Chapter 19 – Witt Kepler, Private Eye
[Private eye Witt Kepler and his trusted partner Guthrie Oaks of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been briefing Assistant District Attorney Thurman Ludlow about their findings concerning the suspicious death of the Westborough Police Chief. Two of the three men are now convinced the killer was either the chief’s wife, or the assistant police chief. Witt has other ideas…]
“It’s obvious,” Thurman started. “The two were in it together. The assistant police chief shacked up with the man’s wife while he was stealing money from the Fraternal Order of Police. They found out about it and stole the cash, killing him in the process. I’ll send a squad over to pick them both up. So much for the perfect crime comment, eh?” The DA was referring to the note left in Kamianka’s kitchen.
As the assistant district attorney was picking up his phone, Witt shook his head, his raised eyebrows giving everyone the look that said No, that’s not it. Thurman, phone receiver in hand, froze before pushing any of the buttons on the keypad. He knew the look.
“I think you have half the puzzle solved, Thurman. There is more to this mystery and somehow, yes I do believe somehow, the perfect crime may have actually been committed. Remember, a perfect crime is a crime in which the culprit gets away – and no one even knows a crime has been committed.”
“But we know about the murder,” Guthrie said. “And it looks like there was embezzlement from the charity, perpetrated by the victim. Two crimes, three suspects. It doesn’t get much easier than this.”
“What about the medical cause of death?” Witt asked. “Judging by the empty containers I saw in the bathroom at the house , the coroner should have found both nitroglycerin and Viagra in the man’s system, along with a little heroin added at the hotel. Since we know he was, how shall we put it, exerting himself at the time of his death, any one of those substances could have done him in.”
Thurman looked through a stack of papers on his desk. “You know? I think I remember seeing that information in one of these reports. Yes, you are right, well, two out three at least. No nitroglycerin. I thought we could close the case, but now that you mention it, the mystery has just gotten much larger.”
“May I see the report, please?”
“Sure, Witt. Help yourself,” Thurman said, handing over pages of scientific terms, graphs and percentages. Everyone gave Witt an incredulous look, since none of them thought he would be able to read the report, at all.
Witt studied the report, moving his index finger up and down the list of chemicals found in the toxicity screening. He stopped at one point, pulled out his smartphone and used it to do an Internet search for one of the terms. Witt finally put the paper down and gave himself a congratulatory smile. “Well, then. I think that settles it,” he proclaimed.
Witt flipped open his Zippo lighter, only to realize he had voluntarily bypassed a new pack of Lucky Strikes earlier in the day. He’d just have to smoke two when he got back home. “I tell you what, boys. Round up the wife and the assistant police chief and let’s all meet at the Westborough Police Station tomorrow morning. I think I can solve the entire mystery. Oh yes, bring three sets of handcuffs.”
The private eye stood up, gave a slight salute to his friends and then left the office. He figured Guthrie would return to Kamianka, wherever she was hiding, and Thurman would go – well, wherever assistant district attorneys go after work. Witt envisioned the public library or some equally anachronistic venue well past its prime.
As he pulled into his driveway, Witt glanced over at the house next door. He could see the kitchen light on, Mrs. Peabody moving about putting pots and pans away in the cupboards. There was no other car in her driveway which meant that daughter Carolyn was not visiting. Now Witt really did wish he had a cigarette. Seeing the old woman home alone made Witt come to grips with the fact that he, too, was alone. He didn’t even have Kamianka anymore, and he had paid for her already. His saving grace was the wagging tail of Lord Melvin, visible from the front window.
Witt looked up at the early evening sky and thanked the good lord he had his health and a few friends. One shot of the Mallaca gin was on the menu for dinner, then the rack was calling. The private eye had a lot of thinking to do and there was no better way to do it than slinging back some rare Tanqueray and hitting the snooze button eight hours later.
The next morning went better than the last. Witt made sure to shave, and he put on a fresh set of clothes. He found the old French press and made nice hot pot of dark roasted coffee. Looking in the refrigerator, Witt realized he should have gone grocery shopping – about three weeks ago. The only thing available for breakfast was a jar of bread and butter pickles and two bottles of salad dressing. Not exactly healthy choices, even for Witt. He shrugged his shoulders, making a mental note to order appetizers and dessert when it came time for lunch with Carolyn. Normally he would have driven straight to the convenience store, but for now there was not enough time. He snagged a few mints to be consumed later.
First things first, Witt knew he had to get to the Westborough police station by 9:00 am. It was a bit of a drive, and that was okay, he still had time to make it. He would just run through the details of the case as he drove, hoping traffic wouldn’t be too bad, or at least observant enough to get out of his way as he paid more attention to the case than the road. Witt kept one hand one the wheel, the other on the horn, just in case.
Witt walked over to the secretary’s desk and said good morning. With all of the investigation and all of the debate, it looked like she might be the only person around that hadn’t done anything illegal. This case was truly a tangled ball of string, he thought.
“Everyone inside?” he asked.
“Yes, sir. Should I bring in coffee?”
“No,” Witt replied, “but maybe we could have a cup of coffee ourselves sometime. I know a place in Metro where a lady such as yourself would certainly bring a much needed bit of class.”
“That would be nice, but I bet you say that to all the girls.”
“Just to the pretty ones. And I must say, your outfit even matches your coat, though it’s a bit warm outside for me. I prefer a lightweight jacket myself. Yours is certainly top notch.” The old Witt Kepler was coming back to life. No woman would ever suffer for lack of compliments when he was around.
Not really waiting for a reply, he proceeded to enter the chief’s office. Seated around the conference table were Thurman and Guthrie, along with the assistant police chief and the chief’s widow. Thurman had brought three metro cops in as muscle, in case things got out of hand. It was always tough to collar a blue, especially on their own turf.
“Glad to see you all could make it,” Witt started.
“Look here Kepler. What’s this all about? Your goons made it sound like we were under arrest this morning. You’re not even a cop. You can’t charge us with anything. What gives you the right-“
“I can charge you,” interjected Thurman. “And Mr. Kelpler works for us, so everything he does will be in accordance with the legal process, isn’t that right Mr. Kepler? I think it would be wise to remember your right to remain silent.”
Witt stood at the end of the oval shaped conference table, as if moderating a presentation on stock prices or future marketing campaigns. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, let us look at the facts.”
“An excellent place to start,” Guthrie said. “So who did what?”
“Yes, we are all very curious,” the widow chimed in, her tone dripping with sarcasm. “Which one of us is guilty? You do know, don’t you? Tell me you didn’t take me away from my spa day for no good reason.”
“Madame, we are all guilty of something, some of us are just more guilty than others. Now if you will let me start at the beginning and go over the facts, we will at the end of the story see who fits the wonderful pair of handcuffs brought by our uniformed officers here.”
The crowd sat silently, looking around, eying each other in an attempt to determine, as Guthrie said, who did what.
“I checked the Fraternal Order’s investment results yesterday and it looked like the retirement fund made a nice little profit this past year. But if you ask around, members will tell you they lost a ton of money. And no one would question those outcomes in today’s economy. I’d say the Chief was not only skimming profits, he was taking the profits and more, creating documents to make it look like the fund was a dog, a Ponzi scheme, except he never paid anyone except himself. And the assistant chief here either helped or knew about it.”
“That’s ridiculous. Look at the paperwork. The fund didn’t make any money – it lost money, and the paper trail will show everything is legitimate. It’s all in the boxes for the auditors. I have them at home, in the garage,” claimed the man who now had a burly police officer behind him.
“Oh yes, about the boxes set aside for the auditor. You see, I had my partner switch out those boxes with some new ones filled with phone books from the recycling plant. We brought everything here yesterday and the accountants have been going over everything. Thurman, what did they find?”
The assistant district attorney opened up his leather binder and started reading. “Looks like the investment fund of the Fraternal Order of Police did quite well last year, earning 4.5% overall. But if you look at the papers filed with the SEC, and published out to the membership, well, they show the fund lost over 20 percent of its original value. Total loss of over 8 million dollars.”
“Here we have crime number one, embezzlement and or fraud – take your pick Thurman. The chief was the only person who had total access to the fund; the assistant chief here – he did, too, but he never went to any of the meetings since he had other thoughts on his mind.” Witt gave a quick glance at the widow. “Of course, the problem now is that the suspect and likely perpetrator is already dead. So let’s move on to the next crime.”
“You mean the murder,” Guthrie said.
“Exactly,” Witt replied. “So while the chief was busy stealing everyone’s retirement money, the assistant chief here started an affair with the chief’s wife, who looks lovely today by the way. Do you like the color orange? Nevermind, I digress.” Witt was pointing his finger like a teacher instructing children at school. “And adultery, while morally wrong to most of society, is not a crime. Grounds for divorce, maybe, against the police department’s policy perhaps, but not a chargeable offense.”
Witt continued. “My guess is that the chief eventually told his wife about the money, probably when he bought those plane tickets to Brazil. Seeing an eventual separation from her lover, this woman devised a plan to knock off her husband, making it look like a heart attack. She switched her husband’s nitro pills for Viagra and hoped it would eventually cause heart failure. And knowing her husband was about as faithful as she was, this vixen fatale made sure the only pills the chief had taken to the convention were vitamin V. Thurman, if you look in the hotel room evidence, you will probably find Viagra in both the correct bottle and the bottle of heart medicine. She had motive and opportunity, more so than anyone else, to make the switch which lead to the death of the chief of police.”
“It was his idea,” she screamed, pointing to the assistant chief of police. “He found out about the money and he was the one who found a prostitute. I knew he wanted to blackmail my husband into a divorce, but I never knew he wanted to kill him. I’m not even an accomplice to this. I’m innocent!”
“Just a minute, baby. You were the one who switched out the pills. That was your idea, and…” he hesitated as he was put into cuffs. “And you never told me about going to Brazil. What is this? Some kind of double cross?”
“I don’t know anything about Brazil. The old man never told me about any tickets. You must have bought them to frame me, you low life scum-“
“Take ‘em both downtown,” Thurman said. “She’s on the hook for murder in the first degree, he should be good for second degree as the accomplice. Thank god we already read them their rights. And I warned them to remain silent. Good job, Witt. You, too, Guthrie. This case should be ready for trial in no time. We’ll give them each some time in solitary; eventually one of them will spill the beans on the heroin angle. The man was already dead. That must have just been for spite. A jury will love it. I’m thinking life with no parole for her and ten to twenty for him. Of course, him being a cop might shorten his sentence, due to getting shanked in prison. ”
The two lovers were taken away, still arguing and trying to frame the other for all crimes committed and imagined. Guthrie chuckled at their lamentations, saying “So, Witt, this wasn’t much of a perfect crime, after all.”
Witt stopped at the secretary’s desk. He thought for a moment, as if looking for a reply to Guthrie’s statement. He carefully surveyed the area. The secretary was gone. Her coat was gone. The plane tickets – gone. The only thing left on the desk was an envelope, unopened, from a local insurance company.
“You know, Guth old boy, I think we really did see a perfect crime. It just hasn’t hit you yet.”
“What do you mean? We have two people in custody for murder. What else is there?”
“Well, for one thing, the missing suitcase still bothers me. We know two things about it – it was heavy, since it made those deep indentations in the carpet up at the hotel room, and it was carried away by a left-handed woman who did not need a cane.”
“I doubt the chief took his spoils away in pennies. Hundred dollar bills, even that many of them, would not weigh so much. Explain that one.”
“My guess is the chief was planning a getaway, to Brazil in fact. He even had his secretary buy the tickets. His plan was to cash out his winnings from the bank, and then exchange it for something more liquid. Gold most likely. If I am correct, and we go to the bank, they will have a record of the withdrawal. And since it was such a large amount, they will have recorded the serial numbers, too. Of course, the chief would have known this, so he most likely exchanged the cash for gold. Krugerrands, probably. Every country knows about them, every business accepts them, with no questions asked.”
“And where might these gold coins be? Next thing you will say is his secretary is on her way to Brazil with them.”
“No, someplace colder. Here’s my theory. The secretary found out her pension had been looted. She was looking at retiring, based on the number of years she had already worked. When she was asked to buy plane tickets, she knew her pension, and probably her job would be over soon, and she would have nothing to show for years of faithful service.”
“What a louse, this guy. She seemed like a sweet old lady.”
“Yes, that was the plan. No one would suspect her. She made sure the assistant chief found out about the money. And, since secretaries in general know everything that is going on in the office anyway, she probably knew about the affair. She saw her chance to get rid of her boss by convincing the wife to do it. She had two challenges, though. One was getting a prostitute.”
Guthrie said “Yes, that’s right. How did Kamianka get involved and who put the note in her kitchen, and left the bottle of booze?”
The secretary probably got Kamianka’s name from one of the high class clients connected to the department and passed it on to the assistant chief. The booze? Probably a gift that was never reported. I’d say the secretary waited for Kamianka to leave her flat, broke in with some lock picking tools she probably borrowed from the evidence locker, and left the note and the gin. Then she followed your girl to the hotel and waited in the next room, watching everything by remote camera.”
“Man, this took a lot of organization and planning. But what about the heroin?”
“That is the genius part of the entire operation, Guth. The secretary probably knew the wife had switched out the nitro for the Viagra. Given the high likelihood that the chief would keel over, literally, on Kamianka while in the throes of passion, the secretary knew that it would look like a simple heart attack egged on by too much Viagra. No one would suspect anything further. No, she had to make it look like a murder, after the fact. Once the chief was dead, and Kamianka in the shower, the secretary entered the room from the adjoining door, left ajar with duct tape blocking the latching mechanism, and stabbed the syringe of heroin into the neck. She wanted it to be so obvious, even a rookie cop would know it was murder.”
“But how did the heroin get into the man’s system? He was dead already. Wasn’t he?”
“This woman left no stone unturned. She pushed the drug directly into the blood stream and then used a stun gun to shock the heart into contraction, pushing the smack all the way to the brain and the ocular nerve. That caused the pupils to pinpoint. She made sure to zap the body in the exact location paramedics use for external defibrillators. There were slight burn marks, remember? No one thought anything about them.”
“Genius. Pure genius. So the only mystery left is whether or not the secretary took the gold.”
“Well, she is left-handed, judging by the phone and computer mouse being on the left side of her keyboard. And she could have easily worn a wig. In fact, the hat she wore in the hotel security video matched the coat she had this morning.”
“The bottom line then,” Guthrie surmised, “is the secretary convinced other people to do her dirty work, succeeded in getting a scumbag killed, and now has wealth beyond our wildest imagination.”
“Yes, and is probably flying to Denmark or some such country. And all the evidence points to the two in custody. She played them so well they have no idea she instigated the whole thing.”
“Don’t mess with a secretary, I guess.”
“Any good executive will tell you that, Guthrie. I suppose we can just let it go. It’s all conjecture, and without solid evidence, charges would never hold up in court. Yes, a perfect crime. And think – we got to see it!”
Guthrie picked up the envelope from the desk. “Witt? This envelope has your name on it.”
“Hmm. No time like the present, they say.” Witt took out one of his knives and opened the letter. It was a check for one hundred thousand dollars, made out to him.
“Looks like the secretary put me as the beneficiary to a term policy on the chief.”
“Could be a bribe, eh?”
“I think she just wanted me to be able to pick up the tab for lunch, which, by the way, I am running late for. I’ll catch up with you later, sir. Say hello to Kam for me, and watch out for her pimp. I hear he’s dangerous.”
“No need to worry about him. I have plenty more duct tape, and he knows it.”
Both men laughed heartily and then went their separate ways.
Arriving at Figaro’s, precisely five minutes late, Witt saw his lunch date, Carolyn Peabody, sitting at the booth in back. She was with a friend, a beautiful blond with blue eyes friend.
The lunch special just got more appealing.
- Motive for Murder (djlutz.wordpress.com)