No one ever looks up (Part 1)

17. january 2012 at 14:53 | Thalia Contostavlos
One tiny teeny little story. No pairing, focused strictly on the case.
Warnings: None
Disclaimer: SURPRISE! I don't own anything (:


.........."Archie, make it stop!" bellowed Wolfe.
.........I shrugged my shoulders in a helpless gesture and looked at Miss Clarkson who was currently sitting in our red leather chair trying not to choke on her tears. "I can't. Not without spilling a glass of water all over her face."
.........Wolfe shot me a glare but didn't say anything for another eight minutes - that was until Miss Clarkson calmed herself down.
........."I am so very sorry for that Mr. Wolfe," she started with her impeccable British accent, "I don't want to look as a hysterical woman, but the death of my employer really struck me very hard. He was so kind and generous, you know? Anybody would want an employer like Mr. Sonomar was, I am sure."
.........Wolfe nodded. "Of course, Miss Clarkson, I've already told you that I accept your case. Can you please tell me, when did this murder occur?"
.........She looked up. "Oh, didn't I tell you? I am so sorry. It happened just a few hours ago."
.........Wolfe looked truly surprised. "A few hours ago? Are you sure?"
.........She nodded.
.........Wolfe looked at me. "Very well, then the crime scene would be still almost untouched. Archie, go and see for yourself, I want you to bring any information you could. Meanwhile, I'll ask Miss Clarkson here a few more questions, but I think that from what she's told us, we already know who did it."
.........I stood up, grabbed my notebook and colt and went to the front door. "Sure, I'll see what I can do about it."
.........Ten minutes after, I found myself mounting the steps to the Sonomar's mansion. It was an enormous red brick house with at least three floors and an attic. Inspector Cramer of the Manhattan Homicide has met me in the foyer.
........."Goodwin, it's nice to see you. For real, this time."
.........I grinned at him. "What's the problem, inspector?"
........."Come and see for yourself," said Cramer as he motioned to our right. "It just looks queer to me, Goodwin."
.........I looked around. The dining room seemed to be out of order and surprisingly it had nothing to do with the dead man lying on the floor. On the contrary, he was the only thing that seemed to be right and authentic. The whole room looked as if someone's taken it out from a movie. I walked around and made it my business to remember all those little details I am used to take notice of. I figured that despite all the commotion, the officers didn't have much to do. It wasn't as if the murderer left his visiting card beside the body.
.........I turned to Inspector Cramer. "Well, I guess I'm not going to be very useful in here. At least, not right now."
........."Yes, but I can't see how anyone can be of any use in this case."
.........I smiled sympathetically at him. "May I ask you some questions about it? Mr. Wolfe wants to know anything I can possibly dig out."
.........He nodded. "Sure, let's go to the living room - it's just across the hall," he looked at the officer surrounding the place, "and it's quiet."
.........I went after him. "When did he die?"
........."No idea. The doctor who examined his body said that he was dead for at least two hours when he was supposedly found. But it could've been a lot longer before or after. It doesn't tell us anything as far as I'm concerned. The pathologist may be able to say a more accurate time of death, but I doubt it's going to be any help."
........."And it was Mrs. Sonomar who'd found him, right?"
........."Yes, she said she'd called us right after she'd found him."
........."Of course she does. And I'm sure she has an alibi to prove it."
........."Yes, some receipts."
.........I wanted to remark something, but stopped a few paces into the living room. It was immaculate. Not a single smudged fingerprint marred any of the gleaming brass doorknobs that adorned the great room's three stained oak doors. Nor was one present on the crystalline surface of the large rectangular glass table that refracted light from the big bay window, casting a thousand little rainbows all around the room. Not one smudge could be found on the white stucco walls, not a single fiber of the lush blue carpeting was out of place. No mark or stain of any kind could be found on the designer furniture ensemble that so brilliantly matched that beautiful carpet. For all intents and purposes, the room was flawless.
........."Goodwin? What's wrong?"
.........I shook my head. "I don't know. This room looks even fishier than the other one. It's not only clean, it's sterile."
.........Cramer nodded. "Yes, it makes a man wonder - whatever for?"
.........I went around looking at the furniture, inspecting the carpet, but it was no use. The only sign that something was amiss was a tiny detail, something that even a veteran investigator would overlook.
........."Do you see it?" I asked.
.........Cramer squinted, as if to see more clearly by minimizing the amount of distracting light reaching his pupils. He turned his head from left to right, taking in the whole width and breadth of the room again. After a while, he gave up with a shrug.
.........I pointed up, towards the high vaulted ceiling, where a gigantic upside-down tree made of brass, crystal, and tiny electric lights dangled ten feet over the center of the room. "Do you see it?" I repeated.
.........He shook his head.
........."There's dust."
.........Cramer hesitated, his expression showed his growing confusion. "I don't follow. So there's dust. So what?" he said.
........."The other rooms in this house that I've been able to see are very clean, but there're signs that people live here. This room, however, is positively spotless."
........."Ok, but the body is in the dining room. What does it matter that this room is so well kept?"
........."You said yourself that the room seemed rather queer to you. That's because it was set up. Your victim was killed in this room."
........."How can you possibly figure that?"
........."Maybe Mr. and Mrs. Sonomar wanted this room ultra-tidy, for whatever reason. I've known people who go so far as to cordon off their living rooms, keeping them pristine to impress guests with. But I doubt it. If that were the case, you can bet the chandelier would be just as sparkling-fresh as the rest of the room. People that are compulsively vain wouldn't overlook a detail like this."
.........Cramer shook his head, but didn't comment. I continued: "The crime scene in the dining room is staged. And the murderer did a bang-up job of it. No one would have ever known any different, if it weren't for the one little detail here. But when people are rushed, they miss things that they ordinarily wouldn't. They make mistakes."
.........I walked over to the table and pulled it sideways. The indentations in the carpet from the table's feet sprang up almost immediately.
........."That table hasn't been sitting there long," said Cramer.
........."Indeed. And why would they have this room redone, all of a sudden, and in so much of a hurry that they forgot about the chandelier?"
.........Cramer nodded. "Maybe we should call the boys from the dining room in here."
......... "It probably wouldn't do any good. The carpet, furniture, everything's new. You'll find nothing."
........."But how can I prove that the murder happened in here then? Or figure out what actually happened?"
.........I grinned at him. "You've learned nothing, my dear Watson. You're forgetting something very important."
.........He rolled his eyes. "What's that?"
........."Nobody ever thinks to look up."
.........I watched Cramer tilt his head all the way back and stare at the chandelier. It didn't even take five seconds for him to spot it. There was a tiny black spot, right in the middle of the central hub. It wasn't out of place; it didn't disrupt the symmetry of the design at all. But it was something that shouldn't be there. There was no reason for there to be a black spot in that particular position. He pulled a small flashlight from his belt and shined it directly on the spot.
........."A bug?" he said, "Are you kidding me?"
.........I grinned at him. "No. I noticed it a few minutes ago."
........."Why didn't you say so?"
.........I shrugged. "
You've got to find the clues first. If you start looking for shortcuts, you'll get lazy. And," I said as I headed for the door, "It was much more fun this way."
.........Cramer frowned. "I swear, Goodwin, one day. One day."
.........I smiled. "We already know that somebody who lives here has a murder to hide. It's pretty much obvious that this somebody is the lady of the house. You agree so far?"
.........He nodded. "The only other resident is the maid, and she doesn't have the resources."
........."Right. So, we focus on the wife. If this were pre-meditated, you can bet she would have done a better job. Something off-premises, to say the least."
.........He nodded again and I could see the wheels turning so I kept quiet.
.........After a few seconds, he started: "Mr. and Mrs. Sonomar had a fight, the kind that ends up with somebody getting dead. There was a reason behind that - something which the wife wanted hidden. Something that would make one of them angry enough to kill."
.........I smiled in agreement. "It's an assumption, but a probable one. You can also be fairly sure that it wasn't her that started the confrontation; otherwise, it probably would have been planned out, and we would be looking at a body somewhere else right now."
........."Mr. Sonomar has found out about something and confronted his wife," he said still deep in thought.
.........We went back to the dining room. I stepped around a man who knelt over a crack in the hardwood floor with a pair of tweezers and headed right to where the corpse lay prone on the floor. Mr. Sonomar was on his back, a tiny hole in his starched white shirt marking the precise location from which the coagulated puddle of crimson that had stained his clothing on its way to the floor had originated. His tie was flung back over his shoulder, the tops of his polished black leather shoes were flecked with spots of scarlet and dust.
.........My thoughts were interrupted by Sergeant Stebbins who's appeared right next to Cramer and spoke: "Hi Goodwin, what's the matter?"
.........I blew him a kiss. "Oh, nothing. Someone said there was a murder somewhere in here."
.........Cramer waved at the body. "And here it is," then he becomes all serious again, "He catches her with another man, flies into a rage. Maybe he wasn't going to hurt her, but we'll never know what he meant to do. She pops him, probably with his own gun, and has the mess cleaned up. Make it look like somebody broke in - no sign of forced entry, because the locks in New York are always easy to pick - was surprised by Mr. Sonomar here, shot him, and took off."
........."Wait... she's having an affair?" Purley asked just as I went to kneel beside the body.
........."Know anything else rich folks kill their spouses over?" I said over my shoulder. "She moves the body, cleans up the scene, shoots out the window to make it look like the bullet is off in the woods somewhere. The old carpet and furniture disappear - along with Sonomar's gun."
.........Purley huffed. "You talk like if you've been here when it happened."
.........I grin at him and stand up. "Maybe I was."
........."What else, Goodwin?" asked Cramer impatiently.
........."Well, I think I've just found out where the recorder is."
.........Cramer lifted his eyebrows. "Oh and how, may I ask? You don't suppose that-" he stopped as his gaze locked on Mr. Sonomar. "Good god, it's in the attic, isn't it?"
.........I nodded, but felt I have to explain it to the officers around us, including Stebbins.
........."We saw a bug in the living room - which is by the way the real crime scene - and for Mrs. Sonomar hasn't removed it, I assume that she doesn't know about it. That means that it was planted there by Mr. Sonomar and therefore it has presumably recorded the murder. Now we had to find the recorder. It has to be somewhere, where even the maid hasn't noticed it. The clue for its whereabouts was given to us by Mr. Sonomar himself. Look at his shoes, there's dust on them. And where could he get dust on the bottoms of his shoes?"
........."Somewhere they don't clean regularly," the Inspector ventured.
........."The attic," Stebbins said.
........."Exactly. Lead the way, Inspector."
.........I followed Cramer up two flights of stairs, until we came to the landing at the top. Above our heads, a hatch covered the entrance to the attic.
........."Inspector, have you ever wondered how people always seem to get old beds, couches, and big, heavy trunks full of grandma's clothes up into the attic, all through tiny little openings like that?"
........."No, I never thought about it. How do they?"
........."Damned if I know, but I've always wondered."
.........I looked around for something to stand on. With nothing handy, I asked Cramer to support me. He protested, but helped me up. I grabbed the hatch's handle, then jumped down, pulling the hatch cover with me. When I let go, it swung back and forth, free on its hinges. There was no ladder.
.........Cramer went to the nearest door and opened it. He went in, and I heard him grunt, then the sound of something heavy scraping across a carpet. A few seconds later, he emerged, dragging a wooden dresser along with him. He placed it under the opening, and I climbed up. On top of the dresser, I could just reach the edges of the attic floor through the hatch. I grabbed the sides of the opening, and pulled myself up.
........."Hope you're in good shape!" I called back down. He was.
.........The attic was huge, spanning the length of the entire manor. Dirty windows at each end let in enough dusky light to see, and little slivers of sunshine created visible beams in the dusty air and pooled here and there along the old planks that made up the floor.
.........Stacked along the twin columns of wooden beams that supported the immense weight of the structure, there were rows and rows of boxes, stretching from one end to the other, with only a narrow aisle left clear in the center. On the near end, there was a stack of paintings. A little farther down, towers of books threatened to topple at the slightest disturbance. Toward the far side, garment bags were hung from a rod that had been inserted between two thick supports. None of it looked like it had been touched in years.
.........I started moving along the edge, looking at the ancient beams and gables. Before Cramer could catch up to me, I reached out and grabbed a wire that ran upward on the side of a beam. I traced it with my finger until it was out of reach, then followed it back down to where it vanished into the floor.
.........Cramer kneeled next to me and pulled out a knife from his pocket.
.........I grinned at him. "Always ready, are we?"
.........He shot me a glare and started prying at the boards that came near the beam. I thought about saying something about destruction of property, but decided against it. Cramer had a knife in his hand after all.
.........The Inspector worked his way around the beam, prying up planks, until he was on the side toward the hatch. There, he found a loose one. In short order, he had the board up. Underneath, in a hollow in the fluffy insulation, was a black rectangle with a green button next to where the wire was plugged into it.
........."Fine, we've got the recorder. I hope that you'll let me listen to the tape, since I helped you find it."
.........Cramer laughed. "Sure. You want to come along to the interrogation?"
........."You bet."
 

New comment

Log in
  Don't you have your own web yet? Create it for free on Blog.cz.