Episode 14 of Witt Kepler, Private Eye
Witt didn’t need to look at his watch, he could feel the ticking movement of the second hand competing with his own pulse, marking time.
Every detective’s nemesis. A faceless enemy that never stops taunting. A seemingly limited commodity yet with unlimited supply. Witt understood both the value of having enough time and the curse of letting too much time pass. Given enough time, he could solve any crime. After a certain (and unknown) amount of it, the odds of his success would diminish exponentially.
“How many hours of security feed do we need to search?”
Witt looked at his partner. He knew a thorough investigation would require a slow, methodical examination of every minute going back at least twelve hours before the murder. He also knew the murderer had a timetable where half a day was a luxury, almost a ticket to freedom.
“Well, my guess is the murderer set everything up in advance, but who knows how much before. With luck we might spot the chief walking by, but the trick will be to find someone following him. Not going to be easy since the restaurant door is so close by. If we start at dinner time – that’s a lot of potential suspects.”
Guthrie looked at his partner. “If it were you, if you were going to kill someone – what would you do?”
“Thinking like a scumbag. I think you are on to something, Guthrie. I think I would have probably checked in a day or two before, just to get used to the surroundings. Once enough people had seen me wandering around enough, I would fade from their memory as a concern and pretty much blend into the background. Anonymous. I would need to become anonymous.”
“Even with a cane? And heavy suitcases?”
“It can be done. It’s like those big brown delivery trucks. No one ever thinks about the fact that some sort of delivery truck is always pulling in or just leaving. Sometimes every few minutes. The delivery guy can come and go and no one will ever recall seeing him.”
“Interesting…if our murderer is a delivery guy driving a big brown truck, which I don’t think is the case. So now we must return back to my original query of how much footage are we going to subject ourselves to?”
Witt lit a Lucky Strike, blowing a smoke ring toward the bank of hotel security monitors. Seeing no ashtray, he set the cigarette on the lip of an abandoned soda can. “I think the killer, being new to the game, would want to set things up in advance, like I said, but then stay as close to the marks as possible, fearful something might go wrong. We’ll start at 5:00 pm and see who walks by the restaurant.”
Guthrie maneuvered the computer mouse around the screen, adjusting the digital playback to the 5:00 pm. After pressing the triangular “Play” icon at the bottom of the screen, Guthrie started to open his notebook.
Slapping his hand down, closing the notebook, Witt said “Let’s not write anything yet. Too great a chance we would miss something. Watch the video and picture yourself in the hallway, just like a cop on the beat. Use your detective skills, young man.”
The two sat motionless for two and a half hours. The only sound other than the whirr of the spinning hard drives of the security system was the subtle plinking of Witt’s cigarettes on the aluminum edge of the can. He and Guthrie watched the hallway outside the restaurant from 5:00 pm until 9:00 pm, then backed the video up to 4:00 pm and tried again. The crowds tended to come and go in cycles so Witt was, at times, able to speed the video up to save viewing time.
Guthrie was watching Witt more so than the video, waiting for some nonverbal expression of recognition.
In the video, there were police officers, in and out of uniform, clearly there for the convention. Some had wives, others had just their peers for drinking buddy duty. Nothing out of the ordinary. Interspersed with the sea of blue and gold were regular people, civilians as the police would say. There were other meetings going on at the hotel, a wedding, at least one business conference. The only people who could be easily deemed “different” were the members of what could only be described as the world’s worst dressed garage band, probably there to perform at the wedding.
Finally, after thrice viewing the same group of people moving from left to right across the small screen, Witt stopped the video, pointing to the suspect.
“There, you see? Behind the large man smoking the cigar.”
Guthrie squinted, trying to get a better look. “All I see is a cop that needs to go on a remedial fitness program.”
“The cane. It’s there. You can’t see her, but you can’t mistake the cane. If you look carefully you can see the quick flash of gold from the handle as it appears in front of her body. It’s the only one we’ve seen so far.”
Guthrie leaned into the screen of the video monitor. “Damn. Look now – it’s the chief with the woman, going into the restaurant. And the killer just stopped in front of them, looks like she is checking her nail polish. At least she didn’t kill him right there. Too many witnesses, thank God.”
Witt nodded, saying “I told you, she’s smart, this one. It takes moxie to follow someone from in front. Let’s see what happens after dinner.”
Guthrie continued the video feed. As Witt expected, an hour later the police chief, after consuming what would be his last meal, left the restaurant with his date. The killer was long gone.
“Hey!” Guthrie exclaimed. “I know that woman. That’s…that’s… yes, that’s the woman in your kitchen, Witt. What’s going on here…partner?”
Witt then explained the history of Kamianka, the gin, the note and her version of events in the hotel room. He was able to diminish Guthrie’s ire by promising to put a good word in for him, hopefully resulting in a night out for the two of them, sans Witt.
“Okay,” Witt said. “Move the video forward to about 11:00 pm. By this time, the murder should have just occurred. Maybe we will see our cane-wielding senior citizen coming back out.”
The video continued. Just as Witt was about to light his last cigarette, the woman returned from the right side of the screen, this time her image in full view. Guthrie stopped the feed as she was centered in the screen.
“Well, well, well. Here we have a woman, short gray hair, dark brown cane with a gold plated handle, seen very clearly now. She has a penchant for wearing haute couture, including matching headwear.” Witt was studying the image, thinking beyond what he was seeing.
Guthrie added “And there, my friend, is the missing suitcase on wheels. No bell hop needed now. This case is as good as solved.”
Witt chuckled. “It’s never as easy as it looks, my fine Canadian friend. We have, yes, learned quite a bit. The killer may be elderly, but she does not need a cane. And she is indeed a woman, that much I am certain. And dollars to doughnuts, she’s left handed. That should narrow down the suspects immensely.”
“Did we see the same movie? How on earth did you determine all of that?”
“Let’s go back and see what Kamianka has cooked for dinner. We’ll play one room school house for dessert.”
- The Killer Mocks Us In Plain Sight (djlutz.wordpress.com)