The Dog Days

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
The local cops are baffled by the murder of a millionaire - by dog collar.

Submitted: October 15, 2014

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Submitted: October 15, 2014

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THE DOG DAYS

The victim in the house on Sunset Blvd. lay on the floor in his kitchen with a dog leash tied tight around his throat, where it had been when he’d died. He lay on the floor, his glazed dead eyes staring up at the ceiling. Los Angeles CSI Melinda Kyle knelt over his body and examined the dog leash, which seemed to pretty clearly be the murder weapon. The man lay on his back, looking as though he’d died scrabbling at the leash.

Amy Tomani, her fellow CSI, said, “We found the dog outside. He was barking at the neighbors, they heard and they called. The door was locked, they had to break in when the owner didn’t answer. Found him like this and called it in.”

“Have we I.D.’d him yet?”

“Uh, yeah.” She checked the ID. “Raymond Sonnorman, age seventy-seven. Rich man, made lots of money in his time, retired wealthy. He made money – money makes enemies.”

“Does he live alone?”

“Yeah. His wife died a few years ago. He’s got a son named Phil and a daughter named Mary – Mary’s single, Phil’s married. He’s got a younger brother, Arnie – Arnie’s divorced, lives in Palm Springs. Chris is making the notifications.”

“Who was the woman outside?”

“Mary – word has it she was the closest to the old man.”

“Financial benefits?”

“Money is split between his two kids.”

“Nothing for the brother?”

“No.”

“Estrangement?”

“Maybe.” She sighed. “No sign of forced entry – door was locked. There are several doors in – all locked. All the windows were locked too. The only way out is the doggie door which is barely big enough for the man’s greyhound.”

She pointed to the small lean animal which was panting excitedly in the arms of one of the police.

“Where is the dog going?”

“Maybe one of the kids. We hear Mary likes dogs.”

“Locked house. No way in. How did the killer get in and out?”

“He could have used the keys.”

“Where are the keys?”

“Haven’t found them yet.”

Mel looked around. Her eyes alighted on the man’s pocket, which was bulging. She felt it, then pulled out his keys.

“House key, car keys, spare keys – these keys could have been put back in the pocket after he died, but then how would the killer have locked the door again?”

Amy shook her head. “I’m gonna go talk to the daughter.”

Mel nodded. She bent down again, examining the body. The dog leash looked like it would be hard to get prints or DNA off of – but if perhaps the killer had worn gloves, as all sensible killers usually did…

“I – I just can’t believe this – it’s so horrible…” Mary’s grief seemed pretty genuine to Amy, but she had known people to be pretty good actors who had utterly fabricated their grief and in actual fact were not at all sorry to see their relative/friend/spouse/significant other/neighbor/chance acquaintance/etc dead. She nodded sympathetically and told Mary that of course, they would find the killer, but would she please tell her where she’d been two days ago, which was when the coroner had said time of death was.

“Two-two days ago? What time?”

“Perhaps in the early morning?”

“I – I was at work,” said Mary, her eyes diluted with shock. “W-where else would I be in the morning?”

“I see. Where do you work?”

“In – in the downtown library.”

Amy nodded. “You clock in hours?”

“I didn’t kill my father!”

“I’m not suggesting you did, Miss Sonnorman. I’m merely trying to establish – “

“You’re trying to find – find out if I’ve got an alibi, right? Well, I don’t need an alibi, I wouldn’t kill anybody!”

“I understand that this is difficult for you, ma’am.”

“You couldn’t possibly – “

“I just – I can’t do this right now!”

 

Mel began photographing the body and the leash, which was stretched far out onto the ground, almost as though it had been placed there on purpose. She shook her head as Amy came back to her.

“Mary have an alibi?”

“Works at the library on weekdays – was there all day.”

“Old maid librarian.”

“You’re pretty quick to stereotype.”

Mel raised and eyebrow. “I’m thinking this could be a suicide.”

“And what makes you say that?”

“The man is in a locked house – no way in. The leash is in an odd position – almost as if it was strained hard from one direction.”

“His hands are at his throat, trying to remove the leash. He wouldn’t have been scrabbling at the leash if it had been a suicide.”

“True. And nobody could have gotten in to place his hands on his neck afterwards.” She bent down. “He’s all tangled up in the telephone cord.”

Amy stared. This was true. The man had dropped a cup of coffee on the floor – the stuff was stuck to the floor in a pattern consistent with having been dropped. His wallet also lay on the floor as though it had been dropped. 

“He was in a hurry.”

“The killer probably took advantage of that.”

“Going out to walk the dog, on the phone with somebody, drinking coffee, keys in his pocket, carrying his wallet – I’d sure like to know who he was talking to.”

“Phone records will probably show.”

 

Chris Chambers, the detective who had been assigned to work with them on the case, telephoned Amy an hour later to say that they’d gotten hold of Arnie, the victim’s brother; he was in an airplane headed back from a business trip, where he’d been two days ago.

“So that eliminates Mary and Arnie. That leaves Mr. and Mrs. Philip Sonnorman.”

Mel nodded thoughtfully. She had taken the dog leash in to DNA, as well as several swabs from it in the hopes of finding prints or DNA that might identify the killer. But something about the scene still bothered her – an unidentifiable something.

The detectives had found Philip and Elaine Sonnorman in their house. 

“I can’t believe it – who would want to murder dad?” Phil Sonnorman’s tone was so fake Amy had a gut feeling that he must be the killer. She had met people like this again and again and nailed them for their crimes again and again. She waited patiently as Chris Chambers continued asking questions of the “happy couple”. 

“When was the last time you talked to your father in law, Mrs. Sonnorman?” 

“It was about a week ago – I called up to ask how he was doing. He was lonely, he lived out there all alone with no one but his dog, and he was so paranoid about intruders that he wouldn’t let anyone come within ten feet of his house except by prearranged appointment. He was a little nuts, I guess, but he was happy.”

“Where were you to days ago, early in the morning?”

“I was dropping Kim off at school.”

“Your daughter?”

“Yes.”

Chambers glanced at Kim. Kim said “Yeah.” She seemed like a surly teenager, but her voice sounded honest enough.

Amy nodded. 

“And you, Mr. Sonnorman?”

“I was sick. Off of work.”

“Oh. Sick with what?”

“The flu.”

“What do you do for a living?”

“I work at the downtown real estate office. Housing business.”

“You were out sick?”

“Yes.”

“And how did you spend your morning?”

“I was – just hanging out at home. Why are you asking me this?”

“We know that your father was murdered. We’re trying to eliminate you as suspects.”

All three people’s eyes went wide, all three looked shocked, and all three immediately afterward looked offended.

“Do I need a lawyer?” said Mr. Sonnormann. 

“No, sir.” 

“Well, I’m gonna get one.” He walked into the kitchen, presumably to telephone his lawyer.

 

“We’ve got a problem,” said Mel. 

“I don’t see why. Mrs. Sonnorman’s alibi checked out. So did Mary’s and Arnie’s. Phil Sonnorman’s looking better any minute.”

“Well, then you’re really not gonna like this. Phil’s got an alibi.”

“Bull.”

“He was the one the victim was calling before he was strangled.”

Amy stood stock still.

“How – “

“Mr. Sonnorman called Phil around what the coroner says is the TOD. Phil was the only one home at the time, because Elaine was dropping Kim off at home. And the call lasted five minutes, so someone definitely picked up the phone.”

“You gotta be kidding me. We’re out of suspects?”

“For now.”

“So how – “

“Maybe it is suicide.”

“Nothing in the death accords with suicide.”

Mel shook her head. Her face was frustrated. Then she said, “What if it was an accident?”

“It can’t be. The man was strangled with a dog leash.”

Mel stopped for a moment, then turned around in the hallway and headed to the DNA lab.

“Did you find any DNA on the leash?”

“All if it is the victim’s and the dog’s.”

“Can I look at the leash under a microscope?”

“Sure. Why?”

“I have a theory.” 

The lab tech slid aside. Mel looked at the leash under a microscope. Amy said, “So what exactly are you looking at?”

“The entire leash is stretched out – as though it was yanked on pretty hard.”

“Dog leashes are usually like that – dogs trying to get away so they can use the john.”

Mel looked up. “Like this dog.” 

Amy stared at her. Mel said, “Mr. Sonnorman was in a hurry. He was going to walk his dog, he was on the phone with his sick son, he was drinking coffee and handling his wallet – and the dog was in a hurry to go use the bathroom. He’s twisting and turning around, with the leash in one hand and the telephone in the other – both of them start twisting around his body while he’s trying to manage them. The telephone cord twists around his torso, but the dog leash twists around his neck – and the dog is in a hurry. Before Mr. Sonnorman knows it, he’s being strangled as the dog pulls on the leash harder and harder, until the force on the other end stops putting up a fight – finally the dog wiggles out of the leash and uses the doggie door to get out…”

Amy and the lab tech looked at Mel in silence. Amy said, “There’s no evidence to back that up…”

“There is no DNA on the dog leash. And the position of the leash when we found the body indicates that it was being pulled hard in the opposite direction by something that was not attached to it when the police arrived."

"Try explaining that to the D.A."


© Copyright 2020 Laura Colette. All rights reserved.

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