A Murder in the Kitchen 6

20. june 2014 at 19:59 | Thalia Contostavlos
SIXTH CHAPTER
Disclaimer: I don't own any recognizable characters
Warnings: none

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……It wasn't until late in the afternoon that I was sent on another errand, this time to visit Major Sanchez. I rang the doorbell, waited whole thirty-two seconds for the door to open and then came face to face with a plump lady wearing a forest green apron and an honest-looking smile. I introduced myself and she let me in.
......"Pardon my appearance, Mr. Goodwin, I am in a middle of baking. You want to see my husband, I assume? He's in the living room, through that door."
......I nodded politely. "Thank you, Mrs. Sanchez, it smells wonderful."
......She tittered cheerfully as she disappeared in what I presume was the kitchen and left me to find her husband. I did find him, sitting in his living room, watching the afternoon news on an ancient-looking television and puffing away on a pipe. He was a good-looking man with black hair, an angled face and steady hands who looked at least ten years younger than his wife.
......"Major Sanchez? I'm Archie Goodwin, your wife let me in."
......"Yes of course, come on in. I read about you in the papers, sit down Mr. Goodwin."
......I smiled politely and took a seat. "I assume you know why am I here, then?"
......He turned off the TV and looked at me with dark honest eyes. "It's about poor Mrs. Boots, isn't it. I was wondering when you'll question me. I had lunch with her the day she died."
......"Yes, how do you know her?"
......"Henry Boots is my wife's lawyer. She hired him once when her firm partner tried to rip her off, Maria has her own bakery, you know? She and Henry hit it off right away, we even spent a short vacation with him and his wife two months ago."
......"What about Isabelle, did they hit it off too?"
......Major Sanchez sighed. "Not exactly, no. My wife is not a vicious person but while she likes Henry, it was a different story with Isabelle. She was a bit jealous of her. Maria is three years older than me, you know? She always worries about me leaving her for someone younger, and Isabelle was younger."
......I nodded, politely refraining from commenting on how Mrs. Sanchez looked a lot more older than she really was, and continued on with my questioning: "Was there anything to be worried about?"
......"Good grief, no. Isabelle was basically a child, I had no wish to become involved with her."
......"Yet you had lunch with her."
......"Yes but she was more like a daughter to me. She was sweet and cheerful, without a care in the world. A bit naive too, truth be told, but an absolute joy to be around."
......There it was again. It seemed that anyone who ever came into the slightest contact with our victim was able to pick upon her naiveté. "So what did you talk about? With Isabelle?"
......Mr. Sanchez frowned. "Now that you ask about it, that was a bit suspicious. Isabelle asked me about Henry's first wife, Eileen. She told me she wanted to know what was she like and what Henry saw in her. I think it was because of how much Henry loved his late wife, Isabelle probably wanted to be a bit more like her."
......"You never talked about her before?"
......"No. Isabelle didn't want to hear anything about her the first few moths her and Henry were married. Everyone talked so fondly of her that she must've been sick of it. That's why she hired another maid too, she said Henry's old one always kept talking about former Mrs. Boots."
......I nodded. "You ever been to their new house?"
......He shook his head. "No, since Henry moved to New York, I always met him and Isabelle someplace else. Henry is very fond of nice restaurants and if he can afford it, where's the hurt in that? Just two weeks ago we were in that nice French restaurant, Rustermann's."
......I smiled at the mention of Wolf's restaurant. "Very well, so what did you tell Isabelle about late Mrs. Boots?"
......"She was very different from Isabelle. Eileen was levelheaded, always so calm and calculating. She never spent her money on anything she didn't necessarily need. She was a very kind person, ever said anything bad about anyone. And clever, boy was she clever, I think that is the main reason Henry loved her so much."
......I raised my eyebrows. "So why do you reckon did he marry Isabelle?"
......Mr. Sanchez opened his mouth to answer but was interrupted by his better half: "She had a lot of money, that's way. It's not a big surprise she managed to marry so early on. Women like me have to work hard to get something but all women like her have to do is click her fingers and anything is handed to her on a silver platter."
......"You didn't like her much, did you?" I asked instead of commenting on her opinions.
......She shrugged as she took off her apron. "Was never really fond of her, I admit. That girl had everything she could've asked for without ever even lifting a finger to get it. I like people who do honest work and if you ask me, no one who has more than half a million on his account could possibly be honest."
......I cleared my throat, making a mental note not to discuss my paychecks with her. "You think she wasn't honest?"
......"She used Henry's grief after Eileen's death to her own advantage. I never trusted that childish little face of hers. She wasn't as innocent as everybody thinks."
......Well that was a first. "You don't think she was a bit naive?"
......Maria Sanchez chuckled. "Of course not. She always wanted to be famous. God knows what she wanted to do to achieve it. Now look at any newspaper in the city. She's in all of them."
......I nodded politely. From what I knew about Mrs. Sanchez so far, I got the feeling that she was that sort of person who would envy you even the weather at your own funeral.
......"Where were you at half past five on Friday evening?"
......Major Sanchez frowned. "Are we suspected?"
......I held my hands up in a placating gesture. "Not any more than others I've talked to, but I have to ask."
......"I was at my club having dinner with my army mates. I was there until half past eight I believe."
......We both turned to his wife then. She smiled at me. "I was here, baking cakes as usual. I do nothing else than bake these days."
......"You've got any proof?"
......She laughed. "Like what? A cake? Why is it that when someone tells you there are billions of stars in the universe, you believe them, but if they tell you there's wet paint somewhere, you have to touch it?" she asked patronizingly.
......I frowned at where did a discussion about alibis end up and decided to get us back on track: "There's no wet paint here, Mrs. Sanchez, but a dead woman. I don't have to touch her to believe it."
......If I thought my remark was going to disgust her and she's going to leave us in favor of her cake again, I was wrong. She just giggled and sat down next to her husband. "Oh but I would so like to touch her. Just to make sure, you know? Don't you have to make sure, that the pulse is really not there?"
......I shook my head. "No, with the knife sticking out of her, there wasn't a cat's chance in hell she was still alive."
......Maria Sanchez shuddered but I couldn't tell whether it was in repulsion or pleasure. I decided not to try and find out and turned to her husband instead. "Well, I think I'll take my leave now. If you excuse me."
......Mrs. Sanchez all too happily showed me the door and I couldn't say I was sorry to see it close behind me. I checked my watch to find out that Wolfe would've probably retired to his room by the time I come home, so I didn't have to rush to give him my report. I decided to go to a cinema instead to see a movie Orrie was very enthusiastic about, and when I finally came home two and a half hours later with head filled with damsels in distress and train accidents, I fell peacefully asleep.
......The next morning, forty-five minutes after Wolfe descended from his plant rooms and seven minutes after I finished with my report from the evening before, the phone rang. It was Sabina Townsand, asking how far along were we in our investigation.
......"We're working really hard and are expecting a breakthrough any minute now," I told her.
......"Oh really? You are wonderful."
......I immediately felt guilty. "As much as I would like to deserve to be called wonderful, I'm afraid I've just lied to you. Don't get me wrong, we are indeed working very hard, but any talk about a breakthrough might be a bit premature."
......She sighed. "Oh well, don't worry, Mr. Goodwin, you are still wonderful."
......I thanked her and hung up, smiling widely like an imbecile as Wolfe pointed out to me and happily sighing. When I was still smiling and sighing two minutes later, Wolfe lost his patience.
......"For heaven's sake, Archie, stop gloating. It's not the first time a woman was awed by your personality."
......"No," I agreed, "but it is the first time a woman told me I was wonderful after I admitted to have blatantly lied to her."
......Wolfe pursed his lips, turned to his book and left me to my happy mood.
......My gloating was interrupted by the doorbell. Saul, Fred and Orrie finally came back from their errand and while I had no idea on what orders they had been working and what they were supposed to find, I knew, as soon as I saw them walk through the door, they hadn't been successful. Saul looked as haggard as ever, Fred's shoulders were sagging with resignation and Orrie's smile was more forced than Al Capone's during his arrest.
......"No luck, huh?" I asked them, still standing in the doorway.
......Saul and Fred sighed, while Orrie just rolled his eyes.
......"What were you working on?" I tried again.
......Saul smirked. "You'll find out soon enough, now let us in you lazy bum."
......I did as I was told, ordered them to the office and then went to the kitchen to tell Fritz to make some sandwiches for our disappointed operatives. When I returned to the office, Saul was in the middle of his explanation.
......"-didn't find anything useful. We spoke with at least seventy people in Washington and yet we managed to come up with nothing. All we got was Mrs. Boots death certificate issued by a court in Washington last March, her last will, no surprises there, and lots of useless chitchat and rumors. Fred did come up with a photo from some six years ago that some old family friend gave him," he gave the picture to Wolfe, "but no luck actually finding anyone, sir."
......I didn't know what he was talking about until I took a look at the photo Wolfe handed me and I froze. It all suddenly made sense now, it was clear as day.
......"Fred? Can you tell me, who's in the picture?"
......He leaned over my shoulder. "It's from Mr. Boots' birthday party six years ago. That's Mrs. Joan Clarkson, she lives in Washington and works as a secretary, next to her is Peter Peterson of Peterson's Papers, then it's Mr. and Mrs. Boots, Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez, he sailed on the Titanic as a child, then it's Miss Olivia Kerby who owns the Stallion Stables in Jersey and her dog Flip."
......Saul raised his eyebrows. "Flip?"
......Fred shrugged but I didn't pay either of them much attention, instead I turned to Wolfe. "Sir?" I started and walked over to his desk, "I think I can finally shed some light into this whole business."
......He adopted a surprised expression at my proclamation. "You do?"
......"Yes. You'll be glad to find that you're suspicions were correct, sir." I then proceeded to tell him what I realized. Once I shared my observations with him, his expression changed into one of understanding and then one of triumphant glee in quick succession.
......"Call Mr. Cramer, Archie, we have a party to organize."
......Once again, I did as I was told. Cramer was nasty on the phone at first, informing me that he was finally getting the warrant for Wolfe's arrest as a material witness and that I couldn't possibly tell him anything that would change his mind.
......I told him we knew who the killer was but if he insisted on the warrant, I couldn't give him any guarantees on how Wolfe will react. Cramer changed his tune, saying that a warrant wasn't necessary, we were all colleagues, after all.
......"Yeah, yeah, one happy family. Just come to our brownstone at six o'clock and bring Purley along, I'm hoping for a bang."
......He didn't ask any questions and said he'd do what I asked. Once I hung up, I called Miss Townsand to give her the good news personally. She told me I wasn't a liar after all and once again repeated I was wonderful. I thanked her and went upstairs to my bedroom to gloat again.
 

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