Without A Trace

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A Flash Fiction Short Story by Carrie Marsh

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Word Count: 1390

Without A Trace



Alex responded at once. “Julian.”

Watson inclined his head, and Alex blinked, surprised that he had missed that. “Quite.”

The two stood in silence for a while, as the private finished photographing the footprints.

“Well,” Watson sighed, “we have two possibilities. We just have to wait and see what Gilbert says about it. He could probably run some algorithm of his, figure out how big the guy had to be to sink into mud that far…” he smiled wryly at Alex, and Alex sighed.

Gilbert Levi was their pathologist, who – this being a small town with limited resources – also headed up their expert witnesses and drafted in various experts. The man was fussy, careful and had a love of the theatrical – and Watson and Alex both found him somewhat difficult. But still – if anyone could help them distinguish between the footprints of two men, it was Gilbert.

The two men went back to the station, their work done, chafing their fingertips which had numbed in the evening’s cold.

An hour after the photographs were dispatched to him, Alex heard Gilbert walking down the corridor. In a station of eight full time officers, it ought to have been difficult to distinguish one man walking in a hallway from another. But it was clearly Gilbert. The dry cough and the almost-silence of the steps gave him away. As did the meticulous knock at Watson’s door.

“Inspector Watson?”  The voice was clipped, elegant, educated. Alex smiled.

“Yeah?” he heard Watson reply. “You got something for me?”

“I believe so.”

“Hang on,” Watson said perfunctorily. “Alex?” he bellowed down to Alex, two doors up the hallway.

“Yes, sir?” Alex grinned, as he appeared in the doorway.

“You’re fast,” he said, impressed. “Now, Gilbert here has something for us.”


“I have the photographs, here,” Gilbert said, producing the pictures of the footprints with a flourish. “And here,” he added dramatically, reaching into another folder, “I have the data we were able to deduce from their size, depth and degree of setting of the mud.” He produced a sheet of paper with three columns and two or three rows of words and numbers.

“A big heavy guy or a thin and tall one?” Watson asked, guessing the results.

Gilbert looked at him meaningfully. “If you wish to put it roughly, then yes,” he sniffed dryly. “The suspect could range between five foot eleven and somewhat broad, to six foot two and somewhat less in build. He is wearing Nike trainers, as far as we can tell, and he would have been there about twenty-four hours before murder, give or take about six in each direction.” Gilbert finished succinctly.

Alex and Watson stared at each other.

“Well,” Watson chuckled dryly. “Not much help, eh?” he looked at Alex wryly, and Alex nodded slowly.

“No, sir,” he agreed thoughtfully.

“The husband of Ms. Jones was around six foot, and built like a footballer. Julian, now, he’s about six foot four, and quite sparse. So that doesn’t help us decide at all. Twenty-four hours ago, now…” he looked at Alex.

“That helps, sir,” he agreed. “Or at least, it could.”

“Now all we need to do,” Watson sighed, “is find out where Ms. Jones’ husband was yesterday evening.”

Because they already knew where there other suspect had been. Right there at the hotel, in the room opposite Rebecca Jones’.

Alex and Watson shared a glance. Gilbert looked between the two, dark eyes clearly trying to interpret the message.

“I think,” Watson said quietly, “you should pay our Victorian hotel a visit. Someone up there is in severe need of being interviewed.”

Alex nodded. “I agree.”

“And I’ll get on the phone to Chicago,” Watson agreed tiredly. He was grey with exhaustion and Alex frowned, concerned. “Someone needs to take that guy in.”

Alex nodded, and walked briskly up the passage to his office.

They had one more clue. They just had to work out what it told them.


Author Notes

I came up with this little tale on a little discovery that Inspector Watson and Sergeant Ford found out who may be the murderer to Ms Rebecca Jones. It’s more than meets the eye. If you enjoy this story… please tell your friends. It would be better to get the book, ‘THE CASE OF THE HATED BODY” to find out if they are able to solve this murder mystery together.

Character Interview with Sergeant Alex Ford

Character Interview – Sergeant Alex Ford

by Carrie Marsh

I lean back, listening to the hustle and bustle of the Rockport police station, going on around me. I am sitting in a small office, and I breathe in the scents of dust, printer ink and coffee, all mixed with the vague scent of aftershave and men. The station is small and sparsely-furnished, but it pulses with life. Especially at the moment, in the middle of this case.

I am here in the office of Sergeant Alex Ford, waiting to interview him. The second-in-command to Inspector Watson, he has a reputation for keen intelligence and ruthless questions.

I lean back and listen to the sounds around me – footsteps in the corridor, phones, a printer – men shouting and joking and laughing. I hear footsteps walking briskly in this direction and someone opening the door. A tall, lean blonde man walks in. He has a slim, intelligent face and blue eyes. I swallow, suddenly feeling shy. I wrote this man, dammit, I tell myself. I shouldn’t feel attracted to him – but I do.

“Sergeant Ford?” I smile, standing to greet him. “Good to meet you.”

“Alex. Please,” he says winningly, and raises a gold eyebrow. We shake hands. His grip is firm and dry, his fingers long and lean. I feel a slight tingle in my arm and try to ignore it. “Would you like a coffee before we begin?”

I agree, pleased. My body craves caffeine. His evidently does too, for he takes a double espresso at the machine next door.

He smiles. “It’s weird being the one interviewed,” he admits. “I usually conduct the interviews in our investigations.”

“You must have done plenty just lately,” I note, “with this latest case.”

He pulls a face. “You can say that again. This case is driving us all a bit mad.”

“I have heard,” I reply. “Any new developments? Clues?”

He puffs out his cheeks, thinking.“The list of suspects has narrowed a bit, but we’re closing in on the murder weapon,” he observes. “But, then, there’s this damn piece of paper – sorry,” he adds, apologising for the minor swear-word. He runs a hand over his face, clearly stressed.


“This cryptic piece of paper with numbers on it, found in the deceased’s room. No clue what it means, yet. Gilbert’ll probably guess,” he sighs. “I hope so, anyway. We’re running out of time.”


“Dr. Levi, our pathologist and all-round show-off.” He smiles affectionately and I sense an admiration for the man. I wonder about his professional ambitions and relationships.

“I imagine you’re a good interviewer yourself,” I begin.“Working with Richard Watson must be demanding.”

He rolls his eyes, grinning wryly. “You could say that,” he adds, “the man never gives up!” He breathes out a heavy sigh.

I laugh. “I have heard he never sleeps.”

“Not quite true,” Alex  observes. “I have seen him asleep – though after about a week awake, sitting behind his desk.”

“Wow!” I whistle.

“It is demanding,” he agrees. “But he is…someone I admire. Someone I would like to be like.”

I wonder about the heavy responsibility and pressure Watson places on him…does Alex resent it?

“You must sometimes focus on your own career prospects?” I ask carefully. “I can imagine supporting Watson must be exhausting.”

“It is, and I do,” he admits, and his expression is suddenly strained. “I mean, I sometimes wonder – do I want to be stuck out here, just a sergeant in the middle of nowhere, alone all my life?” he sighs.

“Well?” I ask.

He shuts his eyes. “I can’t say I’m not tempted to walk out sometimes,” he admits. “I would love to rise in my career, and working with Richard is demanding. Yes. But do I really want to leave? I don’t know.” He sighs.

“If you left this,” I ask carefully, “where would you go? Would you leave the force?”

He chews his lip, thinking a long while before he answers. “I don’t know where I’d go,” he says carefully, “But I would never leave the force.”

“What is it that keeps you here?”

He sighs. “I don’t know. The excitement, I guess. The drive. The chance to answer questions and use your brain logically.” He looks embarrassed. “I love logic puzzles,” he admits.

“Really?” I ask. “That’s interesting.”

“I really should leave you to work,” I observe, “but one last question – do you have a girlfriend?”

He blushes and laughs. “All I can say is, watch this space,” he grins. “That is a place of new developments.”

“Alex?” A voice calls from the corridor suddenly.

“Gilbert!” he exclaims. A tall man with white hair and dark eyes walks in. He blinks at me, and Alex explains: “It’s an interview. But you look like you have something urgent to say?”

“I do,” Gilbert agrees. He glances meaningfully at me, and it seems he wants me to leave. “In the corridor?” he asks Alex. Alex inclines his head.

“I’ll be a minute,” he apologises to me. I watch him go.

When he comes back, he is tense, alive with nerves. He looks focused and I see the keen mind  behind the easy manner.

“I need to go,” he explains quickly.

“What?” I ask, feeling nervous myself.

“We’ve found the weapon,” he says shortly. He has a stiff expression, as if the news disturbed him greatly.

I stand and we shake hands and then he leaves, feet silent in the corridor. I sit there a moment, tense but contemplative, thinking about all he has said. I hope to see him again, when he has finally solved this case.

Here you go, is my character interview with Sergeant Alex Ford. This is a rare opportunity to speak with him as he’s always partnering Inspector Watson solving murder cases, and be sure to read my book, “The Case of The Hated Body” to know more of him. Until then… take care.

Happy reading!


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Interview with Inspector Richard Watson

Character Interview – Inspector Richard Watson

by Carrie Marsh


I am sitting in a room at the Hilltop restaurant – a timeless place overlooking the forested hills outside Rockport. The pine trees soar outside, coming close to this hilltop refuge. The view is breath-taking.

I am here in this tiny village in Massachusetts to interview Inspector Richard Watson, the hero of my latest novel.

I lean back and breathe in the scents of leather and spice, woven distantly with smoke. I am not surprised this is his chosen venue – it suits what I know of the man. I hear booted feet on the steps and look at the clock. It is precisely 17:00, just when he said he would be here. A tall, solidly-built figure walks in.

“Inspector Watson?” I smile, standing to greet him. “Good evening.”

I am surprised that he is younger than I expected. He looks in his late forties, which is young for such an impressive reputation. He is solidly-built, with dark hair etched at the temples with grey. His face is rugged and intelligent. It is the eyes that hold the attention: dark and intense, they miss nothing. He seems to sense my scrutiny and looks up.

“You are wondering why I’m younger than you expected for my post,” he says.

I stare at him.

“Didn’t mean to embarrass you,” he adds, “but you can admit it if I’m right.”

“I…I was,” I stammer. “But how did you know that?”

“I saw your eyes move – they went to my face and my hair, looking for grey bits, to my hands and back. You don’t do that unless you’re trying to guess someone’s age.”

I smile. “I am impressed, Inspector.”

He shrugs, but seems pleased.

“You look tired,” I observe as he sits down heavily. He does – his eyes are underlined by prints of grey like bruises, and the wrinkle beside his mouth is scored into the flesh as if he has slept briefly at his desk.

“I am,” he agrees gruffly. “I never sleep much. Especially when a case is on my mind. Distracts me.”

“I see,” I smile. It seems he is known as the “Sleepless Detective” for a reason.

He smiles “If you have questions,” he says, shifting in his seat, “fire away. So to speak.” He grins. “I apologise in advance for my manners.”

“Well,” I begin. “First things first. This new case! It’s fascinating. I mean, women in hotels don’t just end up dead every day! Would you describe the scenario?”

“Sure,” he says. “We got a call from the hotel, saying that Mrs. Rebecca Jones, a young woman staying there a few days, was dead in her room. The body was a mess – poor woman clearly fought someone and was overcome after a hard fight. Now we’re following the leads. Usually, that’s easy. But this case is different,” he says darkly.

“What makes it different?” I ask, intrigued.

“Too many suspects,” he explains, exhaustedly.

“Too many?”

“Usually, with a case in a small village, there’s a clear motive. Crimes of passion, theft. The odd weird person going on a killing spree. It narrows it down. But in this one, I’m up to my ears in suspects.”

“Oh,” I blink, surprised. “But Mrs. Jones – she seemed a beautiful, otherwise-ordinary, woman. Why would so many people want to kill her?”

He puffs his cheeks out. “So many reasons! We have a jealous husband, family members…and new clues keep turning up! I have my suspicions right now, which narrow it down. And then,” he adds darkly, “I think she had a lover.”

“Oh?” I ask.

“In this village,” he says. “I think that’s why she was here – to meet him. But who was it? Him, or her husband? Or are we on the wrong track completely?”

“How can you narrow it down?” I ask. “New clues, leads..?”

He sighs. “New clues? Please, no! Not on this one…We’ve got so many right now, and they all point in different directions. It’s a mess.”

The waitress comes up to take our order, and I am surprised when he places it for us both: “Two plates of grilled fish and a carafe of white wine, please.” His eyes twinkle at me.

I stare at him, amazed. “You are not going to convince me you can’t read my thoughts.”

He laughs. “Simple deduction. You’re new in Rockport, and Massachusetts is known for its seafood. Of course you’ll choose the fish! And it says at the door that this place is known for its grills, so you’d want to try it. You’re a city gal – of course you’ll pair grilled fish with white wine.” He grins at me, smugly.

I simply laugh and shake my head. “You have quite some reputation for being observant,” I say, disconcerted. “What else makes a good detective?”

“Persistence,” he says immediately. “You need to be persistent in this line of work. Things are thrown at you – new clues, new leads – every minute, sometimes. You need to pursue all of them, and ninety percent of them lead you nowhere. But if you miss just one clue, if you don’t follow each possible lead, you miss things. And then someone’ll get away with murder.”

“How do you deal with stress?”

“Stress?” he asks wearily. “I’ve got so much of it I’ve forgotten what it means.”

I laugh. “You must chill out sometime, Inspector. I don’t believe you never stop working.”

“I’d like to make you think that – it’ll keep the criminals out there guessing! But no – I do take some time off. My right-hand man insists on it. Alex Ford. If he sees me dropping off he insists I take time away. And he brings me here, normally. I love this place.” He sighs and leans back.

“I can see why,” I agree, turning to contemplate the view outside the window. “It’s so peaceful.”

He grins. “Don’t believe it. But I’m always on the lookout for anything odd,” he adds, and pats my hand. “Though, he adds, there’s plenty odd in this case. Screams in the dark, jealous husbands, lovers. Cryptic messages. And, what’s worst, a missing murder weapon. Keeps me up at night, it does.”

“Well,” I smile, “you are the Sleepless Detective.”

He grins wearily. “Yes, I am. I just hope I can solve this case, before someone else dies.”

Here you go… is my character interview with Inspector Richard Watson. This is a rare opportunity to speak with him, and be sure to read my book, “The Case of The Hated Body” to know more of him. Until then… take care.

That’s my 2 cents….


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