Full Circle

-- by Anne



The bells tinkled on the door of Henry Ledderman’s frame shop, announcing Jessica’s arrival. She carried with her a photograph of herself and her husband, which had recently been taken on a granite bluff in Acadia National Park.

       The doorbells’ jingling summoned Henry from his workshop out back.Mornin’, Jessica,” he said cheerfully. “What can I do for you?”

       Jessica placed the photograph between them on the countertop. Henry whistled when he saw it.

“Nice photo,” he commented. “What was the occasion?”

“Our twenty-fifth anniversary,” Jessica told him.

Henry smiled. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” she replied. “I was hoping to get a nice frame for it.”

“Certainly,” Henry said, picking it up to have a closer look at it. “A pewter frame would be best, I think – give me a day or so, and I’ll have it back to you.”

“That would be wonderful,” Jessica said.



Jessica shifted uneasily in her armchair and glanced at the clock on her mantelpiece for what seemed like the hundredth time that night. Although all the lights in the house were extinguished, the ambient light from the streetlamps outside provided just enough illumination for her to read the time: nearly half past one in the morning. Ordinarily she would be fast asleep at this hour, but this night found her keeping a nervous vigil, waiting for a murderer to come calling.

       Her eyes next fell on the pipe rack sitting on the table between her chair and the one Frank used to occupy, and upon one pipe in particular.

       “I guess besides a good meal, the thing I enjoy most is a good pipe,” Ralph – Stephen Earl – had said when he had chanced to pick it up. “Your husband’s?”

       She had stared at him then, and at the pipe, as if seeing it for the first time. “Yes.”

       “He had good taste. Fine looking meerschaum.”

       “Please – take it.”

       “Oh, no, I couldn’t do that,” he had protested, but she had insisted:

       “Ralph, I want you to have it. Better you should smoke it than it should sit there gathering dust.”

       The pipe was back in its original place now, Amos having returned it to her after it was found on Stephen Earl’s body. Jessica’s eyes misted with grief, both for Frank and for Stephen Earl, whom she had genuinely liked. As often happened when she was feeling pensive, she found herself gazing at the photograph of herself and Frank, perched in its accustomed place on the mantelpiece. The sight of it soothed her tense nerves as she mentally traveled back to the moment it was taken, recalling the feel of the cool breeze off the ocean on her face and Frank’s strong hands resting on her shoulders. It was a memory that was both calming and reassuring, exactly what she needed now as she sat alone in the dark.

       The sound of shattering glass abruptly brought her back to the present. Jessica quickly dialed Amos’s number then waited for Maggie Earl to make her appearance.



Jessica and David Everett faced each other across the living room, the long gap of years since they had last seen each other as high school sweethearts yawning between them.

“I may be a trifle threadbare, Jessica,” David said defensively in response to her accusations, “but I’m not homicidal.”

       “No,” Jessica agreed, her mood softening a little, “I don't believe that you are.  But with all that's happened, I do think that you should talk to Sheriff Tupper.”

       “No, no, no, not possible,” David said, taking a step toward the front door. “I have a meeting with my new partners tonight on the boat, and I wish to get there first so I can set up the ice bucket and the champagne and the caviar ...”

       Jessica could hardly believe what she was hearing. “David!” she exclaimed.

       “Jessica,” David said firmly, turning to face her again, “I'm saying good-bye, and thank you for your hospitality.”

       “Good-bye?  You can't just duck out in the middle of a murder investigation!”

       “Haven't you got me figured out yet?” he asked her.  “I've been ducking out all my life.  Isn't that why you all voted me in high school so many years ago as the man most likely to flee the scene when the going got tough?”  Once again he turned to go, but as he did the picture of Jessica and Frank on the mantel caught his eye. He paused, and for just a moment tried to imagine himself in Frank’s place – what if he had made a different choice, all those decades ago?

“You know, Jessica, I've often lain awake, thinking about the road not taken, the word not spoken,” he said wistfully. “Things might have been different for us.  But then, they didn't turn out that way, did they.  But believe me,” he said, placing his hands on her shoulders and looking directly into her eyes, “with Frank you got by far the best in the end.”

       Jessica, misty-eyed, said nothing.

       “Oh," he added, “I scribbled a few words of farewell on the bookmark.”  He went to the door, and blew her a kiss.  “Good-bye, Jessie MacGill!” And then he was gone.

       Jessica stared at the door for a long while before finally shaking herself out of her memories.  She picked up the book, opened it to the marker, and read aloud:

       “’Dear Jessie, scares me to think I could learn to like a feather bed.  Here's your house key with my undying gratitude, David.’”

       She tossed the key in the air and caught it one-handed. As fond as she was of David, she found him equally exasperating. She needed no convincing that his parting words to her were absolutely true.



Where is it? the intruder thought frantically as he ransacked apartment 4B. He had turned the place upside down, but the diamond was nowhere to be found.

       It has to be here somewhere! It had to be: it hadn’t been on Michael Freelander’s body when he’d shot him in the building’s parking garage, so it had to still be somewhere in the apartment he had just vacated. Looking for something as small as a diamond in a two-bedroom apartment would have been much easier if the place was still empty, but he hadn’t had a chance to get over here before now, and in the meantime, as bad luck would have it, someone had already moved in.

       And not just anyone, he thought bitterly as he slashed a sofa cushion open with a switchblade. Jessica Fletcher, of all people!

       The only place he hadn’t checked was the desk. He dumped one drawer out on the floor, and hastily sifted through the contents – nothing. He upended a second drawer – nothing. Next he emptied the third drawer, and the fourth – still nothing.

       “Damn it!” he cursed. He’d looked everywhere – everywhere he could think of, at least – and still no diamond.  In fury and frustration he swept everything off the top of the desk on to the floor with his arm. As he turned to leave he stepped on the picture of Jessica and her husband with his heel, shattering the glass with a sharp crack.

       When Jessica returned home and beheld the scene of destruction, her heart sank with despair. She was far from home, in a very large city, and now her haven had been violated. Wearily she picked over the ruins, checking to see if anything was stolen, until she saw the photograph lying broken on the floor. Stooping, she picked it up and began to gently remove the bits of broken glass from the frame as tears welled up in her blue eyes.

       Then there was a knock at the door.

       Heartache temporarily pushed aside by sudden alarm, Jessica set down the picture frame, approached the door and hesitantly asked, “Who is it?”

       To her everlasting surprise a familiar voice answered, “Open up, for Heaven’s sake, woman, let me in!”

       “Seth!” Jessica exclaimed as she opened the door. “What are you doing here?”

       “Visiting! What’s it look like?”

       “Well, why didn’t you call?”

       Instead of answering Seth took in the scene of destruction in front of him. “Oh, this is an attractive apartment, Jessica!” he said with a touch of sarcasm. “And in such a nice, safe neighborhood, too!” He righted a chair as he wandered about the room. “And I do like this high security building.” He straightened a picture left hanging crooked on the wall.

       “Yes. It is,” Jessica said irritably. “And how did you get in?”

       “I showed them this,” said Seth, producing a little plastic badge painted silver. “Volunteer fire department, issued to me in 1957. You had to pay for them then – cost me twelve-fifty.”

       He and Jessica looked at each other in silence.

       “Are you all right?” Seth asked her at last.

       “I am absolutely fine,” Jessica answered stubbornly, all evidence to the contrary aside. “I wasn’t even here when this happened!”

       “You weren’t … even … here, ay-yuh,” Seth repeated slowly. “Why, tell me why, Jessica, do I get the feeling that you’re holding out on me, hm?”

       “I don’t know!” exclaimed Jessica in wide-eyed innocence. “I mean, I can’t imagine why you’d come all this distance without calling first.”

       “Well, it’s simple enough,” said Seth. “I was over at your place this morning mending a couple of garden hoses. And then, don’t ask me why, the thought crossed my mind that you possibly were in some kind of danger. Pretty silly, wasn’t it?” He picked up the photograph and unceremoniously dumped the rest of the glass out of its frame.


       Funny, Jessica thought as the bells tinkled on the door of Henry Ledderman’s frame shop, announcing her arrival, how things come full-circle in life. It seemed like just yesterday that she had first come in here looking to get an appropriate frame for her and Frank’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary photograph, and now here she was again, some fifteen years later, looking to get that same frame repaired.

       The doorbells’ jingling summoned Henry from his workshop out back.Mornin’, Jessica,” he said cheerfully. “What can I do for you?”

       With a rueful smile, Jessica placed the broken picture between them on the countertop. Henry tsked when he saw it.

“That frame’s seen better days,” he said dryly.

“It was fine until five days ago,” Jessica told him. “Can you fix it?”

“Ay-yuh,” Henry said, picking it up to have a closer look at it. “Just need to cut a new piece of glass and buff out the scratches on the frame itself. Give me a day or so, and I’ll have it back to you as good as new.”

Jessica sighed with relief – that meant it would be ready in time for her to take it back to New York with her.

“That would be wonderful,” she said.