Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Deadly Gamble Chapter Eight - Tunnel Vision

Chapter #8
Tunnel Vision

The morning after the storm Steele made a trip to Chinatown to see Mr. Yip who is a friend of Steele’s, he is also an herbalist.  Still feeling a little groggy after his ordeal in the mansion he knew that Yip would have the remedy he needed be get back on his game.  Last nights encounter with the suspects gave Steele more info than he had anticipated.  Through process of elimination he was close to solving the case.   

Mr. Yip pulled half a dozen jars of various colors, shapes and sizes from the shelves.  He began the task of meticulously weighing and mixing various plant leaves and odd looking barks on an old fashioned, silver scale.   As he worked Steele took out his phone and called Stan and then Antonio.  If his hunch was right the case would be solved before the end of the day. 

By the time Steele had picked up his herbal remedy and returned to the club Stan was already hard at work in the back booth. 

“What’s up my brother?  I checked into this guy Sam like you asked me too.”
Steele slide into the booth on the opposite side of Stan and waited for the news. 
“There ain’t much here Steele.  Dude went to collage in Miami but you already knew that.  He played volleyball until he had an Achilles tendon rupture.  I went to his Facebook and Twitter pages.  Let’s see he was a fraternity brother who liked to play practical jokes.  Lots of spring break pictures from some dump called the Sea Breeze, keg parties, beach parties, and pool parties.  Are you beginning to sense a theme here man?”

Steele shook his head.  “Apparently Sam liked to drink and party.  Does he have a rap sheet?  Did he ever do prison time?”

Stan tapped the computer keys and shook his head.  “No man, he’s as clean as the board of health, not even a parking ticket.  Lots of his pictures are with older women.  I don’t know if that means anything or not.  According to his last bank statement he only had $312.00 in Mellon bank.  No, wife, no kids, and no skeletons, at least none that I can find.  You want me to keep looking?”

“Naw thanks Stan but I have another project for you.”  Steele gave him the information on how to pull up the camera feed from behind the pool house.  He instructed Stan to focus on the morning of the murders.  After working on his new project for about a half hour Stan leaned back and starred at the computer monitor.  “Hum that’s interesting.  Looks like the video feed stopped that afternoon, right around the time after the murders, too much of a coincidence for it to be a glitch. Somebody must have turned it off.”

Steele slide on the bench alongside Stan and started the footage on the screen from earlier that morning.   Three quarters of the way through Steele’s suspicions were confirmed.  A figure passed by the camera then walked back again three and a half minutes later.  Forty five minutes the same person walked back again and returned two minutes later.  Both Stan and Steele knew that the pathway in the film was the only way from the mansion to the shed.
Stan reared back on the bench seat.  “Whoa Steele, I guess you got your killer.”  Steele slapped his hand on the table.  “I knew it.  It knew it last night but I wasn’t able to prove it till now.”
“Hey Stan if I could see this that means anyone who knew about the cameras and had the password could also see it right?”

Stan thought for a moment. “Well maybe, you see this system here keeps the footage available for a 24 hour period, after that it’s automatically archived.  A lot of people don’t know that so the cook may have gotten spooked when the police came and just shut the cameras down.  Buy the time he went back he may not have know how to search the archives for this particular time frame. 

Mr. Matthews originally had the system installed so most likely he has access to it and Pablo probably got the password from Mrs. Matthews so if you count the cook at least three people could have turned off that camera.  So you know who the killer is but you still don’t know where the thirty million dollar lottery ticket is.”

Steele and Stan walked over to the bar.  Steele poured himself a Pepsi as they continued the conversation.  Without actual footage of the murders being committed Steele needed a confession.  By early afternoon Steele had come up with a way to trap the murderer into confessing.   With a little help from Stan the case would be wrapped up before midnight.  Stan headed off to Radio Shack to pick up some equipment while Steele stayed at the club to make a few phone calls and send out e-mails.  By night fall everything was in place. 

At exactly nine p.m. two township patrol cars blocked the entrance to the front gate of the mansion.  Earlier Steele sent an e-mail to Mr. Matthews.  Knowing that practically everyone in the mansion still had access his account Steele was counting on the killer reading his message.

I know who killed your wife.  I will be at the mansion tonight at ten with the police to confront the murderer.

Steele waited quietly in the dark hoping his plan would work.   He checked his watch, 9:22 and still no action.  Maybe the killer didn’t take the bait he thought or maybe they didn’t read his e-mail. 
Was it possible that the killer left before the police got there?  As these thoughts raced through his mind finally there was movement.  A yellow cab pulled up to the side of the road.  Steele crouched behind a large spruce tree and watched as the hatch to the secret tunnel slowly opened.  With cops guarding the gate the tunnel was the only way out unless you climbed the fence.  Once the killer was out of the tunnel Steele yelled out. 

“Okay stop right there” He knew the killer wouldn’t stop but what he didn’t know was
 that the killer was armed.  His demand was answered with the crackle of gunfire.  Two shots were fired in his direction followed by two thuds in the tree next to him. Steele pulled out his Glock fell to the ground but didn’t return fire.  Knowing the gun toting murderer wouldn’t. get far he watched the killer sprint across the field towards a waiting taxi.  Once the driver heard the shots he took off.  Seconds later the killer tumbled forward and was violently slammed to the ground as if an invisible hand had reached out and grabbed an ankle. Another shot rang out but this time it wasn't aimed at Steele.  As Steele rushed over he trained his gun over the body. 

“Give it up Audrey, its over” Writhing in pain Audrey looked up at Steele.  She had lost her weapon and could no longer run.  Audrey had accidentally shot herself in the foot.  Earlier that day Steele had strung the leftover fishing line he had gotten from Sugar Bear.  By stringing around the perimeter of the exit hatch he knew it would slow her down. 

“Why did you do it?  Why did you killer Mrs. Matthews and Sam?”
Grabbing her bleeding foot with one hand she used her elbow to prop herself up.  The maid groaned in agony as she held on to her food.  After regaining her composure she looked up at Steele.

“I didn't kill anybody.  I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  Steele noticed the gun laying a few feet away.  He picked it up and walked back over to Audrey. 
“You lied when you said you didn't know Sam but you two met at the Sea Breeze motel
before you moved here from Miami

Audrey fired back. “So what, I knew him that doesn't make me a murderer.  Can’t you see I’m shot?  You sadistic bastard get me a doctor before I bleed to death.” 

Steele shook his head. “Wow you poisoned two people to death and now you’re worried about saving your own ass.  You said your parents died in a fire but they didn't they died in a car accident.  Whoever sold you your new identity got it wrong.  You’re here illegally and Sam knew it.  You tried to pin the murders on Kitty because you knew she was a chemist and when that didn't work you switched gears and tried to frame old Antonio.
You knew he was into botany so you put those poison candles in my room last night.  Oh but don’t bother lying we have the DNA from the strands of hair you left in Kitty’s wig.  You know, the one you borrowed when you broke into Sam’s apartment looking for the thirty million lottery ticket.  The wig you wore when you hit me upside the head.”

Audrey smiled through the pain.  “I should have hit you harder.  Okay, yeah, I killed them but I will never confess to the police.  You have no proof and I will never admit it.  A couple of strands of hair in a wig don’t make me a murderer.  They deserved to die both of them.  Sam sucked at playing the lottery.  I had the winning ticket but as you said my identity was as fake as my resume so I needed somebody to cash in the ticket for me.  Sam was an easy choice, the only choice since he already knew about my past.  I offered him half, that’s fifteen million dollars more than he would ever see in his lifetime but the bastard got greedy and wanted it all.  He said he lost the ticket but I knew it was a lie.  He and that whore Melissa were going to run off together with MY MONEY and I just couldn't allow that to happen.  I knew no one would expect the poor, stupid maid so when Kitty was away I read one of her books, that’s how I learned to get rid of them. 

Everything I told you is meaningless.  If you go to the cops you have no proof.  Now take me to the hospital before I bleed to death.” 

The wailing sound of a siren could be heard in the distance.  Steele folded his arms and shook his head.  Looks like you got your wish, sounds like the ambulance is on the way.   Audrey was in pain and she was also angry and bitter about being cheated out of the lottery money so she continued lashing out at Steele. 
“You stupid fool.  How can you call yourself a detective?  Unless you got psychic powers there’s no way you could have called an ambulance.  You been here the whole time.”  Steele nodded, reached inside his pants pocket and pulled out a small white device with a button.  When he pressed the button the entire area became flooded with light.  Earlier Stan had wired the trees with lights but that wasn't all.  Audrey nearly fainted when she saw the black microphones.

“Yeah it’s true that I've been here the entire time but I haven’t been alone.  I needed to keep you close enough to the hidden mikes so I strung the fishing line that you tripped over. I guess somebody down there felt sorry for you.”  Steele cupped his hands and shouted.
“Okay guys you can come up now.”  A slow but steady stream of people emerged from the hatch starting with Mr. Matthews.  Following him was his niece Tara and sister Kitty.  The last three people to come up for the tunnel were Antonio, Stan and the chief of police.   Audrey was horrified.  Mr. Matthews along with the others had been listening to her confession through the speakers Stan had installed along with a recording system down in the tunnel.

Steele pointed to the man in the black suit.  “Okay Audrey most of these people you already know but the guy in the black suit, he’s the guy going to take you to the hospital then he’s going to take you to jail.   How does it feel to shoot yourself in the foot twice in the same night?”

Once the ambulance and the police chief had gone Mr. Matthews thanked Steele and invited everyone up to the mansion for drinks.  As they gathered in the living room Mr. Matthew quizzed Steele on the events leading up to Audrey’s arrest. 
“Mr. Steele, help me out here.  How did you know it wasn't one of us?”  Steele smiled, “no offense but the person entered the shed without leaving any footprints.  They pulled the metal ladder up on the roof from the opposite side of the pool house, dragged it across the roof and lowered it against the shed wall outside the window.  You and Antonio were……lets just say you two weren't agile or flexible enough to maneuver yourselves and climb through that window.  It was possible that you were working with her so I couldn't rule you guys out.”  Mr. Matthews pointed to his sister.  “What about Kitty and how did you know about that lottery ticket?” 

Steele laughed at Mr. Matthews’s suggestion that his sister was the murder.  “Everyone in the house knew about her background in chemistry which made her the obvious suspect especially since she didn't want to move to Florida.  That gave her motive but why would she use a dark wig as disuse when she already had dark hair?  It’s like me disusing myself as a black man.  Even if she was that stupid she didn't have time to enter the mansion last night, supper glue the windows shut and plant the toxic candles.  The glue was dry when I tried opening the window.  No, Audrey made up the room and Audrey had access to all the rooms in the house which met she had access to Kitty’s wig, hoodie and hat.  As for the lottery ticket, Well.”  Steele looked over at Antonio.  “He suspected that something shady was going on so he took photos using his high powered lens.  You don’t accuse the boss’s wife without proof.  My buddy Stan over here was able to magnify the photos which showed the ticket on the work bench and with a little more tweaking he was able to get the lottery numbers.  Audrey was right about one thing.  Sam did suck at picking lottery numbers.  When I examined the old lottery tickets in the trash can they were all the same.  He kept playing the same numbers each and every week so why all of a sudden would he have a winning ticket with totally different numbers. 

Audrey lied about knowing Sam and she is here illegally so it made sense that she passed the ticket on to Sam.  He had her over a barrel, if she reported him he would have her deported.”

Kitty began squirming in her chair.  She wondered how far Steele would go in explaining the process of his investigation.  Steele was careful to leave out anything that would incriminate her or Antonio but Antonio was not so protective.  As Steele was about to leave Antonio rose from his chair.  “Err, Mr. Steele aren’t you forgetting something?  Tell him about the coca plants.”

Antonio wanted to clean house, he didn’t like Pablo and wanted to get rid of him so he forced Steele to do his dirty work.  Steele gave him a stern look.  He disliked Pablo as much as Antonio but his job was to catch the killer and he had done so. 

Once again Mr. Matthews’s curiosity was peaked.  “What about Pablo Mr. Steele?  Was he an accessory?  Did he help Audrey kill my wife?” 

Steele was extremely hesitant to open this new can of worms.  He eased back into his chair.  “Well Mr. Matthews it appears that Pablo and your wife were in business together.  On the ridge behind the pool house is a large coca field.  Pablo intends to have the plants converted into drugs.”

Mr. Matthews was ragging mad; it took Tara and Kitty a few minutes to quiet him down.  Afterwards he thanked Steele and promised to send him a check in the morning.  After saying goodbye to Tara, Steele and Stan wasted no time in leaving, he was happy to solve another murder but pissed about having to dime Pablo out.  The Di Angelo brothers were not to be trifled with.  Even though the plants were not mature enough to process Steele was sure the buyers for the coke were already lined up.  Pablo would not just be fired he was about to become a marked man. 

Just as Steele and Stan reached the Jaguar Mr. Matthews shouted from the front door.  “Mr. Steele, I almost forgot to ask you, what happened to that lottery ticket?”
Steele shrugged his shoulders.  “I wish I knew Mr. Matthews, that’s the thirty million question.”

Next Wednesday - Final Chapter
Chapter #9

The Thirty Million Dollar Answer 

Part #1
Part #2
Part #3
Part #4
Part #5
Part #6
Video Recap


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.

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