Richard Butler, PI – Chapter 10 (a thrilling conclusion)

Here it is, the final chapter. Turned out considerably longer than the previous chapters. I enjoyed writing this story, hope you enjoyed reading. Also, look out for “Richard Butler 2: the lack of original ideas.”

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The suspects, soon to be known not as suspects but only only guests, crowded into the closet that currently functioned as an office. Each eyed his neighbor with suspicion, for one of them had killed their friend. These nervous glances exchanged for nearly ten uncomfortable minutes before Richard Butler strode proudly into the room.

“Butler! What’s this about?!” Bagley yelled.

The private detective, not wishing to upset his carefully calculated rhythm, ignored the question. “In mere minutes,” he proclaimed to his guests, “you will all know who murdered Albert Brian O’Connor the third.” Beat. “This proved to be a difficult case for me. Many leads to follow…” Butler quickly eyed his audience, “all with their own possible motives. Perhaps it was the Italian Diplomat! Maybe, upon learning about the presence of harmful chemicals in O’Connor’s disposable water bottles, he had to end the product; he does, after all, have an obligation to the well-being of his people. My understanding is he was here to solidify a deal to get Italy the bottles before everyone else!”

The guests all gasped and gaped at their own times during Butler’s monologue, some at the revelation of the chemicals, and a few at the suggestion of the Italian Diplomat. Most, however, found the latter suggestion believable; they all still thought he was probably in the mafia.

“Cut with the theatrics, will ya’ Butler?” Inspector Bagley quipped, “some of us would like to get out of here this week.”

“You want me to jump right on to the big finish?” Butler supposed.

“If you don’t mind.”

“Well, ok,” Butler said, then with a large smile, “you did it. That’s right, people, inspector Bagley is the murderer! Wrap it up, you may all go home now. Officer, restrain this man!”

“Cheese and crackers,” Bagley whined, “fine, continue your little game. Just speed it up a little, ok?”

Butler smiled. “Alright, where was I? Oh yes, the Italian Diplomat. He probably didn’t do it. No real motive or opportunity. Doc, how many people did you tell about the chemicals?”

“None,” Dr. Steinberg affirmed. “I could not even say conclusively why Mr. O’Connor asked me about the chemicals. I didn’t give it much thought.”

“And you, Mrs. O’Connor?”

“I hadn’t told anyone. I hadn’t decided yet our course of action.”

“So,” Butler continued, “no one else knew. We have it from the head of the business herself — yes, Mrs. O’Connor — that this was confidential information. So we can rule that out as motive for the kill. However, that does not leave the involved parties free. Take Dr. Steinberg, for example. Doc, did you ever argue or disagree with Mr. O’Connor?”

“No,” he responded, “he was a very agreeable man.”

“Interesting,” Butler mused, “when I questioned you earlier, you said, and I quote, that you recently ‘had to wrestle with him.’ Suppose you could, in fact, say conclusively why he asked about the chemicals. Sounds to me like that would make a pretty good cover up.”

“Preposterous! Why, I —”

“No matter, he didn’t do it.” Butler interjected, “no, O’Connor’s recent argument with his doctor was over whether or not he should take a renewal on his medicine subscription. And he did. Nothing harmful there.”

Dr. Steinberg breathed deeply. The clever misdirection had left him nervous.

“No,” the detective continued, “perhaps a more personal motive was at work here. Now, I didn’t have to be the skilled detective I am,” Bagley scoffed at this remark, but Butler trudged on through without giving it any attention, “to notice some tension at dinner tonight. Mrs. O’Connor and Gertrude made quite a scene. And they made this scene right above O’Connor’s plate — plenty of opportunity to slip some poison in.”

Both ladies protested to this. Once Butler managed to quiet them down, he continued. “Now, Gertrude, manipulative as she is, probably wouldn’t have done this. I mean sure, she’s pathologically insane and was having an affair with O’Connor, but she wouldn’t have killed him. After all, she thought, whether true or not, that he was leaving his wife for her! That’s no reason to kill.”

Gertrude smiled a mischievously coy smile at evidently being let off the hook. She didn’t seem to mind the allegations of being “pathologically insane.” However, Butler couldn’t tell whether this was because she knew it to be an accurate assessment, or if she was just glad to have escaped suspicion. Then again, maybe she just didn’t know what “pathological” meant. Mrs. O’Connor, however, clearly saw the implications of what Butler had said.

“What are you suggesting?!” she exclaimed, “I wouldn’t kill my own husband, no matter what he was planning on doing. Gertrude, by the way, was mistaken! And why must you drag my husband’s good name through the mud? Pick on someone else for a change… Harrington, maybe!”

Harrington started to speak, but Butler cut him off.

“I’m not here to discuss whether or not his name was good, I’m here to catch a murderer. Now, as much as I hate to say it after this questioning of my methods, it probably wasn’t the missis either. No, I suspected for a while that her jealousy was behind this, but I’m no longer convinced. So long as she ran the business, she seemed content to let Mr. O’Connor do whatever he wanted. I believe she loved the power he allowed more than she loved O’Connor, and she wouldn’t risk that.” Butler paused a moment to allow a suitable segue. “It seems the key to this case lay in two documents: a will and a note.”

At this signal, Clancy took the two documents from his briefcase and handed them to Butler. The detective continued: “the one I hold in my left hand is Mr. O’Connor’s recently updated will. In my right hand, his suicide note.”

Harrington stood up, “a suicide note! Why couldn’t you have just brought this up sooner and saved us all some time?!”

“Because,” Butler said patiently, “O’Connor didn’t write it. Now, to really see the importance of these two clues, we have to examine them together. Separately, they give their own different, incomplete, solutions to this case… but together, yes, we must look at them together.

“Let’s begin with the will,” Butler said as he began pacing through the room, a difficult task considering the lack of any personal space in that office. “O’Connor had recently updated his will. Well, not an update so much as a complete re-write. He was going to give everything he had to his son. As of a few months ago, Al. Jr. is the sole heir to the O’Connor estate. When I examined O’Connor’s safe, I discovered that someone had opened it very recently — someone knew about the change.

“Now,” he continued, “this clue by itself would lead us to convict Junior. After all, that’s a large sum of money. The problem is that Junior didn’t need the money. So long as Albert O’Connor the third was alive, he was going to take care of his son. Perhaps Junior needed assurance that his father wouldn’t change his mind again, but there’s no precedence for that. No, this clue in itself gave an incomplete picture, which brings us to the point of the supposed suicide note.”

Bagley rolled his eyes. Butler loved doing these monologues, stringing his audience along with every twist and turn of the case. Bagley wished it would just be done with. Butler continued:

“It took some work, but once we managed to wrestle my ledger away from inspector Bagley here —” Bagley smirked, not because it was retrieved but because he had inconvenienced Butler, “— I compared the handwriting on the suicide note with the signatures in the ledger. While the culprit tried to mask his handwriting, I saw through it. The writing on the page was jittery, as if the culprit’s hand was shaking while writing. Only one person here matches that description: Joel O’Connor!” The crowd gasped at this, which only fueled Butler’s enthusiasm in his presentation. “Yes, Joel O’Connor — as many of you know — has always written with a shaky hand. This led me to believe he killed his highly successful brother out of jealousy. But, as I said, these pieces of evidence must be examined in conference with each other, not alone.

“Now, I must admit that, had it not been for a stroke of luck, I may have never solved this case. No, too many strands. Too many fine points which, taken on their own, seemed insignificant. But there was one piece of evidence that tied them all together, and of all the supply closets in all the mansions in all the world, it walked into mine.” Butler paused to appreciate the way he had his audience riveted, waiting anxiously upon the next revelation.

“Italian Diplomat, would you please tell these people why I found you hiding in my office today?”

“Well,” he said, nervously, “I was getting some cleaning supplies. For Mrs. O’Connor, she asked me to.”

“Interesting…” Butler said, “during a time of mourning such as this, why would you think about cleaning? Let me ask everyone: what could you possibly need to clean up at a time like this?”

Mrs. O’Connor stammered “what do you mean?”

Butler continued his monologue. “I realized that, just because one person opened the safe, it doesn’t mean only one person was present at the time. The prints were recent, but old enough so I knew it was opened before the guests arrived. This leaves us with the three remaining O’Connors as people who potentially knew the contents of the new will. I know from overhearing that the two young men here knew, and I’ll work under the assumption that the Missis knew as well. After all, she’s probably the only one out of the three of them with the means to open it.

“Mrs. O’Connor, your one mistake was telling me that “nothing” would stop you from seeing this business through. Nothing. Not chemicals. Not O’Connor himself.”

“What? No… no!” she protested.

“O’Connor inquired to Dr. Steinberg about the chemicals,” Butler explained authoritatively, “and he decided he would pull the project. Mrs. O’Connor, of course, couldn’t have that. But she couldn’t get rid of O’Connor on her own. No, she needed help. Once the will was discovered, it was easy enough to convince Joel to write the note for her. She told him that, while Albert would never give his brother the money he needed, Junior would be more than happy to. Sure, Mrs. O’Connor would lose her money from this, but she new that she would more than make that back from the water bottle sales. All she had to do was fetch his recently refilled medicine bottle and slip an extra dosage into his wine…”

The crowd didn’t gasp this time. Instead, they stayed completely still, mouths agape with shock at the grisly details. Butler landed the finishing blow:

“The only thing you would need to clean up at a time like this… is murder!”

The crowd broke into hysteria. Mrs. O’Connor’s denials were drowned out by the sounds of “how could you?!” by the shocked guests and “you monster!” by the more dramatically inclined ones. No one could believe it. Especially not Inspector Bagley.

“Everyone QUIET!” the police inspector roared. Once his command was obeyed, he spoke: “One problem, Butler: what do cleaning supplies have to do with this, besides the metaphorical? Also, do you have any evidence other than speculation here?”

“Listen, inspector, I know this case has a lot of strands; it’s a complicated one. I understand if you didn’t follow everything, but we’ve eliminated all other possible solutions, so no matter how improbable —”

“Cut it Butler, it’s my turn. Doctor, you and Butler both said that O’Connor recently refilled his fluni… his medicine?”

“Yes, just the other day.”

“Wait,” Butler protested, “this is kind of… my thing.”

Inspector Bagley smirked and brought out the Flunitrazepam bottle from his coat pocket. “If he recently got a refill, why is it that the bottle we found in his office is nearly empty?”

“Well, I told you, he overdosed, courtesy of his wife,” Butler said matter-of-factly.

“Uh uh,” Bagley said, “an overdose wouldn’t have taken the whole bottle. That much and the pills wouldn’t have dissolved, not fast enough for her to slip them into his drink in the presence of their guests.” Suddenly, the tension in the room was back, and all attention was pointed towards Inspector Bagley.

“An overdose would have to be prepared outside of the room,” he continued, “but close by, probably, as no one left the dinner room for long that day. For example, that table we saw earlier — the one with the fresh crack in it — would be an ideal location. You follow?”

Butler nodded, signaling approval merely in the inspector’s line of reasoning. He continued.

“Now, our guy must have mixed most of the pills into O’Connor’s drink. Then, he took a few for himself — while under the effects of the drug, he would not be able to hold himself steady, and could write the suicide note in a completely unrecognizable hand. At this point, he probably would have fallen over and blacked out for a few minutes.”

Again, Butler nodded. He was getting impatient and couldn’t see where Bagley was going with all this. Then, just before Bagley said it, Butler realized what he was saying.

“Butler, how’s that headache of yours doing?”

“Bagley, you can’t be serious?”

The inspector laughed, “but it makes a kind of sense, right? You told me yourself O’Connor wasn’t an agreeable man, which kind of clashes with everyone else’s word. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your murderer: private investigator Richard Butler!”

Butler cut in before the crowd had a chance to gasp. “Hold on, Bagley. If I did it, why would I even be here? And trying to solve the case nonetheless! I mean, I’ve caught murderers who tried to pin their crime on some helpless witness, but the way I see it, you’re blaming me using the clues that I found? Why would I possibly do that?”

“I’m glad you asked,” he said smugly. “It took me most of your monologue to put it all together. As I said before, angry at his mistreatment of you, you sneak an extra dosage of his medicine into his wine. You’re in a convenient place to do this, as you prepare the food. Then, you pop in a few yourself to mask your handwriting. At this point, you fall over, crack the table, and give yourself an inconveniently revealing headache.”

At the mention of this, Butler once again rubbed his head. He wasn’t sold yet, but the headache was undoubtedly real.

“Doctor,” Bagley continued, “what could be a possible side-effect of O’Connor’s medicine? If someone took too much, but not enough to kill them?”

“Well,” Dr. Steinberg said as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “along with blacking out, I believe the person would experience some short term memory loss.”

“And there it is,” Bagley said as he accusingly waved his finger at Butler. “You said yourself: you’ve caught criminals who tried to pin it on others, and you knew that wouldn’t hold. No, you had to believe that you were catching the murderer. You knew if you opened the safe you’d connect that to the O’Connors. You knew that your handwriting under the drug would resemble Joel’s. Heck, you set the table purposely to cause trouble between Gertrude and Mrs. O’Connor, a perfect opportunity for you to ‘deduce.’ You either knew about or planted enough leads that, once you had forgotten them thanks to the pills, you were certain to follow enough of them to make a case!”

Butler said nothing. The more Bagley spoke, the more convinced he became. After all, it sounded like a nearly foolproof plan.

“Butler! You have anything to say for yourself!?”

“It’s… brilliant,” he said with a sense of awe. “The only case I ever failed to solve… was me!”

“What’s really crazy,” Bagley said as he handcuffed Butler, “is I probably never would have solved it had it not been for your thoroughness! You turned up all the right clues… just weren’t looking in the right place.”

The people formerly known as suspects — Mrs. O’Connor, Albert Jr., Joel, Harrington, Dr. Steinberg, Gertrude, and the Italian Ambassador — and Clancy all watched in silence as Bagley took Richard Butler, private investigator away. The long night of suspicions, interrogations, and mysteries was finally over. Just before Butler had turned the corner, he looked over his shoulder and spoke.

“Clancy?”

“Yes Butler?”

“Case closed.”

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Richard Butler, PI – Chapter 9 (a meeting with the Italian Diplomat)

Richard Butler rushed through the halls of the O’Connor estate with such speed that Clancy struggled to keep up. Of course, this was not uncommon, as Clancy often failed to keep up with the ace private eye, both mentally and physically. Clancy’s speed came mostly just when behind the wheel of the car.

“Butler! Hold on, wait!” he cried, in between gasps for air.

“No time for waiting, dear Clancy, we’ve got a case to crack!” Butler declared as he showed no indication of slowing down.

“But sir,” Clancy persisted, “Joel and Junior went that way!” Butler slowed to a halt and turned to find Clancy pointing a clear one-hundred and eighty degrees away from their current bearing. Butler sighed.

“Clancy, we don’t just approach them like that!” he said, bemused. After seeing Clancy’s overly perplexed face, Butler explained “come on, you know how we do it. We assemble all the suspects in a room, I go through my process of detection, give them the major clues, throw in a few false leads to lower our guy’s defenses… then, we nail him.”

Clancy laughed at himself, “of course, how’d I forget about that part?”

Butler smiled. “Don’t beat yourself up over it. This is the most important play of the game, we need to be focused. The last thing we need is for him to slip out of our fingers now.” The detective and his assistant continued walking in their original direction, “Clancy, I need you to gather the suspects up for me. Instruct them to be in my office in two hour’s time. Tell them… nothing. Just that I require their presence.”

With a serious look on his face, Clancy firmly nodded and went off to begin his hunt. Before he had gotten a few yards away, Butler whipped around and added, with a mischievous grin, “oh, and make sure our friend Inspector Bagley is there. This is something he needs to see.”

With a delightful grin, Clancy scurried off to begin his task. Butler continued walking towards his office. He had two hours — two hours of peace and quiet — to prepare himself for the grand finale.

At least, he should have.

As Butler entered his supply closet, he felt the distinct feeling that he was not alone. This was not unlike the feeling he got while tailing a suspect, but this time it felt as if he was on the other end of the situation. Butler held still, listening for any sounds that might tip him off to the exact location of this person, but the drum of the washing machines masked any hint he might have gotten. With the ease and finesse of a tightrope walker, Butler crept over to the pile of towels towering in the corner of the room — a perfect spot for an unlucky intruder to find himself hiding.

Butler reached in, found a collar, and pulled out, to his surprise, none other than the Italian Diplomat.

“Well well,” Butler said, “what have we here? Sent by the mafioso to knock off the detective?”

“That is a stereotype you fool!” the diplomat stammered, “I am Italian, not mafia!”

“Maybe so, maybe not. But that doesn’t change the fact that I just caught you hiding in my office,” the detective smirked.

“It’s none of your stinkin’ business!” the Italian Diplomat said as he threw his hands up in the air.

Butler, slightly amused and leaning towards annoyed, replied “considering this is my office, I rather think it is!”

“I was, uh, looking for something!”

“Uh huh. Somehow, this isn’t working to make me less suspicious,” Butler remarked as he pushed the Italian Diplomat into the chair. He sat on the desk and asked, in a manner which clearly wasn’t a question, “now, why don’t you tell me all about it. From the beginning, please.”

From the beginning, the Italian Diplomat told Richard Butler, private detective, the story of how he ended up hiding under a pile of towels in the detective’s office. He trembled, stammered, and sweated through the whole thing, but he made it through just the same, details intact. Butler listened intently, asking questions here and there for clarity’s sake, but mostly he let the diplomat speak and allowed his own mind to process. It wasn’t often that such vital clues just waltzed into his office (or even broke in), but that’s what had happened and Butler wasn’t about to question it; he had caught a lucky break. The Italian Diplomat’s story had unraveled everything he had learned about the case, but the detective’s brilliant mind took those strands and wrapped them back up into a nice bow. Now, he finally saw the big picture.

“Alright signor,” Butler said, “here’s the deal: I need you to stick around. Pretty soon, we’ll be having a little get-together in here. Everyone who was at the dinner, and lived to tale the tale of course, will be in attendance, as well inspector Bagley.”

The diplomat nodded.

“Now, I’m sensitive to your… situation. But I’ll need you here to help catch this killer.”

“And… you promise I’ll be safe?” the Italian Diplomat asked.

“The cops will be here, I don’t think anyone will try and hurt you,” Butler assured. After a quick affirming nod from the diplomat, Butler said “alright, let’s do this.”

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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.

“Clancy!”

“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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Richard Butler, PI – Chapter 7 (a will and a way)

Wow, been about three weeks since I’ve written anything… I blame it on finals. But those are done now. Anyways, this author’s note is already too long.
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Butler fished his keychain from his pocket and searched for the one fitting this door. Enough keys occupied this ring to make up a small archipelago, but Butler knew his way around and found the one he needed. He carefully turned his head, putting the detective nose-to-nose with Inspector Bagley, who had been looking over his shoulder.

“I assure you, Inspector, there’s nothing to see here.”

“My hunch says otherwise, so open the door!” Bagley replied angrily. Bagley never appreciated anyone questioning him.

Butler sighed, “no, I was referring to the keys. A little personal space, please?”

Embarrassed, but not so much that anyone not trained in detecting could tell, Inspector Bagley shied a few steps away from the private detective, who proceeded to open the way into the room, which Bagely thought to be the way to solving this case. Butler, of course, already thought he had it solved — although he was not closed off to other possibilities.

The private detective and the police detective entered the room that, until recently, Albert O’Connor had called his office. Papers littered the desk, filing cabinets overflowed to the ground, and books stacked from the floor to ceiling. Various iterations of his final disposable water bottle habited the shelves, and other unfinished inventions filled the room. The room was a mess.

The two detectives slowly walked into the room, carefully observing their surroundings. Bagley spoke up:

“Seems like he was in the middle of something big before he died.”

Butler, never one to pass up an opportunity to best Bagely, suggested “or maybe… he was looking for something. That would explain the overturned files and papers. He was looking for something — something incriminating — and then he couldn’t find it, it was too late… he got killed.”

Bagley took Butler’s deduction and raised him a piece of evidence, asking “well, that doesn’t fit in too well with this suicide note, now does it?”

Butler laughed at the absurdity of Bagley’s suggestion, “you don’t really think O’Connor wrote that, do you?”

Bagley stared at Butler, raised his chin, and squinted his eyes as if to say ‘no, what, do ​you?’ He then proceeded to actually say it: “No… what, do you?”

Butler turned his head slightly, took Bagley’s squinting and raised him a lifted eyebrow.

“So,” Bagley suggested, with only a hint of questioning and a dash of faux-confidence, “we both don’t believe O’Connor wrote that…”

“Yes…” Butler confirmed, matching Bagley’s tone precisely. The two investigators stood there for a full minute, staring at each other in contemplative silence, both preoccupied trying to determine what the other was thinking. Both inspectors thought themselves to be playing the other. Bagley, deep down, wondered whether he was the one being played. Butler, of course, knew he was doing the playing.

Simultaneously, they looked away and began to individually inspect the room. Inspector Bagley walked over to the desk and began inspecting the many objects that took residence there. Butler made his way over to the closet, which held O’Connor’s spare suits and his safe. He was nearly ready to leave this scene, after finding nothing of note in the closet. But then he noticed something.

“Someone’s opened this safe recently,” Butler declared as he pointed to the handprints in the dust where it had been gripped.

Bagley seemed to take little interest in Butler’s revelation. Without turning around, he continued his searching and simply asked “is that so?”

Butler once again took his key-ring from his pocket, this time to open the safe. He came back from the closet with a single item: O’Connor’s last will and testament.

“Well, what do we have here?” Bagley raised his question playfully. Butler was about to brag on his finding, until he saw the smug grin on Bagley’s face.

Bagley stood, arm outstretched, displaying his own prize. He brought it up level with his eyes as he read the label. The small capsule was nearly empty, but it did have a small layer of pills lining the bottom.

“Flunitrazepam,” he read, before asking “now why might this be here?”

“That’s… not important!” Butler stammered as he regained his composure, “O’Connor suffered from insomnia, that’s probably just his medicine. Nothing else to see there.” Bagley’s face sunk into a snarl before he put the capsule in his coat pocket. Butler continued, “but this, this you’ve got to see.” He held up the will and pointed aggressively, “O’Connor changed his will — he’s giving everything he has to his son. Even better, the safe was opened recently… someone found out about this!”

Bagley laughed, “yeah, well how do you know that wasn’t just O’Connor opening?”

“Check the prints on the safe if you want, they’re much too fresh for this. This will was signed months ago!” Butler countered.

“Yeah, okay,” Bagley retreated, “so someone knew he changed his will. That doesn’t necessarily mean they would want him dead. People loved O’Connor!”

“Is that what they’re telling you?” Butler asked, astonished. “I can tell you, from experience, that’s not exactly true. Not to speak ill of the dead, but I worked for him… O’Connor was not the most pleasant guy.”

“Alright, do what you want,” Bagley said, “I’m following up with Dr. Steinberg on this Fluni… medicine.” Bagley looked at the label before trying again, “trazi… flunitraz…” Finally, he just shook his head and left the room.

Butler waited until Bagley was just out of sight before saying, to no one in particular, “there’s one nuisance gone… time to go find another.”

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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.”

Richard Butler, PI – Chapter 4 (a merry dance)

Richard Butler and Clancy peered through their hiding spot behind the bushes. Completely still and silent, they watched as Harrington walked down by the lake, and finally settled on a pier overlooking the water.

“Bu—” Clancy started, before being silenced by the sudden appearance of Butler’s hand over his mouth, as clear a sign as any that it was not time to talk.

Cautious as ever, Butler didn’t feel the need to give their position away. Two hours of following Harrington — O’Connor’s business partner and their current lead suspect — did not need to go to waste. The tailing had gone well, as well as any tail could go shy of actually gleaning some information. Butler and Clancy had managed to stay close without being noticed, and even followed Harrington into town. This was especially noteworthy given the difficulty of this particular tail, as Harrington had a habit of moving quickly, whether when walking or driving. They had to pull out all the tricks, from the old “hiding behind newspaper” trick to the classic “follow that cab!” move. Butler felt good about how they performed. The only thing missing was something to show from it — they had learned nothing, other than the fact that Harrington preferred his eggs over-easy and his milk non-fat.

“I think it’s time we talked to him,” Butler whispered to Clancy, “just make sure he doesn’t know he’s being questioned. Don’t say anything that may suggest he’s our suspect. And don’t say anything about the chemicals. Or, for that matter, the suicide note…” Butler waited while Clancy processed the instructions. After seeing the muddled expression on Clancy’s face, Butler adjusted the plan: “on second thought, why don’t we leave the talking to me?”

“Good plan,” Clancy agreed.

The private detective and his sidekick surfaced from their hiding place and inconspicuously made their way over to where Harrington sat, now setting the bait on his fishing rod.

“Nice day for some fishing,” Butler announced nonchalantly as he strolled over beside Harrington, hands placed casually in his pockets.

“Well,” Harrington answered, “I’m not sure I’d ever call this day ‘nice’…”

“Oh,” Butler responded awkwardly, realizing the implications of what he had just said. He attempted to salvage the situation: “I was referring to the weather.”

“Yeah, the sun’s out…” was Harrington’s uttered reply. The private detective, his assistant, and the businessman sat in awkward silence for a full minute. It had been a long time since Butler had experienced awkward tension thick enough to stop a bullet. He remembered the last time vividly, and would not allow this time to end the same way.

“I’m sorry… you lost a good businessman today.”

“Albert O’Connor was more than a business partner!” Harrington contested, “he was a friend.”

“Excuse me, I misspoke,” Butler apologized. Butler was about to prompt Harrington into elaborating on his relationship with O’Connor, hoping he would slip up and give Butler a lead. However, he didn’t need to, as Harrington spoke on his own.

“He always hated talking business off hours… no matter how urgent the matter,” Harrington said nostalgically, “a good hunt always comes first, Al would say! I remember this one time,” Harrington chuckled to himself, reaching the punch-line in his mind before even beginning the story, “we were on a hunting trip recently out in Montana. We had terrible luck that day! Just awful!”

“What kind of bad luck?” Butler asked, intrigued by the possibilities of what Harrington said.

“Well, there was no game out that day. We were hoping for a moose or a deer or something, but we didn’t find any. Why, the forest seemed completely empty, aside from the two of us.”

“So then,” Butler prodded, “I guess that gave you two lots of time to talk, right? Without a hunt, you’re free to discuss anything, even business, for example.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say there wasn’t a hunt. Just not what we expected or planned for.” Butler leaned closer to listen to Harrington’s cryptic words. Harrington continued: “see, we were looking for some game — any game, by this point — when Albert spotted, out of the corner of his eye… a goose!”

“A goose?” Butler asked, seeking assurance that he hadn’t misheard this from something more incriminating. “What happened then?”

“Well,” Harrington continued as he cast his line out into the river, “we followed it. Albert and I were not much into birds, but as I said, we hadn’t even seen anything else that day. This goose was quick, too. Pretty soon, we weren’t following this thing so much as chasing it.

“Did you catch it?”

“Hold on, Butler, I’m getting there,” Harrington said, enjoying the telling of the story perhaps more than the punch line. “we followed the goose for a long time, until it finally slowed down and stopped. At this point, Albert snuck up behind it, very quietly. Once he was within a few feet, he jumped at it!” Harrington and Butler both cracked up laughing, Harrington at the memory and Butler just at the thought of the large man attacking a goose.

“Just imagine,” Harrington managed to squeeze in-between chuckles, “Albert O’Connor, on the ground wrestling a goose — and that thing was wild, too, it was no easy task!”

After a few minutes to calm down, Butler asked: “so, what happened next?”

“Well, we decided to let the goose go. It was a little scrawny anyways. After that — whoa!” Harrington’s story met an abrupt end as he felt a tug on his fishing pole. Butler and Clancy watched the battle with almost as much attentiveness as they had listening to the story. The fish pulled this way and that, before Harrington finally made it bow under the strength of his arm. Harrington’s face lit up as he pulled the fish up from the water.

“Aha!” he exclaimed, “A red herring, I haven’t caught one of these guys in a long time!” And with that, Harrington made his exit.

Butler and Clancy stared as Harrington walked back towards the mansion, both mentally reviewing what they had just listened to. After a moment to let things settle, Clancy asked:

“So, any new leads? What’d we learn from this?”

“Absolutely nothing, Clancy,” Butler sighed, “complete waste of time.”

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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