A Murder in the Kitchen 4

7. may 2014 at 19:38 | Thalia Contostavlos
Disclaimer: I don't own any recognizable characters
Warnings: none

……After lunch, when Wolfe sat down behind his desk to enjoy his fifth beer of the day and Saul went home to water his plants and bring back a change of clothes, I was sent to talk to Mr. Henry Boots and see if he fancied a visit to our brownstone. I flagged a cab on Ninth Avenue and told the cabbie to go straight to East 26th Street.
……I rang the doorbell and had to wait for at least fourty sconds before the door was opened by an elderly-looking maid with reddened eyes and a sad smile.
……I spoke respectfully: "Good afternoon, my name is Archie Goodwin and I would like to speak to Mr. Boots."
……She nodded her head and invited me in, already eaching her arms out to take my coat. I smiled at her but declined her assistance, thinking she could use a bit of help. Looking back, I probably shouldn't have done that as she couldn't bear the kindness and started sniffling. I knew that if I dodn't want her to bawl her eyes out, I had to do something, so I did a complete turnabout.
……"You know what? You take care of the coat, that's what you're here for after all."
She stared at me, looking deeply offended. "You are a very rude young man."
……I nodded. "Yes, but you're not crying, so I am a very pleased rude young man."
……She didn't get it at first but after finally hanging my coat, she figured it out. "I would have started crying had you not shocked me by being so rude," she said with a smile.
……I returned her smile and decided that since she was back on my side now, I could pump her for a bit of information on her mistress. I started off with a carefully modulated voice so that I sounded as pleasant and charming as possible: "Are you the maid that dropped a vase outside Mrs. Boots' room the other day?"
……This time she didn't even need a minute to gather her wits and replied right away: "No, that was Miranda, Miranda Davenheim, a very attentive young girl but a bit of a klutz."
……I smiled at that. "Ah, and your name is?"
……"Julia Brewster, I've been with Mr. Boots for fifteen years now."
……"You like working here then?"
……She nodded, apparently pleased that someone was interested in what she thought. "He's a bit difficult to get along with when you don't know him, I admit, but he's a kind person at heart and he really loved his wife."
……Her smile fell for a second before it professionally restored itself upon her face. "Yes, her too. I meant his first wife though, Eileen. A quirky little woman but Mr. Boots adored her. If you want my opinion, he never really got over her death and that's why he remarried so soon after, he needed someone to help him get through it."
……I nodded sympathetically. "And how is he holding up now? You think he'd be able to see me?"
……She smiled at me sweetly. "Come through here, Mr. Goodwin, and sit down in the living room."
……We went through a narrow hallway, passed three oak doors, turned left and ended up in a large room with blood red walls adorned by all sorts of abstract paintings and cream white furniture that didn't have one spot dirty. Miss Brewster pointed me towards a sofa that had its back to a heavy-looking double door and left the room the same way we came in, presumably to inform Mr. Boots of my visit. It struck me as a bit suspicious that she directed me towards a specific seat, for I always did the exact same thing when I needed to maneuver our guests around the office so that their seating order would somehow benefit Wolfe and I, such as sitting a potential murderer where I could easily reach him. As soon as she left my sight, I therefore sat down in a leather armchair that faced the double door and waited for Mr. Boots to make an appearance.
……He did so four minutes later, stopping in the doorway of said door to scrutinize me, realizing only a second later that I could see him and any attempt at a secret observation was therefore ruined, before fully entering the living room. This only assured me in the fact that my suspicions regarding the sofa I was directed to weren't entirely nonsensical.
……Mr. Boots was in his late forties, with a naturally lean figure, dark brown hair, blue eyes and a well-practiced smile on his face. "Good afternoon, Mr. Goodwin, my name is Henry Boots."
……I stood up to shake his hand but because I don't react very well to people who try to outmanoeuvre me, I couldn't help but make a scathing remark: "I know it is, I came to see you after all."
……It didn't faze him in the slightest. "Well remarked, Mr. Goodwin," he started with an irony-laced voice, "I also know your name as you can see, and I didn't even invite you."
……I couldn't help but think that I had just screwed up my chances of persuading him to ever come to our brownstone in the first few seconds of our conversation and I felt admittedly bitter about it. I decided not to let it show though and continued on with a sympathetic smile: "I came to give you my sincere condolences, Mr. Boots. I am sure that you are familiar with the fact that it was my employer's house your wife was found in." I paused for a second so he could nod and then continued: "You are most likely not yet aware that Mr. Wolfe has been hired to investigate her murder as it is a very recent development. I came to see if you felt ready to answer some questions of his."
……He frowned at me. "On whose behalf are you investigating?"
……We talked about this situation with Miss Townsand, so I didn't have any qualms answering his question. "On behalf of your wife's best friend, Sabina Townsand. She called upon us this morning."
……His frown deepened. "What right does she have to involve herself in this?"
……I shrugged, not understanding his anger. He had the best private detective in New York investigating the death of his wife and didn't have to pay a cent. I would've been ecstatic if I were him.
……I'm not proud of it, but my confusion must've showed on my face, because Mr. Boots suddenly experienced a complete change of heart. "You said you came to ask me questions?"
……I shook my head. "No, I said I came to see if you felt ready to answer some."
……He smiled at me patronizingly. "Same thing, Mr. Goodwin. The fact that you can remember your exact words and I cannot, doesn't make you any more intelligent than me."
……I grinned at him, feeling encouraged by the fact that he hasn't yet thrown me out on my ear. "Of course not, however the point is, it's not the same thing. You see, I won't be the one asking the questions, Mr. Wolfe will."
……He looked around comically. "Well, where is he? I don't see him sitting here ready to interrogate me."
……"That's because you can't see all the way to W 35th Street, Mr. Boots. I assure you though, that he is in fact sitting in our office ready to interrogate you. You could see for yourself, if you wanted, you can ride in a cab with me."
……He laughed, and for the first time, I could see a sliver of the man poor Isabelle had fallen in love with. He had such a sincere laugh that it would make an inexperienced woman go weak in her knees, had the mood been set right. "You are very good with words, Mr. Goodwin. I admire that."
……I grinned at him again but since I wasn't a woman and the mood was still a bit sombre, my knees didn't do anything remarkable. I raised my left eyebrow at him and pointed towards the front of the house. "Lead the way then."
……He didn't say anything before he just started walking and I was so surprised at his obvious agreement to come with me, that I didn't even react for a whole second and a half. As I watched him putting on his coat, I thought that Mr. Boots was either the least offendable person in the whole world to come with me even after I was unnecessarily rude or the most mentally unstable one.
……I decided to give the second option an eighty to twenty chance during our cab ride, as his face changed with every hundred meters the car made. I could clearly discern sorrow, fear, uncertainty and a slight anger amongst his various facial expressions and there were at least three that I couldn't read. When we arrived to our brownstone, however, his face settled on mild curiosity and stayed there.
……Wolfe was sitting exactly where I left him, an empty beer bottle in front of him. He didn't even look up from his book, when I entered the office.
……"Mr. Boots is in the front room, sir. You ready to speak to him or shall I tell him to wait till you finish your book?"
……"Tell me what you found out and then bring him in," he told me, still not lifting his gaze from the page.
……I did as he said, giving him a verbatim of both my conversation with Miss Brewster and Mr. Boots, before seating our guest in the red leather chair.

……"Mr. Boots," started Wolfe, "thank you for coming. I trust you know why you are here?"
……He nodded after a brief consideration. "You wish to know about my alibi, don't you?"
……My employer smiled patiently. "We will get to that, Mr. Boots. Archie says you own a law firm."
……I looked up at the sound of my given name, feeling slightly surprised but pleased nonetheless. Mr. Wolfe doesn't usually call me Archie in front of our guests because he feels it is unprofessional but every now and then when an unpleasant person crosses our way, he wants to show we are a united front and refers to me in a familiar manner.
……Mr. Boots however either hadn't noticed that or didn't care. "Yes, we specialize in financial law, it's probably not as interesting as it sounds but it satisfies me. It could be better paid, one thinks that being a majority owner of a company I would be majorly rich." At this point he laughed at his own joke. "But I'm not complaining, we lead a comfortable life."
……Wolfe nodded. "Yes, I trust your wife's inheritance helped matters as well?"
……"That it did, but we could've done without it."
……"I am sure. You had a happy marriage?"
……He nodded vehemently. "Of course, I'm not going to lie and say we never argued, but we loved each other. I still can't believe she's dead, no one could've wanted to kill her, I assure you."
……I sighed inaudibly. If I got a lollipop every time I heard that sentence, I could bribe a whole school of children and still would have enough to visit a kindergarten. Why do people always feel the need to say that even though it completely contradicts the fact that someone in fact did want to kill the victim, or else she wouldn't be dead.
……Wolfe didn't comment on it though, moving on instead: "Did your wife have any problematic relationships with any of her acquaintances?"
……Mr. Boots looked thoughtful. "I couldn't tell you. She was easy to get along with and, even though it pains me to say it, she was a bit naive. She always saw only the good in people and refused to acknowledge the rotten. There was some young man that kept pursuing her, if I remember correctly, but I don't even know his name."
……That didn't help us in the slightest because there must've been hundreds of young men that looked Isabelle's way and at least half of them could've been pursuing her. The thing I was more interested in than some young Casanova, was Mr. Boots' alibi. However, when my employer asked about it, I was disappointed.
……"I was at my firm all afternoon, we had a bit of a crisis with one of our cases and we discussed it all the way into the night. I am sorry to disappoint you sir, but I couldn't have possibly done it. I hadn't left the conference room for more than five minutes, when I excused myself to go to the washroom."
……I had to admit his alibi was not only bulletproof, it was airtight and waterproof too and if the police couldn't make holes in it, we wouldn't be able to either. The truth was, I couldn't imagine a middle-aged widower killing off his young, vibrant and loving wife anyway, so I just had to set my mind onto someone else.
……Ignorant to my musings, Wolfe continued his interrogation: "I heard you had lost one wife already?"
……Mr. Boots' face transformed itself into an expression of pain. "You are correct, my former wife Eileen is a right sweetheart. I never found out what really happened to her, they never found her body."
……"She has been proclaimed dead?"
……"Yes, she has. She is the love of my life and it is still very painful to talk about it. We went to the Caribbean to enjoy or summer vacation, we were on a cruise ship when during one night Eileen suddenly disappeared. No one knows what happened. Believe me, I will never go to the Caribbean ever again."
……We wrapped it up pretty quick after that because Mr. Boots had nothing more to tell us and Mr. Wolfe was only two minutes away from getting up and ascending to the plant rooms anyway. Before the eccentric genius left the office, he turned to me one more time: "Archie, call Fred and Orrie and ask them to come tomorrow morning. You yourself can spend the morning looking for Mr. Dursley and then bring him to see me."
……I didn't even manage to respond before he closed the door and left me alone in the office. I sighed, called both of the mentioned operatives like the good lackey I was and then went to see what was cooking in the kitchen. Fritz was busy marinating lamb chops, puréeing cauliflower and baking sweet potatoes, so I poured myself a glass of milk and kept him company.
……After dinner that day, Saul and I decided to go down to the basement for a game of pool to work on our friendship and talk about this and that. It was no surprise that after few minutes of idle talk, our conversation turned to the Boots case, namely the victim's husband.
……"What's he like?" asked Saul in the middle of my stroke.
"Mr. Boots?"
……He nodded in confirmation.
……"He is that sort of person that you wish would lock himself up on a rooftop during a thunderstorm, wearing a copper armor. Yet you would do all you could to help him once the lightning struck."
……He raised his eyebrows. "I expect that sounded better in your head before you actually said it aloud?"
……I squinted my eyes at him. "What's your point?"
……He laughed at me, bending over the pool table a second later and pocketed one of his balls. He missed with his next attempt which gave me an opportunity to finish the game by sinking both of my remaining balls and closing up with the Eight.


1 Lady≈Claire | Web | 11. may 2014 at 14:39 | React

Very nice :) You´re goddamn good!

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