I awoke with a terrible need to use the bathroom. If I had still lived in my nice little house on the cull-de-sac, I would have gotten right up. Since I no longer lived there, and since the distance from my bed to the bathroom was about twenty-five feet of bone chilling cold floor, I lingered in the bed.
Coal stoves are pretty to watch and cheap to run, but they tend to leave a house cold as hell first thing in the morning. If I could make it as far as the bathroom, I would be all right. In the bathroom a very small, but efficient, electric heater ran to keep the pipes from freezing. It heated the room to only forty-five degrees but that was better than the thirty of the bedroom.
I knew it was thirty from the rather large thermometer on the wall. It had to be large if I was going to read the numbers without my glasses. I finally quit stalling. I made the mad rush to the bathroom. Along the way, I slowed down only to grab my pants, and wool shirt.
I lingered in the slightly warmer bathroom long enough to brush my teeth after I had answered nature's call. Showering could only be done in the afternoon. It took that long to build up enough heat inside the house to prevent the wet hair from freezing on top of my head.
When I returned to the one large room of the cabin, I shook the grate to dump the ashes into the bottom of the French coal stove. I added a few large lumps of coal to the stove, then slipped back into the bed with my clothes on. I couldn't sleep, but I could lie in a twilight state until the room heated.
Half an hour later, the area by the stove was at least warm enough for me to drag my sorry ass out of bed. The first thing I did was to reach under the sink to twist the long rod which led to a water valve buried underground. Without that valve and my draining of the sink pipe every night, I would have had burst pipes every morning.
With the water running, I filled an aluminum tea pot, then moved the pot to the coal fired stove. One thing about the old French coal stove, it had a rather large top surface. When the stove had been used in France, it had been both the cook stove and the heater for a French peasant family. My father had bought it before anyone thought to collect such things. He had bought it just to heat his fishing cabin.
His fishing cabin had been my permanent home for the last two years. When Anne threw me out, I had nowhere else to go. The house, where we lived, had been hers before we married. Even though I paid for a remodeling job, it stayed hers after the divorce. In exchange for my repairs to her house, she didn't challenge the ownership of my dad's cabin.
I probably got the better deal, since I got away from both Anne and her daughter. I made the move the next day. It was only on mornings when the temperature was well below zero that I regretted the move. Since I lived in North Carolina, there weren't too awfully many of them.
I noticed again the funky smell of the cabin. It happened more on damp days than cold ones, but it was there that morning. The cabin had started life as a tobacco barn. The logs had retained the sweet smell of every leaf of tobacco which had been cured in it.
I had seen other barns and knew mine was large as tobacco barns go. At twenty-four by twenty, it was more the size of a double garage. My dad had made only a few changes. He had filled the dirt floor with broken bricks from a deserted power station on the river, the bricks made for a nice looking, but cold floor. He also added the bathroom, which bulged from the side of the barn like a tumor.
"The small kitchen sink, in the corner, and the insulation in the ceiling had been added the year before. I wasn't convinced that the insulation had done much good. The barn seemed to disperse heat like a giant outdoor radiator. Not withstanding, it was a pretty comfortable existence. I hunted some in the winter, and fished some in the summer. It seemed to be a pretty good life for a retired man in good health.
I pulled the plug as a sergeant of homicide just one month after the divorce degree was final. I had never looked back. Thirty years as a cop was more than enough for anyone. My pension was fair, and my expenses were low. I did just fine without any of their crap. I did, on occasion, miss the job. Usually when one of our backwater Sheriff's cars passed on the main road with his siren blaring.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the water boiling in my teapot with no whistling device. I had learned a neat trick, sense my exile to the wilderness. I knew how to brew a single cup of coffee. I poured the water into a heavy mug, then dipped a small cheese cloth bag filled with coffee grounds into it several times. After four or five minutes, it was a fairly strong cup of coffee. I would have made more than one cup at a time, had I not drank so much stale coffee over the last thirty years.
I sat in the very old overstuffed chair for a long time, thinking about breakfast. To be honest I wasn't a very good cook, but I hated to spend the three bucks on somebody else's bad cooking. It was the only kind of cooking they did at the cafe. The cafe was about five miles down the road.
Since the room was heating up, and the outside was still as cold as a two dollar whore's kiss, I decided to cook on the coal stove. Breakfast was a couple of frozen sausage patties and toast. It wasn't fancy but the animal fat was filling.
After breakfast, I sat in my chair trying to work up the courage to leave the warm cabin. I had been meaning to do some hunting. I just hadn't been able to do it since the cold snap began. About the most I had been able to manage in the cold was a trip to the store house.
My dad had built a concrete block store house behind the cabin. He had used it mostly for tools and the like. I had cleaned it out, then installed a couple of dehydrators. It was filled with many large mayonnaise jars filled with dried fruits vegetables as well.
I bought the produce in the summer, when prices were low. There were also large white bags filled with dried meats of several different varieties. Most of it was game, I hadn't been able to eat all the meat at the time of the kill. The coal stove was ideal for cooking soups and stews, which comprised most of my dinners. Lunch was usually a piece of spicy jerky and a biscuit left over from the night before. Reconstituted fruit of one kind or another made up most of my deserts. I was probably healthier than I had ever been in my life.
I finally gave in to my one great vice. I turned on the radio to the, all news, station, then lit a very smelly cigar. A cup of fresh coffee, a cigar, and the radio seemed almost like heaven. I should have known that it wouldn't last.
A sharp rap on the door was followed by a female voice, "Anybody home in there?"
I moved across the quickly warming room to the door. I opened it to find a woman only a few years older than my fifty-five years standing under my porch cover. "Can I help you?" I asked.
"I think so, that is if I am in the right place. It is hard to know for sure. People around here don't give very good directions," the woman said.
"I guess that depends on where you are supposed to be?" I replied with a smile.
"Is this the Taft place?" she asked.
"It is," I replied.
"In that case could I come in from the cold?" she asked.
"If you aren't a bill collector or process server sure," I agreed.
She stepped through the door, then took a long look around her. While she did, I took a look at her. She seemed tall at first glance, but that was mostly because she was thin as a rail. If she ever had any hips or breasts, they had withered away. She did have nice silver hair, and a fairly wrinkle free face.
"Are you Edgar Taft?" she asked. "And do you really live here?"
"Yes to both questions," I answered guardedly.
"Frankly, I would have expected more. Do you mind if I have a seat?" she asked motioning to the straight wooden chair by the small table under the window.
"Not at all, and why would you have expected more?" I asked.
"I heard you were the sharpest homicide detective ever," she stated skeptically.
"Not anymore, now I am the most incompetent hunter ever," I replied with a smile.
"I doubt that, anyone who could live like this has to be pretty good at all the primitive arts," she said it sounding, for all the world, like a school teacher.
"So what can I do for you?" I asked. I almost hated to rush her into her story. I didn't get all that much company, especially women.
"Sergeant Everette suggested I come see you," she said.
"Donny Everette, do you mean to tell me some idiot, made another idiot a sergeant?" I asked with a smile.
"Donny is my cousin," she said indignantly.
"Does that make him less an idiot?" I asked. Since I didn't know why she came to see me, I didn't mind angering her.
"I guess not," she said with a gentle laugh.
"So why did Donny send you to see me?" I asked.
Her face slid from a smile to a look of great sorrow. "Mr. Taft six months ago my daughter was murdered by her husband. For some reason the police and district attorney have been unable to arrest him."
"All kidding aside, if Donny couldn't do it, then I sure as hell can't," I replied.
"My daughter lived in Greenpoint with her husband at the time of her death. Donny can't investigate over there. He also has been unable to determine, what if anything, the Greenpoint PD has done," she informed me.
"So exactly what is it you think I can do?" I asked.
"Donny said you could look over the reports, then begin an investigation of your own. He frankly said that if you couldn't find the killer, I should forget it. He has a great deal of faith in your abilities."
"That sounds real good Mrs.?" I left it open for her to fill in the blank.
"I'm sorry, I am Nora Winslow," she said.
"Not one of 'The' Winslows?" I asked.
"I suppose some people call us that," she said.
"I had no idea Donny had such a wealthy relative," I replied.
"Mr. Taft since there is no answer to that, I will not comment. It changes nothing, I still can not get anything done in Greenpoint," she said.
"Mrs. Winslow, with all your money, the cops and DA are beating their brains out trying to solve the murder of your little girl. If I were you, I would be content in that knowledge."
"Mr. Taft, I want you to help me find out what happened to my little girl. I will pay you anything within reason," she said.
"I'm afraid money won't do it. Not that I am not inclined to take your money. It's just that I don't expect I can get the cooperation of the local police," I replied honestly.
"You need not concern yourself with that. I can arrange anything you need," she said confidently.
"I don't expect you know much about police departments. They tend to be rather closed mouthed with outsiders," I replied.
"Mr. Taft, I don't expect you know much about me," she said with a cruel smile.
Her smile was almost as cold as the air outside the cabin. "It's been a long time since I was involved in an investigation. I doubt I could be of much help." Actually I still doubted she could get the kind of cooperation necessary for an outsider to do any good at all.
"Mr. Taft, I understand the going rate for investigators is five hundred a day, plus expenses. I will pay that willingly."
"Mrs. Winslow, I think it would be a waste of your money," I replied. "One day should be about all it takes to convince you of that."
"Then give me one day. If you don't get full cooperation, I will give you one thousand dollars for the day."
"It's your money," I replied. "Answer me one question?"
"No one has ever been able to say no to me," she said with a smile.
"That was the question," I replied with a smile to match hers.
"One more thing, I do not wish to merely be kept informed of your progress. I wish to be a part of the investigation," she said.
"Out of the question, I work alone," I replied.
"Before you say no, and I leave here without you, think about this. For six months I have been kept in the dark as to the facts surrounding my daughter's death. The small amount of information I do have, I had to pry from the district attorney. I have not been unable to get any information from the police. I have been going mad from the lack of information. I have to know, If nothing else, I have to know what is going on," she was as close to tears as a sophisticated woman ever gets in front of the hired help. There was a mist in her eyes.
"If you are going to be involved, then you are going to make yourself useful," I said.
"I will do anything within reason," she said.
"Exactly what do you consider outside the realm of reason?" I asked.
"I don't know at the moment, but if it happens I will tell you," she said.
"Fair enough," I admitted. "First of all, you are going to be my chauffeur."
"I had planned on no less," she stated without any emotion.
"In addition to the five hundred, there are going to be expense. I assume you will pay all of them?"
"I will, what exactly do you foresee?" she asked.
"A motel for sure, and possibly bribes."
"The bribes are no problem, but the motel is out of the question." Before I could object she said, "You will be staying with me. Until this ends, I do not intend to allow you out of my sight."
"Well, I sleep alone," I said in a strong voice.
"I hadn't planned to keep quite that tight a reign on you," she said smiling again.
"Good, let me take a shower. Why don't you go to the cafe while I do?"
"No thanks, I will wait right here."
"Up to you," I replied as I went to the wall which was filled with nails. On the nails were clothes hangers with shirts and slacks. I removed a hanger, then went to the chest for clean underwear. I left her sitting in the cabin, while I went into the cool bathroom. I left the door open as was my custom. It wasn't to embarrass her. It was to allow the heat to continue entering the bathroom.
"You might want to look away while I shower," I suggested.
"I shall," she said defiantly.
When I finished my shower, I pronounced myself ready to leave. "Aren't you going to pack?" she asked.
"If it makes you happy, but I expect to be home by dinner," I replied removing a canvas garment bag from the storage loft over her head. I tossed a few things into it. I turned off the water to the kitchen sink, then drained the water from the lines.
"Are we ready now?" she asked impatiently.
"Sure," I replied.
She looked at the pistol hanging on a nail. "Aren't you going to take your gun?" she asked.
"Let me explain something about pistols. First of all, I was a cop for thirty years, twenty of those I was a detective. A detective only needs a pistol, if he makes a serious mistake in judgment. If he does that, the pistol won't help much."
"No matter," she said. "I never leave home without mine."
There was a smile on her face. I didn't know for sure whether she were joking or not. When I opened the door, I was again assaulted by the cold outside air. The sun was shinning brightly, but the air must have been well below freezing. "Damn I hate the cold," I muttered.
When I reached the edge of the cabin, I saw her car for the first time. She had parked beside my rusty old pickup. I was surprised to find that she drove a shiny red Pontiac Trans Am. Nora Winslow noted my surprise.
"You expected a Cadillac?" she asked.
"That or a Mercedes," I replied.
"You are in for several surprises before we are finished," she said matter-of-factually.
During the ninety minute drive she filled me in on what she knew of her daughter Robin's death. According to her, Robin had married an opportunist. As long as the Winslow money came without question, the marriage was fine. When Robin reached the age of twenty-five her trust fund dried up. She would receive no more money until her mother passed away. Nora informed me that she had intended to out live Tony, the no good bastard, Robin had married.
With several questions tossed in by me to clarify her story she continued. Robin had always battled a slight weight problem. She ran between ten and twenty pounds over weight almost all the time. At the time of her death she had begun to jog to try keeping her weight down.
Since Robin and Tony, the no good bastard, lived in a town house on the city reservoir, she jogged around the lake. On that particular Friday, she was about half a mile from home. Her body was found in a wooded area just off the jogging path. She had been shot twice in the back of the head. Her clothes had been torn but there was no evidence of rape.
The no good bastard had an alibi. He was working late at the office, verified by a secretary who left shortly before the cops called about Robin. Fortunately for the no good bastard, the secretary was just short of sixty and married. There was no office love affair as a motive for her to lie.
"So Mrs. Winslow, if there was no inheritance, as long as you lived, what motive could he have?" I asked.
"My daughter was a spoiled brat. Actually, I prided myself on that." She wasn't kidding. I could tell from her voice that she had meant for her daughter to be spoiled. "She had to be hard for any man to live with, especially one who could not give her all the things she had become accustomed to receiving from me. I knew when she married that no good bastard it wouldn't workout. I raised my daughter to marry into money. I cut her off,"
"So Robin was a hard woman to live with. In a case like that I would expect the husband to have an alibi, if he did it, or had it done. She wouldn't have been killed because of some argument."
"Add to that the fact that Robin carried half a million dollars in insurance and you might have a motive," she replied.
"Why would Robin have that kind of insurance?" I asked.
"Robin held a position on the board of her father's company. It was mostly a show position. We paid her almost nothing."
"How much is almost nothing, and why did she have all the insurance?" I repeated.
"Her pay was a flat twenty thousand a year," Mrs. Winslow informed me.
It might be a pittance to her, but it was a nice chunk of change for most folks.
"The insurance was carried by the company on all it's key employees. The board members qualified for it. Robin, against my wishes, named the no good bastard as the beneficiary," Mrs. Winslow informed me.
"So Tony, got half a mil when Robin got popped?" I asked.
"I'm not sure I like your cavalier attitude," Mrs. Winslow said. "We are discussing the murder of a beautiful person."
"I'm afraid I have to divorce myself from the person to work. You can't be emotionally involved and do the case justice," I replied gently.
"I see, Tony hasn't received the money yet. I have been able to block it so far. That I'm afraid will not be possible much longer. I'm afraid the police may no longer consider him a suspect in her death. If they state that to the insurance company, the no good bastard will be paid," Mrs. Winslow said. "The thought of him profiting from my daughter's murder is more than I can bear."
We rode in silence for a long time. We were probably twenty minutes out when I asked, "Do you watch much TV?"
"Not really why?" she asked.
"We are going to play a game with the cops," I admitted.
"What kind of game?" she asked.
"I am going to be very nice while asking for a list of things from them. They are going to be very nice when they refuse. At that time you and I will argue about my easy acceptance of their refusal. You will then bring all the juice you have." I replied.
"Juice?" she asked.
"You know influence. Don't hold anything back, give it all you have on the first try. Go just as high as you can on the very first try," I ordered.
"Are you sure," she asked with a small smile.
"Absolutely, I want them to think I am a good guy, so that when I ask them later they will be inclined to help me all they can. However, I also what them as intimidated by you as possible," I admitted.
"Okay, but you may be surprised again," she said.
I almost asked her why, but decided to let her run her string instead.
When we arrived at the police station, I admit, I was a little surprised to find that she knew not only where the building was, but where the chief of detectives office was to be found. She walked right into his office without even bothering to knock.
"Mr. Sims, I think we need to talk," she said.
Sims stood, then looked past her to me. "Edgar what the hell are you doing here?" He asked it not at all unfriendly.
"Lawrence," I said extending my hand. I really hadn't expected to see him in the chief of D's chair. "What the hell are you doing in this one horsed town?"
"I moved over five years ago, when they made me an offer I couldn't refuse."
"So Mr. Sims, it seems you know my consultant," Mrs. Winslow said. The bitch knew Sims and I had worked together. It was the real reason she had chosen me for her consultant.
"Yes Ma'am I do. Edgar taught me all I know about being a detective. If he had wanted, he could have had my job, or maybe the chief's. Edgar never took the Lieutenants test. He didn't want to sit behind a desk."
"Then you two should be able to work together," she said shortly.
"So Edgar, how did Mrs. Winslow get you out of the back woods?" he asked.
"She came with a suitcase filled with money. Oh yeah, did you ever try to say no to her?" I asked.
"Haven't had to yet," he replied ominously.
"Don't bother, she gets her way," I replied.
"So what can I do for you?" he asked.
"I need a copy of all the police reports and other documents on her daughter's murder. I want to see the evidence, and talk to all the officers involved."
"Is that all?" he snapped. His attitude had changed as I expected it to do.
"That should do it," I said.
"Well, I can't do that. The investigation is on going. I am not going to open my files to you," he said angrily.
"See, Mrs. Winslow I told you no one would give us those files. Now why don't you drive me home, I have things to do." I said gently.
"Is that all you are going to do? I mean this petty little official says no and you fold like an accordion. I thought I was hiring someone with guts," she said nastily.
"Well there is nothing I can do to force Sims to cooperate," I replied just as shortly.
"Let me give a lesson to the great detective," she said while opening her cell phone. She began punching numbers. I thought for a moment she would never stop. She actually smiled wickedly while she waited for someone to answer.
"Timothy, what took you so long? I told you I might need your help today," she held the phone just listening for a while. Then she launched a tirade against both Sims and me. When she finished, she listened again then asked, "Do you want to talk to the chief detective or not? Very well I will wait right here." She clicked the phone closed.
"I am expecting a call, if you don't mind we will wait here for it," she said haughtily.
"I have work to do, why don't you wait in the hall," Sims said angrily.
"Your call," she snapped.
I followed her into the hall. "Damn you played that a little strong. I sure as hell hope you have the juice to back it up?" I said as I watched any hope of Sims's cooperation go out the window.
Fifteen minutes later I heard the phone ring in Sims' office. I couldn't hear his words because he either didn't speak much, or kept his voice very low. When he opened the door, his attitude was considerably changed. He spoke to us in the hallway.
"Edgar, I will have the reports copied, you should be able to get them in an hour or so. You can call the lab anytime to get a viewing of the evidence. Go by the DA's office anytime you are ready, they will have a copy of their reports for you," he said in a too calm voice.
"Lawrence, you have to know I had nothing to do with this," I said hoping to get off his crap list.
"In a pig's ass," he said closing the door to his office.
When Mrs. Winslow and I were in the parking lot she said, "It doesn't look as though he was fooled by your ruse."
"Never expected him to be," I replied. "It's kind of like a dance. He leads for a while, then we lead. Now, exactly who did you call?"
"The chairman of the democratic party."
"How the hell could he get so much done so fast?" I asked.
"The mayor needs party money and endorsement to get reelected. So does the DA," she replied with a grin.
"You do have the juice," I admitted.
"If that was a compliment, then thank you," she replied.
"How about lunch while we wait for the copies?" I asked.
The fancy restaurant was a waste. Winslow had a salad and I had a roast-beef sandwich. We could have gotten the same things for five bucks. The bill in the Garden Restaurant was over twenty. Since it was her money, I didn't complain.
When we arrived in the police records section to pick up our copies, I knew from experience that some would be missing. I looked into the clerk's eyes. Since I knew how much juice we had, I was determined to get it all. "Could I see the original file? It looks as though some of the documents are missing," I said softly.
"They are all there," she replied cautiously.
"In that case, I would like to compare them to the file."
"Wait here, I will have to call my supervisor," she suggested.
"Okay, have her call the chief of detectives, tell her to remind him that I know what should be in a six month old murder file." I said.
"Maybe you are going to be worth the five hundred a day," Mrs. Winslow commented.
"Probably not," I replied.
When the clerk returned, she added another dozen or so pages to the pile. "That will be twenty-five dollars even," she said flatly.
I turned to Mrs. Winslow who paid the clerk in cash. I stuffed the papers into the manila envelope the clerk furnished for the twenty-five bucks. I didn't even look at them first.
"So where to now?" Mrs. Winslow asked.
"The DA's office to get his file," I replied.
"Isn't it just going to be the same?" she asked.
"It had better be," I replied.
"So you are just going to make sure no one is trying to short us?" she asked.
"Some of that, but the DA will have a few papers his office generated. He will probably have the coroner's report. The cop file may or may not have it," I replied.
I didn't bother to question the DA's clerk. I simply took the file for which Mrs. Winslow paid twenty-eight dollars.
"So now what?" Mrs. Winslow asked once we were in the parking lot.
"Now we go somewhere to read all this crap." I replied.
"Do we need to stay in town or can we do it at my house?" she asked.
"It is going to be mostly reading and making notes, so it doesn't matter where we are so long as there is a phone," I replied.
"In that case, let's go to my house."
Twenty-five minutes late she pulled the Trans Am into the circular drive of a very old colonial style house. I waited until she had stopped the car before I asked, "The family estate?"
"Hardly, my husband started life rather poor. He amassed a fortune in the chemical business. His first wife, was from the same environment as he. He moved on, to a more stylish house, and wife. Actually the stylish wife, bought the house," she said.
"That would be you?" I asked.
"One and the same, I come from a rather good family which had fallen on bad times. I had the class Robert needed to climb even higher on the ladder. It was a pretty good trade, I traded my name and upbringing for a ton of money. We both profited from the marriage," she informed me lightheartedly.
When I entered through the front door, I was surprised to find that the rather large room held only a very large spiraling stairway to the second floor. The stairs lead to a round hallway with several doors. Each door she informed me led to a bedroom and bath.
As she took the files from me she suggested, "Why don't you go on up and pick one. While you settle in, I'll fix us a drink."
"Make mine iced tea, I have rather a lot of detailed reading to do." I climbed the stairs, then just opened the first door I came upon. It led into a bedroom all pink and frilly. I decided to try another. The second was pretty neutral, nothing feminine or especially masculine about it. I put my bag on the double bed, then began to unpack.
No more than ten minutes later, I descended the stairs to the entrance room, the area was much too large to be called a hall. I enter one of the two opening on the opposite wall from the front door. I found myself in a very modern kitchen. It was about as out of place in the grand old house as I was.
I tried the opening beside it and found myself in a kind of den. Mrs. Winslow was seated at a library type table with the files unopened before her. Also on the table were two glasses. One obviously filled with iced tea, and the other with a similar colored liquid. From the way she sipped the second glass, I had to assume it was liquor of some kind.
"Maybe you should wait in another room," I suggested.
"Not bloody likely," she replied sharply. Her nerves were on edge just looking at the envelops.
"Suit yourself, but I smoke rather smelly cigars while I think," I replied.
"Is that all you were worried about. I have been known to smoke one myself on occasion," she replied as she moved to the rather large desk. From it she removed a wooden box. I found it to be a cigar box. Inside lay a handful of very large thick cigars.
"Thanks, but I prefer my own," I said as she extended the box to me.
"Up to you," she replied taking one of the monsters for herself.
She removed a fancy lighter from the desk, then she lit the thick roll of tobacco. When she had it going, she handed me the lighter then moved an ashtray from the desk to the table.
Even with her skinny shriveled body, there was something marvelously sexy about her puffing on the fat cigar. I tried to ignore her as I returned my attention to the envelopes. I opened the cop envelope first. I removed the stack of papers. The reports were in chronological order except for the dozen extra pages. Those I put aside until last.
The patrolman's incident report pretty much followed the story Mrs. Winslow had told. Robin's body had been found by a young couple out for a nature walk. At least that was their story and they stuck to it.
According to his report the beat cop cordoned off the area, then called the detectives. The two detectives arrived half an hour later, followed shortly by the SI unit, then the coroner's office.
The patrolman held the couple who found the body, but did not write a report on their interview. That, I expected, was done by the detectives.
I went from the patrolman's reports to the first report filed by a Detective Riley. According to detective Riley's report one of those jogger's pouches was found on the body. In the pouch along with a couple of dollars was a card with Robin's name and address. The card was provided by the bag's manufacturer to be used as Identification in case of accidents. I expected they had falls and car accidents in mind when they included it. It was a hell of an idea, since joggers seldom carried their driver's license.
The detectives left the SI to search the scene while they went to Robin's home to notify the next of kin. Since the on scene investigation had taken so long, Tony, the no good bastard, was home at the time. The neighbors confirmed that he had arrived only moments ahead of the cops. Tony gave his whereabouts to the officers, who confirmed it with a call. Since the body appeared to have been sexually molested, at the time they accepted his alibi without further question.
After the initial interview with the husband, the two detectives began looking for someone who might have heard the shots. All the residents who lived near the area where questioned, as to noises or strangers. The results were that an old couple living about a hundred yards away from the crime scene had heard the shots at five twenty-five, but had not seen anything. Since there was a strip of trees between the crime scene and their house it seemed to be a plausible story. The time of death became five twenty-five on a Friday evening.
The SI report listed all the items taken into evidence. With one exception, they were the effects of the victim. The exception being two .380 shell casings found near the body. The .380 was a bit of a surprise. I would have expected either a .22 or a 9mm. The .22 was the gun of choice for a professional hit and the 9mm was by far the most popular weapon among the criminal element. A .38 wouldn't have been unusual, but the .380 was.
The coroner reported no sexual activity at all, yet the clothes were torn from Robin's body. Of the two slugs recovered one was in good shape but the second was mangled beyond identification. Everything else about the autopsy was normal. Descriptions of several interviews with neighbors proved almost useless. The investigation center around the no good bastard for a while, but had to move on when nothing showed up.
When the police packet was finished, I found I had only two notes. "Why the torn clothes and a simple notation .380."
"Well," Mrs. Winslow asked around the stub of her cigar.
"The cops seem to have done a respectable investigation. I don't know if they center in on the two oddities, but they covered all the standard things." I replied.
"What oddities?" she asked.
"Her torn clothes, and the pistol." I saw that she didn't understand. "If the body was found around six pm. the killer wasn't frightened off, so why would he tear her clothes if he didn't intent to molest her. It doesn't say so, but I'll bet the clothes were torn after she was dead. Why anyone would do that, I have no idea.
The second thing is the pistol. Hit men sometimes use .22 caliber pistols, but most people think bigger is better. I really would have expected a street weapon. Those are almost exclusively 9mm with some .38s."
"So what does it mean?" she asked.
"Damned if I know," I replied thoughtfully.
"So what do we do now?" she asked.
"We read the DA's file to see if they have anything else, then we sleep on it," I replied.
"For this I am paying you five hundred a day?" she asked sarcastically.
"If you say that one more time, I am going home. Lady, I can use the money, but I wasn't starving when I met you," I replied.
It took a moment for the fire to leave her eyes, when it did she said. "I'm sorry this is all so frustrating. I was hoping you could just look at the file and tell me who did it," she admitted.
"Mrs. Winslow, it doesn't work that way. The cops are not idiots, no matter what you think. They have had six months to work on this. Maybe a fresh mind can find a lead, but even that isn't very likely."
"So what are we going to do tomorrow?" she asked more subdued.
"We are going to talk to the detectives, and the coroner. After that, I don't know, but I will think of something," I replied.
The autopsy photos were in the DA packet as I had expected. They were pretty gruesome but they always are. I looked at the color photos for any indication of bruising on Robin's body. The only marks of any kind were the two small holes in her skull. The photos only confirmed my opinion that her clothes were torn after her death.
Once the heart stops pumping the body no longer bruises. There surely would have been bruises from the ripping of her bra if nothing else. I didn't know from personal experience, but I had it on a good authority that it takes a great deal of force to rip a bra. I imagined the same would be true for the waist band of her shorts.
I hadn't allowed Mrs. Winslow to see the autopsy photos. The shots didn't ruin my dinner, but they would definitely ruin hers.
Mrs. Winslow was exiled to the kitchen while I reviewed the photos. When I finished, I wandered into the kitchen. She was up to her elbows in dinner. At the very moment I walked in she was washing ingredients for a salad.
"I would have thought with the size of this place you would have at least a cook," I replied.
"I actually have a staff of three, but I sent them all on vacation until further notice. I don't want anyone distracting us," she replied.
Since I had no idea how distracting a staff of three could be, I said nothing. Instead I asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Get the hell out of my kitchen," she suggested with a smile.
I poured myself a fresh glass of iced tea then returned to what I then knew was the library. I returned to the crime scene photos which I had passed over at the time of the initial reading. I went through them carefully but saw nothing. I almost picked up the dozen pages which had been left out of the original offering. I decided again to leave them until after dinner. Something about them was important. I had emerged myself in the mundane facts so that I would be ready to understand the significance of those pages. There was also some significance in the fact that the cops wanted to hide them from me.
Dinner was a rather nice steak complete with baked potato and salad. I ate with relish while Mrs. Winslow picked at hers. Almost all of hers went into the garbage.
"Do you think there is any chance I will ever know who killed Robin?" she asked.
"Damn you are direct," I replied.
"I don't know any other way. My daddy taught me to talk straight and carry the bigger stick," she said with a sad smile.
I nodded at the good advice, then said, "Odds are about one in four that you will find out who did it. However the odds that we can prove it from the evidence are about one in a hundred."
"What makes you say that?" she asked.
"A crime committed outside like this one is a bitch for physical evidence. There is no DNA, no blood and no prints. The only possibility is that there may be a pistol around to match. The odds of that are pretty long though."
"Why," she asked.
"This wasn't a random killing. The person who killed your daughter wasn't some wacko who might hang on to the gun. It was a planned execution, anyone who ever watched TV knows that the cops can match up the pistol. It probably went right into the lake."
"Couldn't it be recovered from the lake?" she asked.