Publish Novellas 19 September 2021
EPISODE 1 – CLUES
In this case, a detective arrives at the scene of a crime with no victim, no motive, and plenty of clues.
Police officers summon Detective Matt Stevens to a crime scene that is more perplexing than the last. A victim outline is on the floor and various items in the room are tagged with numbers.
The irritated detective inquires, “Who removed the body?”
“That, sir, is why we called you in. This is the scene as we found it. The body is missing and someone has already marked all the clues,” replies a baffled officer.
“Who lives here?” asks Stevens.
“This is the home of 64-year-old Arthur Archibald according to city records.”
“Where is he now?” asks the detective.
“No one seems to know. Though his name is on the deed, he has not occupied the residence for many years. His listed phone numbers are disconnected.”
Probing for more information, Stevens asks, “What type of work does he do?”
“He is a Realtor, but the last piece of property he sold was the home next door 20 years ago according to the resident, Mrs. Hellen Rafferty.”
“Obviously, you have interviewed neighbors. Am I going to have to string all the information from you piece-by-piece? Why don’t you just tell me what you know so far?” Detective Stevens asks impatiently.
“A gardener named Alex keeps the lawn manicured and a housekeeper by the name of Graciela has a key to let herself in every Wednesday. She is the person who discovered the scene and phoned the police.
“Next of kin for Mr. Archibald may be a niece, living in New Hampshire. Her husband is well off and they have not spoken in over 30 years. None of the neighbors report hearing or seeing any suspicious activity.”
“What do we gather from the staged scene?” the detective asks.
“The outline suggests a body was lying on the floor. He may have been drinking Scotch. There is no blood. A used ashtray and some miscellaneous items like a pocket watch and lamp are tagged.”
“Are these standard police crime scene markings?”
“Yes, that appears to be the case, Detective.”
“All right, I’m ready for the housekeeper. Send her in,” orders Stevens.
A frightened woman in her mid-sixties shuffles into the room with her hands shaking.
“Hello Graciela. My name is Detective Matt Stevens. Thank you for phoning the police. You did the right thing. We are not here to harm you. May I ask you a few questions, please?”
“How long have you been working for Mr. Archibald?”
“About twenty years.”
“Always at this home?”
“When was the last time you saw Mr. Archibald?”
“About twenty years ago.”
“So you have not seen him since he hired you?”
“Maybe two or three times.”
“ What are your work duties when you arrive each week?”
“I sweep, vacuum, mop, dust, and clean the bathrooms and windows.”
“I am sure Mr. Archibald appreciates what you do for him. Does anyone ever drink alcohol, smoke or use the ashtray in here?”
“Does the gardener ever come inside the house?”
“You’re doing well. May I ask, how does he pay you?”
“There is an envelope in the lobby each week.”
“Is it on a table or on the floor like someone may have slid it under the door?”
“I find it on the floor.”
“Do you receive cash or check?”
“You’re doing well. Did you get your envelope today?”
“May I see it please?”
“I need it.”
“You will get it back. How much is it?”
“Okay, let me take a look. The date on these bills is 25 years ago. We will need to run these serial numbers.”
“Hang on. Guys, can we pull together $250 to replace the housekeeper’s wages as evidence?”
Between them, they have $200. “I can give you this amount and a receipt for the remaining $50 that you can pick up from the police station at any time. Is that all right?”
“I will take the $200, but I do not want to come to the police station,” says timid Graciela.
“I understand. Please write down your phone number in case I have more questions… Thank you. Here is my card. If you can think of anything else or wish to retrieve your $50, let me know. You can have the day off.”
Detective Stevens calls the officers on scene into the room.
“Find out if anyone else reported a crime or missing person. Process this room like any other crime scene. If you see something else suspicious, also tag it, but circle your numbers for distinction. Photograph everything and collect the evidence.”
The police captain asks, “What are your initial thoughts, Detective?”
Hey, you, what is your impression of the scene? Has a crime been committed?
“It appears that someone is trying to tell the police about a crime that may have been committed long ago. Though it could be any victim, perhaps it explains the disappearance of Mr. Archibald. The key may be in the one who leaves the envelope for the housekeeper.
“After we wrap this up, we should stakeout the place to see who makes the drop for next week. It could occur any day or evening prior to Wednesday morning. So we will need day and night shifts of plain-clothes officers.”
The reluctant captain replies, “That is quite a lot of man-hours for a case with no victim.”
Detective Stevens reasons, “The envelope drop could occur this weekend or tomorrow. In which case, a full week may not be required.”
“All right, I’ll authorize up to one week, only.”
“Thank you, Captain. The cigar ashes and alcohol appear to be prominent clues brought from outside the home. I will have the lab check them for trace evidence.”
“Keep me in the loop. I’m heading back to the station.”
Thursday and Friday, there is no activity. On Saturday morning, an African-American gardener begins mowing, trimming, and watering. Before driving away, he reaches in his truck and slips an envelope under the front door. The officers apprehend him as he walks off the porch.
To be continued…
Access more article features and references.