Two more palm trees came crashing down on the beach as the computer finished final preparations for automatic shutdown. The automated weather station had triggered a shutdown when the rains and winds had hit certain marks.
The solar panels and a small wind turbine, that generated power that ran the inverters and batteries that ran the station, began to shake on their foundations as the winds and rains picked up.
Meanwhile, deep inside the stone and concrete building, an automated computer had been monitoring communications on the tiny island of Leetown, a private island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The waves began to crash against the outside of the building. Within minutes the tiny island was covered in twenty feet of water which crashed over and through everything. While most of the smaller less well-built buildings lay flat in a matter of minutes, the old stone-and-block building didn’t completely submit to the water. It remained standing.
However, the ancient mortar-and-cement casing did partially give way to the intense weight and pressure of the water as it swept across the small island. Water found its way into every little nook and cranny that had an opening at all, forcing blocks and stones to shift and let in more water. When it was done, three feet of water made itself home throughout the tiny building. Computers and electronics were waterlogged and fried.
Several weeks later, Cole Webber made his way back to the tiny island.
In the weeks following the storm, he had made a financial killing off the data siphoned off the internet and private networks he had been tapping into for several months. The cost to set up the substation had been high. But the need for secrecy was higher. This particular island had been chosen because of its location to the main backbone of the internet running under the ocean and to the nearest land-based server center—thus allowing him direct access to the main trunk traffic of the internet and the ability to piggyback on others who were spying on the internet. Also because it was so far out in the middle of nowhere, it would never occur to them that anyone would set up a hardware system to tap into the servers.
The usefulness of the substation was now past. He had what he needed from it, and with the storm destroying everything, he thought it was time to come in and rip everything out.
As he expected, the island was a total washout. By now most of the water had subsided and found its way back to the ocean. However, there were still pockets where several feet of water sat and the bugs were making themselves at home.
The solar panels and inverters and all of the external hardware that had run the small computer station were in ruins outside the building.
Pushing the door open, he was greeted with water up to his knees. The water came gushing out of the door around his legs. Using his flashlight he looked around inside the small building.
There on the far wall, mounted high, was a single monitor, its cords dangling against the wall. To his surprise, a single light was flashing. The screen had a small blinking oblong dot in the upper left corner. Cole recognized it instantly as a DOS prompt.
Stepping into the room, now covered with slime and mud, he saw computer components lying all over the tables and floor. He approached the one screen still working.
And the built-in speaker spoke to him.
“Hello, Cole, we’ve been waiting for you.”
The winds whispered through the trees.
The sounds they made reminded me of the secrets I was carrying in the back of my soul.
I caught sight of the sun, just as I almost tripped on one of the logs that had fallen across the path. Judging from the rot and decay, it had been there for decades. My foot easily went through the outer bark into the porous soil that had once been a tree standing proud and tall in the forest.
But now it lay along with dozens of others on the forest floor. Slowly feeding the next generation of trees that were protecting it from the morning sun. But I quickly pulled my thoughts away from the fate of trees long dead. My more immediate concern was the cabin at the end of the trail. I hoped against hope that it was still there. The chances of the small log cabin still standing after the decades of being forgotten were slim, but I had to try. If I was right, she was there.
I reached the clearing where the cabin still stood. The weeds had long ago taken over the landscape, and the pond behind it was now green with the scum that often took over when fish and wildlife died. In fact, the whole place was falling apart.
But I really didn't come to see the dying cabin.
She was there.
“I said I would.”
“But you swore you’d never come back again.”
“Yeah, I did, at that, didn’t I?”
I bowed my head looking over the top of my glasses. “I lied.” I paused. “And I found Grandpa’s Money.”
Charlene seemed to light up at the mention of the money. “You what? Where? How?” She came running toward me.
“Right where you left it.” I pulled the revolver from under my jacket.
She stopped in mid-step.
“I still haven’t worked everything out yet, but you knew where he buried the money before he died. How I don’t know, but somehow you knew. Why you had me going through the bullshit with the pills, try to remember I don’t know. No matter, the jig is up. And now you going to pay for killing my grandpa. He would have never had that heart attack if you hadn’t helped it along with the pills you were sneaking in his coffee and beer.”
She tried to look shocked and confused.
“I was only sixteen at the time, but I knew something was bothering him. He would never say that, but it got me thinking. And your instance that I try to remember something I didn't know. I still don’t know what that was about. But. I’ve done some checking, and you knew him. All too well. You knew what no one else knew, he had a soft spot for young girls. Girls that liked to show a little too much skin and teased a bit too much. No, he wasn’t perfect, but he was my grandpa, and I loved him.”
“But you love me,” she pleaded.
“I did. Once, when I was spellbound by your body, and your charms, but that wore off a long time ago.” I took a step closer to her. “Now—now I see you for what you are, a gold digger and a slut. You used your charm and body to get to grandpa because you knew he was well off, and you wanted what you couldn’t earn on your own. How many other men in the city did you con and use, and ruin their lives for sex, and money?”
She stared at me. I could see the wheels in her mind working.
I leveled my gun at her, drawing back the hammer on the revolver.
“You never loved him. Hell, you never loved any of them, not even me. I woke up about six months ago. Started digging into your past. Found out about the police records sealed because you were a minor, talked to families all over the county and found out the truth. Saw the pictures of you with the old men. Saw it all, Charlene, I saw the truth. You didn't just “Run into me,” at the diner that day, you stalked me, and targeted me because you knew who I was.”
I took a deep breath, bile rising in my throat “And I fell for it. The whole thing even married you. But it’s over now. Yeah, grandpa was an SOB, but he was an honest SO, and he never cheated or killed anyone. I count at least three old men who you killed, but no one can prove it.” I shifted positions, to get a better shot at her. The gun was getting heavy in my hand. I needed to end this soon.
“You said you found the money. We can go away together and forget all of this.”
“How dumb do you think I am? I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“The money was here alright, but not where he hid it. You flashed your boobs at him, or worst, and got him to tell you where it was, but then you took it, re-hid it, hoping to come back for it. But it was easier to con me into finding it. It would look better if I found it and no one connected you to it. You made up the bit with the pills and remembering. The only problem is I remembered.” I waved the gun in the air. “Remembered it all, how I had seen you sneaking out the back of the house a few times, right before he died.”
“That wasn’t me. You’re crazy, I wouldn’t do that.”
Laughter gurgled from my throat. “I didn’t tell you all I remembered. Then I found the pictures. And the letters. That's right. I found out the whole ugly truth.” She began to back up as I continued. “Grandma never knew. It would have broken her heart and killed her. It did kill her. Because she died right after he did of a broken heart.”
She was breathing hard. “Now what?”
“Now I do what needs to be done.”
With that, I touched the trigger on the revolver. The gun bucked in my hand.
The recoil sent it upward as the barrel went up ever so slightly as the shot fired and I saw Charlene slowly fall to the ground just past the end of the barrel.
The shot echoed in the woods. She never heard it. The sound of the birds and the woods slowly returned as the echo died off in the distance. But I heard it. I could still hear the ringing in my ears for several hours after. A constant reminder of what I’d done but this too would pass.
It was late by the time I had buried her.
I had had it all planned out. Exactly what I was going to say to her. Hell, I didn’t say half of what I wanted to, but I decided it didn’t matter in the end. She knew I knew exactly what she’d done, and why, she had to die. That's was what mattered.
As I slowly drove from the end of the trail back toward the main road, I thought it had gone perfectly. I had avenged my grandpa’s murder and found the money he had stolen from the bank decades ago. Yeah, she never knew the money was from ill-gotten gains, but I’d found that out too.
Turning onto the main road, I smiled. Now I could live my life in peace and luxury.
The fire had long ago burned out.
There was nothing left but ashes.
I turned toward the door, forgetting about the lone chair in the room, and tripped, sprawling across the floor. I got up slowly, right knee stinging, but kicked the chair out of my way.The grating sound it made as it scraped across the wooden floor was satisfying. Damned chair.
I grimaced as I gave the chair a wide berth and walked to the door.
I turned the old worn knob, its luster long gone. Hell, the door and knob, even the chair was older than me. In another time I had sat in the chair reading by candlelight and the glow from the fireplace. Music from a long-ago era had filled the room.
Now the room was only the remains of a life I had known decades ago.
Returning to my grandfather’s dilapidated homestead had been a mistake. As I walked into the entry hall, memories crept into my mind. Grandma baking cookies. Grandpa playing cards. The hours I spent with him learning to hunt and fish. His old shotgun still sat leaning in the corner next to the entry door. I picked it up, cracking open the double barrel and the breach. Sure enough, it was loaded. The brass ends of the shells were now corroded from years of sitting in the gun untouched and uncleaned. He would have been appalled. Grandpa never let anything get dirty, least of all his guns. I put it back.
I pushed open the front door and exited the house.The porch once held a hanging swing where I’d spent many an hour listening to him tell tall tales while we drank lemonade.It was now barely recognizable, lying on the rotted deck in a broken heap. The once beautiful lawn he’d kept was now a sea of overgrown weeds and hay, dotted with the occasional flower that managed to eke out an existence in the tall grass and weeds.
Plowing my way through the weeds I found his old truck. After a bit of a struggle, I pried the door open.
The interior was covered in dust and junk. The tools he’d used last were still sitting on the passenger side of the bench seat. He’d died in this truck—heart attack hit him, and he was gone. Grandma died a month later from a broken heart.
I shuddered, the memories were becoming overwhelming. Slamming the door shut again, I spun so fast I was dizzy, but I had to get back to my car and away from this place.
“Robert!! Wake up!! You were dreaming again.”
I blinked from the glare of the sun streaming through the window and sat up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
She sat on the edge of the bed.
“You dreamed about the farm again?” I nodded.
“Yes. this time I made it to the truck.”
“But you didn't see the box?”
“No, I didn’t see the box. I don’t know where grandpa hid the money.”
I threw the covers back and got out of bed.
“All I have are these nightmares from the damn drugs. They aren’t helping me remember what happened all those years ago.” “You told me there was a box of money. You saw him hide it.”
“I was sixteen years old when he died. I thought I knew where he hid it but when we searched the place it wasn’t there.
I just can’t remember where it was. Damn it, Charlene, it’s been nearly twenty years.”
“But baby, no one’s been there since your grandparents died but us. We’ve gone over and over the place. The only way we're gonna find out where he hid the box is for you to remember.”
“All the damned drugs you’re shoving down my throat are giving me a headache and flashbacks to things I don’t want to remember.”
“But baby, it’s a lot of money.”
Those baby blue eyes of hers were misty as she gazed at me.
“Okay, I’ll keep taking the drugs until we find the money.”
I never could deny Charlene anything.
It was hot and dry. But that didn't stop the humidity from hanging in the air like a damp towel thrown over a curtain rod.
Every living thing oozed moisture. What wasn't living had a thin layer of sweat sitting on it or running off it.
It hadn't rained in several weeks
But it scarcely needed too. The humidity hung in the air was like a raincloud.
The oppressive heat and humidity had made his life miserable
Actually, it hadn’t: It only greatly contributed to it.
Cramer Forrester had been contemplating several things. None of them good.
Today he made up his mind on the least offensive thing. Killing his wife.
Actually killing her would be the easy part.
The day came. It was time to do what was to be done. Cramer Forrester administered the drug as planned. It was to be a quiet peaceful death. More than she deserved. But it also solved a lot of questions. As he didn’t have to be there at the time. He’d had switched her medication several weeks ago. Being careful not to leave any prints on the bottle or any pills he doctored to double their medications. He had held the bottle of doctored pills back for several weeks. Finally, the time was right. He went in and said good morning to her and did the usual things one did with a bedbound person. But this would be the last time. He was going away later that day for a business trip and would be out of the country for several weeks. When she was indisposed, to took the chance and poured the good medication down the drain. And filled the current bottle with the doctored pills. Hiding the old bottle he had brought in the doctored pills in he calmly left the current bottle by the bed, along with the rest of her medications.
Cramer Forrester kissed his wife goodbye and left. Knowing full well, by the time he got back from his trip abroad, she would be dead. And there was no way to connect him to the pills. He had been careful. Only taking a couple of pills at a time, Just enough not to be missed. When he had collected enough pills. He doctored about a dozen pills. Along with the regular pills. They all looked the same and would be impossible to tell a doctored pill form a regular one. Of this, he had been most careful. He had been careful not to touch any of the pills with his bare hands, for fear of leaving trace DNA, or worst yet a partial print on the bottle or pills. He knew his prints would be all over the house and her room. He was there every day, and he'd touched many things. But he had always been careful not to touch her medications. Always making a point that if he didn’t touch it, he couldn’t screw it up. Thus letting the nurse and other caregivers handle the medications. The part of about not wanting to touch the medications was true. He had always said that long before he decided that she must die.
Stepping outside was like stepping into a steam room. Cramer Forrester felt the heat and humidity the second he left his wife’s house. The hour he’d spent there had been the longest hour he’d lived through in a long time. But now it was done.
He got into his car, immediately turning on the air conditioner, as soon as he started it. But even the air conditioner of the expense foreign car was working hard on conditioning the air in the cabin. Soon it was at least tolerable.
He arrived at the airport. Collecting his suitcase, and carry on the bag, which was ridiculously small, he entered the main concourse of the airport. Checking his tickets he found the gate number he needed and made his way to the gate. Soon he was in the line to check his bag and process his ticket.
“Cramer, Cramer Forester.” a quiet calm voice called his name from behind him. Cramer stopped in his tracks and turned around. Several men greeted him.
“I’m Detective Lewis Sinclair. I’m arresting you for the attempted murder of your wife, Gloria Forrester.” He explained calmly. Cramer stood still in shock. How could anyone know about his plans, and what he'd did that morning?
One of the other detectives slid over from where he was standing. There behind them was his wife. She was standing on her own two feet. Completely dressed and looking better then he’d seen her in a very long time.
He was at a loss for words. The detectives came over and collected his bags and handcuffed him. The ride in the police car a was a blur. It didn’t seem real. Here he was locked up in the back of a police car. Once that the station the dream continued. Questioning, booking, fingerprinting searching and finally a holding cell.
Later that day he found himself in a small interview room. The kind of the one-way glass mirror. And a camera or two propped up in the corners of the room. Recording everything said and done.
Cramer Forrester never imagined that he could or would get caught.
But yet here he was. Detective Lewis Sinclair came into the room along with one of the other arresting detectives. He never got his name.
“Mr. Forrester, we are charging you with the attempted murder of your wife Gloria Forrester, and the murder of your mother in law, Dorothy Evans,” he said flatly and with no hint of emotion. The detective plopped a large file in front of him. Loudly. The thud of the file hitting the table was deafening in the small room.
Sitting down he continued.
“Mr. Forrester. You Need money don’t you?” he asked.
“Who doesn't?” came the replied.
“But you need a lot and you need it in a hurry. If your wife died you’d inherit her fortune, which would pay off your gambling debts, and other outstanding bills”
“We’ve been watching you for a long time. We suspected that the death of Dorothy Evans was suspicious but we couldn’t prove it. We thought it probably happened like you planned for your wife. So we waited and watched. The accident your wife was in was staged to put you in a position to have to do something. Which you finally did.”
It all came to him. The accident, and the sudden drain on his cash flow from her. It was calculated to make do something. And he fell for it hook line and sinker.
Well, there was one good thing from it all he resigned himself to his fate.
At least he was rid of his wife.
“Is he dead?”
“Well, let’s see, His heart has stopped beating I see no movement of his chest. He’s stone cold., Yeah, I’d say he’s dead.”
Standing up from examining the body, He turned to his friend and gently guided her away from the body.
“Don’t go all soft and weak on my me now. This is what we wanted. He held her close to him. They kissed.
“Now for part B of the plan.” he said and they went back over to where the body lay. Together they managed to move the body from the living room floor.
It took a while but they managed to get the body into the freezer.
“There, that’s done.” he said Now we have to get back to our jobs before we’re missed.” With that he kissed her again. She collected her pocketbook, and hat and went out the back door. Before he left he had things to do. First he wiped down the freezer and everything they had touched. He had been careful not to touch anything when he arrived. In the living room he took out his smartphone. Opening the gallery he referred to the pictures he’d taken earlier. Making sure everything was exactly as it had been before Satisfied that was nothing out of place he carefully left by the back door.
No one had seen him in several days.
When the police had come and gone. Questions answered, stories told, and lies told. Lies with just enough truth in them to be believed.They finally breathed again.
Neither had dared to so much as look at each other for fear of giving themselves away. But the passions stirring within them.
They knew they had wait it out.Several months past before they felt comfortable enough to risk seeing each other again. Every day was another challenge. They secretly jumped at every phone call, every knock on the door. Always waiting for someone to find his body. But they never did.
Finally they had to know. They had to know if he was still in the freezer. Of course he was. Dead bodies don’t get up and move themselves. Definitely not out of a chest freezer. But why hadn’t he been found? It had been six months since they bashed him on the head and hid him in the chest freezer at his estate. Why hadn’t he been found? The not knowing what was happening was killing them.
So they did it. They returned to the scene of the crime.
The estate looked as it had when they were there last. They knew he had a staff that kept the place running. But they figured with a day or two at the most someone would miss him. And go looking for him. He was missed. They looked for him. But he was never found. They had had intended to delay his being found only by several days at most. Not six months. Why hasn't someone looked in the freezer?
The went back in the ways they had before. The living room where he had been killed was untouched. Then they returned to the freezer where they had put him.
With a mixture of fear and anticipation the opened the freezer. It was empty.
Not only was it empty. It was spotlessly clean. It looked brand new.
They knew they were in trouble now. He had been found and moved.
They decided their best course of action was to get out of there as quickly as possible. As they were about the reach the back door, they had came in at.
“Are you looking for me?”
A familiar voice asked quietly from somewhere behind them. They stopped dead in their tracks. Slowly they turned around to face back into the room.
There he stood. Big as life, and twice as real.
They were at a loss for words.
“Actually it is a new freezer. The one you stuffed me into got pretty gross by the time I got out. So I replaced it.” he explained calmly.
While they tried to process the new turn of events, he continued.
“Yes I was dead. At least to you at the moment. I knew you two have something planned. So I took certain precautions. I made sure I appeared dead when you hit me. It wasn’t pleasant being bashed in the head but it better than some of the alternatives. I was deceased for a short time, while you hid me. The bit with your phone to make sure everything was in place was good. You see I saw the whole thing later when I reviewed the video. The police did come, and I did talk to them. I showed the whole video, of you bashing me in the head. Hiding me. Everything. We decided they wouldn’t find me. And we waited. We didn’t think it would take six months for you to come back. But you did. And now they’re here he arrest you for murder. Oh I was deceased, But only Temporarily Deceased.
Things happened no one figured on. Such as David Davis killing his ex-partner. The “Double D” as folks called him, was an impressive figure of a man. At over 6 feet tall, and as mean as they come. He had no qualms about bouncing you out the door of his nightclub if you were stupid enough to be an idiot on the floor. If you were lucky, he only threw your drunk ass out. letting you find your way home on your own. Some nights if he was feeling particularly mean, he’d beat you up a bit in front of the crowd, sort of give them a show. I think the main reason he did it was to remind folks who the boss was, and not to mess with him. He was known to have gotten his hands dirty on more than one occasion. Stuff everyone knew happened, but no one ever talked about, at least not in public, and definitely not to the cops.
This is where I came in. His ex-partner, Longfellow, was found dead in his office. over on the east side of town. The night housekeeper found the body as she was getting ready to clean up in his office. She said the lights were on, she figured he was working late again. She went to the office, and there sat Longfellow, in his chair behind the desk. Stone cold dead. She called me. Well, actually she called the cops, and I came.
Looking at the dump of an office. I found no indication of foul play. Other than the stiff sitting in the chair, with a bullet hole in his head. It wasn’t all nice and clean and neat like they show on tv. It was a god awful mess. The bullet was probably a personal defense load. It expanded in his brains. The force took the backside of his head off. Brains and blood and bone were plastered all over the wall behind the desk. The stench, was enough to make you gag. which is what I did, and still did, even after I’d been in there for several minutes. The crime scene crew came in and took over. How they were able to process the room I don't know. I had to get the heck out of there before I threw up.
Back at my office at the station. I went over the reports of the officers first on the scene, and the coroner's report finally came in late the next day. I was right. It’d been a large caliber self-defense round, probably a critical defense round. From the looks of what they got out of the wall behind him, Probably either a .45ACP or .357 mag. They didn’t find an empty shell in the room. So either he took the case with him or it was a revolver. In which case the casing never left the gun.
It was no secret there was no love loss, between Davis and Longfellow. They had fought on a number occasions. Davis claimed Longfellow had cheated him out of a lot of profits several years ago when they first opened the nightclub. They had since dissolved the partnership. Davis bought Longfellow out.
It is well known that Davis like guns and usually had at least one on him at all times. I know he liked the-the old Smith & Wesson revolvers. That was my bet on what he used on Longfellow. Probably that .357 magnum he carried most of the time. Knowing it and proving it are two different things. I knew that, along with every cop in the world.
I headed over to Davis’s nightclub, late in the afternoon. Pulling up at the front door. I could see the bouncers waiting to keep people in line later when they opened for business. Approaching them, I flashed my badge. I knew one of them. A low-level thug for any number of bosses in the city. He knew I’d toss his ass in jail just for laughs. So he opened the door, and let me in.
The main floor was dark, except for light over the bar, and a few wall sconces near the doors. David Davis was big even sitting down at one of the big round tables in the front of the bar. The lights from the bar behind him made him look even bigger than I knew he was. I walked up to the table. Pulled up a chair, and sat down across from him. We didn’t say anything for a few seconds.
I let my brazenness irritate him for a minute.
“David, You know Longfellow is dead? They found him shot to death last night.”
“Yeah so, I haven’t been to his office in months. Not since we split the business.”
“It was a mess, a nasty smelly bloody mess. A mess only a big gun can make at close range. A gun like, say, That cannon you have there, “ I indicated the large K frame revolver Davis had in his shoulder holster.
“OH, you mean this?” He slowly and carefully slides the large revolver from his resting place. Laying it on the table in front of me. I took out my handkerchief and used it to pick up the gun. Carefully sliding the cylinder catch opening the cylinder. All six of the cartridges in the cylinder were new. The gun looks to be freshly clean. I saw no powder residue anywhere on the inside of the frame, around the barrel gap, or the neck.
“Let Me guess you just cleaned the gun?” I said. I eyed the cylinder and closed it. And handed it back to him.
“It is a nice gun. How many more of them do you have? I can get a search warrant to take all your guns. And eventually, we’ll find the one you used to kill Longfellow with. Of you can tell me exactly what happened.”
I sat back in my chair, and let him think. I knew he did it, and he knew I knew it. But getting him to talk was the key.
I also left out that they found his prints in the office. And not just on the door and the like. But on Longfellow's computer keyboard, and safe. From talking to the secretary, he had only just gotten the computer several days ago. As the old one had finally died. There was no other way that Davis’s prints could get on the new keyboards unless he’d been the last one to use it. There had been attempted to wipe the keyboard clean of prints, but it had failed. The ballistics had said it was a .357 Mag they dug out of the wall behind his head. And there was just enough to match to a gun. I had him dead to right, but I wanted him to say it. I didn’t tell him all this. Not yet.
I sat waiting.
“Tell me what happened. You argued, and he said or did something and you shot him.” I prompted. I deliberately didn’t say anything about the keyboard.
In the dim light from the bar, I could barely make out his face. Just enough to tell me he was worried. I never said where we found him, or what exactly he’d been shot with, just that it was big, which could be any of several calibers. I waited. A waitress brought him a drink. I asked for a scotch. A minute later it appeared. I played with the glass. Barely took a sip. It was good. But that was to be expected. Davis’s place always served the good stuff. No cheap booze here. I noticed he didn’t touch his drink.
“I didn’t kill him,” he said flatly.
“Oh, Explain.” I didn’t believe him. But stranger things have happened before.
“Yes, I didn't like him. Yes, we’d had a falling out. But I didn’t kill him.
I told you I haven’t been near him in months. He stays on his side of town, and I stay on my side. It's better that way.” I knew all that.
“I have enough evidence to to arrest you for the murder of Longfellow.”
“In fact, I am now arresting you for his murder,” I said getting up. As I expected, He got up quickly. Suddenly my gun appeared in my hand. I fired twice. Both shots hit him center mass. At that range, I couldn’t miss. David Davis dropped dead, in the middle of his own nightclub.
It was now going to be easy to pin Longfellow's murder on him. I had just enough circumstantial evidence to convict him. And now he was dead, the case was closed.
I did it. For a minute there, I wasn’t sure he was going to do what I wanted. But he did. In the dark nightclub. It looked like he was going for his gun. So I acted in defense. And shot a murder suspect.
I got away with two murders. I killed Longfellow, left just enough clues and evidence to point to Davis, but nothing too obvious. Then in trying to arrest the suspect, I had to kill him too. Case Closed.
And I retired a year later. The 10 million dollars I got from Longfellow's safe should give me a very nice retirement. The bonus is that I also married Davis’s widow, and we moved somewhere warm and sunny, and no extradition treaty.
Every town has one. The abandoned mansion the town has taken over for back taxes.
For the price of one single dollar they sold it back to him. The old house and grounds had seen better days. The lawn hadn't been mowed in a couple of years. Grass was waist high, and weeds were as abundant as grass. The house itself was a shadow of its former self. The roof had long since began to leak. Shingles were either missing or loose on most of the roof. In many places one could see the original roof boards under what's left of the old shingles.
The clapboards were worn down to bare wood in most places though the house traces of white paint were left only in places where weather couldn't get to . Most of the windows were either broken, or gone completely. The front porch was missing large sections of rail, and had many places where the floor was falling into the crawlspace under it. The ravages of time and teenagers had taken it toll on the porch and first floor.
It was home, or at least it used to be. The origins of the old estate were the stuff of legend. His grandfather had been an original settler of the small rural Texas town. Over the years there had been many years of boom and then years of bust. Such is the natural cycle of a town. The last few decades have been extremely hard on the small town. It had once been a bustling center for the county. The local hub for the major railways were located there. Thus bringing in goods and people from all over the area. Downtown once had several large hotels, that were filled most of the time. The bars and restaurants, and general stores, all were hopping with business. The outskirts of town became a sort of a suburb.The houses ranged from simple wood cottages, and some brick, to large estates, with rolling lawns. Estates which had a staff of people employed to keep it running.
Such was his old mansion. What had once been a landmark of the area, was now a busted down old farmhouse. He knew the history. Hell, he’d lived most of it. He walked around the old house. Memories came back as he rounded the corner. The path around the house was barely visible through the weeds. He almost didn’t need the path to remind him where to go. The back of the house opened up to a grand lawn. Or at least it used to. He remembered playing in the yard as a kid. The outbuildings were falling apart as was everything else on the property.
Once upon a time grand parties were held in this yard. Deals were made here, hearts were broken and mended here. The rich and powerful from at least three local counties would meet and mingle. The swimming pool had seen more pranks and hi-jinks than a school pool could ever. The pool house was the scene of several marriage proposals. The weddings held here were grand. But that was in the past.
He slowly found his way to the old pool house. The french doors broken, pulled open and left open to the elements. Inside the pool house was a old table and chairs. The chaise lounge that had once sat on the porch in front of the pool house was now in the back corner, covered in the remains of the table cloths from the poolside tables. he lifted the old tablecloth. For a moment he was 20 again.
Back on the veranda by the pool. Debbie was young and pretty. His mind came back to the moment he asked her to marry him. She said yes. From that moment, his mind played the next few years . It came back to him. It had been over 50 years since her father disappeared. There had never been any answers as to what happened to her father. It had tore him up inside. Knowing where her father was. He could never tell anyone what had happened. The fight came back in vivid detail. How he had meet him behind the pool house right after they had been married. Her father had demanded that he have the marriage annulled. Or divorce his daughter. He had steadfastly refused. The old man had pulled a gun on him. In A desperate move he lunged him. The gun went off. It was dark that night neither could clearly see what they were doing. But the recoil of the gun going off shook him up. The next instant, He was looking down at his father-in-law.
No one had heard anything. A they were all in the house celebrating the wedding. He knew he had to do something quick. He hid the body. The old man was known to have too much to drink, and wander off and fall asleep. and wake up hours later. He had counted on this. So as quietly as he could he rejoined his new wife in the house. He made passable excuses about where he’d been. The next morning her father could not be found. The remains of the party goers spent some time looking for him. They never found him on the grounds. Police were called in. They never found him. It became a local mystery. A mystery only he knew the truth of.
Going around behind the pool house he plowed through the weeds. There buried behind what had once been the back garden, was his father-in-law.
Seeing that the land was undisturbed. and had not been touched for decades.
He slowly turned around. He made his way back to his car. Once inside his car, he cried. Turning the car around he drove back down the long driveway.
“Is he still there?”
“Yes Debbie, the old man is where we left him.”
He lost control. Only for a moment. But it was long enough. The damage was done. He stood looking at the paper weight in his hand. Then to her. Laying on the floor. While his momentary loss of control was not intended, or good. His mind quickly took over. Thinking; This is his house. His prints would be everywhere . He looked at his watch. 3:15. He had to move fast. He smeared the prints on the paper weight, making it impossible to get clear prints from it. Heading to the back door. He broke the glass from the outside. Also smearing any prints on the door and frame.
3:20. Time to get out of there, and establish a solid story of where he was. Out the little used side door not worrying about prints. He headed to the garage. There, he got into his car, went out the back driveway.
3:30 Arriving at the restaurant to meet friends for an early supper. Entering and making sure he found his friends. They sat and talked for about ten minutes. Coffee was served, food ordered.
“You know Roberta was supposed to meet us here at 3:30. You know she is never late for anything, I’m getting worried, I’ll call her.”
With that he reached for his cell phone. First he tried the house number. He let it ring until the answering machine kicked in. “Roberta, I’m up at Ceaser’s with Becky and Jim, we’re ordering now. Let me know where you are. Bye Hon.” He hung up. A few minutes he made a point of trying her cell phone, Not getting an answer he left another message..
When 4;00 rolled around he tried her cell phone again. Not getting an answer he left another message. This time they were all worried. Becky suggested they call the police . He reluctantly agreed as being a half hour or more late for anything was out of character for her,
So he called the police and reported her as missing. They said they’d send a car out to his place to make sure nothing was wrong at the house, He said he’d meet them there.
5:00 He arrived at his house. There were half a dozen police cars parked all over the street. Along with a ambulance. He got out and ran to the house panicked ” What was wrong? Why all the police cars, and ambulance? “
Enter Lt. Columbo
Lt Columbo sat watching for a few minutes from his old Peugeot.
Finally he got up and wandered over to him.
“Mr. Krammer. ?”
“I’m Lt Columbo. “
“ Oh, Yeah, Can I help You?”
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, sir, But its your wife, “
:What's wrong, has something happened to her?”
“I’m afraid so sir, You see, when the officer arrived he found her in the office, She’s dead sir”
Columbo waited and watched his reaction . He was aware of how he looked. The mussed hair Rumpled suit, and the raincoat that was far from new, He played with his cigar watching the reaction to the news of his wife's death. He waited for the next question,
“How? What happened?”
“Sir it appears to be a burglary gone wrong. The back door was forced open, She is int office. Apparently she surprised the intruder, and he killed he with what was at hand. I’ll have a officer stay with you for a while until you calm down. “
“Lt, Columbo, in here please.”
“Excuse me, I have to go”
He left the man standing in the driveway. From just inside the door he watched him for a couple minutes, In the office he surveyed the scene.
The victim lay on the floor The rest of the office seemed to be undisturbed except for the desk, which was messed up papers spread all over it, and the keyboard pushed off to one side, and the mouse almost of the edge of the desk.
The back door was examined. The smeared prints noted and examined. One of the other detectives called Columbo to the side door, out of the laundry room. The room was neat with a top of the line set of washer and dryer. What interested them was the door. At first it appeared to not have been used in a long time. Upon closer inspection, it seemed there was a lack of dust on the doorknob itself. Columbo had them dust the doorknob and door and frame for prints and look for more disturbed dust. Which they found. They made sure to photograph and document everything they found. Outside they found a footprint in the dirt along the edge of the path to the garage. Columbo had the make a cast of it.
Returning to the front of the house he watched Mr. Kramer for a minute. Then approached him.
“Ah Mr. Kramer , a word if I may.. Say those are nice shoes,” He lied. in truth he thought they were the ugliest things he’d ever seen.
“Thank you, I had them custom made,”
“May I, he asked, and bent to look at them closer. He looked at them, noticing the pattern on the sole of the shoe. Also the trace of mud in the edges of the pattern. "Thank you, I'll be sure to tell my nephew about them." He turned to the cars, s and started down the driveway.
"One more thing, that car of yours is beautiful."
"Thanks, its a Mercedes,
" It's a beautiful car, may I?"
Columbo walked up to the car admiring it. This time he meant it. Leaning in the driver's window, he noted the mileage,. Turning back to Mr. Kramer, he pulled out his phone, "May, I take some pictures of the car? For my nephew, he's a real car nut, he'll love seeing this car"
“Yeah, take all the damn pictures you want. What are you doing to find out who killed my wife? "
"We're working on it now,sir.”
Mr. Kramer stormed off in a huff
Columbo stood looking at him, Thinking.
An hour later, Columbo was in the office with the detectives, looking over the pictures and evidence from the scene.
“He did it. I know it.”
“How Lieutenant ?”
“I’m not sure, But it's too neat, no usable prints on the back door, or paper weight,, No extra prints in the house . Clear prints on the side door. Way too much dust dust on the door and knob, obviously hadn’t been used in a long time. Suddenly , there a nice new set of prints,why suddenly use a door you hadn’t used in ages? “ Columbo paused. Thinking.
“Okay, here what you do, Go to his office talk to everyone who was there this morning. Find out everything. where he was, who he saw, talk to everyone, find out what they were doing, also get a background on both him and his wife. Find out who saw him last and when and where.
Later he got a call from the detective, he needed to talk to one of the assistants.
“Lt Columbo, sir, a Pleasure to meet you How can I help you sir?”
“Ah, They tell me you are the personal assistant for Mr. Kramer.
What exactly did you do this morning?”
“Mr Kramer arrived just before nine. He had me take the Mercedes to the dealer for its routine service, You know tune up, oil change, and it needed new tires.”
“I see, so you had the car most of the morning?”
“Yes, from nine to almost noon, when I brought it back and parked it back in his space, and returned the keys, and gave him the bill, “
“Okay, can you give me the address of the dealer,?”
The assistant handed him a copy of the bill.
Columbo, looked it over, Interesting, Noting the mileage was noted from the oil change. “Thank you, You’ve helped a lot. Can I keep this?”
“Yes, its a extra copy I med for the records.”
“Thank you, I appreciate it.,
“Oh and one more thing, when was the last time you saw Mr. Kramer today?”
”Two o’clock I think,
“Let me think, about it for a minute, I know he had to leave for the dinner appointment with his friends. Roberta was supposed to meet them there.”
“Ok, that helps a lot. Thank You. “
Lt Columbo had an idea, “Get me a map of the city, where the office is, the dealer, and his house is. We have the mileage the dealer had when they did the oil change, and I have the mileage that's on it now, Question, What's the miles between the dealer, and his office, and the restaurant and back to his house? That should be what's on the car now, The next morning was spent driving from the dealer to the office, then to the restaurant. They then knew what the mileage should be. His car has too many miles. Columbo sat thinking how come his car has too many miles? He drove it more then he said.
“Ok, whats the distance from the office to the house? Then from the house to the restaurant? and back to the house? Some some driving answered the questions,
Columbo figured it out, the miles added up if you did the right trips in order.
“He was at the house before three pm, How do we prove he was there?” he asked the other detectives,
“Ron, How you doing with the backgrounds?”
“Got everything Lt. Right down to his email accounts, even have a list of emails he sent yesterday, “
“Let me see them, hmm”
“See here at the top, hers the time and date it was sent,”
“Whoa, He sent three at 3:05 yesterday afternoon. “
“But we have to prove they came from his computer,”
“Is that possible?”
“Yes, all computer have their own address, like a phone number, its called a ip address,”
“Can you find his, whats its called? “ Columbo asked Ron
“Yes, give me a little time,”
The next day Columbo and some other officers returned to Mr. Kramer's house. Columbo asked the officers to wait out out side.
Mr. Kramer was in the office when he arrived.
“Hello Columbo, More questions?”
“No more questions, Just facts.
Please bear with me a few minutes, I have some things to show you.”
“Sir, we know she was killed between 2:30 and 3:30 pm the day before yesterday. The question is who did it? Answer, You did it. You hit her over the head with the paperweight from the desk.” He paused for effect, to let it sink in,
“You don’t have a alibi for 2-3:30 pm that day, No one at your office saw you after 2pm. Then you show up at the restaurant exactly at 3:30.
Where did you go for a hour and a half?
I’ll tell you. By 3pm you were here in this office. Sending emails. Weather your wife was here all along or not we don’t know, but sometime between 3 and 3:30 you killed her. and managed to get to the restaurant on time.”
“So I sent some emails at 3o’clock?, Big deal, it a web based email service, I could have sent them from any place I was at, and logged in at.
“I don't know much about this stuff, technology and all, I barely even use myself, But we have some real smart guys here on the force , who know everything there is to know about it. They say you can tell exactly what computer a email came from, by something they called a ip address. They tell me, every computer has one, So they took theses emails,” indicating the papers in front of him, “and traced the ip address they came from. It came from right here. This computer,” Columbo pointed to the keyboard on the desk. “At exactly 3:05 the day your wife died, You were here,”
“Thats doesn't prove anything. So what? I was here working before I went to the restaurant.”
“That in itself maybe not, but, there are other things, little things. The fingerprints bothered us. All the smeared prints, on the paperweight, and back door, And nice clear prints on the side door. A door that hadn't been used in monts, suddenly shows up with nice clean prints, . Too convenient. You figured we wouldn’t pay any attention to them, because its your house, And we probably wouldn’t have, except for the dust and dirt on a door that hadn’t been used in months, and a footprint, in the dirt just outside the door.” With that he produced the picture of the footprint that matched the shoes he was wearing.
“When I looked at your shoes the other day, I noticed the dirt in the edges of the treads, the same pattern as in this picture of the fresh footprint we found by the back door. Your shoe made the print, so you went out the side door, after killing her, and smearing the prints, and went into the garage, got the car, and left by the back driveway,”
Columbo pulled another picture of of his case, of a tire track, from the back driveway.
“This tire track exactly mates the treads on your new tires, So you went on the back driveway.
Which brings me to one more point. The miles on your car that day.”
Still another picture this time of the one he took with his phone, of the inside of his car. Clearly showing the odometer, reading. Along with the receipt from the dealer for the work done that morning.
Now here what bothered me for quite a while why did you you have so many miles on the car from just getting it from the dealer? Especially when I saw what the dealer had put down when they did the oil change. So we spent some time driving yesterday. Here let me show you.”
Now he had the other detective bring in the blowup of the map the used to figure out the miles.
“heres a map, See here your house, the dealer, your office and the resturant?”
“Yes, what this got to do with the miles on my car.?”
exactly this, Sir; We figured out the miles from the dealer the office, and then what the distance from the office to the restaurant, then to the house should be. This is what your Odometer should have said when I looked at it that day, Instead it says this, “ Indicating the picture he took,
“Way too many miles. So then the question becomes where did you get all those extra miles from? We now know you were at home, sir, so that account for some, and you still had to drive to the restaurant, to establish your abili, when she turned up missing. That accounts for the rest of the miles. Your assistant drove the car to the office you drove it home, sent emails, killed your wife, cleaned up after it, and drove to the restaurant, then back here after you called the police. Thats how your car got the extra miles on it. And we found out why you killed her, It appears you're having an affair with one of the interns,, I suspect your wife found out about it, Which would bad enough but she was also having a affair with her too. Its all in the emails from both your accounts.”
“Take him away gentleman,”
Columbo sat at the table collecting his pictures, and whistling
“This Old Man”
The time had come. Time to face facts. He was in deep trouble, There she sat across the room looking at him. If looks could kill, he'd been dead long ago. The gun in her hand could definitely kill. The the chances of her actually using it increased every minute.
Of theses facts he was painfully aware. The question then became how to get out of this mess, preferably without her shooting him. His mind raced though various endings, that could ensue, if he didn't have the right answers to her questions. None of them were good.
His hands bound behind him begun to ache, and his arms had long since started throbbing from lack of movement and being twisted around the wrong way for a extended period of time, All of this and more added to his discomfort. But then again they were designed to make him as unhappy as possible. In that respect they were working. Although , truth be told; her holding the gun was enough to make him very unhappy. That fact that it was his gun made it even worst. All of this aside. The problem is how to deal with the situation. Without getting shot with his own gun.
Several hours ago he had made contact with her to find a programmer r for a number of high end computer chips that had been recently liberated from their manufacturing plant, before they could be installed in the latest consumer electronics. On the black market to the right people they were worth probably twice their wholesale value. as theses chips could be easily programmed to contain male-ware that would be undetectable and easily started simply by the end consumer logging on to a network. and there was no way to detect it as it was built into the firmware and running along side the programs that are supposed to be there.
He had been posing as the thief of the chips. Trying to make a deal with her, to have her program the chips so he could get them back where they belong before they were missed. so his operation could use the embedded program to steal information and eventually millions of dollars. The deal was she would get a cut of the proceeds when they were activated over the next few months, he had half a million dollars for her as up front earnest money, for her as a good faith deposit to help seal the deal.
All was going well. Until one of her associates recognized him. From there the night just went downhill very quickly. The fact he had a gun, wasn't as much of a problem as fortunately he'd left his badge and gun permit at home. Carrying a gun in his line of "work" was to be expected. Being fingered as a cop, was not. He decided the safest way was to admit to being a cop. A cop who had more then enough with criminals getting a way with murder and making millions on the side. He wanted a piece of the action,
So he told her a tale of of how he'd been assigned to guard a shipment of computer chips, In doing his research on the project, he found out about their ability to be programmed at their basic level. He found a couple of other guys to help steal them in transit and get them back before they were missed, once they were programmed. Only he he needed her skills to do the programming, for a cut. and the profits would be be shared among involved with the stealing of the chips.
At first she didn't believe him. However, after seeing the wreak he was driving, and hearing how he'd seen a large number of slippery criminals go free, and not finding his badge or a wire on him, she softened up a bit.
"Ok, cut him lose." She finally barked.
A big guy came back to him, pulled out a thin bladed knife and cut the ropes that held him free. . He thanked her, as he started trying to move his arms and get his hands to work again.
"Lets get this straight; You even think about trying to cross me, and I'll feed you those chip to choke on, while I cut you from end to end. Slowly" She said as they lead him out to the truck. She kept his gun, They backed the truck into a warehouse. Inside there was a closed in room. It had double doors, and walls were sealed. Her men started unloading the boxes of chips. Each box was carried inside the room, The boxes were carefully opened and the chip removed by more people wearing white uniforms, . It was a clean room in the middle of a dirty warehouse. For the next several hours the boxes of chips were removed, put in special machines programmed with the male-ware and carefully replaced back in their original packaging, and resealed with original factory seals, Eventually all the chips had been through the whole process, and were returned to the truck. repacked exactly as they were when they arrived. It had been quite a impressive operation, She watched the entire operation from a office in the clean room, with him. all the time his gun while not directly pointed at him, was with her.
Eventually he became Optimistic that he might actually get out of this alive, and may even pull off the scheme.
Once the truck was reloaded and ready to go, she had another surprise for him,
"I think I'll go with you to make sure they get delivered safely and there are no problems"
"Fine, hop aboard" he said, As they got into his car to follow the truck.
A couple of hours later they arrived at the warehouse where they were supposed to be delivered,
While the truck pulled around to unload the chips, several men came out of the shadows.
They surrounded the car,
"Ma'm your under arrest. " One of the men handed him his badge, and he pulled out a second gun, he'd hidden in the car.
The music could be heard playing in the background. Between the distance and the closed windows, it was hard to make out. . A few recognizable strains did finely make it across the street. If one listened close it could almost make them out. He hurried towards the music. Around to the back. There there a door. Checking it he found it to be locked. No problem. A little Sleight of Hand , and a couple of clicks latter, it opened quietly. He quickly slid in and gently closed the door. Pulling out his small but powerful flashlight, he found his way around the room. The music could be hear clearly now, Sinatra, played as people danced in the next room. Quickly he found what he was looking for. There hidden in the corner of the built-in bookshelves was the object of his quest. As he was about to put it in his bag and prepare to leave undetected, he heard the door latch on the inside door start to turn. Thinking quickly he ducked under the big old oak desk that stood in the center of the room. There was really no where else to go.
"I know I have that album here somewhere. Let me see if I can find it. You wanted to hear the rare 78 recording of "This Love of Mine" With Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra. This the first song Frank ever got credit for composing." The two men turned and headed for the door, turning out the lights as they left. He quickly crawled up from under the big oak desk. Taking his light he looked around some more. The shelves went from about waist high up the the ceiling and were custom built to hold records. A lot of them. He noticed they had labels on each of the shelves, and to one side there was a master list , telling what was in each section of shelves. Looking over the list he found many early 78's and even some piano rolls , then moving to the traditional speed records he found a wide variety of genres from folk, blues, jazz, and opera, and everything in between, The list of artist amazed him. Suddenly it dawned on him, the longer he stayed, the greater the risk of his getting caught. Reluctantly, he he made sure he had what he came for, and prepared to slip out the door.
Just as he was about to open the door, the lights went on. The two men from earlier stood at the other door. One was holding a gun. "I just wanted to make sure you're stealing the right record" He said with a grin. He came arose the room, hand out for the bag he had with the prize had worked so hard for. Reluctantly. he handed the bag over to the owner of the gun. Inside were several very rare and valuable records, that and collector would love to have in their collection. He took them out, looked them over . “Good Choices” he commented, as he handed the bag back to the thief.
The thief, quickly turned and walked to the far wall. where a original Frank Sinatra Gold Record plaque hung. It was Capital Records For his album Nice ’N’ Easy, 1960 , He took it down from the wall and walked out so quick they didn't have time to react, they just stood stunned.
The next day they got a note saying they had failed their security test. Being the Sinatra Gold Record wasn't legally his, he couldn't report it stolen, there wasn't anything they could do.
Several months later they got and post card saying "S" had been return to its rightful home.