Short Story Sunday 267: Dead End (Part Five)

Short Story Sunday: Dead End | Creative Writing | Mystery Writing | Mystery Month | Mystery | Short Story | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

“You think Richard doesn’t want a lawyer because then they’ll prove Beth innocent and Richard guilty?” Lilah asked. George nodded as a curt response.

Lilah turned away from George and watched Richard, Beth, and Barney in the interrogation room. Barney was patiently waiting for Beth to calm down enough so they could begin to get to the bottom of the situation. Beth was distraught and nearly hysterical. Richard comforted her by holding her in his arms and rubbing his back, though he wasn’t saying anything. He seemed shocked, numb almost. Lilah wondered if that was because he couldn’t believe what was happening or if he really was guilty of something.

“George,” Lilah said softly.

“Hm?”

“What do you think is going to happen?”

“I don’t know. I hope Barney is smart enough to figure this out himself though. I also hope Richard owns up to what he did.” George stated.

“You don’t really think Richard is a murderer, do you? I mean, he came to us looking for help. He seemed so nice and sweet. He seemed to really love his wife, why would he pin the blame on her?” Lilah questioned and then gasped. “Do you think Beth is in on it at all?”

“I don’t think so. She’s too scared to be involved. Those are real tears in there.” George explained.

Lilah grunted. “Well, how are we supposed to get to the bottom of this?”

“Barney needs to ask the right questions.”

“But we already kind of caught him.”

“Kind of doesn’t mean anything.” George countered.

Lilah rolled her eyes. She knew that well enough but it was still frustrating to her. It had been so long since they had a case and now, they finally had a client who was probably the bad guy. Not to mention they weren’t even investigating… the police were. She was beginning to get antsy on what to do – especially since her and George figured out something before Barney did.

“Beth, are you ready to begin?” Barney asked. “The sooner we figure this out, the sooner everything can get resolved.”

“The sooner she can go home.” George muttered.

“He can’t say that, what if she can’t go home? She might go to jail.” Lilah added.

“I think she needs a few more minutes, Officer Florence.” Richard said. “This isn’t an easy thing to deal with, you know.”

“Yes, I do know.” Barney replied. He narrowed his eyes at the gentleman but it was clear to Lilah he wasn’t sure what to make of Richard just yet.

George pushed a button the control panel. “Officer Florence, may we speak with you for a minute?”

Richard looked up at the ceiling at the voice and Beth stopped sobbing for just a moment. Barney raised an eyebrow at the mirror.

He stood up looking at Richard and Beth. “I’ll be back in five minutes and then I’m going to need statements from both of you.”

Barney entered the room throwing his hands up in the air. “What’s wrong?”

“Richard did it.” George said bluntly.

“Whatever happened to everyone is innocent until proven guilty?” Lilah asked. She couldn’t help but smirk. If she had blurted that out, George would have scolded her with the same phrase.

“We’re about to.” George replied.

Barney held up his hands shaking his head. “What are you talking about?”

“He knew about the body. When I mentioned there was a dead body in the trunk, he mentioned it was a male.” George stated.

“I know, I was there.” Barney replied. “And I taught you that.”

Lilah snorted.

“There’s just something off about him.” George said with a sigh. “I can’t put my finger on it, but I think he’s been playing us this whole time.”

“I agree,” Barney said. He looked at the couple through the mirror. Richard was starting to look annoyed as Beth bawled her eyes out on the table. “He just wants Beth to take the wrap for everything and get out of here so he can go home and live his life with a single shred of remorse.”

“Hey,” Lilah piped up, “who was the dead guy anyway? I don’t think anyone told us.”

“We don’t have an identity yet. We’re waiting for the autopsy. There was no ID on the guy and his face was too mangled to tell. His fingers were–”

“I get it,” Lilah held up a hand to stop him. She scrunched up her face in disgust.

“I think Richard killed the man and now is trying to pin the blame on his wife.” Barney continued. “We jut need to know who he killed, why, and why he’s trying to pin it on his wife.”

“Beth, will you shut up for a minute and let me tell you something? That cop is gonna be back at any minute.”

Barney, George, and Lilah paused their conversation and turned to the window.

“My, how our demeanor has changed.” George said.

“Does he know we can hear him?” Lilah asked in a whisper.

“Apparently not.” Barney responded and turned the volume up.

Beth sniffled and looked at her husband. “There was a man, Richard. He was trying to tell me to do something bad but I didn’t want to do it. I thought he was going to get to you so I ran away. I thought I could lose him but he found me. He called me while I was in the car. So, I tried to abandon the car but the police found me and now here we are.”

“Wow, she speaks fast.” Lilah muttered. Barney and George shushed her.

“Did you kill a man, Beth?” Richard bluntly asked.

Beth froze. “Why? Did someone die? Did I run someone over by accident?”

Richard rolled his eyes. “No. Did you murder someone?”

“No!”

“Keep your voice down.”

“Why would you ask such a thing?” Beth questioned appalled.

“There was a body in the trunk of your car. His name was Connor. Do you have any idea who that may be or why his body was in your car?” Richard said narrowing his eyes.

Lilah whacked George in the arm. “He knows the name!”

Barney snapped his fingers. “Got him.”

“Are you recording this?” George asked.

“Yep. Let’s see what else he has to say.”

“Connor Daniels? My co-worker?” Beth asked. “He’s dead? And he was in the trunk of my car…?”

Richard nodded. “He’s the one.”

“I have to get in there. Keep it rolling.” Barney said pointing to the controls.

George and Lilah remained silent though Lilah had a huge grin on her face. The truth always came out and it was a wonderful feeling to catch someone in a lie. This was all too easy though. Richard was doing all the work for them.

Barney entered the interrogation room again with a pad of paper and a pen. Richard and Beth watched him walk around the other side of the table. Before he could sit, Beth opened her mouth.

“I didn’t kill Connor, I swear. I have no idea how his body got into my trunk.”

“Thanks for giving us his name.” Barney said sitting down. He wrote something down on his pad of paper.

Beth’s jaw dropped. Lilah noticed Richard turning the other way covering a smirk.

“George!” she hit him in the arm again.

“I see him, Lilah. Barney’s got this.” George replied calmly.

“What do you mean…?” Beth asked softly.

“His face was so mangled we couldn’t identify him. We’re waiting on the autopsy report for a DNA test, but you just gave us the answer.” Barney explained clearly.

Beth leaned back in her chair. “But…”

“I thought you said you had no knowledge of the body?” Richard asked. He looked shocked and disappointed at his wife, who stared at him with sorrow in her eyes.

“The big dope. He just told her the answer two seconds ago. Does he really think she didn’t remember?” Lilah chuckled.

“Yes,” George nodded. “He’s making her head spin. Remember, she’s been on her own with nothing to her name for three days. She’s tired and confused. She’s in shock now and yet she trusts her husband. Richard is making it seem like she doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going and she’s going to start questioning herself.”

“How could you kill him?” Richard asked. He looked disgusted.

“I…” Beth shook her head. She looked down at the ground. “I don’t remember…”

“Do you think Richard knew where Beth was all this time? Do you think he screwed with her mind while she was away and pretended, he didn’t know where she was?” Lilah asked.

“Oh, yeah.” George answered. “Remember she said there was a man who wanted her to do something? She tried to run away from the voice? I bet you anything that was Richard.”

Lilah hugged herself. “George, this is weird…”

“I bet he found my business card in her car and panicked thinking she had come to us for help. He probably thought she explained everything to us and assumed we would catch him. So that’s why he came to us. When he said he was disappointed she came to us and not him? He was disappointed because it turned out she didn’t tell us anything and he almost ratted himself out.”

Lilah didn’t reply. She took in everything George had to said but she had no words. She was glad they had caught him and he was sloppy enough to give himself away, but what if he hadn’t?

Barney reached over the table and took Beth’s hand in his own. “There’s no need for you worry. You didn’t do anything.”

Beth stared at him in shock as did Richard.

Barney smiled at her. “We heard your husband tell you everything.”

“You were spying on us?!” Richard stood from the table.

Barney stared evenly at him. “So, why would you kill your wife’s co-worker?”

There was silence. Then Beth slowly rose from the table. “You still think I was having an affair with Connor, don’t you? After I told you I wasn’t, you didn’t believe me and you killed him for it? Then tried to blame me?”

Richard didn’t answer. He breathed heavily and turned the other way.

Barney stood from his chair and knocked on the door. Another officer poked his head in and Barney ordered him to put Richard in a different interrogation room. He did and Richard left willingly leaving Barney and Beth in the room together.

“I can’t believe this…” Beth said. She sat down putting a hand over her heart. “I feel terrible. The one and only innocent in this situation is dead.”

“The one and only innocent?” Barney repeated. He glanced at the mirror and Lilah shrugged even though she knew Barney couldn’t see her.

George chuckled. “I knew it.”

“What?” Lilah asked.

“She’s not all innocent in this. Whenever she mentions the affair, she mentions Connor.” George stated.

“So, she lied?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Lilah sighed. This whole situation was making her head spin and she had no idea what else George had figured out.

“Please, explain.” Barney prompted.

“Yes, please so.” Lilah added though she looked at George who just pointed to Beth through the mirror.

“Richard was smothering me so I was having an affair. But I didn’t lie to him.” Beth explained. “He never asked if I was having an affair. He always asked if I was having an affair for Connor. I told him no and left it at that. It was never lie and I didn’t think he wouldn’t believe me and kill Connor because of it.”

Barney rubbed the back of his neck. “Yes, I supposed that’s an interesting loop hole… so, you were having an affair with a co-worker? Richard just picked the wrong guy.”

Beth nodded. “Richard picked the wrong guy, yes, but my boyfriend isn’t a co-worker. He’s Connor’s brother. They live together so I assume Richard got them mixed up.”

Lilah threw her hands up in the air. “I give up… this family is messed up.”

George, on the other hand, threw his head back and laughed.

“I don’t see what’s so funny.” Lilah scoffed. “An innocent man was brutally murdered, our client was the killer, we’ve wasted an entire day, and we’re not going to get pad for it.”

George drew in a deep breath. “I know. I don’t mean to laugh. But I honestly didn’t think these people could be any more messed up.”

Lilah snorted. “Well, wait until Connor’s brother hears about all this…”

“I imagine he already knows.” George said.

Barney entered the room again leaving Beth behind. “We’re going to hold her for a little while longer until we get the full story.”

“What do you mean Connor’s brother knows?” Lilah asked.

“What are you guys talking about?” Barney wondered.

“Barney,” George turned to him with a slight smile, “I know we couldn’t get an ID, but what was the coroner’s estimate on the time of death?”

“She said the body had been like that for a few days.” Barney stated.

“And no one reported Connor missing? Not his brother? The man he lives with?”

Barney let out an exasperated sigh. “I’ll go put out a call to bring him in…” he turned and left the room.

George wiped his hands together and smiled at Lilah. “My job here is done.”

“Wow,” Lilah said in disbelief. “Poor Connor really was the one and only innocent in this case. Why would his brother be in on it?”

George shrugged. “Eh, that’s Barney’s problem now.”

Lilah sighed. “What a day… burgers?”

George nodded. “Burgers.”

Words: 2,276

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Short Story Sunday 266: Thoughtful (Part Four)

Short Story Sunday: Thoughtful | Short Story | Flash Fiction | Mystery | Mystery Writing | Mystery Month | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Lilah found herself leaning against the one-way mirror staring into the interrogation room. Beth Wiley sat at the metal table, her back facing the mirror. Her shoulders were shaking and her elbows were propped on the table. Lilah knew well enough Beth was bawling her eyes out. Whether she was crying because she was nervous that she had been caught or it was an act, she wasn’t sure.

“Have you talked to her yet?” George asked.

Barney shook his head. “She was hesitant to come with us when we found her wandering the side of the road. She didn’t fight us at all, she was just in a daze. It was almost like she didn’t know why we were picking on her.”

Lilah kept a steady gaze on Beth while she listened in on George’s conversation with his brother.

“She was scrawny too.” Barney continued. “I know she’s been missing for a couple of days and didn’t take anything with her, not even her wallet. I don’t think she’s eaten at all. After we explained to her that we found her car, we brought her back here. We tossed her into the interrogation room and fed her lunch. Her husband is on his way. Once he arrives, we’ll figure out what to do.”

“Did you mention to her about the body?” George asked.

Barney sighed.

Lilah wasn’t facing them but she had a feeling that sigh was a no. She thought that might have been why Beth was crying so much, but maybe it was just because she was scared.

“Did you tell Richard about the body?” George asked.

“No,” Barney replied. “I figured the less he knew before he got here, the better.”

A knock at the door came. Lilah and George looked at each as Barney pushed past his little brother and opened the door. An officer had brought Richard into the room.

Richard looked horrified as he entered. He jumped when the officer closed the door behind him. He wrung his hands together and swallowed without saying a word.

“Thanks for coming here, Richard.” Barney said. He led him over further into the small room and pointed through the mirror.

Richard saw his wife and frowned. “Thank you for finding my wife. Can I go in and see her?”

“Not yet,” Barney shook his head. “We need to talk to her first. Is it okay if we speak to her and ask her some questions or would you like a lawyer present?”

“Should I have a lawyer present?” Richard asked. He turned to George for help, but he just shrugged in response.

“There was a body in the car. Unless you think Beth might have had something to do with it, it might be wise to get a lawyer.” George explained.

Lilah noticed a quick glare from Barney to George. She saw George shift his gaze to his brother but he didn’t fully acknowledge him.

Richard drew in a breath. He turned his head to look at his wife again shaking his head. “No, Beth didn’t do anything. There’s no way she killed a man and tried to hide the body.”

George bowed his head to Barney. “And there you have it.”

“Alright, here I go.” Barney said. He opened the door and then paused to look over his shoulder. “Richard, I’ll ask her a few questions and then I’ll call you in to join us, okay?”

Richard nodded and Barney disappeared. He turned back to George. “I guess you’re off the hook, huh?”

“Excuse me?” George replied. Lilah stiffened pushing herself off the mirror on the wall. She narrowed her eyes at Richard. Whatever he meant was probably harmless, but his tone didn’t sound it.

“The police found my wife. I hired you to do that and you didn’t.” Richard explained.

Lilah looked at George wondering how he’d respond to that, but Barney began talking on the other side of the wall. Immediately, all their attentions were shifted to the mirror.

“How are you doing, Beth?” Barney asked. He handed her a couple of tissues and she took them willingly. Then he sat down and casually leaned back in his chair. “Do you understand what’s going on?”

“No,” Beth said over her sniffles.

“Your husband reported you missing. You were gone for about three days before we found your car abandoned and hidden in the woods and you wandering around the streets not too far from Simmond’s Park.” Barney explained. “Can you tell me where you went for three days or why you left?”

Beth shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t want to say anything. I don’t want to get into any trouble.”

“Why would you get into trouble?”

“I don’t know, I just have a feeling I did something bad. Is my husband okay?”

Barney nodded. “Richard is fine, yes. He’s worried about you.”

Beth sniffled again. She picked up a tissue and blew her nose. “I didn’t know what else to do. I was confused and I couldn’t get away so I thought I’d run away. Maybe then I’d lose him and Richard and I could be safe.”

“Lose who?” Barney inquired leaning closer to her.

“I wish I knew…”

Lilah glanced over at George and she noticed he was staring at Richard. Richard watched Beth carefully, unblinking. She couldn’t read the expression on his face though. He certainly wasn’t worried and it didn’t seem like he was concerned for whatever his wife was going through. What happened to the caring, open, and honest man who they met in their office just a few hours ago?

“Does your husband know about any of this?” Barney asked.

“No,” Beth said. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed more. “I’ve never lied to him before!”

Barney looked up into the mirror and frowned. Lilah knew he was looking at them even though he couldn’t see where they stood. She sighed and looked to George.

“Should you go help him?” she asked.

“He knows what he’s doing.” George replied.

“Beth, maybe your husband should be here when I tell you this news.” Barney said.

Beth looked up hopeful. “My husband is here?”

“Yes,” Barney said. He waved to the mirror.

George took the cue. He opened the door for Richard and pointed to a closed door on the outside. “Just go through there.” He said.

Richard did without a word or even bothering to look at George.

George closed the door. He walked back over to the mirror and folded his arms over his chest as he watched Richard embraced his sobbing wife. “I have some suspicions.” He said.

Lilah turned to him. “What do you mean?”

“This Richard isn’t the man we met a few hours ago.” George stated.

Lilah let out a breath of relief. “Okay, I thought so too. I think there’s something strange about him. But do you think it could be because he’s nervous for his wife?”

“I think he’s nervous, but not because of her.” George countered. “He seems less concerned for his wife and the he rubbed me the wrong way when he said we were off the hook.”

“Well, yeah. That rubbed me the wrong way too. This means we’re not going to get paid.” Lilah said with a huff.

“It means, his job is done.” George said narrowing his eyes at Richard through the mirror. Richard was still holding Beth and rubbing her back. Barney, on the other hand, was leaning back in his chair waiting them out.

“I’m confused.” Lilah sighed. “What did you figure out?”

“Richard was searching for Beth not because she’s his wife but maybe because he was afraid of what she would do and who she would talk to.” George stated.

Lilah opened her mouth and then closed it shaking her head. “I’m not sure I’m following you, George. Stop being so cryptic.”

“I bluntly told him there was a dead body in the trunk of his wife’s car and he didn’t even flinch.” George stated. He turned to look at Lilah. “That was the first he heard of the body. Barney said he didn’t tell him.”

“Maybe he was just in shock?” Lilah suggested.

“But then when I asked him about a lawyer, he refused and said there was no way Beth could kill a man. There’s no way Richard should have known the body was a male.”

“Okay, I see what you mean… but maybe he just said man in a general sense? Besides, I assume you’re suggesting Richard killed the man? If that’s true, then why would he refuse the lawyer?”

“Are we ready to get started?” Barney asked.

Lilah’s attention was brought back to inside the interrogation room. Both Richard and Beth had nodded to him.

“Because,” George said, “Richard is too confident. Everything points to Beth and he believes she’ll take the fall.”

Words: 1,476

Check out the other Short Story Sundays I’ve done!

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Short Story Sunday 265: Card (Part Three)

Short Story Sunday: Card | Flash Fiction | Short Story | Mystery | Mystery Writing | Mystery Month | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Lilah sat behind George’s desk. She leaned back in the chair, propping her feet on the surface of his desk, and swiveled back and forth. She pouted her lips together deep in thought at the meeting they just had with Richard Wiley. His wife, Beth, had been acting strangely for a few weeks before she disappeared without a trace only taking her keys and car with her. What was really strange was that she had called George the week before but never gave any information on what was bothering her.

“What are you doing? Get your feet off my desk.” George said exasperated. He broke Lilah out of her thoughts as he entered the office once more.

Lilah put her feet back to the floor and sat forward propping her elbows on the desk now. “Did Richard have anything else to say?”

George sat down in the client’s chair, much to Lilah’s surprise. She had expected him to kick her out of his seat.

“Well,” he said, “we’ve officially been hired for a case.”

Lilah didn’t smile. “That’s good, I guess.”

George scratched the top of his head. “I’m glad we have work to do, but I feel so uneasy about this particular case. Things aren’t adding up.”

“They’re not supposed to add up. Not right now, anyway.” Lilah stated. She shivered. She was beginning to sound like George. Maybe she shouldn’t have been sitting in his chair after all.

“I know, but usually cases are odd. This one seems more so. I don’t know, I just have a bad feeling.” George answered.

Lilah sighed. “I know what you mean. This is certainly a strange one with both of them calling us… I wonder what Beth wanted from us.”

“She most likely wanted help about whatever is spooking her. Though it was enough for her to run away.” George said.

“Or maybe she took matters into her own hands.” Lilah suggested.

George looked up at her and she shrugged in response. She could tell by the raised eyebrows that George hadn’t thought of that possibility, but he certainly was now.

“Did Richard call the police?” Lilah asked. When George walked their new client to the front door, they stood in the hallway talking for some time. Lilah realized they had forgotten to ask him one of the most important questions – did he call the police already?

George nodded. “I asked him. He called 24 hours after he had no contact from his wife and still had no idea about her whereabouts. He knew the police would give him the run around so he waited until the time was right to call. Also, he was just holding out hoping that Beth would come home. He said he thought she might have just needed some space and went to the spa or something.”

“There are spas around here?” Lilah asked. She wanted one.

“Not that I know of, no.”

“Oh,”

“So, the police are on the case. They’re looking for Beth Wiley and her bright blue Honda.” George rattled off the license plate number he had written down on the sticky note beside her name.

Lilah perked up. “Barney must know then, right? Can we give him a call?”

George scrunched up his face and shook his head. “I don’t want to call my brother about this. Not now, anyway. We’ve barely begun the investigation.”

“Maybe Barney is the beginning of our investigation though. He might know more about Richard than we do. Richard might have given the police more information than he gave us.” Lilah explained.

“I doubt that. Richard wouldn’t have hired us if he didn’t include all the information. I don’t believe so, at least. Besides, Barney isn’t going to share any information with us about it now. Maybe not ever.” George countered.

Lilah sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

They sat in silence for a moment. Lilah watched George carefully as he picked at a loose thread in the upholstery of the chair. Lilah remained deep in thought about the case. She certainly wanted to know more about Beth and also this Richard guy. Even though he was their client, she wondered if they were able to truth him. She glanced back at George again. She also wanted to know what was going on in his mind.

Then the phone rang.

Lilah leaned forward to look at the caller ID. She stood up from her chair and motioned for George to sit in his own seat. “Speak of the devil.”

George stood taking her offer. He switched seats with Lilah picking up the phone as he sat down. “Barney?”

“Speaker,” Lilah whispered. There was no way she was going to be left out of this conversation.

George, for once, obeyed. He pushed the speaker button on the phone and set it down on the receiver.

“George, how are you?” Barney asked.

“I’m fine, how are you?” George replied. He gave Lilah a strange look. She felt just as weirded out as he did. What were the odds of Barney calling them when they were just talking about him?

“I’m on a case, so I’m as fine as I can be.” Barney replied. “Listen,” he continued before George could respond, “I need to talk to you. Are you free to come down to the station sometime today?”

Lilah raised both her eyebrows. Barney’s tone was different. He had his cop voice on that was for sure. Usually he was a little different with George though.

“I guess so, if you really need me to. What’s going on?” George asked.

“I’m at Simmond’s Park in the woods. We got a call from a concerned parent. There’s a car parked in the woods with branches and tarp covering it. The parent who called it in thought someone was sitting in the car watching the kids on the playground. There’s no one in the car though. The owner definitely wanted to hide it, but we’re not sure if it’s been abandoned or if they’ll be back.” Barney explained.

Lilah pressed her lips together. She suddenly felt warm and had a very good feeling as to what was about to happen next. Why Barney needed to talk to them about it, she wasn’t sure. It didn’t seem like they had found Beth, so how did Barney know they were connected somehow?

“Let me guess… blue Honda?” George asked before he mentioned the license plate.

“So, you do know the car.” Barney replied his tone hinting confirmation.

“I have knowledge of the car’s existence. I don’t know it though. Why did you call me about this?” George asked.

“George, your business card was in the front cup holder.” Barney stated.

Lilah’s eyes grew and she looked at George who stared back at her in confusion.

“We ran the plates,” Barney continued, “and this vehicle is registered to a Bethany Wiley. Whether she was the one who drove the car here and hid it, is a mystery, but there’s no report of it being stolen. Do you know Bethany?”

“Not personally,”

“What does that mean?”

George pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’ve never met the woman, though I spoke to her over the phone once last week. I have no idea how she got my business card.”

“Do you know that her husband, Richard Wiley, had reported her missing?” Barney asked.

“Lilah and I have just had the pleasure of meeting Richard.” George answered.

“Where is he?”

“He just left my office about ten minutes before you called.”

Barney sighed. “I’ll have to call him soon…”

Lilah piped up. “This is more about the car, isn’t it? What else is going on?”

“Am I on speaker?” Barney asked.

“Of course,” Lilah grinned.

Barney grunted before explaining further. “There was a body of an adult male in the trunk.”

Words: 1,304

Check out the other Short Story Sundays I’ve done!

I hope you enjoyed this story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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All About Red Herrings [Mystery Month]

A red herring is a term used in the mystery genre to throw the detective – or the reader – off the trail. It’s a fake clue to lure them into a false sense that they’re hot on the trail when they’re really now. Red herrings are a lot of fun for the reader and the writer alike. However, they’re not as easy to incorporate into the story as you’d think. So, here’s all about red herrings.

All About Red Herrings | Mystery Month | Mystery Writing | Mystery Genre | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

How Can Red Herrings Be Added To The Story?

Red herrings can be added into the story in a number of ways – through characters, places, evidence, or pretty much anything of importance in the story. How? Because no one knows the truth until the investigator deduces it all.

A place can be a red herring if the body is moved or it seems a crime took place in one spot but it turns out it happened somewhere else. Then, right from the start, the detective already has false information. This goes for the clues as well. Sometimes a clue can be interpreted wrong (for the better or worse).

An innocent character may seem suspicious and vice versa. So, in a way, pretty much everyone could be a red herring. Not to mention, if someone is framed – especially on purpose – that right there is a red herring.

Real And Fake Red Herrings

All red herrings are fake, though some are done on purpose. Like a person who is framed or an “accidental” clue left behind, red herrings can be done on purpose or not.

If a criminal is really that good or has an accomplice, they can purposefully leave certain clues behind, manipulate the crime scene, or frame someone else for the crime if their red herrings are that good enough to throw the reader and detective off the trail.

However, sometimes something can be mistaken as a clue when it’s really not. This is at the fault of the detective or whoever suggested it. They go on a wild goose chase following a hunch that never really mattered. In which case, that sort of red herring is more for the reader because the detective himself believes in the red herring on his own.

Why Are Red Herrings Important?

Red herrings are needed in a mystery for two reasons: one because it adds more tension and suspense and two because it’s a lot of fun.

Not only is it fun for the reader to figure out and possibly be duped by it, but its also fun for the writer to write and figure out themselves. The most important thing though is that it adds more tension and suspense to the story.

When it comes to mystery, you want your readers guessing and on the edge of their seat. It’s fun when you’re trying to solve a fictional crime and you keep flip-flopping between two did it and how.

Be Careful Using Red Herrings

Earlier I mentioned that red herrings can be just about anything – a person, place, or thing. However, you want to be sure you add it in accordingly and that it makes sense. The red herring needs to seemingly be part of the crime somehow and it must be believable to all. If someone was strangled and a bloodied ax is found at the scene and your detective seems to believe the ax had something to do with the murder, then your detective isn’t too bright.

Red herrings need to be woven into the story carefully so that they could really be clues despite having nothing to do with the crime itself.

Overall, red herrings are a lot of fun for the writer to figure out and craft into the story. If done well, the readers will enjoy it just as much.

Do you incorporate red herrings into any of your stories? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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24 Mystery Terms To Know For Your Novel [Mystery Month]

When it comes to writing a mystery novel, we’re no real detectives or officers. We’ve never investigated anything in our lives before – at least, not to the extent of a homicide or anything of the kind.

With that said, when it comes to criminal justice, some vocabulary may be a little foreign. Sure, we’ve heard it in our favorite crime TV shows or cozy mystery books. But we may not know what it actually means.

Here are some mystery terms to know for your novel.

24 Mystery Terms To Know For Your Novel | Mystery Month | Creative Writing | Mystery Genre | RachelPoli.com

Accessory – A person who assists in a crime without directly doing the crime

Accomplice – A person who knowingly assists with a crime

Alibi – An excuse used by an accused person to prove he or she wasn’t at the scene of the crime

Breakthrough – A big discovery in an investigation

Capital Murder – A murder that can be punishable by death

Case File – A collection of documents pertaining to a specific investigation

Deduce (Deduction) – Logical reasoning and thinking to infer information

Evidence – Clues to help solve a crime; can be a statement, fact, or object

Felony – A crime punishable by either death or confinement in a state correctional facility

Forensics – Scientific tests to aid in a criminal investigation

Framed – False evidence against an innocent person pinning the crime on them

Fugitive – A person who escapes or evades arrest or imprisonment

Homicide – The killing of a human being by another human being

Interrogate – To ask questions and get information from people about a crime

Motive – The reason a person does what he/she does

Parole – Allowing a prisoner to serve the remainder of their time outside of prison

Perpetrator – Someone guilty of a crime

Red Herring – A false clue to throw investigators off track

Scapegoat – Someone who is blamed or falsely accused

Sleuth – Another name for Detective

Suspect – Someone who might have committed a crime

Victim – A person harmed by a crime

Warrant – A written order directing someone to do something

Witness – A person who saw something related to a crime

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this post, please share it around.

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Short Story Sunday 264: Disappoint (Part Two)

Short Story Sunday: Disappoint | Flash Fiction | Short Story | Creative Writing | Mystery Month | Mystery Writing | Mystery | RachelPoli.com

Lilah was the one who let Richard into the building. They had their polite greetings – Richard was somber and Lilah attempted to be her usual perky self, but she knew something was terribly wrong. She led him down the hallway to George’s office in silence. She had left the door open and George saw them coming. He stood, buttoning his suit jacket as he walked around to the other side of his desk, and stuck out a hand for Richard. He took it, they dipped their heads as Lilah always saw men do, and then they took their seats. George at his desk, Richard in the client’s chair, and Lilah beside George.

“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.” Richard began.

“Of course. I’m glad we had an opening.” George replied cracking a small smile.

Lilah wanted to mention they’ve had plenty of openings lately, but she knew well enough when to bite her tongue.

“So, uh, do I just start explaining?” Richard asked. “I’m sorry, I’ve never had to do this before.”

“No worries. Starting at the beginning is helpful, but tell us what you like and take your time. There’s no rush.” George said soothingly.

“Well,” Richard cleared his throat and shifted his weight in his chair, “I don’t really know where to begin, actually… my wife, Beth, she started acting strange a couple weeks ago.”

“Can you be a little more specific than a couple of weeks, please?” George interrupted. He opened his notepad and began scribbling down what Richard dictated.

Richard turned his chin to the ceiling. “Three weeks? I had gone away on a business trip and the day I came home she was acting strange. I had thought she was having an affair. I honestly thought there was a man inside my closet or something and she was nervous I’d find him. I didn’t think she’d ever do anything like that though. We’re very open and honest with one another so I felt comfortable asking her about it.”

Lilah’s draw dropped. “You mean to say you just asked your wife up front if she was cheating on you?”

“Yes,” Richard said matter-of-factly. “Everyone should feel comfortable talking to their partner about anything and everything.” He sighed. “Which is why I don’t understand why she would keep secrets and then disappear into thin air.”

“Wait a minute,” George held up a finger, “has this talk about anything and everything thing mutual between the two of you? Or would you say you’re more of the talker and feelings one in the relationship?”

“Mutual,”

“So, how did she react when you asked if she was cheating on you?”

“It was weird,” Richard began, “she laughed. It wasn’t the kind of laugh where she thought of question was ridiculous or the kind of laugh that’s nervous as she tries to cover it up. Her laughing was filled with relief. It was almost as though she thought I was going to accuse her of something else.”

“Do you know what that something else could be?” Lilah questioned.

“No idea,” Richard shook his head.

George drew in a sharp breath. “So, what did you mean when you said she disappeared into thin air?”

“She vanished.” Richard said, his solemn gaze at the ground. “I woke up one morning and she wasn’t in bed. I thought she had to go into work early so I drove by her work to bring her a coffee. On my way there, I got a phone call from her boss. Beth never showed up to work and never even called. They had called her cell phone a couple of times but she didn’t answer. I lied to Beth’s boss. I told her Beth was sick.” Richard paused. He closed his eyes. “I didn’t want to lie but I didn’t want them to think something was wrong. I didn’t think anything was wrong at the time.”

“It’s okay, I would have done the same thing.” Lilah said quietly. George glanced at her and she shrugged. She felt awkward and wanted him to feel better. She didn’t want him thinking this was his fault, but what did she know? Maybe it was his fault and he either didn’t see it or he was lying to them as well.

“When did you wake up and Beth was gone?” George asked.

“Three days ago.”

“She had been acting strange for nearly three weeks, you didn’t do or say anything about it other than asking about a possible affair, and then she just got up without a trace?” George rehashed.

Richard nodded. “I went back home and found all her things including her wallet and phone. Her car and keys were gone, that’s it. She didn’t take anything.

“And I did ask her what was wrong occasionally. She wouldn’t tell me. She asked for space and said she’d tell me when she was ready. So, I stopped asking. I wanted to respect her request.”

“That was nice of you.” Lilah piped up.

“But now your wife is missing so maybe not so much?” George said bluntly. Lilah elbowed him, but he didn’t so much as flinch.

“Richard,” George leaned forward, “did you know that Beth made a call here a week ago?”

Richard’s head snapped up and he stared at George with wide eyes.

“No, I didn’t think so.” George sighed leaning back into his seat.

“What are you talking about?”

“We knew who Beth was when you called. As soon as you mentioned her name, we remembered her phone call from a week ago.” Lilah explained. “She didn’t give us any information though. She wanted our help but was unsure if we could help.”

“It was almost as though she was at war with herself. She wasn’t sure if calling us was the right thing to do. I asked if she’d come in, but she refused. I told her when she was ready, she was more than welcome to stop by. She said she would think about it and that was it.” George clarified. “She originally called asking if we were taking on more clients but never stated whether she was the one who had interest in hiring us. I wondered if she was calling for you, but obviously that’s not the case.”

Richard remained silent. He turned his gaze to the floor again.

“Now that I think about it, and after hearing your side, I’m sure now. The tone in her voice.” George said cryptically.

“Share with the class, George. There’s no need for secrets.” Lilah deadpanned.

“She was afraid. She was worried about something. Whether she was afraid for herself or for someone else, I’m not sure. It seems as though she ran away, so she must be afraid for herself. She’s scared of something. She disappeared with the intention of not being found.” George explained.

Lilah elbowed him again. She noticed he was staring off into space as he spoke and realized he was getting carried away with his thoughts. Meanwhile, Richard looked like he was about to explode in a waterfall of tears at any second. She was blunt, she knew that much, but George sometimes had no emotional tact.

Her nudge nabbed his attention. George looked up at Lilah in wonderment and she nodded her head to their potential client. When George noticed Richard trying to keep his emotions in check, he sighed.

“Richard, do you need a minute?” he asked. “You can tell us what you’re thinking.”

“I’m…” Richard mumbled something, but Lilah didn’t make out what he said. She leaned forward.

“I’m sorry?” George said leaning forward as well.

Richard lifted his head, his face filled with sorrow. “I’m disappointed.”

“Disappointed?” Lilah repeated in a snarky tone. Now George elbowed her and she waved him away. Disappointed was not the exact emotion she thought Richard would be feeling.

“I’m disappointed because,” Richard sniffled, “Beth felt the need to come to you. Why didn’t she come to me?”

Words: 1,327

Check out the other Short Story Sundays I’ve done!

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What To Include In Your Mystery Novel’s Outline [Mystery Month]

It’s Mystery Month and we’re starting right at the beginning of creating a mystery novel. I know most people don’t care too much for outlining, but when it comes to writing a mystery, I find an outline really helps. So, here’s what to include in your mystery novel’s outline.

What To Include In Your Mystery Novel's Outline | Mystery Month | Mystery Writing | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

A List of Characters

This probably goes without saying, but it’s always helpful to have a list of characters handy. So many people are involved in a mystery novel. There’s the detective or police officers, witnesses, suspects, any assistants, the victim, and their family and/or friends, the culprit and anyone who knows them, etc. Even if you just write down their names and their title for the novel (witness, for example), at least you have something. I personally like to write down their first and last names, title, age, and any major plot points that affect them or they had an involvement in.

A List of Clues and Evidence

With crime comes evidence, clues, witness statements, you name it. It’s a good idea to have a handy list of what these clues are and what they mean. Also, how and when they’ll be discovered. Not to mention you can always strategically place them throughout the book. Which one should be discovered and discussed in which chapter and the like.

The Details of the Crime

Who, what, where, when, why, and how. That’s really all you need to know and it’s better to figure it all out before you start writing. Or else you’ll be ripping your hair out later.

A Timeline

Going along with the details of the crime, it’s always a good idea to have a general timeline of the events of the book as well. Not just for the crime but also for the investigation. Despite it being fiction, it’s pretty unrealistic for a homicide to be solved in one day or within a few hours. Evidence needs to be processed, bodies need to be autopsied, travel time to the crime scene, and so much more. There are only so many hours in a day, remember.

An Outline is Not Your Book

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story, but an outline makes that first draft easier to tell… and it also relieves a lot of pressure on the editing part. Outlines are optional and even if you create one, it’s just a guideline for your book – know that things will change. Still, it’ll help in the long run. Your ideas will be in order and it’ll be less remembering for you later.

Do you outline your mystery novels? Or for any genre? Let me know your thoughts on this post in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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7 Elements Of A Mystery Novel [Mystery Month]

We all know what goes into a story – plot, characters, settings, etc. However, there’s more to it depending on the genre you write. Since I main in mystery and it’s Mystery Month, we’ll be talking about the 7 elements of a mystery novel.

7 Elements of a Mystery Novel | Creative Writing | Mystery Writing | Mystery Month | Mystery Genre | RachelPoli.com

Cliffhanger Hook

This goes without saying for every book, but you want the beginning of the novel to really hook your reader. You want them to sink their teeth into the words and frantically turn the pages for more. The hook can be anything though introducing the crime right off the bat is a good way to do it. Of course, not everyone does it that way but do what you think works best for your story. A cliffhanger on the first few pages is a fun way to go too.

Suspense All Around

Of course, you want your mystery novel to be suspenseful. It doesn’t matter what sub-genre of mystery you’re writing it, you want to keep your readers on their toes. The characters need to have high stakes – what if they don’t solve the crime? Or, what if they do? Why is this particular crime such a big deal? What sort of evidence is just evidence or damning evidence?

Red Herrings

Red herrings are “leads” that turn your characters (and readers) in the wrong direction. In some ways, red herrings can be pretty predictable. I know a few books and TV shows that the first person they accuse is a red herring because they do it so often. Still, if woven into the book correctly and the evidence line up, red herrings are a lot of fun to write. It added meaningful filler and add some in-depth character development. Plus, it’ll keep your readers guessing.

Strong, Compelling Characters

If you’re going to write a mystery novel, you want to have characters with purpose. Why are they involved in the case? What does it have to do with them and why do they care about it? Your characters need to have meaning or maybe even a personal involvement in the case. The case, in the end, will only make them stronger. During, though, it’ll push their limits.

Evidence The Makes Sense

While evidence can serve as red herrings as well, each piece needs to make sense. You need to connect all the evidence to one person or a group of people as well as to the crime as a whole. Why is each piece of evidence important and what does it mean? If a clue is a red herring then you need to explain why they thought it pertained to the case and what it actually was when they figure out it had nothing to do with the case in the first place. Everything should be tied in together in one way or another.

Reader Involvement

Part of the fun of reading mystery novels is that I get to play detective. There are some novels where it’s easier to take a look at the crime than others. Depending on the POV of the protagonist, your reader can easily follow along and make their own deductions. Sometimes readers know only what the detective knows or sometimes they’ll know more than the detective and rip their hair out when the detective overlooks something crucial. Still, that sort of involvement is fun, engaging, and adds so much more suspense for the reader.

A Satisfying Ending

Like all good books, we want a good ending. Whether it’s happy or sad, we want it to be satisfying. For a mystery, everything should make sense and be wrapped up neatly and clearly. If there’s a book two, it’ll make your reader rush out to get the next one.

What are some other things you like to see in mystery novels? Let me know your thoughts on this post in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Short Story Sunday 263: Find Me (Part One)

Short Story Sunday: Find Me | Mystery Month | Mystery Writing | Short Story | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Lilah kicked her foot lightly against the bottom of George’s desk making a low thud sound. She slouched all the way back in her chair swinging her leg aimlessly and mindlessly. George peered over his book with every thud, his eyes getting narrower each time.

She let out a huge sigh – she made it bigger and louder than it needed to be. Since George wasn’t paying any attention to her, she needed to emphasize and be a little dramatic in order to get his attention. Her sigh turned into a yawn and she groaned as she did so.

George lowered his book and let out a small sigh of his own. He placed his paper bookmark in his reading spot, closed the book, and gently lay it flat on his desk. He leaned forward with his hands folded on top of the book. “Lilah, did you need my attention for something?”

“I’m bored.”

“Then go read a book or play your video games or clean or something. I’m trying to read here.”

“What are you reading?” Lilah asked.

“Nothing,” George replied sternly. “Lilah, I want peace and quiet.”

She rolled her eyes. “There’s nothing to do though! We’re usually out and about trying to solves cases at this time. I don’t know what to do with myself.”

“You have plenty of things to do.” George said leaning back in his seat. He picked up his book again but didn’t open it. Instead, he stared at Lilah.

She knew exactly what he wanted. “Are you kicking me out of your office?”

George nodded. “I said I want peace and quiet.”

“I’m quit,” Lilah defended herself.

“Sighing over-dramatically and kicking my desk is far from quiet.”

“I’m peace,” Lilah shrugged turning her gaze away.

George deadpanned. “Get out.” He waved his hands shooing her.

Lilah stood up from her chair. She turned her back and headed for the door. When she stood in the middle of the room, she turned back around to face him. “Are you should you don’t want to do anything?”

“I’m sure,”

“Do you want to go out to eat or something?”

“No, thank you,”

“Wanna play a game?”

“Lilah…”

Lilah went boneless and fell to the floor.

“Oh, dear Lord…” George muttered burying his face in his hands.

The room fell silent. Lilah remained on the ground lying on her back, spread-eagle, staring up at the ceiling. She didn’t dare look up at George, though she wondered if he was taking this chance for his peace and quiet since she was silently protesting.

“Lilah, get up.” She heard him say.

“I want a case.” She replied. “I’m bored. We haven’t had a case in a while.”

“I can’t make a case appear out of thin air. Trust me, if I could, I would.” George said with a grunt. “You think I don’t want to have another case? It allows me to pay rent and it makes you less annoying.”

Lilah sat up on the floor. “Didn’t a lady call us about a week ago? What about her?”

George shrugged. “She called, but I don’t know. What about her?” he repeated.

“How come we didn’t take her case?” Lilah asked pushing herself up from the ground. She found her chair on the other side of George’s desk and sat down there.

“I’m not sure. She told me that she might need our services. I asked her to come in and we could discuss the possibility together, but she didn’t want to.” George answered.

“Why not?” Lilah asked.

“Maybe money is tight for her? Maybe she wasn’t sure if she even had a case for us?”

“Then why would she call at all?”

George sighed. “Lilah, I don’t know. I can’t read minds.”

“You should work on that.” She grinned. He glared at her.

“Listen,” George began, “This woman called about a week ago and asked about our services. I told her what we did and she said she might be able to use us. I asked her to come in and we could decide if that’d be the right decision but she hastily refused.”

“Hastily refused? Why do you put it like that?” Lilah asked.

George hesitated to reply. “Because she hastily refused?”

Lilah waved her hand. “Okay, never mind.”

“She seemed troubled, that was for sure. But I can’t help her unless she wants my help.” George explained. “If she hasn’t called back then I’m left to assume she figured out what she needed to on her own or maybe with the help of a friend.”

“For free… without us.” Lilah said dully.

George cracked a smile. “Not everyone needs us to solve their problems.”

“Well, they should.” Lilah pouted.

George pointed to the door and Lilah rolled her eyes. She got the hint. She had lost this battle. She was going to have to find something else to do to entertain herself. She got up and headed for the door. The moment her hand wrapped around the door handle, the phone rang.

She twisted back around and dashed over to George’s desk. “Yay!” she shouted.

“Shush!” George glared at her. He already had the phone in his hand. “George Florence-”

“And Williams,” Lilah quickly added in a whisper.

George glared at her. “Private Detective, how may I help you?”

Lilah stiffened in her seat as George listened to the voice on the other end of the phone. She brought her hand up and began to bite lightly on her nails. She knew it was bad habit, but the last phone call they got – other than that woman – was a telemarketer. She hoped this was an actual case and not a false alarm. Though she wondered if George would have stayed on the phone this long if it was anything else.

“Well, I’m open for another two hours and my afternoon is wide open. You can come in now, if you’d like?” George replied. Then he smiled and a grin grew on Lilah’s face. “That would be great, we’ll see you soon. My pleasure, good bye.” George hung up the phone.

Lilah jumped up from her seat and fist-pumped the air. “We have a case, don’t we?!”

“A potential case, yes, but we haven’t talked to him in person and don’t know all the details. Who knows if he’ll hire us?” George replied.

“It’s a start.” Lilah said sitting back down. “Besides, it at least gives us something to do this afternoon.”

“Yes,”

“Is he on his way over now?”

“Uh-huh,”

Lilah frowned. “You don’t seem enthusiastic about this. What’s wrong? What’d the man say?”

George opened the top right drawer of his desk and rummaged through some papers. “The man, Richard Wiley, called about his wife. She’s missing. She’s been missing for almost a week.”

“And… that bothers you?” Lilah wondered aloud.

“It’s bothers me because,” George pulled out a sticky note and placed it on his desk, the words facing Lilah.

“Beth Wiley?” Lilah read. “Who’s she?”

“Richard’s wife.” George answered.

“How did you…?”

“She’s also the woman who called us last week.”

“Oh,” Lilah said quietly. “Does he know she called us?”

George shook his head. “He didn’t mention it.”

Lilah slouched down in her chair as George leaned back in his own. Both were deep in thought as they awaited the arrival of the missing person’s husband.

Words: 1,224

Check out the other Short Story Sundays I’ve done!

I hope you enjoyed this story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Does Your Mystery Novel Need To Have A Solution? [Mystery Month]

We’ve all read those kinds of books where the ending is left pretty open. Sometimes it’s satisfying, sometimes it’s not. Once in a while it’s okay to leave the ending up to the reader and they can infer on what might happen next. Other times, though, it just doesn’t make any sense.

You know how sometimes you have 20 pages left in a book and you’re either saying to yourself, “How can this all get wrapped up in 20 pages?” or, “It’s over… what else can be said in these 20 pages?”

I’m pretty sure you want your readers asking themselves the former, but are you able to do that with a mystery where a crime has taken place?

Does your Mystery novel need to have a solution? | Mystery Writing | Creative Writing | Mystery Novel | RachelPoli.com

Let the crime go unsolved

In real life, there are plenty of crimes out there that have gone unsolved. It’s the sad truth. In some cases, the bad guy is crafty enough to get away and other times there’s just not enough evidence to convict someone.

This is totally okay to do in your mystery books, but maybe just once in a while. You don’t want your readers picking up your latest book and saying, “Well, I know there’s going to be no clear answer, so what’s the point?”

But here are some points:

1. Allow your readers to solve it themselves

Each and every day someone out there is discovering something new about the Harry Potter series. Give your readers a chance to do that with your mystery. Book clubs will get together and someone will say, “I think this happened because…” and someone else will counter with, “Yeah, but this guy had this motive…” and so on and so forth. You can leave enough evidence to point the blame at a character or two but not give a clear answer. It will certainly give people something to talk about when the book is over.

2. Give them the right answer but don’t convict anyone

There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing the answer and not being able to do anything about it. You don’t want to frustrate your readers, no, but you want them to feel something, right? Frustration for the detective who solved the crime but can’t do anything about it. Sadness for the victim’s family because they’re so close to justice but can’t get it. Annoyance at the bad guy who’s laughing as he crosses over the border.

3. Don’t give an answer at all

I wouldn’t recommend this in case your readers decide to form a mob against you, but you could just not give an answer at all. Don’t even hint at an answer. The crime could be so messed up that the detective goes insane himself. There might be too many red herrings that no one knows up from down and before they know it, the trail runs cold. This would still allow your readers to try to figure things out, but unlike my first point, they won’t have much concrete clues to go on.

So, is it possible to end a mystery without a solution? Absolutely. Should you do it all the time? Probably not.

But hey, writers not only enjoy torturing their characters, we like to tease our readers a bit too.

Do you always give your mysteries a solid ending? Do you agree that you don’t have to reveal the truth? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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