Episode 10 of Witt Kepler, Private Eye
Still full from dinner, and apple pie in hand, Witt Kepler slowly walked up the wooden steps of his back deck, intending on using the kitchen door. After all, it was his house, and there was no reason to be formal. His puppy, Lord Nelson, was more than ready for a nap on the overstuffed sofa. However, as Witt inserted the key into the lock, he froze.
The private eye then quickly pivoted about, flattening himself against the gray, vinyl siding next to the sliding glass door. The black label on the bottle of Tanqueray Mallaca Gin he observed sitting on the kitchen’s island was clearly out of place. Out of place not because Witt had forgotten to put it away earlier but out of place because he had never purchased it to begin with.
Despite being a connoisseur of fine gin, Witt was usually unable to afford anything exquisite. In fact, the private eye normally shopped for his spirits at the local convenience store. He reveled in the fact that he could get a lottery ticket, a half pint bottle of Beefeaters and an apple bear claw for just under ten dollars. The rare Tanqueray? Clearly not in his budget.
Someone had broken into the house. Witt put down the pie and gave Lord Nelson a look telling the pup not to indulge, then drew his .38 Police Special. Most of the cops used the newer 9 mil semiautomatics, the Glock being the preferred flavor these days, but Witt was a traditionalist who liked the old-school feel of a revolver. He bought this one the day after he left the force, in case Vetski wanted to dance one more time.
Over time, paranoia made the private eye look for something with more stopping power, thusly, the .45 in the bedroom. Always thinking of the worst case scenario, Witt decided he should be able to stop getaway cars, as well, so one more trip to the armory resulted in a Desert Eagle, at the time the world’s most powerful handgun, which he kept locked away in a floor vault. But for now, the cocked revolver would suffice. If someone was still inside the house, the high muzzle velocity of the .38 special round, combined with such short range, would be more than enough to pull a spleen out of the intruder’s midsection.
Witt leaned over the deck railing, trying to get a glance into the living room. The floor lamp was now lit, albeit on the lowest setting. A coffee cup was resting comfortably on the end table, steam rising from the hot liquid inside. Damn, this guy has a set. He breaks into my house and makes coffee while he waits to kill me? Talk about overconfident.
“Don’t shoot. It’s just me.”
Witt instinctively dropped to the deck, rolled to the side, coming up to a kneeling position facing the kitchen door, his firearm aimed at the intruder’s center mass.
The figure stiffened, expecting the worst. Then Witt recognized who had spoken.
“Crap, Kamianka. I could have killed you right there. What in the world are you doing here?”
Witt’s pre-paid paramour had returned, though this time without the bravado and self-assuredness as before. She was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt; nothing to accentuate her “assets.” Witt could tell by the timbre of her voice that she was not here on business.
“Can we go inside? I need help, your kind of help. I even brought you some decent gin as payment.”
“The Mallaca hasn’t been sold in years. Where’d you get it?”
The femme fatale rode her fingers through her hair. Her movements were disjointed. Witt could see the frustration in the body language. Very uncharacteristic for a thousand dollar an hour call girl.
“It doesn’t matter right now. What does matter is that I will be arrested tomorrow, morning most likely, for murder in the first degree.”
Witt put his gun back into the holster. Picking up the plastic tub of pie, he whistled for his trusty Spaniel to go inside. “That’s good for some serious time in the graybar hotel, for sure. So why did you kill someone?”
“That’s the problem. I didn’t kill anyone. The guy just died on me.”
Once inside, Witt locked the kitchen door and turned off the outside light. The two moved to the living room where they could continue the conversation.
“What exactly do you mean, he just died? Did he have a heart attack or something? And where were you when this happened?”
“I told you. He just died…on me. We were, you know…”
Witt nodded. Now it made sense. The man must have been one of her clients, meeting his demise whilst in the throes of passion.
“Well now. An autopsy will show natural causes. You might get a ticket for pandering, but without evidence of contractual agreement, probably not even that. You should be fine.”
“Can we have the gin now? It gets worse.”
“Onion if you have one.”
“I never figured you for a Gibson girl.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me. Can we get on with it?”
Witt returned with a straight up martini for himself, with two olives on a swizzle stick and a pearl onion drowning in 8 year old gin for the woman. He slowly sat down across from his guest, eyeballing her, trying to figure out what her true motivation was. He hated being played and this might just be such. Still, there was something about the whole situation, the abrupt loss in confidence, the desperation in the voice. Something was not quite right.
“So the client died. Where did all this take place?”
“The Townsend. He had a nice room, a suite really, reserved through a conference he was attending. At least he left his wife at home.”
“And you know this how?”
“I checked with the desk clerk to see what I could find out before I went up. I told him I was expecting a package and thought it may have already been sent up to my room. He couldn’t find any record of a delivery, naturally, and then commented on how nice it was my husband finally brought me on a business trip. I don’t know, maybe he always buys companionship when he is in Metro. At least the widow will have life insurance to help with the grief, and the police officer’s benevolent fund should kick in a few thousand, too.”
Witt put down his drink. “Police officer’s benevolent fund? This guy was a cop?”
“Chief, Westborough PD.”
“Here for the law enforcement symposium tomorrow. I read about it in the paper.” Witt had figured Vetski would make his final move at the Miss Metro Classic so he could leave town as most of the state’s police brass were inbound. He still couldn’t determine why Kamianka was being set up. If – she was being set up.
“You said it got worse. Was that it? The guy’s a cop. Just because someone has a badge doesn’t mean they are above buying a little love for the evening. I am surprised he could afford you, though. Westborough must pay the blue pretty well.”
“This was a private contract, just like yours. Except in your case I knew Vetski was paying the tab. This one was anonymous. I got a plain white envelope with ten Benjamins, and a business card from the Townsend. It had a date, time and room number written on the back of it.”
“Still, the guy died of natural causes. I don’t see your concern.”
The woman slugged down her martini, spitting the pearl onion back into the glass. “Look, I told you it got worse. Once I realized he had passed, I moved out from under him. I panicked. The last thing I wanted was a dead body touching me so I made sure the door was locked, then I took a shower. When I was done, I wiped my prints off of everything I touched in the bathroom. Why make it easy, right? Well, once I walked back into the bedroom, I picked up my clothes and got dressed. That is when I noticed the syringe sticking out of his neck.”
“What – someone shoots him up with heroin? He was already dead. Any decent coroner would find this as postmortem. Your still off the hook for murder one. Abusing a corpse, maybe, but not murder one.”
“You would think so, except, and I don’t know how this happened, now his pupils were pin points. The only way that could have happened was if the smack had made it into his blood stream. I don’t know, I thought he was dead. I checked for a pulse. I listened for any sound of breathing for, damn, at least two full minutes. The guy was dead. And he wasn’t coming back.”
Witt reached for a Lucky Strike. “Hmmm. How does a dead police chief manage to shoot up and then overdose? You are right, that is worse.”
“No. Here is where it really gets worse. I wipe the place clean. I leave no evidence other than trace amounts of my DNA. And I’m not in anyone’s database so until I am caught, not even Interpol will find me as a match. No, the real problem is when I get back to my place.”
Witt was now looking for his Zippo.
“What happened there,” he asked.
The woman looked him straight in the eye, leaning in just a bit. “I found this bottle of gin sitting on my table. There was another envelope. This time, however, there was no stack of bills. Just a card.”
“And on the card?”
She pulled the card from her jeans pocket. She read it out loud. “Don’t take it personally. I had to pull off the perfect crime and you made it all possible. Thanks. P.S. I’ll pay your rent while you are in jail.”
Witt read the card out loud a few times. He looked up, pronouncing “No such animal as a perfect crime.”
“Maybe not, but it sounds like he tipped off the police. And as a favor, he is going to pay my rent while I am in jail?”
Witt flipped open the Zippo, the smell of the burning butane filling the air as he lit his filter-less cigarette.
“So you’ll take the case?”
The gauntlet had been thrown. And how could he resist a woman who knew what a Gibson was?
- Meatloaf To Die For (djlutz.wordpress.com)