"The Locker Room Murder" by Stan Smith
The air was crisp that Sunday afternoon in late autumn.
The Mountdale College stadium was almost deserted. That week's game between the Rosinton Ravens and the Dryden Warriors, two semi-professional women's soccer teams, was not scheduled to start for another two hours.
The killer, however, had slipped in early and was waiting in the shower area of the home team locker room. The wait was soon rewarded. Someone had come in, walked to a row of lockers and dropped a gym bag on the bench. As the victim fumbled with her combination lock, the killer crept to the edge of the tiled shower stall and peeked around the corner.
Standing at one of the lockers was Marge Carroll, the star goalie of the Ravens. Just over six feet tall, she had dark-blond hair in a ponytail and wore jeans, running shoes, and a blue windbreaker over a light sweater. She had shown up half an hour before the rest of the team, as usual, to run some extra laps.
The killer stepped out of the showers and fired, shooting Carroll twice with a handgun equipped with a silencer. The goalie collapsed, and the killer quietly slipped out to a nearby car.
At two-thirty, several other members of the Ravens arrived at the stadium. They included coach Richard Cattani, assistant coach Patti Tellinghast, backup goalie Lucija Pandit, and Wally Thompson, the team manager. It was the usual arrival time for all but Thompson, who normally appeared half an hour before game time.
Cattani, Tellinghast, and Thompson sat on a bench by the field, chatting idly and waiting for the rest of the team to show up. Pandit headed for the locker room to change.
"I'm surprised not to see Marge running her laps," remarked Tellinghast. "I thought she--"
She was interrupted by a scream from the direction of the locker room. A pale Pandit came running toward them.
"It's Marge," she sputtered, "Lying on the locker room floor. In a pool of blood!"
"Wait here," Cattani said brusquely. He ran to the locker room and returned a minute later. "Call 911," he shouted to a newly arrived player. "It's Margie, yes," he said to the others. "I'm sure she's dead."
The four sat in shock, waiting for the paramedics to arrive, or the police-- someone who could make sense of this shocking tragedy. "Maybe it was suicide," said Thompson, breaking the silence. "Marge has been kind of down."
"True," said Pandit. "She's been off for the past few practices, like something was bothering her."
Tellinghast nodded. "Could be suicide," she agreed. Somehow it seemed more comforting than the other possibilities. "Did you see the gun, coach?"
"No, no gun," Cattani replied. "Her gym bag was on the bench by her, still unzipped, and her locker was closed."
"Are we still playing?" asked Pandit. "I'm ready if you need me."
Cattani frowned and didn't answer. "The police will be here soon to take charge," he said. "They'll want to know where you all were today. You can start by telling me." He looked first at Tellinghast.
"I was at home this morning, coach," she said. "Then I did some Christmas shopping at the mall until about two, when I drove here."
"Can you show the police your credit card receipts?"
"No, I paid cash and didn't bother with the receipts."
"I baked bread at home until about eleven," said Pandit. "Afterwards I rode my bike, looking at the scenery, until about quarter to two. Then I showered, changed, and came here."
"How about you, Wally?"
"It's been a pretty typical game Sunday for me, coach," said Thompson. "At least until now. I went to church this morning, had lunch at Deagan's Coffee Shop, and got back home about one. Then I read a magazine and lost track of the time. I got here when you did, a little after my normal time."
Cattani grunted and walked slowly along the sideline. He knew that Thompson hated Carroll ever since she'd refused to date him. He also knew that Carroll had flirted with Tellinghast's fiance and that Pandit would do anything-- perhaps even kill-- for the starting goalie position.
Other players began to gather and cluster by the gate, talking. Cattani heard a distant siren. Well, he thought, at least he would be able to point out the likely killer.