Monday, May 16, 2011


 “I know it looks bad for me, Detective,” Lila Patterson said, sobbing, “but I didn’t poison Richard. How could I? I was in bed with a sprained ankle this evening.”

Police officers and the forensic unit arrived at the Patterson house after Richard Patterson had apparently died from drinking poisoned lemonade.

Lila had managed to hobble into the living room and was sitting on the sofa.

“Tell me exactly what happened,” Detective Bob Merkel said while his assistant, Officer Jensen, pulled out a notepad.

“I was outside, telling the landscaper where I wanted the rock garden when I tripped over a rock and sprained my ankle. I came inside and had Anne, our housekeeper, ice it. Then I rested in bed,” Lila said.

“Were you in bed all evening?” the detective asked.

“Yes. Dinner was sent up.”

“Where was your husband?”

“At work. He came in a little later and ate by himself. After dinner, he brought up a pitcher of lemonade and two glasses,” Lila explained.

“Did he often do that?”

“No. Anne usually brings up the lemonade. You see, I don’t care for coffee.” Lila rubbed her ankle and winced.

“Was the lemonade already poured into the glasses?” the detective asked.

“Only one – mine,” Lila said.

“Anything else you can tell us?”

“I didn’t have any illusions about Richard, Detective,” Lila said with a wry smile. “He married me for my money. We had our squabbles when he bet on racing horses. Actually I was always afraid he’d kill me for my money one day. Sometimes I don’t think he even liked me.”

“Thank you for being honest,” Detective Merkel said.

Merkel and Jensen consulted for a while and decided to question the victim’s teenage son.

The sullen teenager looked up from his laptop when they went into the study and introduced themselves.

“I hope you’re going to make an arrest,” the boy said.

“Whom do you suspect?” the detective asked.

“My stepmother, of course,” he said with obvious glee.

“We have no proof she killed your father.” Merkel said. “Why do you think she killed him?”

“She hated his gambling.” Danny returned to the laptop with a bored look.

“How long have they been married?”

Danny shrugged. “Three years.”

“Were you at home this evening?”

“No. At a friend’s.”

When they were done talking to Danny, they went to the kitchen in search of the housekeeper.

Anne was no more cheerful than Danny. “Mrs. Patterson is a tightwad with money,” she said grouchily. It seemed to the detective that the household was full of people with grievances.

“How long have you worked here?” Detective Merkel asked.

“Four years for Mr. Patterson. Then he got married.” Anne’s mouth set in a hard line.

“I understand that this evening you didn’t take the lemonade to Mr. and Mrs. Patterson?”


“Why was that?”

“After dinner Mr. Patterson said he was going upstairs anyway, and that he would take it up,” Anne replied.

Merkel noticed that the housekeeper was youthful and attractive despite her sullenness. “It must have been a kick in the teeth when Patterson got married. Maybe she hoped to marry him herself,” Merkel said to Jensen on their way back to the living room. “I’d like to talk to Mrs. Patterson again.”

“Was your husband in the room the whole time?” he asked Lila.

“Yes, except when he got a call on the cell phone and then he went into the hall to answer it.”

“Any idea who it could have been?”

“Probably one of his gambling buddies,” she said wearily.

“Did you drink your glass of lemonade?”

“No. I was afraid it was poisoned.”

“Mrs. Patterson, your husband was not the intended victim of the poison,” Merkel said. “You were right in thinking he was going to poison you. You might as well let the cat out of the bag. What did you do when your husband was in the hall talking on the phone?

“What are you talking about? I have a sprained ankle. What could I have done?” Lila said angrily.

“What you did you could accomplish while sitting on your bed,” Merkel said. “Let me explain. You emptied the lemonade in the pitcher into the fresh glass, and poured your lemonade back into the pitcher. The lemonade in your glass had already been poisoned, as you had rightly suspected. When your husband returned to the room, he drank the lemonade from the pitcher, assuming it was poison-free. That’s how you poisoned him.”

“Well, Detective,” Lila said, dropping the wounded wife act. “It was either him or me.”


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