Richard Butler, PI – Chapter 6 (a roaring inconvenience)

Butler and Clancy raced back to the kitchen, where Butler had left his ledger after signing in the guests. This case, which had only moments ago seemed dry enough to kill a camel, was now on the verge of tying up. The detective now had two suspects with motives to kill. They also both had opportunity, as their scuffle over O’Connor’s plate at dinner would have provided ample time to covertly slip some poison into O’Connor’s unwilling drink. Butler wasn’t sure about the means — he knew one of them had poisoned O’Connor, but the nature of the poison in question was still a mystery. It didn’t matter though, all he needed was enough evidence, and a clever plan, to coerce a confession out of the murderer.

The detective and his assistant arrived at their destination to find what could only be described as a roaring inconvenience.

“Inspector Bagley,” Butler sighed with disbelief. The end of this investigation was in sight, yet just out of his reach. It seemed a few more hurdles still stood in their way.

“Oh, crackers.” Bagley said, with disbelief to at least match, if not surpass, Butler’s.

“That’s us, inspector. As a matter of fact, we’re about to crack this one wide open,” Butler replied snidely. It took a moment for Bagley to catch on, before he snapped back:

“Alright, I don’t have time for your wisecracks —” these words had only just left Bagley’s mouth when he realized his mistake. But it was too late, and there was no way to corral those words back; Butler had already leapt on the opportunity.

“Really, inspector, you’re too kind,” Butler continued, and while still in control of the conversation, asked “Inspector, what are you doing here in my kitchen?”

Bagley laughed. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” Then, ignoring the implications of his own snide remark, Bagley went on to explain what exactly he was doing. “It’s called doing my job, Butler, not my fake job I pretend to have, or some job I’m deluded into thinking I’m really good at, my real job. Something you should consider. I’m going over every inch of this house,” he said as he inspected a sizable crack on the food preparation table, “and I’m going to find this killer.”

“Get in line,” Butler responded dryly as he went to the cabinet that held his ledger. He swung the doors open, but instead of finding the solution to this case, Butler was greeted only by disappointment. The cabinet was as empty as Bagley’s head. Butler whipped around to face Bagley and asked “what did you do with my ledger?”

Bagley smiled, knowing that with this he had won a battle, albeit a minor one. “You mean the one we took as evidence?” Before Butler had a chance to get any words out his mouth, Bagley cut him off with a preemptive retort: “and don’t even try to tell me it’s not evidence! Why else would you want it? I’m not an idiot!”

“Well, it couldn’t be because I’m a butler. I have a job to do, you know. That didn’t die with Mr. O’Connor.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a job too,” Bagley said, “and it’s to not give up evidence, so you can just forget about it!”

Butler stood there, eyes closed and breathing deeply to avoid losing his calm amidst Inspector Bagley’s lunacy. He sighed and glanced over at Clancy, who seemed at a loss for what to do. But that was okay, Butler figured. It might even be best if Clancy just sit this one out and let Butler handle the inspector.

“Inspector, I understand that you have a job to do — and I respect that,” Butler said, “you as a person? Not so much, but I have great respect your job.” Butler strode over to the table and leaned imposingly on it. He lowered his voice, stared down Inspector Bagley in the eye, and said “but I don’t appreciate it when you get in the way of my job. Either one of them. So no more cracking the table where I set plates and no more getting in the way of my inspecting. Now give me back my ledger so I can do my job.”

Bagley snarled, stood up straight and turned his back to Butler. He walked to the door, opened it, and looked back at Butler.

“No,” he stated, “I won’t give it to you. But I tell you to come follow me. You have keys to everything in this house?”

“Indeed I do, how about I trade them for the ledger?”

Bagley made no recognition of Butler’s offer. “Then I expect you to come with me and co-operate. Don’t make me put up a fight, because I will!”

Butler was not afraid of Bagley’s attempt at intimidation, but after giving this a quick consideration, he agreed. However, before he left to endure the torture that was co-operating with Bagley, Butler leaned in close to Clancy to give him some classified instructions.

“Clancy,” he whispered, “I need to you go back and find where they’re keeping the ledger. Take it as quietly as you can… by any means necessary.” Clancy, eyes wide with determination, nodded.

Butler turned around to go follow Bagley. Right as they had almost left the room, into the safety of Bagley not knowing their plan, yet the danger of occupying the same room as Bagley for an extended amount of time, Clancy turned around and complicated things with this question:

“Wait! What will I do with it without the note?”

Butler closed his eyes and breathed deeply once again. However, he could not maintain his calm well enough for this comment to blow over. Bagley uttered the two words Butler was afraid of.

“What note!?”

Sighing a sigh of defeat, Butler lifted the suicide note from his pocket and held it in the air, where Inspector Bagley snatched it from his firm grasp. Bagley laughed. He didn’t get many opportunities to one-up Butler (although he’d never admit to this), so he savored each one he did get. Bagley stopped laughing once he opened and read the note.

“Huh.”

Bagley took a moment to process this information, before shrugging and instructing “Okay, Butler, come with me — and watch yourself, I don’t want to see you pulling clever!” Bagley turned around and left the room, not even looking back to make sure Butler was following. This small victory had given him a renewed sense of arrogance.

“Don’t worry,” Butler said to no one in particular, as Clancy had already left on his covert mission and Bagley was a few strides ahead, “With my hand, I don’t need any cards up my sleeve.”

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Richard Butler, PI – Chapter 5 (a double hearing)

Back at the supply closet, which was currently wearing its “office” hat, Richard Butler paced back and forth, searching his memory for any hidden clue in everything he had heard thus far. Clancy leaned back against the soap cabinet, waiting for Butler to give him the next move. No sounds came in the way of Butler’s thinking, aside from the quiet hum of the washing machine. But even after reviewing the facts enough times to bring his headache back, Butler hadn’t come up with anything new. If there was a clue to be found in what he had learned, it would have to come later.

“Clancy!” Butler called, breaking the silence (aside from the washers, of course) they had been experiencing for the past fifteen minutes.

“Right here,” Clancy said, which was a rather obvious statement, considering he had not moved throughout the same duration as they had experienced silence. “What’s our next move?”

“I need you to fetch Mrs. O’Connor, I’ve got a few questions for her. Grab Gertrude too, while you’re at it.” Butler recalled their display during dinner and decided he ought to follow up on this lead. He thought it might make up for the staleness of the ones he had been following. A glass of water might also help.

“I’ll bring them in at once,” Clancy said, glad to be back on the case. He promptly stood up, turned around, and headed for the door. Just as he was exiting the office, Butler stopped him:

“Hold on a second,” he added, “bring them in one at a time. Dinner was awkward enough with the two of them separated by a table full of people, I don’t need them getting at each other’s throats in my office too.” Then, with a sharp smile, added “That’s my job.”

“Understood” was Clancy’s only word before leaving the room. Butler sat down, using the brief respite to formulate an attack strategy. He would soon have two potential killers in the room with him, and needed a good way to trap them.

After merely a few minutes, plenty of time for an expert like Butler to concoct his plan, Clancy returned with both suspects waiting outside. Butler asked for Mrs. O’Connor to come in first, followed by the younger, more manipulative Gertrude.

Once he got the usual cordial formalities out of the way, he pushed on straight through to the firm intimidation stage. Butler began with this question:

“Did Mr. O’Connor ever talk about his business ventures?”

Mrs. O’Connor was quick to answer. “Of course he did! I had just as much stake in this business as he did.”

“So then,” he prodded, “he told you about the possible health problems associated with his bottles?”

“Well, we’d have a problem on our hands if he hadn’t,” she asserted, “after all, I was the brains of the operation.” At Butler’s prompting, Mrs. O’Connor went on to explain that, while Albert O’Connor was a brilliant innovator, he did not have the innate command to be an entrepreneur. O’Connor solved this problem by surrounding himself with first-rate businessmen, such as Harrington and, more importantly, his wife.

“So then,” Butler advanced, “the business will continue to run smoothly?”

“This project was my dear husband’s life’s work,” Mrs. O’Connor stated gravely, “nothing will stop me from seeing it through.”

Gertrude’s answer to this same question, a simple “Alfred never mixed business with pleasure,” could only be met by Butler with an awkward “so I’ve heard.” However, it did allow him an easy segue into his next question:

“I’m going to be straightforward with you, Gertrude,” he said, “we all saw your spectacle at dinner, so I have to ask: were you having an affair with Mr. O’Connor?”

Gertrude, not returning Butler’s frankness, opted instead to defend her actions from earlier in the evening. “I didn’t find it fair that I had to sit so far away from Al,” Gertrude said with a pitiful frown, one which made her appear inauthentically innocent. “I just wanted to talk to him, but I was stuck between Joel, who kept making advances despite my repeated rejecting, and the Italian Diplomat,” Gertrude’s puppy-like expression changed into a grimace as she recalled the situation, “have you ever been close to the man? He stinks up the room like… well, I would say it, but not in polite company.”

“I appreciate that,” Butler said after the brief lull in brain activity that came with Gertrude’s tone of voice. He quickly regained himself and got back on topic. “Listen, I don’t have all day. Were you having an affair or not?”

Gertrude grinned. She did not, however, respond to Butler’s question.

“Alright,” he said, defeated, “if you’re not going to answer my question, then just get out of my office. It’s not like I don’t know the answer.” Butler had barely finished his surrender when Gertrude nearly deafened him:

“It’s wasn’t an ‘affair’! I was the one he should have been with!”

Butler’s eyes opened wider than they usually did after confessions of this sort, probably thanks to the magnitude of her noise level. “Is that so?” He asked, as if she wasn’t already going to continue unloading.

“He was going to leave her, anyways,” Gertrude said with a restored tone, “he told me so the night before he died.”

After a few more questions, but no more answers, Butler dismissed Gertrude from the office. Once given a moment to process, Clancy looked at Butler and asked:

“What do you make of her claim that O’Connor was going to leave his wife… was she lying?”

“Considering the source, that’s a fair assumption,” Butler responded without a moment’s wait. However, after reconsidering for a moment, he suggested, “but, on the off chance she wasn’t lying, and O’Connor really was going to leave his wife… then we have a jealous wife on our hands. A jealous wife who’s used to taking risks.”

“So then, we need to find out whether or not he was really going to leave Mrs. O’Connor?”

“We may not need to,” Butler declared in a moment of inspiration. He brought forth the supposed suicide note from his jacket, and said “maybe all we need is this.” When he saw the perplexed look on Clancy’s face, Butler explained: “whichever of them killed Mr. O’Connor must have written this note as a cover-up. All we need is a handwriting sample, and we should be able to figure out which one is closer.”

“So then, this note is literally our smoking gun!” Clancy exclaimed.

“Figuratively, actually,” Butler corrected, “it’s not literally a gun… nor is it the murder weapon, for that matter. But it is what will reveal the murderer to us.” Butler let that sink in for a moment. “Let’s go get my ledger. I had all the guests sign in when they arrived, that should be enough handwriting to give us an idea.”

As Butler took off, he looked back and noticed Clancy hanging behind. “Figuratively…” Clancy mused. Butler broke his reflection.

“Come along, Clancy. We’ve got work to do.”