June 30, 2011
Private Investigator Mitch Baleen surveyed the five murder suspects seated on the other side of the room. “Before I begin, you all realize that I’m not a cop. I can’t arrest anybody.” The suspects fidgeted but said nothing. They all knew Baleen’s reputation from the newspaper stories about his recovery of the Maharajah’s of Bali’s Blessed Silken Codpiece. “You’re here because Inspector Harding suggested it.”
“Strongly suggested it.” From his post behind them near the door, Inspector Fergus Harding took a final drag from his cigar. “Let’s get on with it, shamus. I’m nearly out of cigars.” He crushed the stub on the floor with his heel.
Baleen ignored the affront to his rug. “Right. And I’ve got a date with a dame and a T-bone steak.” He tossed a wink at Miss Patty Smithers, a cute blonde in a plain dress. She winked back. She was the Executive Secretary to the President of Amalgamated Broadcasting, only 28 years old, and one of the murder suspects.
“OK, here goes, the facts of the case. Last night Max Bishop, President and majority shareholder of Amalgamated Broadcasting, was found dead in his office after hours by a janitor. That’s you.” He pointed to a little man in grey flannel overalls. Ed Fluke jerked his head up like he was shot, quickly nodded, and went back to looking down and worrying his hands.
“The corpus delecti was found in a state-“
“Short words, shamus,” growled Harding.
“Right. Bishop was found on his office floor. He was wearing only two things: his boxer shorts and a knife in his back.” There was some murmuring from the suspects but no one interrupted.
“Fact. The knife came from the janitor’s tool box.” He looked at Fluke. “Fact. You were seen arguing with Max Bishop earlier in the day.”
Fluke jerked his head up again and started to spill his story as fast as he could get the words out. “He said that my overalls were too dirty. I told him I had just fixed the boiler. He told me to change them. I told him I didn’t have a second pair and I’d wash them as soon as I got home. He told me to buy a new one, I told him I couldn’t afford it, he said-“
“We get the point, chimney sweep.” Harding again. “You kill him?”
“What? No! I wouldn’t! I didn’t! I have a wife and kids!”
Baleen smoothly broke in. “Inspector, please, a little subtlety. This man didn’t kill anyone.”
Fluke looked relieved and sunk back down in the chair. Harding however, just stuck a new cigar in his mouth. “Jeez, for a two bits…”
Baleen perched on the corner of his desk. “Fact. Bishop’s pants were found in his secretary’s office. Rumor has it that they had been having a torrid affair but it went sour when his wife found out.”
Miss Smithers gasped and jumped to her feet. “Mitch! You promised! You can’t think that I killed my boss!”
“Easy, Sugar Plum. You going to jail would ruin my plans for tonight and I’m not about to jeopardize a steak dinner.” He looked at his watch.
Baleen shot his steely gaze at the next suspect, a small man in an impeccable business suit. “Fact. You didn’t do it. Get out of here.”
Confused, the man got up to leave but was blocked at the door by Inspector Harding. “Wait a minute shamus. You sure?”
“I told you not to bring him when we saw him this afternoon. Let him go.”
“Look, Mitch, he’s the night security guard! He has means and motive.”
“Everyone here does. Let him go.”
Visibly angry, Harding moved aside as the man hurried out. “Baleen, if you weren’t the Police chief’s brother-in-law…,” he grumbled.
“Thanks Inspector. I’ll put in a good word and get you invited to the Policeman’s Ball.” The detective’s sharp eyes turned back to the suspects. He focused on one of them, a leggy brunette in a short skirt. “Mrs. Bishop. Fact. You stand to inherit $20 million, plus control of amalgamated Broadcasting. The timing of your husband’s death couldn’t be better. He was going to file for divorce today.”
The former Mrs. Bishop slowly brushed some lint off her knee, drawing every man’s attention to her legs. “Oh please, my father is richer than my husband ever was. He owns the Henchley Bank. I’m worth more than $20 million.”
Baleen smiled. “I know, Toots. That’s why you didn’t do it.” He turned to look at Inspector Harding but pointed at the last suspect. “It was him. Put the cuffs on him.”
Harding didn’t move an inch. “You got a reason for that?”
Mitch Baleen smiled again, this time a smug condescending grin. “Inspector, I knew he was guilty as soon as he walked in the door. You’ve been standing behind them the whole time. The evidence has been staring right at you!”
It took him a second to catch on, but Harding caught up. While the policeman took the killer out in cuffs, Baleen took Patty Smithers’ arm. “C’mon baby, it’s dinner time.”
HOW DID MITCH BALEEN IDENTIFY THE KILLER?
The killer was Patty Smithers’ ex-boyfriend, Steve Duncan. He was jealous that Patty broke it off with him to take up with Max Bishop. Enraged, he broke into Bishop’s office and stabbed him in the back with the first thing he found, a knife from the janitor’s tool box, killing him cleanly. He undressed the body and put his pants in Smithers’ office to incriminate her. However, Max Baleen knew none of that.
The police found the dead man’s pants, but his jacket, an expensive though common off-the-rack type, never turned up.
It wasn’t until Duncan walked into Baleen’s office wearing the dead man’s jacket did Baleen know who the killer was. Although the coat was a common style found in stores citywide, Baleen recognized this particular one instantly.
Inspector Harding should have spotted it too. The hole the knife made on its way into Bishop’s back was right under his eyes the whole time.
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