Richard Butler, PI – Chapter 8 (a close second)

Richard Butler wandered uneasily through the hallways. He had, until a few moments prior, thought himself to have reached the end of this case. The path was straight, his view was clear, and the murderer would soon be caught. However, after a slight detour thanks to the navigational prowess of Inspector Bagley, Butler now found himself lost. Now all that he needed to do was to find himself found. He needed to get a bearing, a direction; a lead. Butler searched through his mind. He still suspected Mrs. O’Connor (or, almost equally, Gertrude), but now he was convinced he needed to find out who opened the safe.

Butler found himself in the game room. He would have preferred to find himself in a focused state of mind with a lead, but this was acceptable too. A close second. He sat down in one of the armchairs near the pool table, the kind of armchair that you tend to sink into and causes you to lose any thoughts which clash with the desire to sleep.

But Butler would not let the comfort of this chair prevail against his need to get back on track. Only a moment after taking a seat in the oversized armchair, Butler came to his feet. Things were beginning to make since; clues began to come together to form something somewhat resembling a case, a case whose image was almost complete enough to warrant cracking.

“Of course!” he exclaimed to the empty room. The importance, Butler now saw, did not lay in the safe but in the content of the new will. Almost anyone could have opened the safe, but if the person who opened the safe was one and the same with the murderer, then the motive would have been gained by the revelation of the will.

This thought, unfortunately, was cut off just as it was going somewhere. Butler heard two loud voices coming his way.

“Oh please, please help me out! Help out your favorite uncle, you know I’ve always been good to you!” the first voice pleaded.

“Listen, can we talk about this later? My father just died, I’m not in the mood to be discussing business on a day like this!” the second voice reasoned.

The voices, correctly deduced by Butler’s keen detective ears to be Albert O’Connor’s brother Joel and his son Al Jr., entered the game room. The two O’Connors, aware of but not acknowledging the presence of the private investigator-slash-manservant, made their way over to the pool table as Joel picked up and began to chalk two cues.

With this gesture, he asked “pool?” Al Jr. gave him a look as if to lump games in with business in the “activities we don’t do today” category. Joel tossed him the pool stick anyways and said “come on, it’ll take your mind off things.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Junior threw a faint smile, signaling his entrance into the game. He leaned over the table and stabbed the white ball, sending the pool balls flying in their separate ways. After sinking two balls, Junior made a slight slip-up and gave the turn over to his uncle.

“That was pretty good, boy,” Joel taunted, “but let me show you how the game is really played!” Joel sat up on the edge of the table, leaned far over, and lined his pole up behind his back. Butler observed that this shot could have been made much more easily, had it been approached from a different angle. The detective almost said something to correct Joel’s error, but it was more in his nature to detect than it was to coach. Instead, he decided to sit and watch where this was going.

‘Where this was going’ turned out to be a wasted turn. Joel’s pole had, undoubtedly due to the awkward angle, only grazed the edge of the white pool ball, sending it dawdling over to the side.

“Well,” Joel muttered, “you get the idea.”

The two O’Connors continued their game of pool, with the elder of the two surprisingly winning. While Joel O’Connor was not, by any means, a natural at the game of pool, junior was just absent-minded enough to begin losing miserably. Naturally, the uncle’s unmistakable domination over his nephew in the realm of games did nothing to calm the junior O’Connor’s qualms. When his next turn came up, instead of pointing his pole at the ball to strike, Junior set it on the table and sat down.

“Uncle,” he said, “thank you for attempting to calm my nerves, but I regret to say it’s not working. I need a plan B.”

“Coming right up!” Butler said as he leapt into action. He had been working as a private investigator all night, and it seemed a good thing to, if only temporarily, switch back into manservant mode. Butler darted to the game room bar and poured a glass of wine, which he promptly brought over to the pool table.

“Here you go, Master O’Connor, let’s see if this helps.”

Junior grabbed for the glass and took a long drink. At this moment, young Junior gained a new sense of confidence. Perhaps it was being referred to, for the first time, as “Master O’Connor,” or perhaps it was simply the plan B, but Albert Brain O’Connor IV was now ready to play some pool. He straightened his back and lifted his chin. Junior had returned to the table with a new sense of composure, and a better posture.

While the pool table itself sat firmly lodged in its place in the room, it would have been clear to any bystander that the tables had turned. As his playing improved, the duration of Junior’s turns grew longer and longer. Had they been measured in feet and inches rather than minutes and seconds, they would have reached nearly to the moon. Throughout this, Joel became nervous and sloppy. His hands shook, his knees trembled, and soon this game they played became one-sided.

Butler watched this game with fascination. It didn’t require his finely tuned detection techniques to notice the tension between the two O’Connors. The tension was so thick that no knife-metaphor could cut it. This tension had nearly reached its climax when Joel surrendered.

“I think I’m about done… you had some good shots, I had some good shots… can we call that even?”

Butler chimed in, “well, I hardly think that’s truthful.”

Joel, with his face flushed and his fists clenched, rigidly set the pool cue down on the table and marched out of the room.

“Uncle, wait!” Junior cried as he followed after Joel. Butler overheard one small, yet crucial, piece of their conversation as they left the room.

“Uncle, I’ll help you out. You can have some of the money, you know I got more than enough.”

Upon hearing this, all the clues and pieces of evidence Butler had obtained up until this point raced through his mind. Only two seemed to be of particular importance: the falsified suicide note and the will, and he now knew of two suspects who knew of the latter. Butler moved swiftly and silently, determined to tail his suspects — a skill any good detective should be proficient in — and finally reach the end of this case. However, as Butler turned the corner, he was abruptly stopped by the former piece of evidence.


“Butler, I’ve found it!” the sidekick said with glee as he retrieved Butler’s ledger from his bag. “It wasn’t easy,” he continued, “but I managed to get it back from Bagley!”

“Great work Clancy,” Butler affirmed, “but I don’t think I need it; I already know who our culprit is. New evidence has come up, and my deductions tell me — almost for certain — that we need to catch Al Jr. However, it’s good that you came now. This ledger should only confirm my suspicions!”

Clancy opened the ledger to the most recent entry and handed it to Butler, who took the suicide note out from his coat pocket. He observed the sloppy, jittery handwriting on the note, a handwriting which could only match —

“ — Joel O’Connor?” Butler realized, with a hint of befuddlement, before regaining himself and saying “well, that was… a close second.” Butler slammed shut the ledger and pushed it into Clancy’s chest, prompting Clancy to grab ahold of and carry the evidence lest it fall.

“Come, Clancy,” he said, “let’s catch ourselves a killer.”

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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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