Play Dead

by JH Wear

Detectives Anya Roberts and Moss Stone are faced with the murder of an actor in a live play performance. The amateur play was being performed during the Edmonton Fringe Festival in a modest sized theatre. Ironically, the play itself was a murder mystery. The victim, a quiet man, turns out to have had a past. Suspicion falls on the actors and others associated with the play. Meanwhile the detectives investigate another murder, this one a small time criminal shot dead in a parking lot shortly after an altercation in a bar. A third murder occurs in a neighbouring city, investigated by the RCMP who contact Stone because the victim previously lived in Edmonton. Stone is convinced all three murders are related. Roberts is convinced he needs to take a reality pill. But she has seen him use “Everything is connected in the universe theory” before and solve stubborn cases. Roberts cannot see how the actor’s murder can be related to a parking lot murder, and even less to one the occurred outside the city. But Stone continues to search for a red motorcycle even though there isn’t any proof the killer used one. Has Stone started seeing connections where none exists?

A real murder occurs at murder mystery play. The irony is not lost on Detectives Moss Stone and Anya Roberts. While they search for clues, two other murders need to be solved. One victim was shot after a bar confrontation and the other beaten to death from a possible break and entry. Stone believes the murders may be related. Roberts believes he needs to take a reality pill.




Jacob Carlton took a puff from his cigarette, cursing that he had to walk home. He continued his journey, reaching a fence that protected a schoolyard. After climbing over the fence, he crossed the field toward the school. He had considered returning to the bar parking lot where his truck waited but suspected the cops might be watching out for him to do just that. They had shown up at the altercation he was involved in at the bar and once they took his name, he guessed they had checked his records. That meant they would have little patience for any more wrongdoing.

Carlton took a final drag from his smoke and threw it on the ground, stepping on the butt as he went by. Another few blocks and he would reach his apartment, where cold beer and leftover pizza waited in the fridge.

He reached the edge of the schoolyard and began to cut across the nearly empty parking lot. The dark asphalt wasn’t close to the streetlights, making it hard to see details.

“Hey, Carlton.”

He turned, startled. At first, he didn’t see the figure at the edge of the parking lot. “What? Who are you?”

“It’s debt payment time.”

The first shot, a pop from a handgun with a silencer, dropped him, hitting him in his stomach. He moaned as he lay on his back. “Help me.”

The figure walked over to where he lay holding his midsection. The gun was pointed right at his chest.

“No, please.” Carlton’s jaw quivered as his eyes focused on the gun barrel. Another popping sound and Carlton was dead.



Chapter One



Anya Roberts clicked on the keyboard, adding details to a file. Her desk was cluttered with yellow Post-it notes, pads of paper, two cup-sized cylinders holding pens, scissors, a small ruler, highlighters, and a stick holding a small flag of New Zealand. Across from her desk sat Moss Stone, her current detective partner, and previous to that, a man she had slept with. That had been a mistake, she reflected afterward, but what was done, was done. After the initial period of difficult conversation, they settled into a relationship of friendship.

“Moss.” She waited a moment and repeated his name, only louder.

“What?” He reluctantly lowered the magazine.

“What’s in that magazine that’s so interesting? Shouldn’t you be working?”

“In a way, I’m working. I’m reading an article on entangled particles.”

“How does that possibly relate to doing police work? And suddenly, I regret asking that question.”

“Because entangled particles are just another way to show how everything in the universe is connected. If one entangled particle has its properties changed, the other particle immediately changes as well. Now, detective work is largely finding clues. Knowing how things can be interconnected can help solve crimes.”

“I knew I shouldn’t have asked.” She sighed. “Anyway, we need to get some work done that’s actually recognized in the department as being work related.”

“All right, I guess I can work on some of the case reports.”

“Yeah, you doing reports. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“Come on...” The desk phone rang. Stone picked it up. “Homicide, Stone speaking.” After a short conversation, he hung up. “Good news, we have a murder.”

“Your definition of good news is different than most people, obviously.” She stood and grabbed her purse.

Stone put on his jacket. “The victim, a male, was found dead in a school parking lot. He has two bullet holes in him.”

“Lovely. I’m amazed how you think going to a murder scene is better than doing a report.”

“What can I say? I’m not a desk person. Let me grab a coffee, and we can get going.”

She shook her head at the thought of another coffee.

* * *

Yellow tape indicated the perimeter behind which mere civilians were required to stand. Most of those watching were school-aged kids, with a couple of adults trying to keep them from crossing the yellow tape. In the middle of the parking lot, a dark sheet covered most of a body, with a pair of black boots sticking out at the end. A few feet away a dirty white baseball cap rested on the asphalt.

A reporter hurried over to them, guessing they looked like the authorities investigating the murder scene. “Pat Pisesky, CHED news. Can you tell us anything?”

Stone held up his hand. “Sorry, we just arrived. No info yet.”

Roberts and Stone entered past the yellow tape and approached the officer who appeared to be in charge.

After introductions, Stone asked, “What can you tell us?”

The cop flipped open his notebook, reading. “According to the ID he had in his wallet, the body is Jacob Carlton. The wallet still had cash in it. The other items of note are keys and a cell phone. The apparent cause of death was two gunshot wounds, one in the stomach and the second in the chest. No witnesses have come forward.” He shrugged, giving the impression he wasn’t surprised at the lack of witnesses. “I have his address, or at least the one on his driver’s licence.”

“Okay, thanks.” Stone walked over to the body and lifted up the sheet covering it. The grey shirt had two large bloodstained spots that joined together in a gruesome figure eight. Stone glanced at the pale face. A mop of hair needing a cut suited the unshaven face.

“Anything?” Roberts inquired.

Stone replied in an even voice, “Blood on his shirt indicates he wasn’t standing long when he was shot. The blood was spread evenly around. It didn’t have time to soak downward. I guess that doesn’t mean much, other than whoever shot him likely put the second shot in when he was already lying down. They didn’t take his wallet, so this wasn’t a robbery. Someone wanted him dead for who he was. Judging by his looks, I suspect it wasn’t a jilted girlfriend.”

The cop who gave him the earlier details returned holding his notebook.

“I just received some more information about the victim. He was in a bar fight earlier in the evening. According to the report, he was in one of two groups that had a few words and later a pushing match when they were ejected from the bar. That was at ten twenty-two last night. Carlton was told by the responding police he wasn’t allowed to drive home because of his apparent level of intoxication.” The cop closed his notebook. “The bar is called the Dragonhead’s and it’s about four blocks from here. It could be the fight didn’t end at the bar.”

“Sounds like a possibility.” Stone frowned. “When the examiner’s office has paid a visit, get the body out of here. We don’t need this to be a classroom topic in show-and-tell.”

Roberts scribbled in her notebook. “Carlton doesn’t live far from here. I suggest we knock on a few doors around here to see if anyone heard or saw anything. Then, we go to his home address. If he lives with anyone, we’ll have some unhappy news to deliver.”

Stone grunted, acknowledging that was the most unpleasant part of any homicide investigation, notifying the next of kin of a death.

They returned to the yellow tapeline, and again, the reporter stepped in front of them. “What can you tell me about what happened?”

Stone sighed. “Just that a male in his late twenties has been found dead in the parking lot. His death is being investigated as a homicide.”

“Any names?” The male reporter sounded eager.

“Sorry, not until we talk to the next of kin and maybe not even then.” Stone knew the press sometimes were irritated by the police’s refusal to release the names of victims. The police chief claimed even when dead, a person’s privacy had to be protected.

Roberts and Stone crossed the street, ringing the doorbell of a bungalow with pale blue siding hiding part of dull-coloured stucco. The occupant, an elderly man, dressed in a sweater despite the warm temperature, opened the door halfway.

Stone held up his badge, and the man peered at it. “What’s this all about?”

“There has been a murder across the street in the parking lot.” Stone pointed at the scene of the crime. “Did you hear anything unusual last night?”

“No. We go to bed early and ignore all the shenanigans going around that darn school.” He began to push the door closed but stopped long enough to add his worldly opinion. “Not surprised about another killing. Ever since that idiot Trudeau got elected things have been going to hell in a handbasket.” He shut the door.

Stone raised his eyebrows and looked at Roberts. “Now, I do believe everything is connected, but how does electing a government put a bullet in someone?”

“It’s a stretch. Let’s hope the next house is less politically biased.”

The following house was a mirror image of the first, although the exterior had been completely redone with white siding covering the front. A woman in her thirties answered the door, giving them a tired smile when they showed their identification.

“Is this about what happened across the street?”

“Yes.” Stone repeated his question if she heard anything.

“Not really. The usual traffic noises. This is a school area but vehicles feel free to speed around here. Someone in the neighbourhood has a car that makes a lot of noise and I hear it every night. Other than that, I guess I tune out the traffic noise.”

“So, nothing different?” Roberts asked.

The woman pursed her lips as she looked up. “Hmm. I heard a bike. Not the big kind, but one of those fast, smaller bikes. I think it went up and down the street, and then, it was gone. I tell you it’s hard getting the kids to go to sleep in the summer with all that noise sometimes.”

They thanked her and went to the third house. A teenaged girl answered the door, looking bored.


Roberts showed her identification. “We’re investigating a crime scene across the street. Are your parents’ home?”

“Nope. They went out.” She continued with her disinterested stare.

“Did you happen to see or hear anything last night?”

She gave a cheeky smile. “Not here. I went out last night.”

“What time did you come home?”

“What business is it of yours?”

“Our business is in investigating a murder. If you were out last night, did you see anything in the parking lot across the street when you came home?”

The girl finally took a closer look across the street. Her jaw dropped slightly. “Oh. I came home at nine thirty or so. My curfew is ten. I didn’t see anything.”

Roberts passed over her business card. “Please have your parents contact us if they saw or heard anything at all unusual last night.”

“Okay.” The girl studied the card. The bored look had disappeared.

The next house, a two-story home, looked new. Stone speculated the original house had been torn down and replaced by the taller structure.

The man answering the door was polite, inviting them inside.

“Charles Gault.” He said in the way of an introduction as he led them to the living room. “Coffee? Tea?”

Stone declined the offer. “We’re just asking if you, or anyone in the household, heard anything last night. There was a murder committed in the school parking lot.”

Gault was silent for a moment. “That’s awful to hear something like that happened so close to our home. No, I can’t say I heard anything different last night. We, my family and I, were downstairs watching TV and sound doesn’t travel very well down there.”

“So, no traffic noise? No gunshot sounds?”

Gault cocked his head. “No gunshots, but I did hear a motorbike. That’s a bit unusual here as there aren’t many bike owners on this street.”

“Do you recall what time you heard that?”

He smiled. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. The TV show we were watching ended at eleven. So I was going upstairs to bed when I heard it. So I guess it would be just after eleven p.m.”

Stone thanked Gault, and they went to his car, deciding the rest of the homes were too far away to be likely of any help. “At least Gault has given us something. A motorbike just after eleven. If Carlton had left the bar at ten twenty-two, he would have arrived at the school parking lot around eleven.”

“I suppose you don’t see that as a mere coincidence.”

“Everything is connected.”

She decided there was a chance the bike and the murder could be more than mere chance and didn’t challenge Stone’s assertion on interconnections. “Okay, let’s go to where Carlton lived.”

"Play Dead" by J. H. Wear



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