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Peace & Harmony Funeral Parlor

San Ramon California

January 11, 2019


“Place smells like the inside of a morgue.  Damp. Antiseptic,” thought Stephanie Purcell.  “I’m glad I insisted on an open casket.  Lillianna looks beautiful. Dead and still so beautiful.”  She looked around the room waving to one couple and nodding towards others. Many of them avoided her glance as tears formed in her eyes. 


“It isn’t a big crowd.  But probably as big as it’s going to get.” Stephanie withdrew a few sheets of paper from her Tory Burch hand bag.  Neil Young’s ‘ Harvest Moon’ wafted over the gathered. 


Because I’m still in love with you,

I want to dance with you again

Because I’m still in love with you,

On this harvest moon.



“Lillianna’s favorite song,” she remembered.  “It was our favorite song. And her love notes.  Always pale blue ink. Always perfect penmanship.  Always on violet paper bordered with tiny sea shells. 


Because of you,

I laugh a little harder,

Cry a little less,

And laugh a lot more.



“And my favorite. The love note I found on my pillow when I returned from that hellish, thirty-six hour flight from Sidney.


No one wanted anything,

More than I want you.



Behind Stephanie the crowd stirred. “Time to say something about my Lillianna – something sweet.  Something loving. Something so no one will realize that she was a lying, cheating, 

bitch!.” “


Stephanie stepped up to the speaker’s dais and looked over the mourners. “Mostly women.  I wonder if that god-damn slut is sitting out there?”  


Stephanie knew most of the men; many were fellow pilots or navigators.  “Maybe I’ll mention Lillianna got her solo flying license before she was 16. And her commercial license three days before her 21st birthday. It took a few years longer for me,” Stephanie stifled a laugh. “Inappropriate,” she thought. “Laughter is inappropriate.” 


There’s a full moon risin’,

Let’s go dancin’ in the night.

We know where the music’s playing,

Let’s go out and feel the night.



“A good time as any,” Stephanie thought signaling the funeral  director to stop the music. “I want to thank you all for coming.  Lillianna asked that this service be simple.  I will respect her wishes.” 


Stephanie held up blank sheets of paper and slowly turned them from front to back for everyone to see. “When I began to write, I realized there wasn’t enough paper on Earth to describe how much I loved, and how much I’ll miss, Lillianna.  We met in the air at 35,000 feet.” 


A tall, lithe woman complete covered in black entered a side door.  She closed the door behind her, slowly lifting a lacey veil.  


“We were above the clouds. We were a tumult of passions, sensitivities, hopes and fears.”


The woman in black moved down the side aisle. 


“Lillianna was intelligent, articulate, courageous and  adventurous.  Her laughter infectious…”


The woman in black stood in front of the casket and slowly brought her hand to her mouth, kissed her index finger and thumb and lovingly placed them on Lillianna’s lips, at the same time mouthing, I love you. 


“Lillianna and I complemented each other perfectly….there were

moments when…”


At the casket a guttural, animal, feline sob escaped the throat of the woman in black. 


At the dais, Stephanie stopped speaking as the woman approached.  “I am Inez Tower. You murdered Lillianna. And you’ll hang for it. ”      


Peace & Harmony Funeral Home

January 12

10:00 a.m.



Stephanie Purcell was writing out a check to Funeral Director J.P. Lautin.  “And you want your wife’s body cremated,” he said.  


“I do.” Stephanie said. “Lillianna was not my wife. We were still making plans.” 


Lautin continued, “I thought you should know. Someone broke into our building last night, though nothing seems to be missing.  Lillianna’s casket was jimmied open. “ 


“Jimmied? What do you mean jimmied?”  


“Your wi…. She’s in a gasketed coffin. After each viewing we lock them with a simple hex wrench. In the industry it’s known as a casket key. Some people save them as mementos.  I intended to give you the key after the services.”


Stephanie pushed past the director.  “Let me see her.” 


In the viewing room, Lautin hesitated at the coffin.


“Open the damn thing.”  Stephanie demanded. 


Lifting the lid he pointed to the body. “As you can see nothing has been disturbed and nothing is missing.”


Stephanie stared down.  Shell necklaces and flowered leis were  drapped around her Lillianna neck.  “So beautiful,” Stephanie thought.


“As I said,”Lautin offered, “Nothing has been disturbed and nothing is missing.” Stephanie lifter Lillianna’s left arm and dropped it. 


“And you Sir, are a jackass.”  Stephanie ripped up the check and stormed from the Funeral Parlor. 


San Leandro Police Department

January 12, 1019  11 a.m.


In a cramped office, Inez Tower sat across the desk from Homicide Inspector Dixie Kettlewell. 


“That’s about it.  You can’t let that woman cremate Lillianna.  Stephanie killed her and I can prove it.  But I’ll need time and the body has to be autopsied.” 


“I’m still having trouble understanding all your accusations.” 


“Wow,  I’m not dealing with Sherlock Holmes,” Inez thought.  She reached in her bag and took out a battered issue of National Geographic Magazine and a silver spiral charm bracelet.  Inez pointed to the charm bracelet.  “I stole this last night from Lillianna’s arm. I believe this is the murder weapon.” 



Additional  - facts


Although filled with misgivings,  Inspector stopped the cremation of Lillianna’s body. 


Inez Tower took a red-eye flight to Australia and returned two days later with the beginnings of a tan and enough evidence to bring Stephanie Purcell to trial.


Stephanie Purcell is currently serving a life sentence at the California Institution for Women,  north of San Diego. 


Questions: How did Inez know that Lillianna was murdered?


Why did she have to go to Australia to gather evidence? 


Bonus:  How did Stephanie kill Lillianna?

Why did she want Lillianna’s body cremated?


Okay my mystery fans.  If you like this one.  Send me your solutions  or questions and I’ll be happy to pass along some additional clues. 



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