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The Bedding Caper
About the Author: James R. Riffel is the author of two novels, A COACH AT HEART and UNDER FALSE PRETENSES. The retired journalist spent his working life covering court cases, politics, government and sports, and in his off-hours would come up with sometimes weird ideas for fiction.

The early morning chill froze my cheeks when I stepped out of the car. My first clue! A rookie detective wouldn’t even have noticed. I nodded in satisfaction as I strode along a stone walkway to the front door of the house at the corner of Sealy Avenue and Murphy.

I was working Domestics when the call came in a few minutes earlier, a brazen overnight blanket theft—a 32.0 in the Penal Code, or what the guys in the squad room call a “Butt Cold.” My partner, one of those clowns, overslept so I went alone to investigate this potentially heinous crime.

A haggard man holding a cup of steaming coffee opened the door to a small Spanish-style house with adobe walls and tile floors.

“Detective Percale, thank God you’re here,” the man said. His dark hair was tousled, his beard with a couple days of whiskers and tissue remnants clung to his mustache. He wore a parka over his flannel pajamas. “I just about froze to death last night.”

I raised a hand. “Calm down, you’ll be warm in no time, Mr.—”

“King,” he said.

“Okay, Mr. King. Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

He shook his head. “I can’t say for sure. I slept through much of it. But, it … it, happened so quickly.”

“The theft?” I asked.

His lower lip puffed as he nodded.


He lowered his head, his affirmation barely audible. He turned and shuffled in his slippers into a hallway. I followed. As we reached the open doorway to what appeared to be a bedroom, he stopped and held up his hand. “This isn’t for the faint of heart.”

“I understand.”

He stepped in and held the door open for me. My heart pounded as I entered. I glanced around what turned out to be a small master bedroom, only large enough to hold a queen-sized bed and two dressers. But as I viewed more details, bile rose in my throat. I slapped my hand over my mouth and grabbed my stomach as I whirled to face the hallway.

“Like I said,” King said.

I nodded and removed my hand from my mouth. “I’ve been to murders, I’ve seen car crashes, but you can never be prepared for crime scenes like this.”

“Water?” He patted my shoulder.

“No. I didn’t see any.” I took a deep breath and turned back to view the evidence. The near side of the bed, as I faced it, was totally devoid of covers. Only a pale blue fitted sheet remained, with one pillow against a wooden headboard. “Did you get a look at the person who did this?”

King shrugged. “It was dark.”

“Some sort of description would really help.” I pulled a pen and small notebook from my jacket pocket.

“Well,” King put a thumb and index finger to his chin, “I remember long hair. Maybe dark long hair, like black or brown. I can’t be sure.”

I sighed and stepped up to the barren bed. After a moment of inspection, I pulled tweezers from my jacket pocket and grabbed a strand of hair. “Brunette, maybe?” I held it up for my theft victim, the strand was more than one foot long and it had a wave at the end.

His face lit up with recognition. “Yeah! Yeah! That could be it.”

“When’s the last time you saw someone with wavy brunette hair?”

“Hmmm.” He lowered his head to his thumb and index finger again. “Last night, I believe. We watched the local news together, then went to sleep.”

I readied my pen and notebook. “I’ll need a name.”

“Angela.” King grimaced. “But do you really think she would do such a thing?”

One never knows what horrible things another person is capable of doing. “You’d be surprised sometimes.”

King shook his head. “No, I can’t believe that. She’s very nice to me, if I recall correctly. She cooks me dinner at night and does my laundry. She even—” He paused, looked up at me and blushed. “Well, you know.”

“I understand, sir. Where would we find this Angela now?”

“Oh, she’s not here.”

I pursed my lips. The man was kidding himself. They always did. I gave him a serious expression. “Mr. King, you know that fleeing the scene of a crime is a sign of guilt.”

He nodded and lowered his head. “I know. I’m sure you know what you’re doing but—”

“But?” King could no longer cover for the woman, and he knew it.

“Detective, she’s at work.”

This story appears in our OCT 2022 Issue
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