Episode 15 of Witt Kepler, Private Eye
After discovering the killer’s cameo appearance in the hotel security video, Witt and his partner Guthrie decided to regroup back at the house. Witt’s houseguest Kamianka, the supposed victim of the murder frame-up, was cooking dinner.
“How did it go, Witt? Any idea on who is behind the murder?” she asked.
“We made some progress,” Witt replied. “We looked at the security video and got a decent look at the murderer, and also you and the chief going to dinner.”
“Which,” Guthrie chimed in, “means you could not have been the killer.”
Witt concluded the repartee, saying “assuming the woman in the next room is the killer. There are still many possible outcomes here, Guthrie, let us not forget that.”
“So you think I might be the killer after all? I thought I was innocent,” Kamianka said.
Witt poured a shot of gin, then squeezed a little fresh lime juice into the glass. He downed the potent elixir like a V-8 engine sucked gasoline. He gave Kamianka a quick glance, trying to be coy. He knew the woman, but not all too well. Still the facts were pointing to someone else.
“No, my gut instinct is that you are being set up. However, this is either becoming too easy to solve, meaning the killer is an absolute beginner, or there is more to the story.”
“Why do you say that, sir?” Guthrie asked.
“The killer used the words ‘perfect crime’ in the note. Only an arrogant fool would use the phrase. But just looking at the complexity of the crime scene, there may be substance to back those words up. I’ll know more when we visit the wife of the deceased tomorrow. Dinner looks fabulous by the way.”
Kamianka laughed. “Food, booze and Lucky Strikes. That seems to be all that really matters to you, right Witt?” Turning to Guthrie, she continued. “He even has a beautiful woman chasing after him, and he goes about his business as if she isn’t there. Have you ever heard of such craziness, Guthrie?”
“Sounds like our man, Witt, alright. But…”
“But you can stop all the woman talk now. We need to concentrate on the case,” Witt said.
“Touchy, are we?” she said. “And if you were curious, I was not referring to me. I spoke to your neighbor and she mentioned her daughter. Went on and on about dinner. You made quite the impression.”
“Like I said, the case is what is important right now. And don’t take too much stock in old Mrs. Peabody. One meatloaf does not a marriage make.”
“You had mentioned the killer is definitely a woman,” Guthrie said. “And left handed. Explain for the class, will you?
Witt had spent years hanging out in bars, people watching. He had become quite adept at spotting trends and making generalizations. Watching the security video was nothing more than another day sitting at the end of an old oak bar-top, spearing olives with little plastic swords.
“In the video, the woman in question stopped and checked her nails, as if she perhaps had accidentally chipped one, do you remember?”
“Yes, she lifted her hand up slightly and looked at them. How does that make her a woman instead of a man in disguise?”
“Do me a favor, Guthrie. Check your nails to see if you have any that are chipped.”
The Mountie wasn’t sure of the purpose of this exercise, but to appease his master, he lifted his hand up and checked his nails. He shrugged his shoulders, noting his nails were in fine condition.
“Good. Now Kamianka, you do the same, please.”
The woman obliged, lifting her hand up as well.
Guthrie was still perplexed. “And how do you tell the difference? We both did exactly as you asked.”
“It’s all in the wrist. When a woman checks her nails, she will curl her fingers slightly and turn her wrist up as she checks. A man, on the other hand, pun intended, will outstretch his fingers and look at the nails from the backside of his hand, just as you did a minute ago. In the video, the woman was definitely – a woman.”
While Witt’s dinner companions went about reexamining how they checked their fingernails, Witt explained further.
“As for the left-handed conclusion, I think we can first safely say she did not need the cane. It was a simple prop used to perpetuate her ruse. If you remember, we could see the cane when she walked by in both instances. But, and here is the interesting part, we could see the cane when she went from left to right, and again when she walked from right to left on the screen. This could only have happened if she was using her right hand first, and then the left hand on the return trip.”
“Someone with a bad leg would always have the cane on the same side. But does that prove she is left handed?” Guthrie asked.
“Absolutely not, Guthrie. It just proves she is careless with her cane technique. Not a wise habit for someone perpetrating the perfect crime. No, I believe she is left-handed because she was wheeling the suitcase with her left arm. If you had a bag full of bricks, it would only be natural to put it in your strong hand.”
Kamianka had cleared the dinner dishes away to the kitchen. She returned with three dessert parfaits made with shortcake, fresh fruit and whipped cream.
“You know, I could get used to this homemaker life,” she said, “if only I had a strong, honorable man to share it with. One who is looking to settle down and be taken care of.” She looked directly at Witt, finishing with “Which scratches your name off the list, Witt.”
“Why would I want to inflict my own personal demons on any unsuspecting woman?” Witt asked. “Guthrie here might be a good choice, but he is Canadian. You’d have to like timbits. Right, Guthrie old boy?”
“Indeed, and snow,” he said.
“Well, I’d settle for a lift back to my apartment. I need some more clothes if this case is going to take much longer to solve,” she said.
“Are you still afraid the police will show up and arrest you? They may have your description, but not much else,” Witt offered.
“No,” she said. “There’s someone else who will be very upset I haven’t been working, and he will want his cut of the money – money I haven’t made since I have been hiding out here.”
Ever the gentleman, Guthrie stepped up to the challenge. “Well, we can let Witt stay here to ponder more about the case while I escort you back to your flat.”
“You don’t understand, this guy is no one to fool with. He traps young girls into prostitution and would rather kill them on the spot than let one go back to the real world. Trust me, if I could have escaped, I would have done it years ago.”
Witt poured two more shots of gin.
“One for the road? Or maybe you should trade your Derringer lighter for a real gun before you leave.” Witt was recalling Guthrie’s toy cigarette lighter the Mountie kept “holstered” in his back pocket.
“No, I think I’ll be alright. It’s not like I’ll be wrestling a bear again. And besides, I have duct tape and handcuffs. We should be fine.”
Kamianka laughed. “That’s funny. I have those same items in my bedroom.”
Wrestling a bear…again? Witt thought perhaps he had underestimated the abilities of his partner.