Playing by Ear by Susmita Ramani

Chief Sedgwick asked someone to bring old Mrs. Dalrymple a glass of water. She’d had the worst time getting up the station’s stairs, leaning on an officer all the way into the interrogation room, where she now sat in a sinfully ugly brown dress, slumped over like a sack of potatoes. The idea of getting that old frightened him. 

He spoke loudly, as she seemed hard of hearing. “Let’s start from when you were teaching Nora.” 

“Yes, dear.” Her voice was creaky. “I heard what sounded like a firecracker. We left the piano and crawled under pews. To keep little Nora quiet, I told her we were playing a game.” 

He nodded. “That was quick thinking. You didn’t see the thief?” 

She shook her head. “I’m sorry to be a useless old lady.” 

He patted her arm. “Not at all.” 

“What happened?” Her eyes widened. 

He sighed. “The thief ran in, took the cash box with proceeds from last weekend’s bazaar, shot Reverend Charles through the kneecap, and fled.” 

“No! Goodness!” She burst into tears. 

He handed her a Kleenex. “You can visit him when he’s out of surgery.” 

Her face crumpled. “I made seventeen cherry pies for that bazaar. I pitted every cherry myself.” 

He knew how much work went into a pie. “Seventeen? You’re putting me on!” Her lips trembled. “Would I lie to you?” 

He breathed out slowly. “No, Ma’am. Sorry. I was trying for some levity, but I realize this isn’t the time. I’ll bet every last pie was delicious. Do you...need help out to your car?”

She rose slowly to her feet. “Bless you. I think I can manage.” 


Two hours later, a Sergeant entered the station. “Chief, we just found the real Mrs. Dalrymple in her underwear, locked in the church basement.”

Published in Issue #12

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