The Lady of the Lake
By Jeff Baker
“The Lady of the Lake,” Billings murmured.
“What?” Inspector Satz asked.
“Oh, nothing,” Billings said. “That line has been going through my head since we started this case. Sad. Just sad.”
The woman had been found after the rainstorm, drowned face down in the shallow pool of rain on the sunken sidewalk. Floating in the puddle was a small boat made from folded newspaper. Written on it was a suicide note, blaming her professors for her low grades and apologizing to her “wonderful boyfriend.” The note was dated April third, and the time noted as 4:15p.m.
“Suicide in the rain,” Billings said.
“When did they find her?” Inspector Satz asked.
“About an hour ago,” Billings said. “When some of the kids from the dorm were on their way to the cafeteria, about twenty minutes after the downpour stopped. They just found her there. At least nobody touched her.”
“Except her murderer,” Inspector Satz said.
Billings looked up, startled.
“Look at her clothes, they’re dry. She wasn’t out in the rain. And that paper, folded into a boat and carefully written to include the time. Why would she be precise? Drowning oneself by laying facedown into a convenient pool seems an impulsive act, no?” He tapped the sidewalk with his cane. “This killing was well-planned by someone. Possibly someone mentioned in that very note.”
“The boyfriend,” Billings said.
“Again, possibly,” Inspector Satz said. “And while it would be worth questioning him, we must keep an open mind. She may not even have been killed here, but I would guess the note was written after the fact.”
They found the boyfriend hanging from a beam in an attic. In a note at his feet, he confessed to the killing and said he realized he was going to be caught.
This note, Inspector Satz declared to be genuine.
Note: I wrote the first Inspector Satz story about twenty years ago for a contest in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Didn’t win, but I got an honorary mention!