*Author's note* Pay attention from here on out. Clues will help point you to the killer, but you have to pay attention!
The smell of bacon tickled my nose as my eyes opened slowly. It had been a rough night, and by no means was I ready to wake up. As I rolled over to go back to sleep, it occured to me that someone was cooking in my apartment. I jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen, only to find Kendra standing over the stove. I had forgotten that she stayed at my apartment the night before. Kendra looked at me and grinned.
"I hope you like bacon. I made tons of it," she said. Her voice was too energetic for this time of morning. I walked back to my bedroom and tried to sleep. Unfortunately, the sleep wasn't coming so well. The smell of bacon was just too irresistable. I forced myself out of bed, and walked back into the kitchen. Kendra was serving two plates of bacon, eggs, and toast. I'm not sure where she found any of the food; I had been meaning to go grocery shopping for several weeks now.
As we ate breakfast at the table, Kendra would not stop talking. It was as if the events from last night had never occurred.
"So tell me about yourself Mr. Clark. Why did you become a a detective?" Kendra asked.
As I stuffed a strip of bacon into my mouth, my mind went back to my childhood. An image of my father came to life, followed by a younger me. We were walking home from a concert. It was dark out. As we talked and laughed, a man approached my father, and shot him in cold blood. I screamed as my father breathed his last breath, but no one came to help us. This image was followed by the still silence of my father's funeral. My mother was sobbing uncontrollably; I could not control myself as tears streamed down my face. Seven year olds were not supposed to watch their fathers die. Their fathers were their heroes. They were invincible...
"From that day on, I wanted to see justice in the world," I explained.
Kendra looked at me in shock. She seemed to want to say something, but the words just could not be formed.
"I'm... I'm so sorry," she finally responded.
I finished my last bite of eggs and got up, not saying another word. I did not enjoy dwelling on past memories, particularly the ones of my father. If only she knew what really happened...
"Have you called the victims yet?" Kendra asked me as she watered the pathetic little plant in my office.
"They're called suspects, not victims, and yes I did speak to them. Thankfully, all four members of the ARS have agreed to come in today for questioning."
"Okay good. I hope we catch them soon. Honestly, I'm very scared right now."
"Well," Kendra started as she looked out the window. Her mind seemed to be somewhere else. She glanced over at me and resumed talking. "After the events from last night, I'm worried that I may be next."
I stood and put my arm around Kendra, trying to comfort her. "They won't get to you. I promise. We are going to catch whoever did this before they have a chance to do anything."
Kendra shurgged off my arm and walked over to the door and looked back at me, her eyes red.
"I need some time alone. I'll be back later."
My first suspect to visit came a few minutes earlier than I was expecting. Daniel Lentz, President of ARS, sat down across from me and shifted uneasily.
"E-e-everything okay detective?" Daniel asked me. His beady hazel eyes kept darting back and forth; not once did he make eye contact with me.
"Everything is not okay," I replied. "A man was murdered at a dinner party you were attending a couple days ago, and his widow is worried for her life. Care to explain to me what happened?"
"H-h-how sh-sh-should I know?" Daniel asked me. By now I realized this man had a stuttering problem. It was pretty bad too. Hard to believe he was such a successful businessman.
"Daniel, you are the president of the ARS, and only you were against Mr. Pan's budget proposal. Perhaps you weren't happy with the paycut?"
"W-w-w-well of course I d-didn't like the b-b-b-budget p-p-prop-posal. Who really wants to t-t-take a p-p-p-pay cut?"
"But you knew that everyone else was in support of the budget. How much of a pay cut were you taking?"
"About t-twenty p-p-percent."
I stopped before writing that down. "That's quite the amount, Daniel."
Daniel shook his head in frustration. "I know."
"Why did he propose such a large paycut?"
"W-w-w-well, Mr Clark, the ARS h-has n-n-not been making m-m-m-m-much money lately. We've b-b-been forced to take drastic actions to keep the ARS f-from going b-b-b-bankrupt," Daniel explained.
"You were going bankrupt? How is that possible? I thought Mr. Pan was donating all the money you needed to function."
"H-h-he was, b-b-b-b-but he was running out of m-m-money too. He-he-he's not a b-b-bank, you know."
I took a moment to write down all of this. Things were started to get interesting. Did Kendra know that her husband was going bankrupt? Why wouldn't she have told me this?
"Does Kendra know about this?"
"How sh-sh-should I know? He had j-j-just spoken to m-m-me about it the day before the p-p-p-party started."
"So did anyone else know that he was running out of money?"
"N-n-not that I'm aware of."
"Let's get back to the party. Can you explain to me the events leading up to Mr. Pan's death?"
Daniel sat back in the chair as he tried to reminisce that night. I examined his demeanor as he sat in thought. He was definitely more confident now than he was when he first entered my office. After a few moments, Daniel looked at me and started speaking.
"Jeremy was found d-d-dead sh-sh-shortly after he gave us the b-b-b-budget actually. We were all s-s-s-sitting in the l-l-l-living r-r-room talking. Kendra was b-b-busy in the k-kitchen getting d-d-d-dessert ready. Jeremy excused himself t-t-to use the restroom, and f-f-f-five minutes later he was found d-d-dead."
"Just like that? He was just found dead?"
"Who found him?"
"Nancy F-f-farf-f-fan found him."
"And who is Nancy Farfan?"
"Sh-she handles the p-p-publicity of the ARS. Sh-sh-she's a g-g-g-good friend of mine."
"Okay, and how was he murdered?"
"He had a st-st-st-stab wound."
"So someone stabbed him to death?"
"So who were you with in the living room when this occured?"
"Nahum B-b-boors. He is my vice p-p-president for the ARS," Daniel answered.
"Where were the other party guests?"
"I d-don't know."
I finished taking notes and sat back in my chair. Daniel looked at me expectantly. I simply took a deep breath and shook my head.
"I think we're done for now."
Kendra popped her head in the door with a big smile on her face.
"I see you haven't moved since I left," she said with a wink.
I furrowed my brow as I looked over my notes. "Well I interviewed Mr. Lentz. Thank you for not telling me about his stutter."
Kendra giggled. "I forgot about that. It can be frustrating at times."
I simply shook my head with a slow exhale. She sat down across from me and held up a carton of food.
"Sure. I have a second suspect coming in soon though."
"Okay that's fine. I'll head out when they arrive. I don't want to interfere with anything," Kendra said.
"Thank you," I resonded as Kendra handed me a carton of rice. The Chinese food was nothing special, nothing more than a chicken and noodle entree. "By the way, did you know that Jeremy was going bankrupt?"
Kendra froze. "Excuse me?"
"Apparently, the reason Jeremy proposed all the cuts in the budget was because he did not have enough money to support the ARS anymore."
Kendra glared at me. She dropped her fork onto her plate and stood.
"How dare you try to trash my husband! You should be ashamed of yourself detective!" Kendra turned on her heels and stormed out of my office, slamming the door behind her.
Minutes later, the door opened and an elderly lady walked in. Her bushy white hair was very poorly maintained and almost resembled a lion's mane. She looked very frustrated at me as she plopped down on the chair across from me.
"Just so you know, I am missing an important meeting with my deacons for this little interview of yours. You better make it quick!" She growled at me. "And it's Ms. Farfan, not Mrs. Farfan."
"I apologize Ms. Farfan. Thank you for taking the time out of your hectic day to visit me. I know a pastor such as yourself loves to see justice take place," I said with a smirk.
"If you're gonna be smart, kid, this interview is gonna be over real quick!"
My demeanor immediately changed; this old lady was not playing around. I decided to get right to the point.
"Okay, can you please explain your role to me in the ARS?"
"I mostly deal with other people involved in the ARS; I deal with the volunteers, other organizations... You get the point."
"Okay, and how was your relationship with Mr. Pan?"
"It was fine. Are you going to ask me anything about the night of the murder detective? Because if you aren't, I'm just going to leave," Ms. Farfan said as she tried to pull herself out of the chair.
"I'm about to. Please sit."
Ms. Farfan sat back in her seat and pooched her lip out at me. She began tapping her foot hurriedly as well.
"So the night of the murder, can you explain to me Mr. Pan's plan for the upcoming budget?"
"Basically, he wanted to give the president, Daniel, a paycut. That was the biggest issue."
"Did you think the budget was fine."
"Of course I did. The man wasn't touching my income; why would I care?" Ms. Farfan said with a shrug.
"So he was only touching Daniel's income?"
"That's right. You should've seen him too. He was so furious! He kept stammering and stuttering at Jeremy. I actually found it entertaining."
I looked up at Ms. Farfan in confusion. What kind of a pastor was this woman?
"What was he yelling?"
"I couldn't tell much from all the stuttering, but he was yelling at poor Jeremy that he was an idiot and couldn't handle the job. It was something like that."
"Okay, so why did Jeremy call for such a drastic pay cut?"
"Like I know. My best guess the guy was probably tired of funding us. We honestly weren't making much progress as an organization."
"The organization wasn't doing well? I was under the impression you were thriving."
"Who told you that?" Ms. Farfan shot back with a laugh. "This organization hasn't gained any traction since we first started. Everyone knows it."
"Then why hasn't Daniel declared bankruptcy yet?"
"Are you kidding me? The guy is getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do nothing! He's obviously going to do whatever he can to keep it running."
"But as an organization, can't you all vote to shut it down?"
"Listen, kid, why would we want to shut something down if we're making money from it."
"So are you telling me that you wanted to keep this organization open just for profit?"
"Of course that's why we've kept it open! I think Jeremy was catching on to it too; that would explain why he wanted to instill the paycuts."
I had shook my head in disgust. To think that all these leaders of the ARS were only interested in profit... what a shame!
"Okay, Ms. Farfan, can you explain to me the events leading to his death?"
Ms. Farfan groaned.
"Can you not remember it?"
"Don't insult my age, kid! I can still tear you apart," Ms. Farfan warned. "Now as far as Jeremy's death goes, it was shortly after his presentation. Everyone split off in their little groups to discuss Jeremy's budget proposal. I went off by myself to smoke a cigarette."
"You were smoking a cigarette outside?"
"Yeah. Is there a problem with that?" Ms. Farfan glared at me.
"No, there is no problem at all. Please continue."
"Well after my cigarette, I had to use the washroom. So I walk into the washroom, and there's Jeremy, lying on the floor.
"He was dead."
"No he was asleep. Of course he was dead. He had a terrible stab wound in his chest, and blood was everywhere. It was quite a sight."
"So what did you do when you saw the body?"
"I told the other guests about it."
"Any idea who he was speaking to before he was murdered?"
"I was smoking outside; I have no idea."
"Okay, thank you Ms. Farfan. You are free to go. If I have any more questions, I will let you know."
"It's about time. You've made me late enough for my meeting!" Ms. Farfan groaned as she stormed out of my office.
As she slammed the door behind her, I couldn't help but smile at the irony of my suspects so far. There was the successful business man with a speech problem, a woman pastor who is terribly rude and selfish, and a group of people that run a non-profit organization for profit. I shook my head in disbelief. And I'm only halfway done with my interviews!
As I glanced over my notes for the case, the door opened. I looked up expecting to see Kendra, but it was just my next suspect. Nahum Boors was a notorious animal rights activist in the community. Boors led many revolts against humans. He was once quoted as saying that animals were "more important than humans." Ironically enough, Boors was also a high school counselor at the local school. He briefly greeted me, and we began with the questioning process.
"Mr. Clark, is it?"
"Yes, but you can just call me Ray. It's easier."
"Okay, sounds good. I just want to start by saying that you need to be careful with Kendra. She's not as innocent as you think," Nahum said as he stared directly into my eyes. I could feel myself shifting uneasily, but wasn't able to stop.
"Why do you say that?"
"Kendra hated that ARS. In fact, she had been clamoring for us to shut it down for quite some time."
"She wanted to close down the ARS?"
"She did! She knew her husband was financially supporting us, and she did not like him spending so much money on us. Thankfully, Jeremy cared enough about animals to not listen to her!"
"So Kendra hated the ARS?"
"She didn't necessarily hate us; she just didn't want to financially support us. She told us that we were a waste of an investment."
"So why did Jeremy continue supporting you if Kendra kept fighting against it?"
"From what I've been able to tell, their marriage wasn't doing so great. There were rumors going around that he was looking to divorce her."
I looked up from my notes at Nahum, showing my confusion. I wanted to ask a question, but I just couldn't think of how to ask it.
"How do you know this?"
"Kendra told me this herself."
"Are you... friends with Kendra?"
"More than friends. We've been having an affair for quite some time now. I had to put an end to it though. She was complaining about her husband and the ARS too much. It just wasn't worth it anymore."
"Wait. You have been having an affair with Kendra?"
"We were. It stopped about four months ago."
I had to stop. My mind started running to a million different places, and I couldn't focus anymore. I took a deep breath than continued.
"Okay, so let's talk about Jeremy. What did you think of him?"
Nahum rubbed his chin before answering. "I thought he was a nice guy. To be honest, I don't know why Kendra disliked him so much. He seemed to have everything together."
"And at the party, what did you think of the budget?"
"It was a little disheartening to see the paycuts starting, but you do what you have to do to help the animals. You know what I mean?"
"Sure. Do you have any idea why Jeremy proposed the paycuts?"
Nahum sat in thought as he was pondering the question. It took him about a minute to respond.
"My best guess is that he was finally giving in to his wife's demands."
"Do you think that the ARS was draining his finances?"
"Of course not. We were fighting for a great cause. You can never spend enough on saving a life, especially the life of an animal."
"So what was your role in the ARS?"
"I'm the vice president, but mostly I just handle the events. I look for animals that need rescuing, different fundraising opportunities, and things like that."
"Okay. Was Jeremy the only person who handled the finances?"
"Yes, but someone else wanted to handle the finances."
"Heather Williams. She's a former politician who specialized in budgets. She thought she was more appropriate for the job, but of course Daniel never let her handle it."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Jeremy was our biggest financial supporter. In fact, he might have been our only real supporter. Daniel wanted to keep Jeremy happy, so he gave him the treasurer position. Besides that, Heather couldn't really be trusted."
"She couldn't be trusted?"
"Not at all. She's a politician. They're all crooked."
"Okay, so Jeremy gives the budget, proposes a cut, and dies later. What happened before he died?"
"Well, Daniel and I were in the living room discussing the budget with Jeremy. Jeremy went to the bathroom, and he was murdered."
"Were you discussing the paycuts with Jeremy?"
"Daniel was. He was adament about finding another part of the budget to cut. I didn't care. Like I said before, you have to do what you can to save these animals," Nahum said with a smile.
"What did Jeremy say to Daniel's complaints?"
"He just said it was necessary and left it at that."
I quickly scanned over my notes before continuing.
"So back to Heather, did she have any animosity towards Jeremy?"
Nahum stared out the window in silence. He then glanced at me, then looked back out the window.
"I would say she did. She has been almost begging for the treasury position for quite some time now, and Jeremy was the only thing in the way."
"Why did she want that treasury position so much? If you were financially falling apart, don't you think it's odd that she would want that specific position so badly?"
"I guess that is odd. I've actually never thought about it before. As far as her wanting that position, I couldn't tell you why she wanted it. I mean for me personally, it's not about the money; it's about the animals."
"Sounds good. Thank you Nahum for taking the time to talk to me. If I have any more questions, I'll let you know."
Nahum thanked me and quickly left.
As I looked over my notes, the case seemed to be getting more and more confusing. Some things just were not making sense. The more answers I was given, the more questions I had. Thankfully, my last suspect wouldn't be arriving for another hour. I took the moment to relax. As I sat back in my chair, it didn't take long for my eyes to shut.
"Excuse me. Are you Detective Raymond Clark?"
I slowly opened my eyes to see a woman staring at me. How long have I been sleeping?
"That would be me. How can I help you?" my voice sounded gravely. I tried clearing my throat, but it didn't seem to help any.
"My name is Heather Williams; I'm here for some questioning. Do you remember?" the woman asked as she looked at me.
I slowly sat up in my chair and stretched out my legs. I was not ready for a questioning session, but I had no choice. I slowly nodded my head.
"Yes, I remember. Please, have a seat," the gravely voice was slightly better.
Heather sat down slowly, and continued looking at me with a look of pure confusion.
"If you prefer, I can come back when you're feeling a little better."
"No no, I'm fine," I assured her as I pulled out my notes. "Can you please explain to me what you do in the ARS?"
"I'm basically the secretary. I handle everyone's paperwork and keep everyone aware of things going on within the organization."
"And do you like doing that?"
Heather took a deep breath before answering. "I don't like it at all. The job mostly consists of people bossing me around and getting mad at me. I would much rather do something else."
"Is there anything specific you'd like to do?"
"I think I should be handling the finances for the ARS. I have the credentials, and I know I can do a better job than Jeremy was doing."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Jeremy was terrible at handling our finances! Our entire organization was going bankrupt because Jeremy couldn't keep everything organized."
"But wasn't he your biggest financial supporter?"
"He was our only financial supporter. Any other financial help came from random donations, but no one else consistently donated to us."
"But as your only financial supporter, don't you think he had the authority over finances?"
Heather was not happy with that question. Her eyes narrowed for a moment before she quickly looked away. She took another deep breath before answering.
"If Jeremy handled our finances correctly, he would not have had to continue pouring money into the ARS. We could have been supporting ourselves, but he continuously set us back by mismanaging our funds."
"Can you explain how he mismanaged the funds?"
"We spent thousands on penalties from late fees, nonsense violations, and of course our salaries are way too high."
"But wasn't that an issue that nobody wanted to fix?"
"Nobody wanted to fix it, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be fixed. That was Jeremy's responsibility to handle, and he failed miserably."
"So do you think he was needlessly being drained by constantly pouring money into the ARS?"
"It wasn't needlessly; that's the sad part. We needed all of that money to continue to run. What Jeremy should have done was let go of the treasurer position. I could have turned things around."
"So let's talk about the party. Jeremy finally mentions the paycuts. How do people respond?" I asked.
"People were generally satisfied. Daniel was pretty upset, but everything was going to be fine."
"So were you okay with the new budget proposal?"
"I didn't really like it, but at least he was trying to save some money. I have to respect that."
"Did Jeremy get paid for his treasury position?"
"No, he did not. It would have been a paid position if it was anyone else, but because Jeremy is basically the source of income, he decided it was best not to take a salary."
"Okay. So what happens after the proposal?"
"Well, my husband and I stayed at the table. We were discussing some private family matters. A few minutes later, Jeremy was found dead."
"And you didn't hear anything or see anything?"
"I was actually surprised. Everybody liked Jeremy, and it didn't seem that anyone had a reason to murder him. I'm still surprised that it happened."
"Do you know if he was talking with anyone before he went to the restroom?"
"I heard him talking in the living room with Daniel and Nahum, but I don't know what they were talking about."
I looked out the window briefly, and noticed Kendra walking towards my office. I had to hurry.
"Do you know where everyone else was?"
Heather's eyes widened. "That's a tough question. I think Daniel and Nahum were in the living room with their dates... Ms. Farfan went to get something from her car... and Kendra was getting desserts ready in the kitchen. I don't know for sure, but I think that's where everyone was."
"Okay. I think we are good for now. Thank you for taking the time to come in. If I have any more questions I'll let you know," I said as I stood. Heather also stood and turned to leave.
Just as Heather approached the door, Kendra walked in. The two froze for a moment. They exchanged glares for a moment before continuing. Kendra sat down across from my desk. She looked at my and sighed.
"I have a couple questions for you," I told Kendra as I shook my head.