Richard Butler, PI – Chapters 1-3 (a moving day)

I’ve decided to switch my writing from Facebook over to WordPress, simply because I like the setup more. So, here are the three chapters currently on Facebook. In fact, I think these may be slightly revised versions (although not enough to re-read just for that… it’s a work in progress) More will come.

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Chapter 1 (a dinner is served, with a side of Murder)

Sir Albert Brian O’Connor III smiled one of those smiles that exudes a certain nervous pomp. Of course, he had hosted numerous dinners, balls, and ceremonies before — he had nothing to be worried about there. It was something else that bothered him. This uneasiness was readily apparent to anyone who was looking for it, although only one such person was in the room.

“Butler!” he cried, seeking assurance that all would go well, an assurance that did nothing to calm his edgy spirit. The butler brought O’Connor a glass of wine — a good plan B to fill in where assurance had recently failed him. O’Connor was fairly certain he would require a few more “plan B”s before the night was finished.

O’Connor’s wife, almost as frantic as he was albeit for different reasons, broke his introspection: “Albert! Our guests are arriving! Most of them are already here!”

“Yes dear, I’ll be there in a moment.” She was already out of the room by the time he had finished speaking. After a moment’s pause, during which he gave serious consideration to leaving the party and its guests unattended, O’Connor followed his wife into the dining room.

The room was large and extravagant, as any dining room of a soon-to-be-millionaire ought to be. The ceiling was high, the chandeliers expensive, the paintings old, and the table long. O’Connor greeted his guests and shook hands as he took his seat at the head of the table. He loved this seat, as it highlighted his authority. The strongest, most prominent man at the table deserved the most prominent seat at the table. The seat gave him comfort, although not as much as plan B did.

O’Connor jumped slightly in this seat, thinking that some unseen attacker had snuck up behind him. His wife threw him a stern look that said “behave yourself! you have respectable guests and don’t need to be jumping like a loony with a nuclear fallout shelter every time your butler comes from the kitchen to serve you your shad roe” better than any words could have hoped to. O’Connor finished off his wine, and his butler promptly replaced it with another glass.

Whether due to the wine or the conversation, O’Connor calmed down significantly. Harrington entertained the other guests with stories from the hunting trips he and O’Connor frequented. Joel O’Connor, Albert’s younger brother, attempted to entertain guests with the wit and charm he thought himself to possess. He didn’t actually possess any great wit or charm, but the guests politely laughed all the same — except for Dr. Frank Steinberg, who was almost as socially inept as Joel. His laughs were genuine. The Italian Diplomat unwittingly entertained everyone, despite being a very crude man, thanks to his accent. All of this kept O’Connor so calm, he never had to revert back to plan B.

During the second course, O’Connor narrowly averted disaster. Gertrude got out of her seat (conveniently placed as far from his as possible, yet not at the other “head” of the table, which was conveniently empty), and made her way smoothly over to his. She leaned over to whisper into his ear, her wavy, golden hair falling nearly onto his braised duck. His wife made a grab for her hair, correctly finding this to be a good point of attack. Luckily, she never made it, because O’Connor’s son, Albert IV, grabbed her hand in midair. As if this sign of aggression hadn’t made it clear enough, Mrs. O’Connor gave Gertrude the “wife glare,” similar to the one she gave O’Connor earlier, but with a hint of malice, and a dash of you’d-better-sleep-with-one-eye-open. Gertrude returned to her seat.

All of this action happened right above O’Connor’s plate — a fact that didn’t please the germaphobe in him. Also unpleasing was the awkward silence permeating the room. In order to diffuse this awkward silence, O’Connor stood up to make a toast:

“Dear family and friends, I want to thank you all for coming to my humble home today,” he paused, looking for the right words, which inadvertently created another awkward silence. “When I started my first business selling pre-bottled water, people scoffed at me. They didn’t believe anyone would buy such a product. Except for those of you sitting before me today, you believed in me. Except for my son, who wasn’t born yet. And Gertrude, who also wasn’t born yet… I was only a boy then, and had much to learn about business. Today, I have realized a life-long goal. My bottled-water business has thrived locally, but soon it will become a revolution around the world. Last year, I took my creation to the world fair in Stockholm, where a major distribution deal was reached. Once this deal finalizes, I am going to become a very rich man. And I’m taking you all with me. Here’s to the world market!”

The guests raised their glasses and made their cheers known, for soon they would be riding the coattails of the rich. However, the cheers did not last long, as O’Connor had only finished his drink for a few moments when he fell to the ground with a thump that was sure to put a dent in his business venture.

He was dead.

The guests sat there for a moment which seemed to last three, four, maybe five times as long as it truly was, before hysteria began.

“It was him!” Gertrude cried, pointing at the butler who stood in the doorway to the kitchen, frozen in the middle of his trip to bring out the dessert.

“Of course… it would be the butler, wouldn’t it!” Joel concurred.

“Yeah!”

“Despicable”

“Si!”

Al Jr, Harrington, and the Italian Diplomat all agreed. Mrs. O’Connor threw her patented stare at the butler, adding in a dash of disgust. Finally, the butler spoke up:

“I promise you, it wasn’t me.” This denial, while simple, quieted the admittedly simple guests.

“If it wasn’t you,” Dr. Steinberg posited, “perhaps you should be the one to prove who did do it. After all, you’re currently the most likely suspect!”

“Don’t worry, I’ll find your killer,” he replied, gaining a level of confidence as he exchanged his manservant monocle for his gumshoe magnifying glass, “because I’m Richard Butler — private investigator!”

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Chapter 2 (a matter of note)

The petrified guests watched in cold silence as Butler examined the body. Butler searched methodically, but he wasn’t looking for clues about the cause of death — any PI with a half-decent knowledge of murder could see that O’Connor had been poisoned. But if there was evidence of any kind to be found, now was the time. Butler only had a few moments before —

“BUTLER!” The roar reached every remote corner as Inspector Bagley stormed into the dining room, pushing away anyone who lacked the common sense to move aside when faced with a charging rhinoceros. “Alright, alright, everyone out of the room, and stand by for questioning… except you Butler!”

Butler paused, wishing he had been given more time with the body before Bagley showed up.

“Good to see you, inspector, I was wondering when you’d show up,” Butler said with the most non-subtle of sarcasm. “It’s not really a murder case without the incessant interruptions of the police, now is it?”

“Aw, cheese and crackers!” Bagley always hated it when Butler got to the crime scene before him. “Out of all the places for a crime! Here? Gotta be kidding! Crackers!” Bagley hesitated for a moment, breathing in the situation, before asking, “did you see this happen?!”

“I’d be blind if I didn’t. I was standing in that doorway right there,” Butler replied as he gestured to his right. Inspector Bagley looked over his shoulder to the doorway, a perfect distraction so that Butler could reach into the deceased O’Connor’s jacket, and transfer a slip of paper to his own.

“Aw, crackers, you’re not going to help. Just get out, it’s my turn!”

Butler gave Bagley a mock bow and obliged. This situation was not new for Butler and Bagley. Their cases often intersected, leaving the two of them in a constant game of rivalry. The clues one found might be just what the other missed — many cases could be solved twenty percent quicker if they just put their heads together. However, they’d be solved fifty percent quicker if Bagley just didn’t show up. Generally, Bagley just got in the way.

“And Butler!” Bagley called, cutting off the relief Butler would have felt upon not occupying the same room as the police inspector. “Try not to think so much, and maybe that headache of yours will go away.”

Butler scowled back at Bagley, which was the only response he could think of that matched the maturity of Bagley’s insult. Although the headache part was true, he had been rubbing his head ever since Bagley and his obnoxiously loud voice entered the room. Being the ace private eye he was, Butler saw the connection.

Butler strolled out into the foyer, where the guests, hereafter known not as guests but as suspects, were in the middle of questioning by the police. Amongst the frantic suspects, Butler noticed the police questioning Clancy, O’Connor’s chauffeur and Butler’s sidekick.

“No sir, no sir!” Clancy protested, “I could not have done it, I was taking Master O’Connor’s car to the shop at the time. You could go down there and ask, all the mechanics will tell you!”

“A likely story!” the policeman scoffed, “you think have just the perfect alibi, don’t you?”

“Probably because he does,” Butler interjected confidently, “Clancy was gone at the time of the incident and he has no motive… not to mention his utter lack of knowledge of poisons!

Opportunity, motive, means — he doesn’t have any of them!”

“What do ya mean, ‘poison?’” the policeman stammered.

“See, it’s something you put into a fellow’s drink if you want them, you know, unavailable,” he quipped. Butler could tell, based on the officer’s grimaced and reddened face, that he was less than pleased with Butler’s remark. However, he could see that the officer would not let him go until he gave a more meaningful, but no less true, remark. “I’m an investigator. It was obvious, the man was poisoned.”

“Well, we’ll see about that once we get him back to the lab.” The officer, whose opinion was little more than an extension of Bagley’s, would love nothing more than to prove Butler wrong.

“I don’t doubt it,” Butler replied, “come on Clancy, we’ve got a case to solve.” Clancy followed Butler out of the room, where they could discuss matters out of earshot of the police.

“Butler, why did you tell them I know nothing of poisons? We’ve worked tons of cases involving poison!”

“Well, Clancy, I had to get you out of there. He was bugging you… at least, he was bugging me,” Butler paused a moment, thinking, “More importantly though, I’d like to keep this idea of my incompetence going — the more time they spend in the lab dissecting the body to disprove me just gives us a head start.”

“Do we have a lead?”

Butler smirked, “Sure do, and an exclusive nonetheless.” Butler reached into his coat pocket, and presented the paper he had slyly taken from the crime scene.

“What is it?” Clancy wondered aloud.

“Let’s find out.” Butler unfolded the paper, to find an almost illegible note. The handwriting was messy and jittery, as if it had been written by a kid high off ice cream and black coffee. It read:

“Goodbye cruel world!
-ABO”

“Clancy,” Butler said quietly, “this case just got interesting.”

————————————————————————–

Chapter 3 (a doctor’s appointment)

Dr. Steinberg sat patiently through the policeman’s circular questioning. This policeman seemed to excel in rephrasing the same question over and over. After what seemed like an eternity, Steinberg heard that wonderful phrase:

“Well, I guess you’re free to go now. Thanks for your time.” The policeman left to go begin his questioning on another helpless suspect.

Dr. Steinberg exited the room calmly, glad to finally be done with all the questions. However, he was not as done as he had thought, for he had only been out of the room a moment when he was intercepted by Clancy.

“Sir! Are you one Dr. Steinberg?” Clancy asked, excited about their new lead. While he was certainly shaken up over having to solve the murder of his boss of many years, Clancy always felt excited at the beginning of a new case. Not many things in life could compare to watching a master like Richard Butler begin his work.

“Yes, that’s me,” Steinberg replied, puzzled, “how can I help you? And who are you”

“My name is Clancy, private detective Richard Butler’s assistant. Butler requests your presence in his office at once.”

Steinberg’s face sunk. Having just finished a questioning, he was not eager to jump right back in. However, he could not ignore the logic involved.

“Well, I am the one who suggested he solve this wretched case. I suppose I can’t rightfully protest.” Steinberg sighed as he followed Clancy into the main entry room. Clancy moved swiftly, leading the doctor down the west wing, down another hall, to a door labeled “SUPPLY CLOSET.” Clancy grinned as he put the key in the lock, turned, and opened, treating the closet as if it were the opening to a secret cache of those tiny sausages wrapped up in biscuits. Clancy loved those.

Clancy and Steinberg entered the closet. It was large, for a closet, large enough to hold washers, dryers, and enough towels and sheets to have spares for the entire O’Connor mansion, in case of emergency flooding or mildew. Enthroned amid the stacks of newly-washed towels and buckets of cleaning solution sat Richard Butler, with a face ready for business and an eye geared up for detecting. Like a king in his own tiny island, Butler owned the supply closet and everything that crossed its threshold.

“Please, doctor, take a seat,” Butler said cordially, though clearly not as a question. Steinberg looked around the cramped closet, but saw no discernible chair sitting on his end of the desk, or anywhere in room, aside from the one Butler sat in. Butler apologized for the inconvenience:

“I’m sorry, we don’t seem to have another chair. Feel free to use this,” Butler said as he handed Steinberg an empty mop-bucket.

Dr. Steinberg studied the object for a moment, trying to decide whether or not Butler was joking. He soon realized Butler was not, and proceeded to turn it upside-down and take his somewhat humbling seat.

“I don’t want to waste your time,” Butler began, “so I’ll get right down to business. You help me out, and we can be done here quickly.” Butler paused for dramatic effect before continuing: “why would O’Connor have wanted to kill himself?”

Steinberg gasped, dumbfounded upon receiving such a staggering question. Finally, he responded “that’s absurd! Why even suggest something so preposterous?!”

“I suggest because I suspect,” Butler countered, “Now, if anyone would know why, it’d be his doctor… so, I ask again, why?”

“I… well, I don’t know!” Steinberg stammered, still not able to take in this possibility. “O’Connor suffered from chronic insomnia, but that’s no justification for suicide! Besides, he was making improvements, and staying very optimistic. I had to wrestle with him to get him to accept a renewal on his prescription — he wanted to get off it!”

“Well,” Butler replied, interested, “that’s not the mark of a suicidal man, now is it?” He took the doctor’s silence as a confirmation. “What about his business, you know of any problems there?” Butler waited patiently for Steinberg’s answer, unsure whether his silence was searching for an answer or still attempting to grapple with this development. Or maybe trying to cover his tracks — Butler hadn’t ruled out any suspect yet. Finally, Dr. Steinberg answered with a juicy bit of information that would propel Butler into the next leg of his investigation:

“During his last checkup, he was asking peculiar questions…”

Butler’s face lit up at this bit of information. This would be an important lead — he could tell. Steinberg continued.

“He was asking about various chemicals, and what health problems they might cause. I apologize if that doesn’t help you, but it’s all I have.”

“No, no that’s good.” Butler struggled to keep his calm at this, assuming his inferences were correct. This was a safe assumption, as his inferences held the tendency of being correct. “You’re fine. You can go now. Thank you for your time.”

With that, Clancy showed Steinberg the exit, a slightly unnecessary action considering they were only in a closet, but a polite gesture nonetheless. As soon as he was out and the door firmly closed, Butler let loose the feeble gates keeping hold of his excitement.

“Clancy! You realize what this means?” Butler could tell by Clancy’s clueless expression that he didn’t. “O’Connor was looking into chemical poison. Therefore —”

“— you think it’s the same poison that killed him!”

“Well,” Butler attempted to phrase Clancy’s failure to deduce nicely, “at this point, I’m not sure that’s relevant.” Naturally, he succeeded, “No, I think someone discovered a problem with the plastic used in his water bottles. Maybe they leak chemicals…”

“And he went to Dr. Steinberg to get a second opinion!”

“Exactly, dear Clancy. Right you are.” Clancy typically performed better on his second try.

“But, Butler,” Clancy asked, still not quite following Butler’s deduction, “so this would hurt his business. But would it really make him want to take his own life?”

“No, he wouldn’t,” Butler suggested, “but someone else with a stake in this business may have wanted to…”

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About thomasbwhite
Writing, Photography, Jamming, Violin-ing, Hiking, Musing, Reading, Learning, Sketching, Frisbee-ing, Rambling... just a few of my favorite things.

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