The Gremlin of Guesswork, Part Two

Story begins Here.

May, 1984

Ethan Dillahunt and Vincent Bayonne sat in a window booth in the café and watched the paramedics load the body in the back of an ambulance. Those in the café with a window seat kept an eye on the commotion as they shoveled eggs and hash browns into gaping mouths.

Bayonne spoke to his partner as he stared out the window. “You think it was one of the neighbors or a date that got too hot?”

Hunt chuckled and shook his head.

“Do you know who did it?”

“She tripped and fell.”

“You’re sure?”

“As sure as we’ll ever be.”

“How do you know?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. Unless someone saw it happen, nobody will ever know, but we have as much reasonable evidence as we’re going to get. There’s no sign of a struggle. She was wearing impractical shoes, which broke and caused her to fall. Based on the distance between her broken heel, lost shoe, and body, I’d say she was running late. Better late than never.”

“You didn’t ask about her relationships with people in the apartment or if she had a boyfriend.”

“I didn’t ask because I wasn’t investigating a murder, and I didn’t think that guy knew anything about her. They lived on different floors of the same building, but you heard the guy. He never so much as had a conversation with her longer than a few words about the weather.”

“You don’t know how much he knew.”

“I knew enough not to make a murder out of an accident. Sometimes, that’s all I need to know.”

Vincent Bayonne sat back against the maroon padding of the booth. “Not much room for discussion.”

Hunt nodded. “This was an easy one.”

“Are we going to follow up with any of the other neighbors? Any of her friends?”

“The uniforms will speak to the neighbors, and they’re happy to do it. A little detective work breaks the monotony, and they don’t need to wrestle drunks or junkies or write traffic tickets. You remember how it was.”

Bayonne remembered patrol all too well, and he’d loved his opportunities to work crime scenes, at least when it didn’t amount to sifting through the trash. “She was a young woman, in the prime of her life.”

“I was young too, once, and I made about as much of it as she did, maybe less.” 

“Don’t you think that’s a little cold?”

“I think it’s honest.” Hunt sipped his coffee and turned toward the door where a bell chimed as the Medical Examiner entered.

“Andy,” Hunt said, “what do you know?”

“About as much as you do, I suppose. I assume you know there was no sign of foul play.”

“I didn’t see any.”

Andy Schaeffer was a short, fat man who wore suits he bought off the rack. Unfortunately, he’d never met the right woman at any of the professional conferences he loved, so he’d never married. Consequently, his shirts were always wrinkled, and his ties collected an assortment of stains before earning retirement. On closer examination, one might come to think that Schaefer had never met the right woman because he lived for death and had never learned to take care of his appearance, his health, or his personal hygiene. There may be merit in that perspective, but Schaefer didn’t recognize it. Despite his lonely existence, Schaeffer maintained an ebullience that many marriages deterred. He enjoyed eating what he wanted, farting during breakfast, and spending his money on model airplanes and an occasional sojourn to Atlantic City.

Schaeffer slid into the booth beside Bayonne while speaking to Hunt. “Did you already order?”

Hunt motioned for the waitress. “Just coffee. Can we buy you breakfast?”

“I could eat.”

The three city employees ordered breakfast, and once the waitress left, Hunt said, “My new partner thinks it’s a murder.”

“Really?” Schaefer turned to Bayonne. “What are you seeing that we’re not?”

“I didn’t say it was a murder. I just thought we should look into it, make sure we ask all the questions before we dismiss her and file our report.”

“You’re a little old to harbor such idealism, aren’t you?” Schaefer smiled. 

Hunt added, “He’s a fifteen-year veteran, nine in narcotics.”

Schaefer took a beat to give Bayonne the once over. “There are no undercover shenanigans here and no surveillance. You’re not kicking in doors or conning informants.”

Hunt said, “He sees the puzzle. It’s meaning he wants.”

“Oh, shit.” Schaefer shook his head.

“When we passed you entering the building, Hunt had reached his conclusion and you knew what it was,” Bayonne said. “I thought I saw signs of a struggle, and Hunt moved the body. Our leaving when we did might’ve influenced your take on the scene. That’s all I’m saying.”

Schaefer turned to Hunt. “You moved the body?”

“I was checking for signs of death or a struggle. There weren’t any.”

Bayonne said, “Her arm had landed at a weird angle. When you moved the body, her arm straightened.”

Schaefer spoke without looking at Bayonne. “What does that tell you?”

Bayonne said, “She died less than four hours ago, maybe a little longer but not much at room temperature.”

“That’s right.” Schaeffer sighed. “I agree it seems like a waste, a woman in her prime like that. Her life had barely begun, and here we are, a group of morose civil servants waiting for a blue plate special. I suppose I should be used to death by now, but I don’t know how you get used to seeing a young woman die for no reason.”

Hunt looked out the window. The ambulance had driven away with its lights off, but the two patrol cars remained. Hunt said, “Nothing we can do about it.”

Continued in Part Three.

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