Can you solve this mini-mystery?

Tragedy In One Act

By Herschel Cozine

Sarah Winters' body was sprawled on the floor of the classroom at Murrayville University where she had taught biology. In her hand was a cardboard sign with the female symbol on it: a circle with a cross extending downward from it. In her dying moments she had taken it from the wall behind her desk. The male symbol remained in its place on the wall.

"What do you make of that?" Kate inquired of her assistant.

"Is she telling us the killer was a woman?" Mel replied.

"If so, she has narrowed the suspects down to half the population."

"Speaking of which, do we have any? Suspects, that is." Mel asked.

Professor Timms, the department chairman, handed Kate a sheet of paper with names written on it. "Traditionally, her biology class puts on a play each year just before spring break. A melodrama. She was the director, and these students are in it. There was a rehearsal scheduled for tonight, and since this is the weekend, the campus is pretty deserted. These four would be the most likely to have been here." He shook his head sadly. "They were the ones who found her and called me."

"Where can I find them?" Kate asked.

"They're in the theatre. It's just down the hall."

Andrea Miller, Guy Hanson, Jason French, and Michelle Cooper sat together talking quietly when Kate and Mel entered the theatre. Jason, apparently the leader of the group, stepped forward. Tall and thin, with brown eyes, he smiled warmly, extending his hand.

"Jason French," he said.

Kate took his hand, nodded to Mel. "I'm Kate Nulty and this is Mel Melton."

The rest of the cast was introduced. Kate turned her attention to Jason.

"Who discovered the body?"

"We all did," Jason said. "We came together. We live on campus, so we usually have dinner together on rehearsal nights. Then we walk over here." He shrugged. "When Doctor Winters didn't show up at the theatre we came over to the lab."

"You saw no one else?"

Jason shook his head.

"Can you think of any reason someone would kill her?"

Another shake of the head. "Nobody here, at least."

"How was she to work for? I mean as a director." Kate asked.

Jason shrugged. "Dictatorial. And not willing to listen to suggestions. She could even be cruel in her comments. But certainly nothing that would lead one of us to murder her."

Kate glanced at the others. Wearing blank expressions, they neither confirmed nor denied Jason's remark.

"The play we were doing was a farce. One act," Jason went on. "To give you an idea of what it was all about, Guy plays a dock worker named 'Stevie Dore.' Michelle is an art store owner named 'Venus D. Milo.' Andrea is 'Minnie Strone,' manager of a diner. And I am 'Cliff Hanger,' author of suspense novels." He laughed. "It's called 'Five Greasy Pizzas.' You won't see it on Broadway."

Kate noted the names on her pad. "Doctor Winters has been dead for about three hours. Were you all together at that time?"

Jason glanced at his watch. "That would be five o'clock or so. No. We eat at six. I was doing laundry in the dorm basement at five."

"I was studying my lines in my room," Michelle said.

"I was in the gym working out," Guy said.

Kate turned to Andrea, raising her eyebrow in a silent question. Andrea played with her hair nervously. "I was right here. I was in the dressing room mending my costume." She shuddered. "I'm afraid that's not much of an alibi. It's so close to the lab."

She pulled Mel to one side. "I know who did it."


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