Stiff Competition by Courts Mroch

I wasn’t about to let Hettie Ann Wimbly steal yet another blue ribbon from me in the annual Kings County Fair pie baking competition. For months I’d perfected my blueberry pie recipe until it was melt-in-your-mouth perfect. There was no way Hettie Ann was claiming what should rightfully be mine this year.


But Hettie Ann went and spoiled my moment of triumph by going and getting herself killed the day of the judging. Murder was something I hadn’t even considered when it came to making sure I’d take first. But someone else sure had. And they hadn’t hesitated using the longstanding rivalry between Hettie Ann and myself to cover their tracks.


“Now you listen to me, Chad Riley,” I said, chastising the young man I’d known since birth.


“It’s Officer Riley now, Miss Cora,” he corrected.


“Oh,” I scoffed. “Is that what we’ve come to?”


“I’m investigating a murder and would like to keep a level of professionalism,” he blushed, looking properly humbled.


“Well, then how’s about you start by uncuffing this poor old lady?”


His blush deepened and he obliged my request, I guess because he figured he could outrun me if I tried to escape. I was an old woman, after all.


“Besides, you must have some doubt it wasn’t me. Otherwise you’d already have me behind bars instead of sitting here in the fair’s security tent.”


“As a matter of fact, one of my deputies is verifying your alibi right now.”


At eleven fifteen that morning (the time Hettie Ann was murdered) I was across town at the cleaners picking up the dress I planned to wear when I claimed my blue ribbon later this afternoon. I changed and came back to the fair to learn of Hettie Ann’s demise by immediately being shuffled off to the security tent.


Officer Riley’s radio went off. It was the deputy reporting what I already knew: my alibi was airtight. The cleaner’s was a fifteen-minute drive from the fair grounds. There’s no way I could’ve killed Hettie Ann.


“You’re free to go, Miss Cora.”


I stood but didn’t leave.


“Other than me and Hettie Ann’s forty year rivalry, and the fact I vowed she wouldn’t take first again this year, why am I a suspect?”


“You were the last person Wilbur Smitty saw with Hettie Ann this morning.”


Wilbur was on the judging committee. He was the one we checked our pies in with. Hettie Ann and I had arrived at the same time to present our masterpieces. We both pretended not to drool over the coveted first place prize –the Golden Rolling Pin—displayed in the middle of the table. Then we exchanged our usual unpleasantries, looked over each other’s creations –hers a lemon meringue—and set them with the other half dozen entries thus far submitted, among them two tough contenders: an apple pie with the most beautiful lattice crust I’d ever seen and a mouth-watering key lime creation. Then I took my leave.


About a half hour later is when a concessionaire found Hettie Ann dead in the ladies room, her head smashed in by a rolling pin. Not just any rolling pin either, but the Golden Rolling Pin.


“I wasn’t the only one who had a bone to pick with her, you know.”


“I know,” Chad nodded.


“And my prints weren’t on the murder weapon.”


“None were.”


So who killed Hettie Ann? Maybe there was an overlooked clue at the scene of the crime. I headed to the ladies room. En route, I had to pass by the judging table.


“If you’re coming to verify the rumors,” Wilbur Smitty said when he saw me approaching, “they’re true. The pie contest has been postponed indefinitely.”


Darn that Hettie Ann for ruining my day entirely! I frowned as I stared at my would-be blue ribbon winning blueberry pie, but something else about the table caught my eye. Something was different. Something was missing –besides the Golden Rolling Pin, that is. I couldn’t figure it out at first, then it hit me.


“Wilbur, do you have your check-in sheets handy?”


“Sure. Why?”


“They’ll show who killed Hettie Ann. Come on!”


“Good job, Miss Cora,” Officer Riley said after we showed him the check-in sheets and he arrested the real killer.


The thing missing from the table was a pie. Specifically, the apple pie with the fancy lattice crust. It had belonged to Missy Jamison. She had checked in her pie shortly before Hettie Ann and myself. On her way home she remembered something she meant to ask Wilbur, so she turned back around.


Hettie Ann and I were the last registered contestants to submit their work. After we left Wilbur felt free to leave the table and get some lemonade. Missy came back to find Wilbur gone –and Hettie Ann destroying her crust.


At first Missy wasn’t going to say anything. She watched Hettie Ann head to the ladies room, then she quietly removed her pie and threw it out. But watching all that work go in the trash triggered something in her. She grabbed the nearest available weapon, the Golden Rolling Pin, and went to give Hettie Ann a piece of her mind.


With all the misfortune, it was only fitting they cancelled the pie baking competition entirely. No blue ribbon for me again this year, thanks to Hettie Ann, who once more lived up to her reputation of being stiff competition.

The End