Publish Novellas 22 September 2021
EPISODE 2 – ENVELOPE
After watching the home of the crime scene for two days, someone shows up with possibly incriminating evidence.
With the captain’s approval, police offers stakeout the home of Mr. Archibald for suspicious activity. After 48 hours, they notice someone approaching the house.
“Excuse me. This is officer Riley. I’m officer Jones,” while flashing badges. “What is your name?”
“May we ask what you just slipped beneath that door?”
“My bill for work.”
“Don’t you get paid the same amount each week?”
“Trees need trimming. It cost extra.”
“Do you mind coming down to the station with us for the afternoon?”
“Am I under arrest for something? I have more work.”
“No, you are not under arrest. We just have some questions for you, Mr. Thomas. With your cooperation, we will try to get you back as quickly as possible.”
“I can’t leave my truck here. Someone will steal my tools.”
“Hang on a moment, let me call the detective in charge.”
Stepping to the end of the driveway, he dials the detective who answers, "Stevens here.”
“This is officer Pete Jones at the Archibald stakeout on your orders. My partner and I are detaining the gardener here who just slipped an envelope under the door. He does not want to leave without a way to secure his tools on his truck.”
“Have him pull the truck in the backyard or garage of the Archibald home. If he is not agreeable, have the truck impounded. Get the envelope and bring him to the station for questioning.”
While waiting for officers to arrive with the gardener for questioning, Stevens reviews findings from the crime lab. The shot glass near the victim was laced with arsenic. The cigar band with the ashes in the tray is from Cuba. There are no fingerprints on any tagged evidence.
Officer Pete Jones approaches the desk of Detective Stevens and hands him the envelope. “Alex Thomas is waiting in the interrogation room. His truck is parked in the Archibald garage,” Jones announces.
“Thanks, officer,” Stevens replies.
The Captain is viewing the interrogation room beyond the two-way mirror. On the way there, Stevens grabs a Gatorade from the vending machine. He offers it to Alex upon entry.
“You must be thirsty from working this morning. I brought you something to drink… or not,” the detective offers.
“What if I don’t drink it?” Alex asks with suspicion.
“It’s up to you. I’ll have it if you don’t want it. My name is Detective Matt Stevens. I realize this all may be confusing to you. But I could really use your help with some answers to a few questions.”
“Questions about what?”
“About your employer… and this envelope,” which Stevens holds up.
“I already told the policeman what’s inside.”
“Since I wasn’t there, would you mind telling me?”
“It’s a bill for trimming trees. I need to rent a truck with an extension ladder and special tools. All the branches must be hauled away. These are extra expenses beyond weekly mowing.”
“That makes sense. Let’s open the envelope together and confirm.”
Stevens breaks the seal and finds the bill Thomas described… along with $250 in cash.
“Now this is interesting. Why would you include $250 with your invoice for… $900?” asks the detective.
Thomas slides the bottle of Gatorade to himself, twists open the cap, and takes a sip. “The cash is for the housekeeper. The invoice is for Mr. Archibald.”
“That is a very interesting explanation. Information for two different people inside one envelope. Why are you paying the housekeeper?”
“I get paid every month for both of us. I keep my portion and put $250 in an envelope for Graciela. She prefers weekly payments.”
“From where do you receive your money?”
“He owns a duplex on 43rd Street. I manage that building for him and collect the rents.”
“Where to you send those rents?”
“The rents are my payments for the gardening and apartment management. The tenants leave envelopes in a lockbox for me on the property.”
“You get paid pretty well for gardening.”
“…and for managing the apartments,” Alex adds. “I do repairs there. But the rents are under market value.”
“How long have the tenants been there?”
“Do you always leave notes for Mr. Archibald with payments to Graciela?”
”Yes, but it is not often. Just maybe two times a year for extra work.”
“Would it surprise you to learn that Graciela has not seen Mr. Archibald in 20 years?”
Taking another sip of Gatorade, Alex says, “No. I haven’t seen him myself in as many years. She just leaves the invoice for him in the house.”
“When was the last time you have been in the house?”
“Never. Only the outside,” replies Alex.
“Have you ever seen anyone enter Mr. Archibald’s house?”
“So how do you get paid for your invoices of extra work?”
“I have not yet been paid extra. When another customer needs tree trimming, I use the equipment to also trim the trees on Mr. Archibald’s properties.”
Why do you think the responses are frustrating the detective?
“Don’t you think it’s odd that no one who works for or rents from Mr. Archibald has seen him in 20 years.”
“I suspect, but I just figure he’s busy. It’s getting late. Can I get back to my truck if you have no further questions?”
“Just a moment, please.” Detective Stevens leaves the room to compare the dates and serial numbers to the ones received from Graciela. “They were minted about the same time.”