The problem with writing any kind of murder mystery in stories based in Solon is picking someone to make the killer.
Maybe, for example, I could assign the role to Gene, the somewhat gruff manager at the time of the Solon American Legion, which is located two buildings and an alley over from my apartment.
Solon’s Legion is one of the best in the state, if not the country. It has a large membership and plenty of people are active. Volunteers cook up some fantastic all-you-can-eat, fund-raising dinners featuring real mashed potatoes and homemade pies. My favorite is the fried-in-lard chicken. The men cook it out back in kettles hanging over open fires. It’s as delicious as it is artery clogging. The wild game feed is a close second. You haven’t lived until you’ve had Rocky Mountain Oysters ala the Legion.
I went to the Legion’s Halloween Costume Party dressed as Rip Van Winkle one year. For a disguise I simply donned the red, one-piece long underwear I wear as a base layer while ice fishing and added a mask that made me look like a hairy old man (this was before I became a hairy old man). The union suit didn’t have a place for money so I stuck a ten and a twenty into my sock. During the course of the evening I spent the ten, but not the bigger bill. The next morning I was distressed to find that the twenty was missing. It wasn’t an astronomical loss but still, twenty bucks is twenty bucks. I wrote the loss off until I ran into Gene the next day.
“Were you the guy dressed in the red underwear?” Gene grumbled. I thought he was going to make some snide comment about how stupid I looked in BVDs so I hesitantly admitted that it was me. Gene did give a condescending remark but as he delivered it he reached into his pocket and pulled out a Jackson. “Here, this fell out of your sock... that’s kind of a dumb place to keep money.”
No, Gene can’t be my villain. Maybe his looks could kill but he’s way too honest.
Or maybe I could make a villainess of Delores or Carolyn. The later owns and operates the Solon Trustworthy Hardware store, and the former is her long-time sales clerk.
I love the hardware store. They have everything in the world tucked around on cluttered shelves but you never have to look for anything. Just ask the kindly ladies and they’ll seek out whatever your heart desires. Need a cold-forged wing nut with a washer base for a 5/32” fine thread screw? They’ll pull it out of an array of nuts that they keep carefully inventoried. A light bulb for the headlight on an antique Schwinn Cruiser? No problem, it’s right over here. The more obscure the item, the better the chance that it will have the same price tag they put on it two decades earlier.
I thought I caught the ladies doing something illicit one time. They didn’t hear the door chime and I walked up upon them unexpectedly. They had their backs to me and they were looking with such concentration at a magazine that they didn’t notice me approach, something very unusual as they typically are very attentive to customers. I cleared my throat and they jumped, turned towards me with faces turning as red as the dusty Radio Flyer on the shelf behind them. Carolyn clumsily hid whatever they were perusing behind her back and asked if she could help me.
“You two are so busted,” I said in my most authoritative voice, “what have you got there?” Caroline slowly brought the magazine out to show me, like a teenage girl caught with a pack of cigarettes. It turned out not to be a magazine at all but a catalog, an Avon Catalog to be specific, opened to this year’s new lipstick shades.
No, it’d be too big of stretch to cast them as wanton killers unless I plagiarized “Arsenic and Old Lace.” But then again Carolyn does have a resemblance to Josephine Hull, and I could play the part of Cary Grant.