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“Poisoned?” Detective Carrie Lester looked around the diner. The customers had long since cleared out. Seeing a man fall dead to the floor had a way of spoiling appetites.
The forensics team had roped off the area nearest the kitchen, where the coroner was examining the victim, diner manager Ben Benson, who’d been having a mid-afternoon lunch.
Carries’ partner, Brent Willis nodded. “What’d he have?”
“Iced tea, a tuna sandwich and vegetable soup. They found traces of cyanide in the soup.”
“You have any suspects?”
“The three employees,” Brent answered. “A cook, a waitress and a hostess.”
Carrie nodded toward the register where a woman in a white blouse and short, black skirt stood. “The hostess?”
Brent nodded. “Julie Norwood. She seats the customers and gets their drinks. I suppose since she didn’t handle the food, we can rule her out.”
“Not so fast,” Carrie said. “All three of them had access to the kitchen.”
“I’ve been here for six months,” Julie said, smacking her peppermint-scented gum. “A long time, considering this place’s reputation for employee burnout.”
Carrie asked, “Did the manager usually have lunch at the same time?”
“Always,” Julie said. “After lunch, but before the dinner rush began. Just like clockwork.”
“Do you know anyone who might want to harm Mr. Benson?”
Julie glanced around. “Well, he was usually pretty nice to me, but he could be hard on some employees.”
“To start with, Kevin, the cook. Mr. Benson was always on his case, making him come in on his days off, criticizing his cooking. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin finally snapped.”
Carrie found Kevin in the kitchen, seasoning a pan of boneless chicken breasts. “Can we have a word?”
Kevin glanced at the pan, then nodded. “Sure.”
“Can you tell us a little about Mr. Benson? Did he have enemies?”
Kevin snorted. “A man like Benson made lots of enemies.”
“What do you mean?”
“Benson had an eye for the ladies, if you get my drift. It wouldn’t surprise me if Julie or Amanda slipped something in his soup. He had a thing going with Amanda – until Julie came on staff”
“Do you have any proof of these allegations?”
Kevin shook his head. “No, but word gets around – and that kinda stuff usually ends badly, y’know?”
“How long have you worked here?” Carrie asked.
“About three months.”
“We hear Mr. Benson could be hard on his employees. That he burned them out.” She paused. “Have you felt under a lot of stress?”
Kevin laughed. “I’m a short-order cook, Detective. It’s my job to feel stressed.”
Carrie found Amanda, the waitress, near the beverage station, counting her tips. “Terrible about Mr. B.,” she said. “Just terrible.”
“To your knowledge, did Mr. Benson have enemies?” Carrie pressed. “Anyone who might have wanted to harm him?”
Amanda looked around nervously. “I overheard Julie and Mr. B having an argument the other day.” She paused. “Mr. B. accused Julie of pocketing money from the register.”
“She was stealing?”
Amanda nodded. “They were really going at it. Julie said, ‘go ahead and fire me. I’ll just get another job.’ And Mr. B yelled, ‘Over my dead body!’”
Brent shook his head as he and Carrie took a seat in the booth at the back of the diner. “Sounds like any of them could’ve done it,” he said.
“It appears all three suspects had motive and opportunity,” Carrie said, “but there’s one I’m particularly interested in talking to again.”
Brent looked puzzled. “And who would that be?”
Who does the detective want to question?
Scroll down for the answer.
Solution: Kevin. He mentioned that “Amanda or Julie could have slipped something into his soup,” but Carrie hadn’t mentioned that the poison was found in the soup. Upon further questioning, Kevin confessed.
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