Can you solve this mini-mystery?


A THEFT IN THE DARK


By Herschel Cozine



Kelly Simms and her partner, Mel Donley, had been called to the home of Eleanor and Fred Barton shortly after nine o'clock. Earlier that evening Eleanor's necklace had been stolen. A brief power failure occurred, during which time the necklace disappeared.

Standing in the large living room where the party was taking place, Kelly and Mel listened as Eleanor described the event.

"The lights were out for less than thirty seconds," Eleanor said. "When they came back on my necklace was gone."

"You heard or felt nothing?" Kate asked.

Eleanor shook her head. "I was distracted by the power failure and didn't feel a thing. Whoever did this is very good." She brushed a tear from her eye. "That necklace is an heirloom. It's priceless. And it's the first time I have worn it since Fred and I were married." She shivered, and Fred placed a consoling arm around her shoulders.

In the short amount of time between the theft and the discovery, no one had time to leave the room or hide the necklace. Whoever stole it must still have it in his or her possession.

There were six people in the room, counting Eleanor. Lillian, her neighbor, had been standing beside her when the lights went out. Lillian's husband, Harold was seated on the couch behind Eleanor, talking with Gerald Felt. Samantha, Gerald's wife, had just started across the room toward Eleanor at the time. Fred was fixing a drink at the bar across the room.

When Eleanor cried out that her necklace was gone, everyone stopped what they were doing to stare at her. It was a brazen act, to be sure, and dangerous. How did the thief know how long the lights would be out? And where had the thief hidden the necklace?

"Let's start with a search of the room," Kelly said.

"Fine," Eleanor said. She crossed over to the couch where a cat lay curled up in a peaceful sleep.

"I'll get her out of here. She'll only get in the way," she said. She carried the cat to the patio door and scooted her outside. "Out you go, Tabitha."

The cat gave an angry flick of the tail and stalked off in a feline distemper.

Kelly and Mel turned over cushions, pulled out drawers and looked under furniture. The room was sparsely furnished, with few places to hide the necklace.

"The thief didn't have time to hide it where it couldn't be found," Harold said. "Whoever stole it must still have it on his or her person."

"I'm inclined to agree with you," Kelly said. "And that means we will have to search each one of you." She turned to Mel. "You search the men."

"Is this necessary?" Samantha asked. "Surely none of us would do such a thing."

The others mumbled agreement. "But," Harold said, "as unpleasant as it may seem, one of us must have done it. There's no other explanation."

Reluctantly, Samantha submitted to a search, along with the others.

There was no trace of the necklace.

Mel turned to Kelly and shrugged. "What do you make of it?"

Kelly didn't answer. Instead, looking each person in the eye, she asked, "do you have a maid or someone who may have come and gone while you weren't paying attention?"

Eleanor shook her head. "We have no hired help." She swept the room with her hand. "We are the only ones in the house."

"Are you certain no one left the room before we got here?"

"No one," Gerald said. The others nodded in agreement.

"Of course," Gerald continued, "I had to leave the room to let you folks in. But I came directly to the door." He gestured to the other guests. "I was never out of their sight."

Kelly nodded. The front door was just a few feet from the living room, with no nooks or crannies for one to hide anything.

"And no one slipped out after we arrived?"

"No, of course not. You were here. Did you see anyone leave?"

Kelly smiled. "As a matter of fact, I did," she said. "And so did all of you."

Her pronouncement was met with a chorus of murmurs and questions.

"Who? When?"

"Maybe you'd better explain," Mel said.


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