A Murder in the Kitchen 7

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

At eight minutes past six o'clock, when everyone was present at last, I introduced them to Mr. Wolfe, served drinks to those who wanted them, nodded politely at those who didn't and sat down behind my desk with a notebook in my hand in an attempt to look professional. The sitting order was nothing spectacular. Saul Fred and Orrie were sitting on the yellow leather couch, Miss Townsand took the chair I put right in front of my desk, Inspector Cramer got comfortable in the red leather chair as usual and Purley Stebbins was leaning on the wall next to Wolfe's gigantic globe, also as usual. Behind Cramer, from left to right, sat Major Sanchez with his wife, both nursing a glass of sherry, Mr. Dursley with a grim expression on his face and a tumbler of gin in his hand and Mr. Boots who denied a drink but brought both of his maids with him for moral support, Miss Brewster and Miss Davenheim. Finally, in the back corner of our office sat a lone figure of Lon Cohen, whom I had promised an exclusive.
......I do admit that I have gotten into an argument with Wolfe about whether to let Lon come to our party or not but since we owed him a lot more than a single bottle of cognac could settle, Wolfe agreed in the end.
......Now he was sitting behind his desk, head comfortably propped up on the back of his custom-made chair, silently observing the occupants of our office. They were nervous, chattering among themselves, trying to guess the reason they were summoned, making up theories as to who is the murderer.
......Wolfe straightened up a bit in his chair, not making a sound but managing to quiet the room nonetheless. He made sure to stare at each and every suspect in the room for a few seconds, before speaking: "I invited you all to come here tonight for one simple reason. You are here to see me uncover Isabelle Boots' murderer and see him face justice."
......Mrs. Sanchez leaned forward excitedly. "So is it a 'him' then?"
......My employer smacked his lips in annoyance. "It was a mere figure of speech, Mrs. Sanchez. English is not a language that would allow us to comfortably use a non-specific gender word. I could call the murderer 'them' if you prefer but I'd rather not."
......Maria Sanchez creased her forehead in thought. "So it is not a 'him'?"
......Wolfe went to answer again but was interrupted by a calmly speaking major: "Let him speak, dear. You will find out eventually."
......"Now that that's taken care of, let us go over the events of this Friday's evening. Most of you already know at least roughly what happened. Mrs. Boots who introduced herself as Miss Sarah Parker, came to our brownstone at quarter past five and was showed to the front room, which is behind that door next to Mr. Goodwin's desk, by our cook, Fritz Brenner. At twenty to six, she went to the kitchen, which is across the hallway on my left, to keep him company while he made dinner. When fifteen minutes later the doorbell rang and Fritz went to open the front door, the murderer knocked on our back door and Mrs. Boots opened it. From these facts we can deduce a few things. First," Wolfe lifted a his forefinger in the air, "the murderer knew where Mrs. Boots planned to spend her evening or he followed her here. Second," a middle finger joined the forefinger, "he had to be inconspicuous enough not to arouse any suspicion wandering around our neighborhood. And third," a ring finger this time, "he had to be an acquaintance or a friend of Mrs. Boots', because our back door is partly made of glass and therefore Mrs. Boots must've seen the murderer and still let him in. She wasn't afraid of him then."
......At this point Wolfe put his hand with all of its fingers down to rest it against the desktop and looked up to see what his audience thought of his performance so far. I'm not sure what he saw, but he must've been satisfied with it, for he picked up where he left off: "While Mr. Brenner was on the front porch, the murderer managed to shove Mrs. Boots back into the kitchen and use one of our kitchen knives to end her life. Now, I am almost positive that the murderer came prepared and had another choice of weaponry on himself to use, but he made a very clever decision to use our knife. There's now nothing to link him with the crime scene."
......At this point, Fritz came in carrying a platter with two bottles of beer and a glass. Wolfe nodded at him as he set everything down on the genius' desk and excused himself again. The whole office then watched as Wolfe opened both of his bottles, swept the beer caps into his drawer, poured his beer and after the foam subsided, took a long gulp. He then spoke up again: "Let's move on to why Mrs. Boots felt the need to come and visit me. It is apparent she must've had a tremendous problem to come to a detective of my reputation and charges. She also must've been terrified of recognition because she refused to give Fritz her real name. She must've heard, read or seen something that made her realize something. Something possibly life threatening. And despite all her caution and effort to behave normally, she must've done something that alerted her murderer."
......Mrs. Sanchez gasped theatrically. "What was it? What did she find out?"
......Wolfe decided to indulge her. "She found out someone planned to murder her."
......The baker gasped again. "How do you know?"
......"I doubt you'd be able o follow my reasonings, Mrs. Sanchez, but perhaps you'll be able to follow my tale. Mrs. Boots overheard her murderer talking to someone about how to kill her and arouse as little suspicion as possible. She might've even thought the person had already killed before and she feared for her life. She decided to come to my office to consult me but fails to keep her suspicion a secret. The murderer doesn't have much time so he makes up a brash plan and with a bit of luck executes it perfectly."
......I noticed Lon furiously jotting down everything that Wolfe says and I make a mental remark to remind him to mark his whole article as a quotation. Meanwhile, Wolfe took another gulp of his beer.
......"Now, we already know in what way was the murder executed. However, we don't know who did it. For whom would it not be suspicious to stand at our rear entrance? Certainly not a gentleman like Mr. Dursley or Mr. Boots, neither a lady like Miss Townsand. It would have to be a workman or a workwoman. A person," continued Wolfe, "we never even thought to ask alibi of. A person who could go around completely unnoticed. A person for whom it would not be suspicious to knock on our back door in order to talk to Mrs. Boots. A person like you, Miss Brewster."
......At least four people gasped, including the accused maid, but Wolfe was not to be deterred. "There's nothing suspicious about a maid talking to her mistress. You could've simply been delivering her a forgotten object or a message. Yet all you delivered were mortal stab wounds."
......Cramer took out a cigar and bit on it. "Why her?" he asked casually, obviously not taking Wolfe too seriously.
......"Yes, Mr. Wolfe, why me?" asked Miss Brewster, "I am not the only maid working at the Boots' household," she looked pointedly at Miranda Davenheim, who was squirming in her seat, "I am by far not the only one who could've murdered her."
......"Of course not," agreed Wolfe, "but you're the one who did. You followed your mistress to my home and you brutally murdered her in my own kitchen. You should feel honored I even let you in."
......She laughed. "And evidence? Or a motive? Why do you suppose I killed her?"
......"You're the one who always talks so fondly of Mr. Boots. You are the one who's in love with him. You thought that once Mrs. Boots is out of the picture, you could happily live with the man of your dreams and the money of his dead wife. You tell me if that's motive enough. As for the evidence, I am sure the police will be able to find the cab driver who brought you from East 26th Street to West 35th. Maids usually don't travel by taxi, so he should have no trouble remembering you."
......She blanched a bit but refused to back down. "You have nothing but theories."
......Wolfe nodded. "That's what I'm being paid for, Miss Brewster, to have theories. And I have more of them if you're prepared to hear them," he didn't wait for an answer before continuing, "you weren't alone in all this. Your love wasn't as unrequited as I made it sound. Mr. Boots loved you back and knew exactly what you were planning to do. It was the two of you planning together that Mrs. Boots overheard."
......I stood up in preparation of having to secure her accomplice but Mr. Boots did nothing more than raise his eyebrows. I stayed on alert though, not believing the mask of calmness he put on. There were a few moments of silence following Wolfe's declaration, which were finally interrupted by Miss Brewster again: "You're not as clever as you think, Mr. Wolfe. You still have no idea."
......Wolfe finished his glass of beer and poured another one. "On the contrary, Miss Brewster, I am more clever than you can imagine. I know very well who you are. I've known ever since Mr. Goodwin pointed you out in a photo to me and I suspected you were alive ever since my conversation with Mr. Boots who had trouble talking about you in the past tense. I know you are no one else but the late Mrs. Eileen Boots. Yet I refuse to acknowledge the fact."
......Mrs. Sanchez stood up. "My God, it's true, I never would have recognized her in that uniform and the lightning here. You've changed so much, dear."
......Everybody started talking over each other, some in outrage, some in amusement. It was Cramer who interrupted the commotion: "Wait!" he shouted and everyone fell silent again, "she's Eileen Boots? The dead Eileen Boots?"
......Wolfe inclined his head. "Yes, the one and only. She never fell off any ship and she certainly never drowned. She merely put on a maid's uniform, came back with her husband and once she was proclaimed dead, she watched him marry a young, rich and very naive Miss Isabelle. They planned to kill her from the beginning, taking all her money and presumably moving again to enjoy it in anonymity." Wolfe paused to down the whole glass this time. "Miss Isabelle most likely overheard her husband talking to his late wife Eileen and that's the reason she asked Mr. Sanchez about her. She suspected Eileen was alive and plotting with Mr. Boots against her, but it never even crossed her mind, the vicious woman could be her own maid."
......Cramer stood up and shook his head. "But if she really is Eileen Boots, why wouldn't you want to acknowledge it? They were planning a murder like this ever since the fake death."
......Wolfe closed his eyes and linked his hands over his considerable stomach. "Because Eileen Boots is legally dead and therefore cannot be prosecuted for murder, but Miss Brewster is not."
......"Miss Brewster is not real though," said the inspector looking vilely at her.
......Wolfe smiled. "No but I am positive they made her as real as possible, you should have no problems prosecuting her under her false name. With the cab driver's statement, Mr. Boots bank account statement at the time of his marriage to Miss Isabelle and possibly some fingerprints on the rear door or in the kitchen, you should have enough for a court case. Once you've done all that, I can't imagine her going down alone and not blaming some of it on Mr. Boots."
......Cramer nodded thoughtfully, most likely thinking about how he's going to break the news that he's just arrested a dead woman to the police commissioner, then turned to Purley. "Well, let's wrap them up and bring them both downtown."
......It was precisely at that moment, that Mr. Boots finally lost his cool and jumped up from his seat with a guttural bellow, aiming for Wolfe. Before he could even reach the edge of my employer's desk though, my fist drew back on instinct and then met his face full force. I didn't even realize how hard I actually hit, before I saw him tumble to the floor and knock himself out cold. But by that time it was already too late to feel sorry for him, so I didn't. Cramer, who was standing right behind him, handcuff already around Miss Brewster's wrists, looked me up and down in admiration.
……"Feeling better?" he asked me with raised eyebrows.
……I didn't deny it.

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