Monday, August 11, 2014

The Deadly Gamble Chapter Two

Gamblers Anonymous

Steele fully anticipated being stonewalled by the staff.  Tara believed that their “Ding dong the witch is dead” attitude would not bode well for Steele’s investigation. 

Tara had to get back to work but refused to leave until Steele revealed how the victims were killed.   Steele walked her back over to the crime scene.  Once they entered the small room he picked up the old, galvanized steel, bucket from the corner and held it to her nose.  Tara winched and immediately recoiled as she stepped away from the repulsive odor.  

“That smells awful Steele.  What the hell is it?"  Steele placed the bucket back in the corner.  “It’s the murder weapon, well what’s left of it. The killer must have waited until they were asleep or passed out from the booze before mixing bleach and ammonia together.  He or she could have also added the pool chlorine to the mix, probably poured it over some old rags in that bucket.  The two mixed together produce extremely toxic vapors.  A while back some guy tried unclogging his toilet with bleach and ammonia mixed with drain cleaner, well let’s just say it didn't end well for him.  Whoever did this closed the window after they left the shed the first time. In a small area like this it didn't take much time for the toxic fumes to build up.  The killer waited until the deed was done then came back to remove the evidence.

Bleach and ammonia separately, no problem but when you mix them together especially in a tiny room like this."  Steele shook his head slowly.  "The vapors are lethal so if I'm right the coroners’ report should come back with toxic shock as the cause of death.  The shed is old and has lots of cracks so by the time the police got inside most of the order had dissipated.  I guess the murderer was in a hurry to get out so whoever it was either forgot or didn't think it was necessary to take the bucket with them."

Tara was blown away at how clever and resourceful the killer was.  Steele walked her to her car and watched her drive off before going back to the house to confront the staff.

The code of silence he encountered turned out to be more of a strategy of evasion.  Because of the murders Mr. Matthews had given the staff the day off but since the suspects lived on the property they really didn't have anywhere else to go.  Steele felt as if he had entered a house full of deaf-mutes, suddenly everyone was far too busy to talk, everyone except the cook. 

Antonio was a heavyset man in his late fifties.  His gray hair and mustache made him look older.  Antonio’s official title was cook but unofficially he was the mansions version of KYW news. It turned out that Antonio was more like the cook/town gossip.
He was about to prepare supper when Steele entered the kitchen.  The cook smiled when Steele walked in.  Antonio was Italian but it wasn't necessary for him to tell anyone because his accent was a dead giveaway.

“Ah Mr. Steele, I wondered when you would get around to visiting me.  How can I help you?"  The men shook hands then talked for over an hour.  Antonio was a wealth of information.  Steele wasn't sure if gabbing was just in his nature or if it was the bottle of vino he sipped on every five minutes or so.

“You know Mr. Steele if you scratch just beneath the surface you will be surprised at what secrets you will uncover around here.  Did you know that Pablo the grounds keeper owed Mrs. Matthews a lot of money and that she threatened to fire him if he didn’t pay up?  It’s true.  He likes to bet on the horses but he’s not the only gambler in the house.

Audrey, the maid, she plays the Powerball, never misses a week."  A lot of what Antonio talked about was idle gossip but what Steele found interesting was the cook’s mention of the horse racing and lottery tickets.  Steele pulled out his cell phone and scrolled to the contents of the trash can inside the shed.  Two of the items in the trash were lottery tickets and a racing form.  When Steele asked about any recent change in staff members’ behavior Antonio perked up.  “You know Mr. Steele now that you mentioned it there was a change.  Yesterday Audrey the maid was on cloud nine, she was singing and smiling all day long but today she seemed really depressed like the dog just died you know.  Maybe it was because of the murders.  Now today Pablo is the one who’s happy as a clam.  I bet it’s because he doesn't have to pay all that money back to Mrs. Matthews.”

Steele asked the tipsy chef about the mud on his shoes.  Antonio paused as he glanced down.  “Oh, ah, I have an herb garden behind the house.  I did some planting earlier, must have forgotten to wipe my feet.”

On his way to the car Steele took a side trip to Antonio’s herb garden behind the kitchen.  There were no fresh footprints so at that point the talkative cook moved up a notch on Steele’s suspect list. Why did the chef lie?  Steele also wondered why Antonio was so eager to throw his co-workers under bus.  Since Pablo was the groundskeeper Steele understood why his racing form would be found inside the shed but whose lottery tickets were in the trash?  Could they have been the maids?

Steele was always thorough. Before heading to the club Steele drove downtown to 16th and Spruce.  He wanted to check out the apartment of Sam the deceased pool boy.  He didn't expect to find much of anything but sometimes the smallest of clues could break a case wide open.  The buildings landlady was a middle aged woman who had heard about the murders on the evening news.  She was obviously shaken.  Her voice trembled slightly when she talked about her tenant who was found murdered.

 “Sam was a good kid, well he wasn't really a kid but he looked young for his age.  He was quite the ladies man if you know what I mean.  He seemed excited this morning before he left for work.  I never did find out what he was so jazzed about.  You are the first person to come by today.  I expected the cops but they never came.” 

Steele explained that since the murder took place outside the city limits that the township police would probably have to go through the Philadelphia Police department before they would come.  He asked if she would show him Sam’s apartment.
The woman paused as she fumbled around inside the large pockets on her flowered, blue smock.  Seconds later she pulled out a bronze ring of keys and searched for the one labeled 2C. 

“Well I guess it doesn't really matter now does it?  I suppose you're here to search the room for clues.  Since he wasn't killed here and since nobody told me not to let you in the apartment I guess its okay as long as you don’t tell nobody.”  Steele was about to answer when the phone rang.  The landlady took the call then handed Steele the key.  “This is going to take a while.  Sam didn't have a lot so there ain't much up there to steal and besides you have an honest face.”

The two things that caught Steele’s attention when he entered the small apartment’s bedroom were the open window and the jewelry, lots of expensive jewelry including a Rolex watch.  Clothes were strewn over the bed and chair.  There was a beige suitcase on the floor between the bed and the nightstand.  When Steele reached down to pick up the suitcase he felt a wave of searing pain in the back of his head then suddenly everything went dark.  The next thing he remembered was the superintendent standing over him with a glass of water. 

“Hey mister you alright?”  Steele reached for the back of his head as he sat up on the floor next to the bed.  He winched as he gingerly rubbed the back of his head. 

“That’s a nasty bump you got there Mr. Steele.  What the hell’s going on here?  Who was that woman and where did all this jewelry come from?"  Still recovering from the whack on head Steele tried to focus.  He managed to sit on the bed and take a few sips of water.

“What woman” The super seemed surprised by his question “The women who busted you upside your head a couple of minutes ago, that woman.  It had to have been her. She flew past me in the lobby faster than Usain Bolt."

Steele got a description of the women from the landlady.  “She was blonde maybe in her mid thirties.  I couldn't see her eyes because she wore dark glasses and she kept her head turned away from me but she had on a red Phillies baseball cap.”

Steele thanked her for helping him.  He never answered her about the jewelry because he didn't have one. Steele was just as curious as she was.

One of the advantages of owning your own club is that you get to make or in this case break the rules whenever it suits you.  Getting blindsided in what was supposed to be an empty apartment did not put the detective/club owner in the mood for socializing with guest.  So instead of going to the club Steele headed home with a huge headache and a ton of unanswered questions. 
Who was the woman who clocked him?  What was the burglar looking for in Sam’s apartment and why did she leave everything including the jewelry?

Steele’s best friend Stan wouldn't be back from New York until tomorrow night so any cyber data mining info Stan could dig up on the suspects would have to wait.  

All the news was not bad, Steele’s job was not to solve the murders it was to clear Tara’s uncle.  As long as the killer had no more targets Steele had the luxury of time on his side.
If the murderer got cold feet and decided to take off overnight Steele’s job would become a lot easier.  At least this way he would know who the killer was.  All he would have to do is track him down instead of whittling down the hefty list of suspect at the mansion.  On his way home he received a call from Tara

“Steele, I wanted you to hear this from me before you found out yourself.  This isn't easy for me to admit but I caught my Uncle in a lie.  Earlier he told me and the police that he was at a board meeting this morning.   Well there was supposed to be a meeting but it was postponed because the CFO had appendicitis and needed to be rushed to the University of Pennsylvania for emergency surgery.  When I confronted him he admitted he lied.  He spent most of the morning at the roulette wheel in Atlantic City.  He didn't want his wife to know he was gambling so he used the meeting as a cover.  The problem is he’s a high roller and uses the VIP entrance where there are no cameras.” 

Listening to Tara was changeling.   For Steele focusing on Tara’s revelation was not easy.  The drum beat of pain in Steele’s head was stiff competition for what Tara had to say. 

“Steele, are you listening to me?  This doesn't mean Uncle Kevin is a murder it just means he’s a bad liar.”  Steele gently rubbed his head, “okay Tara, point taken.  I’m gonna need to talk to him anyway.  The staff has decided to take a code of silence.  The only one willing to talk is the chef, in fact it kinda hard to shut him up.  If your uncle doesn't loosen a few tongues this is going to be an uphill battle.”
Tara sighed into the receiver, “don’t worry about it Steele.  He wants me to have dinner with him this evening.  I'll talk to him about it then.”

Besides Steele’s mom Shakia was the only living soul on the planet who could tell when he was lying.  When he didn't go to the club she showed up at his house armed with the evening’s Daily News.  Rather than confront her boyfriend about the photo Shakia set the paper down on the coffee table making sure Steele could see the headlines.  There it was right on the front page beneath the fold a photo of him embracing his attractive friend and now client Tara.  The caption read Private investigator consoles niece of murder victim.   
In spite of his pain he was still observant enough to see what Shakia had done.  Steele felt the need to explain.  “Hey look baby, I can ….”  Shakia kissed Steele softly on the lips.  She began speaking in a tone that was all too familiar to the observant detective.  It was that kind of voice she used when she was about to leave him to hang out to dry.  
“Oh baby, you know I trust you…….it’s not me you have to worry about but I'm sure you'll be getting a call from my Mom soon.”  Shakia began to laugh but when she saw drops of blood on Steele’s shoulder her mood turned serious. 

“Alex is that your blood?"  She moved in for a closer look.  Steele didn't want to make a big deal of the attack.  He knew how much Shakia worried about him. After explaining what happened at the apartment Shakia played nurse tending to his wound, bringing him Tylenol and an ice pack to ease the throbbing inside his head.  Later that evening Shakia provided her patient with a little special TLC.

Please recommend this story to friends and family by clicking the link below.  
Thank you


Alexander Steele Murder Mystery Trilogy
Author Larry J
Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.

The Alexander Steele Murder Mystery series consist of the first three short stories set in Philadelphia. Philly native Lawrence Johnson aka Larry J. takes you into Philly's neighborhoods by way of his fictional,suave,detective Alexander Steele. The semi retired PI is the proud owner of the Mount Airy hot spot known as the Inner Sanctum. Steele has a problem. He just can't seem to put his past life of crime solving behind him. A seemly endless stream of new clients come to his club each with tempting new cases for the ever inquisitive private investigator.
Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.

On Sale $0.99


  1. Okay now we know how the couple was murdered but thats just the beginning.
    Where was Pablo during the murders?
    Why was there mud on Antonio's shoes.
    Who was the mysterious dark haired women in Sam's apartment?

  2. The blonde was stealing a flash drive or a computer...or clothes.

  3. Nothing was missing from the apartment.

  4. Great chapter I think the blonde was one of poolboys girlfriends.