Students in my Philosophy class endured the bit by bit progress of the workbook on Logical Fallacies that I have been developing. As part of that workbook, I have included a short story about Mike Justice, the Police Detective, unraveling a mysterious murder by looking logically at clues–much like we do as we investigate logical fallacies. Students in the first semester did not end up with the full short story, so at their request, below is the story in its entirety as excerpted from the Fallacy Files Workbook… It needs some tweaking and a bit of a longer and more dramatic ending, but here we go (by the way, Mike Justice is a real person…he is a cousin who I always thought should have been a detective of some sort…Thanks Mike for loaning me your name)…
It was a dark and stormy night; the kind of night where the hollow blackness chills even the marrow of your bones. It was the kind of night that was filled with the haunts of a thousand nightmares—the bad ones that make you wake up in a cold sweat and leaves you with the feeling that something is watching you from within the blackness. The darkness was thick in the air and the wind howled and bit at my shoulders when I stepped into the blowing rain from the relative sanctity of my sedan. My name is Justice, Mike Justice, and there had been a murder.
The uniforms were just beginning to secure the scene, though I am not sure from what. No one would be out on a night like this…no one, that is, but several uniforms earning their wage and a detective that would rather be inside by a warm fire, but now a warm cup of joe is my only warmth and cold, dark thoughts of murder my only companion. It would be a long night.
Then again, there was the body—a crumpled heap of what was once a man, but cast away like yesterdays garbage. He was an average sized corpse, five-ten and probably just under two-hundred pounds, a little more muscle than flab, though. The give-away was the hilt of a dagger with what looked to be a six-inch blade, although four of its inches had taken up residence in the man’s chest cavity from behind. Never a good sign. And something about this murder just did not sit well with me; like week-old pizza, while they pieces looked like they fit together, they just didn’t sit right. Then again, nothing about this night was sitting well with me.
The body had been discovered by a uniformed patrol officer who made regular evening rounds in this part of the city. About 12:30, on his regular interval, he saw the body, laying like a heap of soggy laundry under a street lamp in a fairly deserted part of town—almost as if it was intended to be found. The body used to belong to one Lewis H. Warner, a hardware salesman from across town—hardly the kind of career that would earn you such an eventful murder, but then again, stranger things happen.
This wasn’t that atypical of murders in this part of town—the knife in the back seemed like the obvious murder weapon, but something still felt amiss about this case…yet I couldn’t put my finger on it. The detail was there, it was registering in my mind, but it was as if the darkness of the night was clouding it…like I was observing things through a veil of shadow or through a window whose glass had become warped. Like a bad, “B-Rated” movie, things looked right, but at the same time, they were strangely off—I just could not figure out why.
And then I saw what was disturbing me so much…his shoes, his shoes were new. I don’t mean that an honest man is not permitted to have a new pair of new shoes, but these were brand new—the leather soles, though soaked in the rain, had none of the normal scuffing that you would expect on the bottom, not from walking on the pavement and not from a scuffle that might earn you a knife in the way this man had received it. In fact, looking closely, the black dye that typically is left on the bottom of the shoe was still in good condition. Not only were these shoes new, but they had never been worn—that is, until now.
And that is when I noticed a second thing that stood out like a bright red balloon in a clear blue sky—something that only a minute before had been concealed by the night…gravel. Not a lot of it, only a few stones, and those few stones were lodged in the wound between the knife and the stiff flesh. The night was starting to get interesting…
I knew that there was something odd about this case. The shoes were on the corpse’s feet, but they showed no sign of wear. They either had been worn or they had not been worn, “a simple deduction, dear Watson.” And since they clearly had no evidence of wear, the shoes had not started out the day on this man but only ended up on his stiff and soggy remains.
Of course, that observation did not get me anywhere—in fact, it raised more questions than it answered—as if there would be any answers at this hour of the night and in this rain. If these are not this man’s shoes, where are his original shoes and what tales will they tell us about where this murder took place. Where did these shoes come from—and why exchange new shoes for old shoes in the first place? Why not leave the stiff bare-footed? Why waste a perfectly good pair of shoes on a stiff who could not benefit from them anyway? And by the looks of them, probably an expensive pair of shoes as well—then again, they were pretty soggy—hard to tell these things.
Old shoes, new shoes, and gravel—and I thought this night would be a wash-out… Gravel could come from anywhere; new shoes could not—I knew where I had to start looking.
New shoes aren’t found at this hour of the night unless they have already been claimed by feet. So that task would have to be done in the morning. For now, the M.E. would soon collect the mark and file their report in the morning. No chance of witnesses—at least not here, so my best bet is to wring myself out and saw a few logs, then in the morning start hitting the pavement and find me a shoe salesman.
By morning, the weather had improved but my mood hadn’t. The Coroner had left a message and I figured I better check that out first—nothing like the smell of formaldehyde to start your day—and right after breakfast. But a strong stomach is part of the job description and it had become a part of my life—though an unwelcome part.
Two things he had noticed—first, the knife was the cause of death (surprise, surprise…) and time of death was approximately 10:30 the prior night—give or take an hour or so due to the cold rain and soggy clothes. That places the death approximately two hours before the body was found—plenty of time to kill a man and dump him in another part of the city. But the Coroner did not need to call me down here for that bit of info.
That led to the second thing—it is always the “second thing” that proves interesting. The gravel, he said, was the kind used as base rock upon which building construction can take place.
“The rock crushing plant just outside of the city…” I interrupted.
“No, that is what I thought at first. But look at these tension lines under the microscope. This does not come from compression, but from rollers crushing the rock with tension, like what you would find from a small, portable crusher. Plus, not a lot of dust. The gravel was in the wound, too, pretty deep.”
“Great, no dust and no pressure to crush, that rules out the crusher outside of town… How small is this portable crusher? Bigger than a breadbox, I guess…”
“Lots of breadboxes. Think something on the front of a skidloader.”
Now, I had something to work with…well, or at least a place to start looking. It wasn’t a lot, but it narrowed the places I needed to poke my nose down to about a half-dozen smaller construction sites—the kinds of places where they were tearing down some small buildings—hence the need for a crusher. If the crusher is portable, why not put the body through it rather than dumping it—would make a mess, but mixed with some concrete, the evidence would be as good as gone.
But I still had a body, it had gravel in it and it had new shoes…the shoes! I needed to check on the shoes now that they were dry and in the light. Turns out that they were Brit shoes! Crockett and Jones out of Northhampton, England…what is a hardware salesman doing wearing shoes that probably cost more than $500? Of course, he wasn’t wearing them, that’s the point—why did someone give this dead mark a pair of fancy shoes? And I checked—probably two sizes too big—they were never meant for him. What a waste… Things were just not adding up.
What I did know, was that a dead man cannot change his own shoes, and no prints were on them and brand new shoes—without even the slightest scuffing—could not have been worn while being murdered on a construction site. That was simple enough logic. A fall amongst the gravel could also explain the bits inside of the wound. It is just these shoes…the old shoes had to tell a story that these new ones could not… Had to find the old shoes. Time to go shopping…
Shopping for a Shoe
And now here I was, looking for where these shoes had been gotten. Not too many places in the city that sold Crockett and James footwear—leather shoes from Britain for lots of cash. Probably not much better than the stuff I buy at Wal Mart, but some people are willing to pay big bucks just to advertise for someone else. Only one store sold them in the city limits, so I decided to check them out.
I went in and asked for the manager—was not in the mood for a long conversation with a pimple-faced sales clerk whose interests were more in line with the current cinema showings than with helping me figure out the case.
“Yes, sir,” came the slightly nasal voice from the suited man coming out of the office. I wondered whether he had been born speaking like that or whether the sound of arrogance was the result of long and intense training. Probably both. His nose was so turned up that I wasn’t sure how he got home without drowning in yesterday’s rain.
“I am looking for who bought these,” I said, handing him the shoes.
The manager took them, looked at me and then at them with his beady-eyes. And then, almost as quickly as he took them, he handed them back, and said, “not here.”
“But you are the only one in the city that sells stuff like this.”
“Not stuff, sir, but the highest quality imported leather.”
“But I don’t understand, these shoes still have the black paint on the bottoms—they have to be new.”
“No sir”, the salesman said, these are not new, but soles and uppers have been replaced—these shoes have seen better days—just because they look new, does not mean they are replaced. Just because the parts are new leather does not mean the whole is as well. You need to find yourself a cobbler to talk to.”
So, it’s the run-around. Old shoes look new because they have been redone—expertly redone—but still not worn and still expensive shoes. If the salesman didn’t know whose shoes they were, then, perhaps the cobbler would—of course, finding the right cobbler might not be as easy as finding the right store…my day was getting jollier by the moment. Maybe someone will shoot at me before the day’s out.
Not a Cherry Cobbler
The phone book had 14 listings for people who resoled shoes—more than I had hoped…did not think that there was much of a business for that kind of thing. Then again, if President John F. Kennedy was willing to wear resoled shoes on the day he was shot, why not our stiff? Then again, Kennedy’s were worn; these were not. So off to find me some cobblers to talk to.
And run around I did; by the time I found the guy I was looking for I was considering having my own shoes given a new sole—hey, born again shoes…go figure. The man in question was one William Smythe: “Willie’s Shoe Repair: New Life for Weary Soles”… How clever.
Willie was a small man—in height at least, if not in the waist, with thin strands of hair combed across his bald brow. The old leather smock gave him away, though the rest of his appearance did little to flatter his dull looks. His vocabulary did not do much to help matters either—especially accompanied by the little bits of spit protruding from his sloppy little mouth. His already bulbous eyes became saucers and his demeanor became sour when I showed him the shoes.
“Where did you get these.” The man snorted as he grabbed them with stubby fingers.
“I was hoping you might tell me,” I returned.
He eyed me with obvious distrust. “What’re you talking about. This is good work—best that you will find. I even cleaned out the stains and scuffing from the leather. A good job I did, and that moron flat stiffed me—grabbed them right out of my hands! When I tried to take them back, he nearly broke my nose. Sorry ape, caught me by surprise; I was a boxer, you know. If I get my paws on him…got a crowbar with his name on it behind the counter, too. I’ll teach him to come in at closing time and then stiff me two hours later after a rush job. Bah…
I let the man calm down for a minute, though I was starting to connect the dots through his rambles, and asked, “so he came in last night at closing time?”
All of a sudden it was as if a little light went off inside the man’s greasy skull. “Did I do something wrong? I’m just trying to earn a dime…I do good work…why are you asking me these questions?”
“Just answer the question, what time is closing time?”
“So he dropped the shoes off at 6:00, said he had a rush job, and you agreed to stay late and do them. Is that right?”
“Yes…” Willie scratched his head for a minute with stained hands and looked at me. “I’m gonna get the shoes back, right.”
“Sorry, they are case evidence.”
“No! I did the work; I got stiffed; I get to sell the shoes! That’s the way it is done!”
“Not really, not at least in cases like these…”
“That’s not right,” he demanded. “I am out time and money and supplies, I ought to be able to get my money out of those shoes.”
“It doesn’t matter what you think ‘ought’ to be taking place,” I asserted, “what is taking place is that these are case evidence in a murder trial, and thus I am taking them with me when I leave.” And just to make my point clear, I finished, “And now you will come down to the station with me and describe this man you saw last night to a sketch artist, and he will draw us a picture so that we can see what he looks like. Capiche?”
Willie snorted, I guess that I should not have expected much better…such is life. “One more thing,” I said as Willie began to pack up, “you don’t happen to have a security camera or a receipt with his signature or handwriting on it?”
“Cash sale and no, never needed to have a camera…”
It’s funny how often I get people crying about what ought to be or about what ought not to be in this line of business. Things in reality are rarely what they ought—at least what they ought in most people’s minds. What actually “is” tends to be far harsher and colder than most people are comfortable with—like a steel blade coming into contact with fired clay…something is going to break…and it won’t be the steel.
Anyway, I got ol’ Willie set up with a forensic artist and then it would be time for me to get over to the vic’s house, see what I could turn up beyond what the typical investigators would see. I decided not to tell Willie that his little shoe shop would soon be the home of a forensic team looking for bits of what he cleaned off those shoes…what he doesn’t know now won’t hurt him and it will keep my drive to the station a little more calm.
Then again, what is it about these shoes. If these were his, it would bump up the time of death significantly. Yet, they couldn’t be his because they were the wrong size. Then whose were they…did they belong to the ape? Was there something on the shoes that would tell me a story? Maybe. But I was beginning to feel like I had been thrown a red herring…
A Man’s Home is…Well, it is a stuffy old Apartment
I found the vic’s apartment without too much grief, though the landlady was in no mood to answer questions in a friendly way—seems that I interrupted her “ladies fellowship” from church, though it didn’t look like much more than a bridge club, just later in the afternoon.
Apparently, Warner was divorced, no kids, not interested in much of a social life, was quiet, paid on time, and had lived in the apartment without making too much of a fuss for the last 5 years. Not much help there, plus there wasn’t a good view between the landlady’s apartment and the victim’s; someone could easily get in and out without her noticing…neighbors probably don’t know much either, but worth knocking on a few doors.
The boys from the crime lab had done their duty, scouring the place for fingerprints, lost buttons, phone messages, and other clues that might be useful in unraveling this mystery. Nothing was too useful in this case, but no surprises there. The answering machine had been recently erased, but that doesn’t mean much. The geeks are seeing if they can figure out what was on it before the delete button was pushed.
Out of curiosity I took a look at his shoes. Three pairs in the closet—two cheap pairs of tennis shoes and a pair of work boots—all run of the mill brands, nothing fancy. His Crockett and Jones’ would make number four, but a very expensive number four. Again, didn’t add up. Why would a hardware salesman even want a pair of $600 shoes? They just didn’t fit with everything else that the man surrounded himself with.
The more I thought about the shoes, the crazier the scenario seemed, so to take my mind off of footware, I turned my attention to the apartment once more. It was orderly but not what I would call neat—for neat you usually need a woman’s touch—that I knew from personal experience. The place was clean enough for most men, but it would never be enough for a lady. Dishes were either in the sink or in the dishwasher— probably lived out of one of the two as there were not too many in the cupboard.
Then I noticed something that stood out—the bathtub was clean. Not that he would have never cleaned his tub, but this was really clean—no soap scum, no ring, no nothing; this tub had been cleaned intentionally and likely not by the man who lived in and cleaned the rest of the house—he would never have bothered with that. Sometimes the best clues lie not in the things that are way out of place, but in the things that are as they should be, but then again, are just a little bit off. Time to get the crime guys back here not just to look at the tub, but to pull out the pipes below—I wanted to see what was left in the water-trap. Maybe there would be some help here after all…
I was on my way out when I walked by the sliding glass door to the porch. Not much of a view, but who really wants a view of downtown anyway. Then something struck me. There was a cigarette but in the corner of one of the plants. Odd…didn’t remember the vic having a pack of cigarettes on him and the apartment certainly didn’t have the smell of stale smoke, and no, the walls weren’t stained by the nicotine either. The killer’s maybe? Not likely…too sloppy for this case. Maybe it was a homicidal shoe salesman…unlikely. Was there someone else in this picture? Wounds in the house of a friend, indeed… What interesting things will fall out of place next? Oh, be still my heart…
As the techies headed back to the vic’s apartment, my next stop was to go downtown and check out where Warner worked…see where he stood with his co-workers; maybe this was an inside job or a matter of territory…unlikely, but then again, some people will do anything for a buck—or for a thicker slice of the pie.
J.G. Davidson Supplies is a contractor’s warehouse that supplies most of the construction companies in the area—seems our friend Warner was one of their reps. When I got downtown I surveyed the fenced in lot—a goodly-sized warehouse, two tractor trailers pulled into bays, likely unloading as they were not marked with Davidson’s logo—that was reserved for several smaller trucks and a flatbed. One unmarked extension van was parked at the bay closest to the office…probably a small contractor. Two box trailers were parked at the back of the lot by some roll-away dumpsters—probably there for storage. No portable tension crushers in sight…
I walked into the dingy, grey building, the office door being to the left of the long loading dock. The office was pretty quiet, but I wouldn’t expect much different in the afternoon; most of their business probably takes place between six and eight in the morning when the worker-bees head out of their hives. Boxes of nails, studs, trowels, and other odds and ends lined the shelves like a Roman phalanx, straight and square and well supplied—somebody has cleaned up after the morning rush; perhaps their records would be as orderly as their shelves. Not likely, model homes usually have termites.
The lady nestled behind the desk paid little attention to me until I approached her with my badge…funny the affect that has on people.
“What’cha want?” were the first words from her lips. I suppose that verbal eloquence is not high on the list of qualifications when you spend your days dealing with contractors and construction types. I guess you could call her pretty, but not in a glamorous or elegant way; she was probably used to holding her own against men twice her size.
“Hello to you, too.” I responded with no small amount of sarcasm. “Where’s your boss, I need to talk to him—police business.”
I wasn’t sure if the “police business” registered in her mind or whether her slow response was just a matter of irritation or boredom, but eventually she went back into an office and after about five minutes she returned with an older man grumbling behind her. He was about five foot seven, overweight but still with some strength to his muscles, and had lost most of his hair on the top. By the way he carried himself, opening this supply distributorship had been his way of hanging up his own tools before his body gave out on him—this warehouse would probably buy him a fair retirement…good for him, a lot of tradesmen never get this far. Of course, his body was paying the price of working in a chair instead of on a job site—that and too many fried chicken lunches and beers on the weekend.
What he said, though, surprised me.
“I guess you found my other salesman.” Is what came in a quick staccato.
“Excuse me?” I replied having been caught off guard.
“I read the paper this morning and saw that someone killed Lewis Warner. Bill Kirkpatrick was supposed to be staying with him. When Kirkpatrick didn’t show up for work this morning, I figured that someone capped him as well. Look, Mister…” he looked down at the badge that I had been holding out in my hand, “Look, Mister Justice, I ain’t gonna get all sappy about this, but I am down two good salesmen right now, so I’ve got my hands full; if you need something, try and make it quick, I don’t have time for a Colombo routine.”
A second person at Warner’s house—things were about to get very interesting.
“Was this Kirkpatrick a smoker?”
“Most of my salesmen are,” was the quick response, “Warner is one of the few that I have who doesn’t. I think he had a dad who died of lung cancer or something—made an impression on him and was always telling us to quit. He could be a real pain about it; everybody has to have their vice.”
That might place Kirkpatrick at Warner’s apartment, but where was he now?
“Did Kirkpatrick have a family?”
“A wife, two or three kids, I don’t know for sure, he has pictures in his office.” Was the manager’s reply. “Word is that Bill’s marriage was on the rocks, he and his wife had decided to separate, and since Lewis had space, Bill was going to stay with him for a while. I don’t know what they were messed up in, but it can’t be good, seeing what it earned him.”
“And no one’s heard from Kirkpatrick?”
“When he did not show up, I tried the house, but his wife wasn’t too cooperative. She thinks that he has a girlfriend on the side, but if that is the case we are clueless. Around here, if you don’t show up for work, you better have a good reason or you won’t be drawing a check for much longer. Anything else, I have calls to make.”
“One more thing…can I have your permission to look through their files?”
“Help yourself, just don’t make a mess of things. I have to find salesmen to cover those accounts.”
When I saw the offices, more like closets with a computer and a window and an avalanche of papers and sticky-notes, I realized that I should have packed a picnic supper. I knew that I needed to have someone stop by and talk to Kirkpatrick’s wife because I would be stuck here for a while…a long while. I stepped into Kirkpatrick’s office to make the call when I saw the picture…or not so much the picture, but the shoes Kirkpatrick was sporting in almost every picture. I might be wrong, but those looked an awful lot like our Crockett and Jones’. I called the precinct and told them to send a detective here. I would leave the joys of figuring out these boys’ accounts to someone else; the conversation with the wife was a conversation that I wanted to have…personally.
The Great Knock
It was closing in on supper, so I decided to stop for a quick burger on the way over to Kirkpartrick’s house. The greasy spoon was beginning to fill up when I got there, but cops get privileges that truckers don’t get—at least here. Rosie anticipated my regular order almost as soon as I walked in the door and almost by the time I sat down she slid a plate of cardiac arrest in front of me along with a coffee and a coke.
“Anything else, hotshot,” she said, staring at me from behind eyes that told a story of a hard life and a nametag that was as faded as her uniform. This place has been her life for too many years and it would probably be my death if I kept eating like this.
“No, this is good,” I said, looking down at the burger and fries on my plate. Most people don’t like the “atmosphere” of places like this; I guess that I have become a connoisseur of joints like this. Not the Ritz, but better than home cooking…or at least better than my home cooking.
It wasn’t long after I sat down that I got the call… Apparently one Bill Kirkpatrick had been pulled out of the bay, his bloated body was sighted by a fisherman—not quite what was supposed to be meant by “fishers of men.” I told them that I would collect the wife for a positive ID. So much for a sit-down meal. I signaled to Rosie that I would need a “to-go” box and hung up the phone. It would be another long night.
One thing that did seem odd, though, was how fast Kirkpatrick surfaced in the bay. Given the cool weather and cold rain, it should have taken at least a week or so to surface. If our time of death for Warner was right then the time of death for Kirkpatrick would have been about the same time or slightly after, placing it barely two days ago. In the heat of summertime, maybe that was enough time, but not now, not unless he did not die in the drink of the bay. The autopsy would have to tell more of that story…clues were coming to the surface—literally!—but they were not lining up neatly. I headed for my car.
I arrived at the Kirkpatrick house about 6:30, but found it dark. I knocked on the door but got no answer. I knocked louder, but no one responded. I checked the door knob…it was unlocked. I slowly edged the door open and called out, “Hello! Police! Mrs. Kirkpatrick!” I was greeted only with silence and the very slight echo of my own voice in the empty foyer. I turned on a light and was greeted by the sight of a mess. Someone had ransacked the place. Everything that once had been standing had been knocked over or overturned. This was no robbery, they were looking for something…or someone… But where was that someone? Time to put the crime lab boys back to work…
Time for me to return home to knock off a couple of Zzzzzzs while the techies do their work.
It has been said that the boys who work the night shift are the real heroes of the day. I was hoping that this was the case after I awoke from a much needed night’s rest. Caffeine just wasn’t working like it used to—either that or I was getting older than I used to be…funny how that works.
I checked in by phone about 7:00am to see how things were going. Not much had turned up in Warner and Kirkpatrick’s offices. Warner did lease a portable concrete crushing machine to one John Haldane of Haldane construction which was doing a rebuilding project downtown…a likely candidate for a murder site. I asked the detective doing the research if he could get me a list of personal contacts off of Kirkpatrick’s computer. He said he would email that to me at the precinct.
The coroner’s had finished their autopsy of Kirkpatrick. They ruled the death as a drowning, but the water in his lungs was not that of the bay…too clean. No chlorine, so not a swimming pool either. I was putting puzzle pieces together while they talked, I guessed that it might be the bath tub at Warner’s. I asked about the quick rise to the surface. They said that the original maceration of the skin indicated that he probably died in fairly hot water. Also, there was a froth cone in tact, indicating that the body had died prior to being dropped in the bay. Warner’s tub was going to be the next best candidate. This was confirmed when I got the call from techs looking into the water trap of the tub in the apartment and they found residue of bleach as well as a little bit of blood caught on the hair and whatnot in the trap. The M.E. said that there was also soft tissue damage on the larynx, which implied a struggle. Interesting…
The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when the techies were able to restore the message on the answering machine. The message probably contained some of Warner’s final words as the message was cut off. It was recorded about 5:00 the evening of the murder and took less than 30 seconds…
“Bill! Bill! Answer the phone, man!” Warner’s voice desperately said. “Get out of there, go, run! I saw Haldane pay off someone—overheard something about government contracts…Bill, pick up, I know you are there—it looked like Melton…Mayo…”
The line went dead, but the last word was clear enough to make out… “Mayor.” If Warner had stumbled upon a political bribe, there is motive for murder. When I got into the precinct, I called the phone company and checked the phone log from the Kirkpatrick house. A phone call came into the house about 5:15 pm that lasted only about 3 minutes. A phone call was then made immediately afterwards to an area about 90 miles outside of the city. I cross referenced that number with the numbers in Kirkpatrick’s phone directory and found that the number belonged to a “Sarah Bowlin”—perhaps a friend or a relative, not sure, but would soon find out. I figured that a drive would help clear the muddle of my mind anyway.
After This, then Everything Hits the Fan
The drive into the country was not as productive as I had hoped, but I started putting a timeline together. For some reason, Warner was at the Haldane construction site about 5:00 pm on the night of his murder. It was a classic case of being at the right place at the wrong time, and he witnessed something that he shouldn’t have seen and likely got spotted. He called his friend, Kirkpatrick, who happened to be staying at his apartment that night because his wife had kicked him out.
Kirkpatrick did not hear the phone so the answering machine picked up and hence the message. Either Kirkpatrick wasn’t there, or…no, or Kirkpatrick was on the deck smoking, hence the cigarette butt in the planter. Kirkpatrick goes in when he is done smoking, probably wondering where his friend is sees the answering machine and listens to the message. He panics, calls his wife to warn her, she flees town with the kids and he seeks to beat feat, likely too late. Haldane holds on to Warner until he is assured that whoever that Warner was talking to is silenced and then later silences Warner…permanently.
I was still confused as to why Kirkpatrick was killed in the bathtub and as to why his shoes were taken, reworked, and then put on Warner. I also wanted to know why Warner was at the job site at closing time, this made little sense to me. And I hoped that Kirkpatrick’s widow might be able to shed some light on this for me. Then again, why would I expect her to know anything like this, Kirkpatrick seemed to be the guy at the wrong place at the wrong time…kind of stinks to be him.
I got to Bowlin’s place a little before lunch and knocked on the door, this time a tall woman with blond hair answered the door with a suspicious look.
“Mrs. Bowlin?” I said, producing my badge.
“Yes.” She replied coolly.
“I am Detective Justice, I am investigating the death of a Bill Kirkpatrick, is Mrs. Kirkpatrick here?”
At the word “death,” the woman at the door visibly winced. She was clearly family.
“Yes.” She said. “Come in.”
I entered the hallway and was escorted to the living room where Mrs. Bowlin indicated that I should sit down while she fetched her “sister.” Now the connection was made. Mrs. Kirkpatrick came out several minutes later, clearly distraught, but willing to talk privately. She also brought out a briefcase.
“Ma’am,” I said, trying to put on a diplomatic and sensitive face…something that does not come naturally. “Can I ask you some questions?”
“Yes,” came the quiet, but guarded reply. “What do you want to know?”
“Can you tell me why your husband was at Warner’s apartment? His co-workers said…” She cut me off.
“I know what the co-workers said, and they are wrong, all wrong. Those idiots wouldn’t know their right from their left if it weren’t written on their sleeves. Sure, we were under a lot of stress, but every couple goes through times like that.”
I nodded in agreement; had my own marriage lasted, I would have been more sympathetic.
“Bill and Lewis were spending a lot of time working on a private project to make some money on the side. I don’t know what it was, but they spent a lot of time together on this and did not talk to me about it. Before Bill went over Lewis’ that night…” She started to tear up again…
“Take a breath and take your time,” I encouraged her softly.
“Lewis brought this briefcase by and dropped it off ‘for safe keeping.’”
“Do you know what is in it?” I asked, now much more interested in what she had to say.
“I don’t have the combination.”
“May I see it?” I asked carefully.
She handed me the briefcase, a standard business case with a combination lock by the handle. I removed the Leatherman from my jacket and began to pry the lock with my knife-blade. Eventually, I was able to get the case open.
“What do we have here?” I said to myself as I opened up the case. Within the pouches were numerous pictures of Mayor Melton with Mr. Haldane, several of the pictures where money was clearly passing hands from Haldane to the Mayor. There were also orders of supplies and manifests for building projects that Haldane was involved in as well as newspaper articles reporting how Haldane Construction was winning all of the primary bids to do city re-furbishing projects. When put together, these projects were worth millions of dollars to Haldane Construction.
Then I realized just what was going on that night; Warner hadn’t accidentally been at the wrong place at the wrong time, but he had been trying to blackmail Haldane to get a cut of the action. Obviously Haldane didn’t like that… Kirkpatrick must have been in on it with Warner, hence his involvement and presence at Warner’s apartment. Now, the pieces were finally starting to fall together.
Epilogue: Playing with Fire and Getting Smoked
Sometimes the facts do more work to reveal the truth than the detective…my job is simply to arrange the facts in a way that the story can be retold accurately. And so it was with this case.
Within the briefcase was enough evidence to arrest Haldane for bribing a political official and to begin impeachment hearings against the Mayor. Warner and Kirpatrick had been planning on bribing Haldane, but Haldane had his men nab Warner, though not before Warner got off a phone call to Kirkpatrick (at least via an answering machine). Kirkpatrick was on the porch smoking when the call came in, so the answering machine took the call.
The hardest part to piece together is what happened at the apartment, but on further investigation of the apartment, there was some minor evidence of struggle. Kirkpatrick warned his wife to leave town and then gathered his stuff to follow her, but gathered up things too late. By the time he got ready to go, a goon had arrived from a local part of town. As best as I can piece together, Kirkpatrick turned on the shower to make noise and then hid in another room to surprise the goon and probably try and figure out how to help his friend. The struggle ensued and Kirkpatrick lost, dying of suffocation in the bath water he was trying to lure the bad guy into.
Once Kirkpatrick was safely “out of the way,” Warner was executed. Both bodies were disposed of with Kilpatrick becoming “buoyant” sooner than expected because the warm water of the bath. Funny how that happens.
That leaves the shoes…they were simply meant as a red herring…