Authors: Ava Collins
Tags: #Thriller, #Romance, #Cozy, #Witch, #Mystery, #Paranormal
Still, I couldn’t help the thought of getting accused of something I didn’t do. I was panicking, knowing that I would be considered a suspect. Then I felt like that panic would be perceived as guilt. Because only a guilty person has something to panic about, right?
If that was Jake’s wrench, my fingerprints were all over it. My head was spinning. I needed to get a grip and start thinking about this rationally. There was nothing to worry about. I had a solid alibi. Except for the five minutes I was talking to Mr. Bancroft. I hoped that gap wouldn’t come back to haunt me, no pun intended.
“What’s the matter, kid? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Gibbs said.
“Nothing,” I gulped. Suddenly, my mouth was dry, and I was sweating again.
“Out with it,” Gibbs said. “Have you seen the wrench before?”
“Maybe,” I said.
“Either you have, or you haven’t.”
“Well, I can’t be sure it’s the same exact wrench.”
“Okay. Let me put it to you like this. Who owns a wrench that looks just like that?” Gibbs asked.
I hesitated. It seemed so impossible that Jake would do something like this. I felt terrible implicating him. But I had to be honest. “The maintenance guy has a lot of tools.”
“I’m not asking about a lot of tools. I’m asking about that tool,” Gibbs said.
“Yes, he’s got a wrench like that.”
“And who is this maintenance guy?”
“His name is Jake,” I said. “But he’s really nice, and I don’t think he did this.”
“Nice people commit crimes all the time. I guess they don’t teach you that in Criminology 101,” Gibbs said, snidely. “If you ever want to be a detective, you’re going to have to learn to trust the facts.”
The officer brought the wrench to Gibbs. “Where did you find this?”
“Trashcan by the elevator,” the officer said.
“Bag it, and log it into evidence,” Gibbs said.
The coroner came and collected the body. I followed Gibbs, and the other officers, up to the lobby.
“Where’s this Elliot DuMond?” Gibbs asked me.
“I think he lives in apartment 202,” I said.
“Go get him,” Gibbs said to one of the uniformed officers.
The officer scurried away. Gibbs looked around the lobby. It was empty and quiet. He saw the maintenance closet in the corner of the room and moved toward it. Gibbs jiggled on the door handle, but it was locked.
Bancroft passed through the door. A moment later he came out, shaking his head, ominously. Whatever he saw in there wasn’t good.
After a few minutes, the officer returned with Elliott DuMond. He was pale and had a dazed look on his face. Elliott was clearly in shock and still processing all of the information. Charlotte Fox was with him. She and the officer helped steady Elliott. They walked him down the hallway into the lobby.
Gibbs introduced himself and expressed his condolences. “You have keys to this maintenance closet?”
“Uh, yeah,” Elliott stammered. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a key ring. He thumbed through several of them, then handed the keychain to Gibbs.
“I’m going to need to get into the office as well,” Gibbs said.
“Sure, no problem,” Elliott said.
Gibbs unlocked the door to the maintenance closet and pulled it open. Inside the closet there were mops, buckets, tools, cleaning supplies, mechanical parts. Pretty much everything you'd need to keep a building running.
Charlotte stood next to Elliott, rubbing his back and consoling him. Her eyes were wet with tears, but she kept herself together very well.
Gibbs scoured the maintenance closet. After a few moments, he emerged holding a pair of brown leather work boots. There were bloodstains on the toes and on the soles. The pattern seemed to match those of the bloodstained footprints in the parking garage. “Go find that maintenance man.”
“You mean, Jake?” Charlotte asked, surprised.
“Yes, ma’am,” Gibbs said.
“Apartment 105,” Charlotte said, growing stern.
Gibbs nodded at the officers, and they rushed off to retrieve Jake.
I looked to Bancroft. He shrugged.
The two officers returned a moment later, dragging Jake into the lobby.
“What’s going on?” Jake asked.
“These your boots?” asked Gibbs.
“Yeah,” said Jake.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” Gibbs said. The two officers sprang into action, handcuffing Jake.
“I didn’t do anything,” Jake grunted. He struggled with the officers as they escorted him out of the building. “Would somebody please tell me what’s going on?”
“You’re going to arrest him because you found a pair of bloody boots?” I asked, incredulously.
Gibbs’s face tightened. “Young lady, in my experience the simplest explanation is often the correct one. I’ll bet my 401(k) that the blood on those boots matches the victim’s. And I guarantee his fingerprints will be all over that wrench.”
“But that doesn’t mean he’s guilty,” I said.
“I’m not in the business of determining guilt or innocence,” Gibbs said. “If a grand jury thinks there’s enough evidence, they’ll bring an indictment. If they don’t, he’ll go free.”
“It seems pretty cut and dry to me,” Charlotte said. “I always got a bad vibe from him.”
“You’re still going to collect statements from the other residents, aren’t you?” I asked.
Gibbs’s face grew red, and the veins in his forehead started to bulge. He had definitely had enough of me.
“I think it’s open and shut. What more do you want?” Charlotte asked.
“I want proper procedure to be followed,” I said.
“She’s right,” Elliott said. “What if he had an accomplice? We need to be thorough.”
“Why on Earth would Jake kill Mrs. DuMond?” I asked.
“I have every intention of doing a thorough investigation,” Gibbs said. “Rest assured, Mr. DuMond, I will bring your mother’s killer to justice.”
“Please, call me Elliott. I think of my father when you say Mr. DuMond.”
“I can take a statement from you now, or I can come back later after you’ve had a moment,” Gibbs said to Elliott.
“I guess now is as good a time as any,” said Elliott.
“Would you like to do this somewhere a little more private?” Gibbs asked, clearly trying to get away from me.
“We can do it right here, I don’t have anything to hide,” Elliott said.
Gibbs frowned and shot me a sideways glance. Charlotte didn’t seem too thrilled about doing this out in the open either. We moved to one of the couches in the lobby. Detective Gibbs began soft-balling questions to Elliott. It was obvious that Gibbs didn’t really consider him a suspect. I don’t know why. Elliott was the sole heir to the entire DuMond fortune.
Elliott described the events of the evening to Detective Gibbs.
“What time did you leave the party?” Gibbs asked.
“I don’t know. Almost 10pm,” Elliott said.
“What about you, Miss Fox?” asked Gibbs.
“I was with Elliott,” She said. Then, trying to avoid the appearance of impropriety, she added, “We’re engaged.”
Gibbs jotted that down in his notebook.
“Then what?” Gibbs asked.
“Really, Detective Gibbs, I don’t think that’s any of your business,” she said.
Elliott rolled his eyes. “We went to sleep, Detective Gibbs. I’ve got an early appointment in the morning, and I wanted to get a full night’s rest. I wish I had something more scintillating to say. We lead a rather boring life.”
Charlotte glared at him. “Boring? Are you saying I’m boring?”
“No. Honey, I’m not saying you’re boring. Or, that I’m bored, or anything,” Elliott stammered. “ I just meant to say that I was tired.”
Mr. Bancroft was snickering. Charlotte was seething.
“That’s okay. I don’t need to know the intimate details of your relationship,” Gibbs said. “Just so I have this straight. You were in your apartment before 10pm. And stayed there the rest of the night, correct?”
“Yes,” Elliott said.
“Can anyone else corroborate this?” Gibbs asked.
“Yes,” Charlotte blurted out. “I was on the phone from about 10pm to 11pm.”
“With who?” Gibbs asked.
“I was speaking with a client, trying to do damage control,” Charlotte said.
“What do you do, Miss Fox?” Gibbs asked.
“Well, I thought with all of my social connections that I would be a great publicist. So, I’ve taken on a few clients. But we had a bit of an issue,” Charlotte said. “It seems the food critic at the Post didn’t like my client’s restaurant. Since I had arranged for the review, my client is less than thrilled with me at the moment. In fact, and I’m ashamed to say, my client fired me last night.”
“And who is your client?” Gibbs said.
“Thomas Kemp,” said Charlotte.
“And the restaurant?” Gibbs asked.
“Poseidon,” Charlotte said, meekly.
“You’d have to be one hell of a publicist to give that restaurant a good name,” Gibbs said. “No offense.” Gibbs looked to Elliott. “So, the last time you saw your stepmother was just before 10pm?”
“Yes, that’s correct,” Elliott said.
“She lived in the building?” asked Gibbs.
“Yes, she’s in apartment 102,” Elliott said.
“You don’t have any objection if I look around her apartment, do you?” Gibbs asked.
“No. Whatever you need,” said Elliott.
“Do you have any idea what she would have been doing in the parking garage?” Gibbs asked.
“She always did a check of the parking garage each evening,” Elliott said. “There is a $50 fine for parking in an unassigned space.”
“I see,” said Gibbs. “Well, I think that’s all the questions I have for now. Again, I am terribly sorry for your loss.”
I couldn’t believe that was all the questions that Gibbs was going to ask. He handed them his card and told them to call him if they thought of anything that might be of use in solving the case.
“Thank you, Detective,” Elliott said, as he stood up.
The two shook hands, and Elliott and Charlotte retired to their apartment. When they were gone, Gibbs looked at me and asked, “Did that meet with your satisfaction?”
I shrugged. “I think you went a little easy on them.”
“Like you said, most murders are committed by someone the victim knows. Usually it’s a close relationship. And Elliott’s got almost a billion reasons to kill his stepmother.”
Gibbs sighed, exasperated. “I’m going to follow up with this Thomas Kemp tomorrow.”
I rolled my eyes.
Gibbs was frustrated with me. “You’re not going to go away, are you?”
“Nope.” I smiled.
“How about I make you a deal?” Gibbs asked.
“What have you got in mind?”
“I’ll make you privy to inside information if you quit busting my balls, okay?”
“Like an apprentice?”
Gibbs shrugged, reluctantly. “Yes, like an apprentice. A very silent apprentice.”
I smiled. “Deal.”
“First, I need to rule you out as a suspect,” Gibbs said.
“WE KNOW MRS. DuMond was alive at around 10pm. We know, from your statement, and the 911 records, that Mrs. DuMond was dead by 10:41pm,” Gibbs said to me.
“Actually, we don’t know either of those things,” I said. “We only know that Charlotte and Elliott said she was alive at around 10pm. We only know that I called 911 at 10:41pm. I could have killed Mrs. DuMond after I called.”
Gibbs rolled his eyes.
“Hey, you’re the one who is still considering me as a suspect,” I said.
“Okay, so what’s your motive?”
Bancroft wandered around the lobby as we talked.
“She’s evicting us,” I said. “Crime of passion.”
“I don’t buy it, kid,” Gibbs said.
“Why not? It’s plausible.”
“No, it’s not. You’re a smart cookie. Calculated, observant, and reserved,” Gibbs said. “I bet your room is neat and organized, with everything in its proper place?”
I nodded. “I’m not a fan of clutter.”
“A wrench to the head is messy. Too many things can go wrong. Too many variables,” Gibbs said. “You can’t control the blood spatter. It might take more than one blow. Anyone could walk in the parking garage and see you. The victim might even overpower you and take the weapon away.”
Gibbs’s eyes surveyed me. “No, it’s just not your style. If you were going to kill someone, you’d poison them. Poisoning someone is detached and removed. Less variables. More certainty of outcome. And it’s not messy.”
“So, you don’t think I killed Mrs. DuMond?”
“Not unless your prints come back on that wrench,” Gibbs said.
I cringed, but I didn’t say anything. Best to deal with that later.