A Battle of Wits by Guy Belleranti

Carol jumped away from the living room window as an official-looking car pulled up outside. “Denise,” she called hurrying out to the kitchen, “the cops are out front.”


Her sister finished scooping stuffing from the roast turkey’s cavity and looked up, staring. “The police?   Are you sure?”


Carol nodded. “I’ve seen a lot of unmarked cop cars in my time.”


“We both have,” Denise said.


The front doorbell chimed, and Carol’s eyes widened.

“What are we going to do?   What if they have a search warrant?”


“Relax. If it is the cops, stall them. I’ll make sure the jewelry’s well-hidden.”


Carol hesitated.


“Trust me, Carol. Haven’t I always outsmarted them before?”


“All right.” Carol left the room, walking slowly until she reached the vestibule. When the bell chimed again she sighed she swung the door inward.


“Detective Spanner,” said a tall spectacled woman, flashing her badge through the screen door. “And this is

Detective Ray.” The thickset man beside her nodded grimly.


“Yes?” Carol’s mind raced trying to think of something to say, knowing she needed to give Denise as much time as possible. “How can I help you? Is there a problem?”


“Yeah,” the male cop snapped. “You could say that.

An old lady named Maggie Adkins is suddenly short of some valuable diamond jewelry this morning.   You and your sister know anything about that?”


“Why whatever do you mean?”


“You do know Maggie Adkins, do you not?” Detective

Spanner asked.


“Well, yes. Why don’t I go find my sister and–”


“I’m right here, Carol.” Denise stepped forward, her red lips smiling.   “Yes, we play bingo with Maggie and a number of others almost every week at the church down the road.” Denise pushed open the screen door. “Please, come in out of the cold.”


“Your car was seen leaving the scene of the burglary,”

the woman detective said.


“Our car? Burglary?”   Denise frowned, and Carol felt her stomach turn over.


“Yes. Ms. Adkins’ back bedroom window had been forced and her jewelry case emptied.   She’d planned to spend the holiday at her son’s, but became ill half way there and returned home just in time to see your Taurus pulling away and going down the alley.”


Denise blinked. “But I was right here preparing our dinner — roasting the turkey, mashing potatoes, peeling carrots. And Carol was here with me.”


Carol nodded. “That’s right. Ms. Adkins, poor soul, must be mistaken.”


Detective Ray gave both sisters a sour look. “You expect us to believe that?”


“Why shouldn’t you?” Denise asked, her pencil thin black eyebrows raised.


“First, because the license plate number she gave us is yours.   And second, because you two have a history and not good one either. You’ve both been arrested for jewelry theft in the past.”


“But never convicted,” Denise retorted. She smiled serenely. “We’ve always been innocent. Isn’t that correct, Carol?”


Carol bobbed her blonde head. “Oh, yes. We’re upstanding citizens.”


“Would you like to prove that?” Detective Spanner asked. Her blue eyes gleamed behind her wire-rimmed glasses.   “Let us search your house and car.”


“Hmm.” Denise frowned. “What do you think, Carol?”


“I. . .I don’t know. I mean don’t we have rights?”


“Sure you do,” Detective Ray drawled. Then he grinned. “But so do we.” He held up a paper. “And we have a search warrant.”


“Oh,” Carol said. Oh dear, this was bad, real bad.


But if Denise shared her fears she didn’t show it.

“Search away,” she said.


So Detectives Spanner and Ray did just that, while the sisters sat in the living room.


“Our dinner’s ruined,” Carol complained.


“We can warm it up,” Denise murmured.


“Yeah, as long as they don’t find–”


Denise glared her to silence.


The detectives’ muted voices reached their ears as they went from room to room, and then at last Detective Ray strode in. “I need your car keys now,” he said, eyes harder than ever.


“Certainly.” Denise replied. She rose to pick up her purse from a corner table.


“Empty it,” Ray ordered.


“Excuse me?”

“The warrant includes all personal possessions.” He

took the purse from her hands, dumped out its contents, and pawed through them, grunting in disappointment when he found nothing of interest. Then, jiggling the car keys, he headed out to the garage.


Detective Spanner remained inside, still searching as well, but also popping her head in on them whenever they least expected it.


“Find anything interesting?” Denise asked with a smile when both detectives finally joined them in the living room.


Ray gave her an angry look, but Spanner managed to meet her grin head on. “You may think you’ve gotten away with things again, but one of these days. . . .”


Denise sighed. “And to think I was contemplating inviting you and your partner to share a bite of cold dinner with us. What a mistake that would have been, eh,



“Sure would have.” Carol stomped to the front door and jerked it open. “We ought to sue your whole department. Now get out.”


She cackled once they were alone. “We did it, Denise.

Or rather, you did.   Of course, we won’t play bingo with Maggie Adkins any longer.


“No,” Denise agreed. “Though it was nice of Maggie to share so much information about her diamond studded jewelry week after week.”


“Sure was,” Carol agreed. “Which reminds me – where’d you hide our little stash?”


Denise opened her mouth to reply as the doorbell rang, as Detectives Spanner and Ray entered. “There’s one place we didn’t look,” the woman detective said heading straight into the kitchen.


“Now just a minute,” Denise began, following with

Carol right behind her.


“Bingo!” Detective Spanner pulled a handful of jewelry out of the turkey’s cavity. “Very clever – take out the stuffing and put in something else. When we got in the car and Detective Ray commented on how good that full bowl of stuffing had smelled it hit me. A full bowl of stuffing meant an empty turkey, which meant. . . .” She smiled. “Detective Ray, I think we can now read these women their rights.”

The End