The Detective Story
Charles Lee the music zoilist at the local paper maintained in a very invidious article that the local orchestra had not hit a single mellifluous note in it’s entire hitonious performance. The day after the paper came out the director of the orchestra proclaimed in the local bar that he was going to kill Charles with his bare hands if got the chance. Charles who was something of a niddering demanded police protection or that the director be arrested but there was a paucity of activity in either area. His editor suggested that a retraction might be in order and that in the future he might write less senticous articles.
Instead Charles decided to obarmate himself and bought a colt 45. He would not be caught defenseless.
The next night, however, everything changed as the Director was shot to death in front of the local oporopolist . Other than the owner there seemed to be no witnesses and the old man swore he didn’t see the shooter. He heard somebody arguing in the street and as he went to see what was happening a bullet came through his window and broke his lemonade cooler. He ducked for cover behind the counter. It seemed likely he was telling the truth.
Forensics determined the bullet was fired from a colt 45. It was further discovered that Charles had purchased a Colt 45 the day before at a local gun shop. This was enough to bring Charles in for questioning . He said that he was home alone the previous evening and just sat and got drunk., he having no castuali. When asked about the gun he swore the gun was at home in the drawer next to his bed. The police officer sent to retrieve it couldn’t find it.
The District Attorney was no foppotee but was lazy and decided they had an open and shut case against Charles. She had him arrested immediately. The police chief was not so sure.
Poor Charles sat alone in his cell. Nobody came to visit not even his editor.
As a zoilist with never a good word for anybody he had no friends. But ineluctable truth had been his passion, at least truth as he saw it.
But his truth was of very little comfort in the tenebrous cell.
Charles Lee regretted being such a zoilist as he sat friendless in the county jail awaiting trial for the murder of Philmore Noteworthy III the director of the local orchestra. The orchestra that Charles said had played in such a hitonious manner that you could have stuck bubble gum in every instrument and it wouldn’t have sounded worse. He knew he should have stopped there but he was on a role and he added “Kids pounding on a garden gate with a stick sound better.”
So now he was in trouble of Biblical proportions. It wasn’t just being in jail that depressed him , or the seizure of his assets by the police looking for clues. No it was not being able to run and dance in the new gentle spring rain and missing his favorite soap opera “ As the Stomach Wrinkles” This was sweeps week and a mammoth buildup had promised that inspector Gallworthy would be set free from his paralysis in a spectacular manner. How could he miss that? But the stupid inmates only wanted to watch sports on the one television set in the jail.
And if that wasn’t enough to worry about he might be found guilty and spend the rest of his life in prison.
Police Chief Ican Getum felt uneasy about the rush to arrest Charles Lee. He liked to build his cases little by little, evidence piece upon evidence piece. This had been far too fast. So he decided to go to Charles apartment and check things out himself. There he found two tickets to the new operatic style musical that was being staged at the local theater. He figured those were work related . Charles was the music critic after all. There were three stuffed animals, a polar bear, a penguin, and a mongoose. Who in the world has a mongoose for a stuffed animal? There was the certificate showing that Charles had completed a course in Anger Management. That could be important to the defense in the trial. There was a hobby kit for making beautiful pictures with paint splatters. There was a stack of biographical material on every musician in town. Other than the mongoose there was nothing out of the ordinary.
Further he noticed a large number of empty beer bottles which included some in the bed room. This could indicate that Charles was telling the truth when he said he drank himself unconscious the night of the murder since they arrested him before he had a chance to clean up.
What he did not find was the gun.
Today Chief Ican was questioning the oporopolist that was the only known witness to the crime.
Again he heard how arguing in the street caused the owner to move toward the window only to have a bullet break the window and smash the lemonade cooler so he never got to see the crime. So Chief Ican asked “what did you hear ?”.
“ I couldn’t make out the words but the woman sounded desperate” the fruit seller said.
Chief Ican now realized that either Charles had an accomplice or Charles wasn’t there at all. They should have discovered this the first day. What sloppy police work and by his men. Now how do you tell the DA what she really doesn’t want to hear.
Attorney Don T Winmuch. Having been filled in secretly by the Police Chief now told the DA about the woman that was there when the Orchestra leader was shot. He demanded that Charles be released immediately.
The DA was so angry she turned purple. It was sad because purple was definitely not her color.
Charles who seemed to be up the creek without a paddle now found himself free. The DA had ordered him not to leave town but he was free. The first thing he did was to go home and carefully shampoo his hair trying to get the ubiquitous jail smell out of it. Then he looked over his schedule and discovered there was that new operatic style musical “The Green Goddess” at the Memorial Building he should attend. But where were his two tickets? They had made a real mess of his house looking for the gun. His only spandex swim trunk which he never dared to wear was on the floor. The wedding ring from his short lived marriage was in the wrong place . His two throw pillows “Please “ and “ Thank You” were still there. but the tickets were gone.
So he called the police chief and told him about the mess and the missing tickets. The police chief began to read him the fine print on the warrant under which the house was searched but half way through Charles said, “ I don’t need a filibuster just the information on where the tickets are.”
The Police Chief told him they were in the evidence locker as the DA thought they might have something to do with motive.
“ Does that mean I have to buy new tickets ?” he asked.
“Why not? All the profit is going to Operation Marigold and will help beautify the city.” the Chief answered.
“As if a few flowers will beautify this city “ Charles thought as he hung up.
Police Chief Ican Getum was not a happy camper as he sat down to eat his lamb chops. He had spent the afternoon, much to his chagrin, being chewed out by the DA for not giving her information she had ordered him not to get. Unfortunately her screaming that he had the worst police force in the country was true. All of the men were there when he became Police Chief after the great Stingray scandal. The former Police Chief, a good friend of the mayor, had gotten caught stealing a stingray from the Skittles Aquarium because he thought the blood of the stingray was supposed to make one more virile. The Mayor, clever devil that he is, made a big show of hiring Ican who had a reputation as a brilliant investigator and an honest man. But after all the coverage of the event died down the Mayor wouldn’t let Ican replace any of the men. So Ican couldn’t be blamed for the quality of work they turned out but he would be anyway because he was the Chief. He should never have taken the job, life is too short for this kind of stress.
Police Chief Ican Getum was under pressure from the DA to find more evidence against Charles. She seemed sure that this whole woman’s voice thing was somehow phony. She wanted solid evidence and she wanted it now. But Ican having put on his favorite fishing/thinking hat and shirt and gone for a walk through town decided that he no longer cared what she wanted. He was going to do this right even if it got him fired. He was tired of just being a tool in the hands of the mayor and his wife. He still had some integrity left. If they fired him he heard that a little town named Pigeon Falls on the other side of the Mackinaw Bridge was looking for a new Constable. He could take it easy and just chase drunks.
So , as he got back to the office ,he gathered his three deputies together and spelled out what he wanted done. In every case that he knew of where a woman was involved in a murder it was either the wife or a girl friend that caused or committed the crime. So he needed to know if the director had a girl friend. He sent the deputies with a picture of the director to every motel in the area. They were to find out if he had checked in and if so get a description of the girl he checked in with. Then he went to interview the wife.
That interview went pretty much as he expected. She said they were very happy. She said he would never be unfaithful. She said he often had to work late with rehearsals and all. She said she was sure she would have known if he was cheating on her. He decided she was either a very good liar or she believed everything she said. So now he had to hope his men came up with something.
The first two deputies came back having found nothing. None of the motels they visited had ever seen the director.
The third deputy , however, had a different story. It seems the director was a regular there. He checked in every Tuesday and Thursday night under the name Of Robert Smythe. But it was the Director for sure. But nobody ever saw the woman. She never came into the office and wore a hooded jacket . The Police Chief was both happy and disappointed. The Director had a girl friend but he didn’t have any way of finding out who she was. That’s when his deputy surprised him. The deputy said “ I noticed they had a security camera covering the parking area so I asked how long they kept the tapes. We were in luck they kept a month’s worth. So I had them pull all the Tuesday and Thursday tapes for the last month. There she was. You couldn’t tell who she is but the blue car shows up clearly. I had them print us a copy. You can’t see the licensee but all we have to do is find that car. Just find the car.
Ican gulped. He knew that car. Things were going to get messy.
Chief Ican Getum was now in possession of some very senticous information. He was sure of who the woman was that met with the orchestra director the night he was killed. But he could not prove it. He needed more to get a warrant to search her house. He did not want to end up looking like a rubefacient had been applied to his face. He had to get this right.
So he went back to the crime scene. He noticed that around the corner from the opropolist's shop there was an all night gas station with video surveillance. Why in the world hadn’t his men seen that ? He went to the owner and asked, well demanded, the tapes for the night of the murder. There on tape he found what he was looking for . Just fifteen minutes before the shooting the blue car , in question, had parked across the street from the station. A person had gotten out and gone around the corner. At that distance, however, there was no way to identify the person but it certainly looked and walked like a woman. Right after the murder that person had come running back to the car and driven rapidly away. All of this could be verified by the time stamps on the tape.
He was ready to go to the judge. As he waited for the judge he thought that all of these divagations would not have been necessary if he had had a decent staff. The judge looked at him like he was out of his mind when he told him what he wanted. But when he saw the evidence accumulated thus far he agreed there were grounds for a warrant.
“ You know, if your wrong and even if your right, this could get you fired.” the judge reminded him.
“ I’m thinking I might quit anyway. There is a quiet little town called Pigeon Falls looking for a man. In a town like that there would be lots of time to fish. I just need your word you will prevent me from being fired until this all plays out”. Said the Chief.
“ I can do that” the judge said as he signed the warrant.
Chief Ican laughed and said, “ Now I’m off to see the Mayor, the wonderful Mayor of Oz”
The DA and the Mayor were at work when Ican and his men arrived at the house. The housekeeper was dully served with the warrant.
She called the Mayor , who became so angry the loyal staff thought he was going to have a stroke.
You can’t search my house, he said.
Ah! But they could.
Chief Ican was now following sound first principles of detective work and searching the Mayor’s house. He knew that if he was wrong he had no job but then it wasn’t the greatest job in the world. The key thing was the blue car he had sold to the DA. It was driven by the Director’s lover to the motel and was caught on tape at the murder scene. Now he hoped to find the gun and if he was lucky some other evidence.
On entering the living room Ican’s chief assistant opened the curtain to let in some light. On the far wall hung a massive painting of an albino polar bear swimming across a moat toward a marble castle where an Indian waited to shoot it with a bow and arrow. The Chief looked at the picture for several minutes asking himself “ What’s that supposed to mean?”. It certainly isn’t fine art.
Pushing the picture aside he found a large wall safe behind it. “ Now that I understand”, he thought. He asked Mrs. Trench, the housekeeper to open the safe. But she didn’t have the combination.
It was at that point that one very angry Mayor arrived.
“Your fired”, he said as he came through the door. “ Your all fired. Now get out of my house”
“I am afraid , your honor, you can’t do that” , Ican said , as respectfully as possible under the circumstances. “ I have an order issued by the judge preventing you from doing that until this case is concluded. Now please open the safe.”
“No, I won’t’ the judge replied.
“ Then I will have to arrest you for obstructing a criminal investigation and have it drilled open”.
Now looking like somebody who was just hit by a two by four the judge muttered “ I mean I can’t only my wife has the combination. It‘s her safe. I don‘t even like the picture”.
A search of the remainder of the house turned up nothing.
Chief Ican took two more aspirin as they waited for the DA to arrive. On the surface everything looked fine but under the surface a lot was going on. Chief Ican was waiting in the full knowledge that if there was no evidence in that safe his job was over. He wondered if that was part of some universal grand design by an omnipotent being with a warped sense of humor.. He was trying to do right but it was ending up so wrong. Now like a doomed man he was just waiting the moment of his execution. He felt like the polar bear in the picture swimming toward the marble temple but knowing he was going to be shot before he got there. Finally he understood that stupid picture.
Then the DA arrived and though with multiple protests on how her rights were being violated she opened the safe.
Chief Ican watched as the DA opened the safe . He hadn’t been this nervous since he was a tyro detective a long time ago. The door was open and he asked her to stand back. Reaching in he pulled out a large stack of letters which the DA tried to grab.
“ Those are personal and none of your business “ she screamed with high impigrity .
On close examination Chief Ican found them to be love letters from Philmore Noteworthy III, the director . They were filled with purple prose of the worst kind with lots of glowing descriptions of lambition.
“Motive” said Chief Ican.
Reaching into the safe he pulled out a Colt 45. “Means” he said.
“ I never saw that gun before . I don’t know how it got there” the DA responded, looking very pale.
“But you’re the only one with the combination to the safe” Chief Ican pointed out. “ You had to put it there.”
“I know that’s the way it looks but I didn’t . I couldn’t hurt Philly I loved him.” She said as she broke down and became a lugent woman.
It was at that point that Ican noticed the Mayor , the uxorious husband, was also crying and saying over and over, “ How could you do this after all I’ve done for you.”
Ican decided that the best thing he could do would be to take the DA down to the station and get her booked and locked up. Despite her protests he and the deputy got her cuffed , transported, and processed.
It now looked like they had the right person for the crime.
Chief Ican contacted the State’s Attorney’s Office and they agreed they would send a special prosecutor to try the case.
But still several days later something bothered Chief Ican. From the time that he started as a detective and lacking an amanuensis he had learned to pay attention to details and put them in little compartments in his brain, to process later. He had never been a niddering when it came to going with what his gut told him as a result of that process. In that sense he was like Gibbs on NCIS. His gut was a major factor in determining his actions. His gut was telling him there was something wrong.
It wasn’t that the DA denied that she killed him. It wasn’t her story that she was there to meet him but the shots came from behind her and she ran to keep from being shot. He knew, nobody ever said “ I am the guilty person. You got me”. They always lied.
The evidence was convincing. The crime lab said the gun from the safe was the murder weapon. It had no finger prints. There were love letters. She was at the scene of the crime. She alone had the combination to the safe. It was open and shut. But still his gut said something was wrong.
In his gut Chief Ican knew something wasn’t right but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
He replayed the events of the last few days over in his mind.
Then suddenly it hit him. He knew what was bothering him.
It was her face when he reached into her safe and pulled out the murder weapon.
Common sense told Chief Ican that the DA was guilty. His gut told him possibly she wasn’t. It was the look on her face when he pulled out the gun. It was a look of surprise. It was not the kind of look that said “ I’m caught and it’s my fault . Why did I put the gun there?”No! It was the look people get when they see something they didn’t expect to see. Like the man at an auction when an item comes on sale that he didn’t expect . He turns to his wife and says “look at that” and he has that expression on his face. Now the gun didn’t surprise the Chief. He had seen in safes everything but the kitchen sink. But unless the DA was a great actress her look was one of surprise.
So Chief Ican was going back over what he knew.
He had the murder weapon. But it had no fingerprints. If she was the murderer and had put the gun in the safe to which only she had the combination then why wipe off the prints. The moment the safe was opened her guilt would be obvious. It made no sense.
She had been cheating on her husband who saw her as “ the love of my life”. But he swears he didn’t know that. But if he did there was motive.
He also swears he didn’t know the combination but if she didn’t put the gun in the safe somebody else had to know the combination.
She was there when the murder was committed . But she swears she got scared when somebody shot and she just ran.
Meanwhile the parasites from the press were acting like crows around road kill. They tried the DA on the front page of the paper and found her guilty. They even printed that she had used her library card to take out a book on safe gun use. They maintained that she had no patriotism as she cheated on a Vietnam vet. Chief Ican thought that his staff should be at least half as good at finding material as the press but of course they weren’t.
His thinking was interrupted at this point by the noise of the meals on wheels truck delivering a meal to the old lady next door.” Why do they bother” he thought “ she just sticks them in the refrigerator and never eats them.”
So off he went to ask questions. He started with the DA. “Who else had the combination to the safe “ he asked.
“Nobody” she responded “ but it wasn’t always locked. I wanted my uxorious husband to see the love letters. But I knew he would never look.”
Chief Ican filed this away. It had never occurred to him that the safe might have been left open but he had a feeling she was telling the truth.
Next he would interview the Mayor’s housekeeper and see who the visitors were after the murder. But he was beginning to think the Mayor could be the killer.
Chief Ican went directly to the Mayor’s home to question the housekeeper only to find the house locked up tight. So he turned around and headed for the Mayor’s office. As he went he was thinking that this case is like an old pond full of dark stagnicolous creatures and you didn’t know which one would bob to the surface next. If it wasn’t so serious it would be risible Here is a murder that involves the town orchestra, newspaper, DA and mayor and who knows what else will turn up. He still didn’t know who the killer was. He had multiple motives fear, rejection, anger but which person followed through and did the crime? Charles feared for his life and may have decided to kill the Director before the Director got to him. The DA may have felt rejected by her lover because she wouldn’t leave the Mayor, the last letters he sent her certainly indicated he was considering ending it. The Mayor may have discovered his wife was cheating on him and killed her lover. It was Chief Ican’s task to invigilate the process and get to the truth.
But now he had to question the acrasial mayor and he could expect a barrage of sevidical words. This was not going to be a pleasant task.
AS he entered the Mayor’s office the Mayor said to him” I was just thinking of you I am looking forward to the day of your summotion. I am really going to enjoy firing you.”
Chief Ican, trying very hard to remain professional , replied “ Fine! But right now you need to answer some questions .”
“What if I don’t want to be bothered and simply ignore you?” the Mayor said.
“Then I think the newspaper and the State’s Attorney might want to know why your not cooperating in a murder investigation in which the prime suspect is your wife.” Ican snapped with a smile. “ First question , Did you know your wife left the safe open sometimes?”
Answer:“No! But it wouldn’t have made any difference she always got home before I did and left after me. So I would have had no opportunity to look in the safe. If that’s what your implying.”
Question: “Do you have any way to prove that?”
“Well you can check my schedule .It’s in the book in the secretaries office and you can ask the housekeeper. She knows when we came and left and she is there all day.” the Mayor said as if that ended the matter.
“Speaking of your housekeeper where is she?” Chief Ican asked.
“Well she hasn’t had a day off since the murder so I told her to take today off and go visit her mother. I can give you the address.” the Mayor responded.
Chief Ican took the address and went to interview the housekeeper.
From that interview he discovered that the Mayor always left before the DA and came home after her. He never came home during the day. So the Mayor seemed to be telling the truth. He also discovered that several days after the murder Charles came to the house carrying a paper bag and demanding that the Mayor pay for some tickets the police had seized when they searched his house. While he was there she had to leave him while she went to take some cookies out of the oven as the timer on the stove was beeping. When she came back he was gone.
Plenty of time , thought the chief, to put a gun in the safe and close it.
So the investigation has come full circle and we are back to Charles.
Chief Ican had a headache. This case was taking him round in circles like a dog chasing his tail. He wanted to apply for the job in Pigeon Falls but he couldn’t leave until this one was done. So he sat back in his big comfortable chair, thought about questioning Charles, and took three Tylenol.
Chief Ican pulling on his whiskers considered for a moment the possibility that he was guilty of circular reasoning since he was back to Charles as a key suspect byt decided he wasn’t since he simply followed the clues as he uncovered them. Charles he knew was no swashbuckler and not the kind that usually committed murder being instead the type that hid until everything was over. But since he was at the Mayor’s house and had the opportunity to put the gun in the safe where there would be no question of who was blamed at it’s recovery. He needed to talk to him again. He found him at the house of a rich friend sitting next to the pool across from the kid’s jungle gym. He was in his bathing suit and sipping a dry martini as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Here Chief Ican felt the heads-up thing to do was to ask non abrasive questions , after all he was no Sam Spade.
So he sat down in the chair next to Charles and said, “ I really hate to bother you but I have just a few more questions to help clear up some things about the murder. The housekeeper says that you stopped at the Mayor’s home the other day. Is that true?”
Charles becoming somewhat agitated answered “ Yes! You people took my theater tickets and I felt the city owed me for them.”
Ican , “ Why did you leave so quickly. Why didn’t you wait for the Mayor?”
Answer “ What do you mean. The Mayor came in just as the Housekeeper went to the kitchen. He seemed really surprised to see me , demanded to know what I was doing there, gave me the money for the tickets and told me to get out. I took my groceries and left.”
Chief-” The Mayor came in . It’s strange he didn’t mention it. Why do you think that is?”
Answer “ I haven’t the slightest idea but as I was going down the street I saw him come right back out and start back to his office.”
Chief Ican thanked Charles and then headed back to the police station. The case had turned again. It was like riding a Merry Go Round.
Back at the station Chief Ican sat with a glass of apricot brandy and tried to chart the case. The one thing it didn’t suffer from was stagnation since something new was constantly being churned up. His deputy had just brought in the DA’s love letters to the Director. Between the two sets of letters a picture of star crossed lovers was emerging. He thought if the DA talked to the victim the way she wrote to him butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. But none of this was helping solve the case. Over and over why hadn’t the Mayor told him about the visit of Charles to the house. There were only two possible explanations .1. He didn’t know and Charles was lying to protect himself.
2. He didn’t want anyone to know that he had been there unseen by the housekeeper.
Chief Ican felt that Charles was telling the truth so the second reason had to be it.
So back he went to the Mayor.
To be continued -for the last time I hope – Thursday.