with a swizzle stick.  “Keep it to the fundamentals.”


“Right… Last Thursday morning around 3:00 a.m. a perp entered the Wren Building, it’s a former hotel that was converted into twelve condos, four units on each floor. The perp or perps went down two flights of stairs into a sub-cellar, unscrewed the main electrical panel and somehow shorted out the Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters. The electrical devices in every condo stopped at 3:07. Then in the blacked out building he climbed out of the cellar and up three flights of stairs…”


“Had a flashlight or used a cell phone light,” Pauline stirred her Manhattan with a pinky and took a sip.


“Any convincing evidence it was a he?” Betty asked.


“Sorry, just a figure of speech. Though the victim was a pretty good sized fellow and who ever subdued him carried a wallop.   He…” Lt. Echo reached into a manila folder, pulled out a picture of a baseball ball and laid it in front of the two women.


“That’s for softball.”  Pauline said. “A DeMarini 2018 ‘Fastpitch Bat’. That’s a pricey stick.”


Lt. Echo gave the women a look of confusion.  Pauline pointed to Betty. “She played third base I was short-stop for ‘The Good, The Bat and the Ugly’ softball team.  California State Champions in the Police Athletic League 2009.”


“Is that your murder weapon?” Betty asked.


“Nope, only one more of the odd parts.  So the perp climbs three flights of stairs, jimmies the door of #303, goes into the living room, down a hall, into the bedroom, either wakes O’Brien or doesn’t, but he shatters O’Brien’s knee cap with one swing of the bat, then crushes his hip with a second whack.  Oops. I’m sorry; Kevin O’Brien was the murder victim. ”


“Which knee and hip?” Pauline asked.


“The left.  Why?”


“I’m not sure yet. Please continue.”  


“We’re not sure of the order of events but quickly O’Brien was gagged, a Rokabone dog collar was clipped tightly around his neck and a Balmoral dog leash was used to tie his hands behind his back and secure his feet. That’s when we think the next two blows fell. One split his left femur resulting in a compound fracture.” Lt. Echo took another, longer pull on his beer. “And here’s where it starts going off the weirdness chart.  The perp must have turned the bat on end and slammed the blunt end down on the victim’s foot crushing four toes. He did this several times. He was aiming. He missed the big toe completely.”


“On the left foot?” Pauline asked.


Lt. Echo nodded.


“Okay, we’ve got an incapacitated victim in a lot of pain, but he’s not dead.” Betty summarized.


“Yet,” Pauline added.


“Ladies, I told you this one’s bizarre.  We don’t know how long the rest of this took. Or the order of events.  But, our prep clamped a three inch binder clip over O’Brien’s nostrils. Then with a large spoon he shoved Ziwipeak down the victims throat. Our Medical Examiner concluded he died from suffocation.”


“Ziwipeak?” Betty asked.


“It’s dog food. Expensive dog food.” 


“Is that it?” Pauline asked.




Betty called across to the bar, “Captain Paturzo can we get another round?  And take off your apron for a few minutes. You have to hear this one.”


Betty excused herself to the ladies room and minutes later the table had new drinks and Captain Paturzo was in the booth.  Lt. Echo gave a quick, terse recap and continued.


“The body was found Saturday morning by the victim’s cleaning lady.  She said she knew something was amiss immediately. The  coffee table was upside down. Glass shards from the top were strewn all over the living room.  Books and magazines from a small end table were scattered about. She said O’Brien was a neat-nik and would never go to bed leaving his condo like that. 


We’ve questioned everyone in the building. And for those who remember anything from that evening we have conflicting testimony.


The male in #302 has a prostate problem. Around 4 a.m. he was taking a whiz… sorry, Ladies, urinating and he swears he heard someone dancing in the hall.  Tap dancing to be exact.  But, no one else on the third floor reported hearing or seeing  anything unusual.


Tim Gilbert in #203 said he heard a train whistle or something like a train whistle. But his wife said he also complains about chickens clucking and roosters crowing. 


Ms. Maryland Swensen in #101 says she awoke in panic when she realized all the power was off in her condo and her digital clock was stuck at 3:07. She’s a nurse and had a five a.m. shift at Presbyterian Hospital. She opened the front door of her apartment to see if main hall was affected. She found everything dark. And here it gets weird again. She immediately shut the door and threw the bolt when she heard an eerie humming and a swishing, clicking sound from the stair case. Moments later she heard the front door of the building open, close, followed by silence.  Her cell phone said 4:14.  Of course at that juncture no one knew Mr. O’Brien was dead two stories above.” Lt. Echo picked up his Heineken and looked at the others. “Any ideas?”


“Yes,” Betty offered. With let’s start at the end.  Ms. Swensen opens her front door and discovers darkness. Hears humming,

swishing, and clicking. Correct?”


Lt. Echo nodded.


Pauline put down her cell phone. “I was checking all the dog inferences.  Rokabone collars and Balmoral leashes are expensive.  Did O’Brien own a dog?”


“No. There were no signs of any kind of pet.”


“You missed one dog references, Matti,” Captain Paturzo  interjected.”


“Which one?”


“Dog’s only have four toes.”


“Son of a Bitch!” Lt. Echo said.  “You folks are incredible.”


“We’re nowhere yet.”  Betty said.


“Yeah, but this is like old times and we’re making

headway.” Captain Paturzo said.


“Are we all thinking the same thing?” Pauline asked.


“The S.P.C.A.” They said as one.



Okay Mystery solvers. 


All the clues are up there. 


1. Why was O’Brien murdered and why so violently?  


2. What’s up with the power outage?


3. What’s up with the Clickety Clack?


4. And why was only the left side of the victim beaten with the softball bat?


5. Solve the above and you’ll discover why all three people discovered most of the answers at the  S.P.C.A.


For more clues e-mail me in the comment section below.




Betty Shaprio, Pauline Clucas and Captain Paturzo will appear again in a mystery titled. “One Two Buckle My Shoe.”

softball bat.jpg
softball bat.jpg
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