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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Mystery · #2075843
Did 'Merlin Computer Game Series' CEO, Roger Mooney disappear into one of his own games?
Words 7,862

Two ancient granite gray lions sat flanking the entrance way to Sir Roger Mooney’s manor. Large Scots pines stood on each side of the long snow-covered drive like white silent sentries standing at attention from the gated street entrance to the polished marble steps leading up to the wide entrance way of the centuries-old manor.

Johnathon Willard Bailey's face was a little flushed this morning. He had stayed too long at the cemetery visiting his daughter. He’d put a small bouquet on Gales grave. She loved white roses and now that was all he could give her. He straightened his cap and put the car in gear and pulled the limo around to the front entrance of the manor. He carefully stopped the limo at the center of the freshly cleaned steps. Large holly wreaths hung on each side of the wide heavy doors. Willard stepped out into the frigid air.

His mind drifted to past Christmases and a wish he made every year knowing it would never be granted, but still, he made it. That it would be Gale to come down the steps again. Her memory was never far away from his other thoughts. She had always been so vibrant and adventuress and full of life, to die so young was heartbreaking and a tragedy against life itself.

Snow was quickly covering the mirror black finish of the automobile as Willard stood there in deep thought waiting as usual on Catherine Mooney; Roger’s second wife and her Abby Street dressed daughter. He bent over and wiped a spot of bird droppings from a fender of the gleaming Rose Royce, not that it mattered. The snow would soon hide the white splatter, but he knew it was there. He brushed the snow off the bill of his chauffeur's hat and shoulders and checked the time on the gold pocket watch his daughter Gale had given him. The watch was his most prized passion; Gale had giving it to him right after she married Roger. It was a bribe of a sort she’d hinted. It just did not feel proper to her to have her father as her chauffeur. So he’d retired only to return to work after her death at Roger’s request. Now his word to Roger kept him here.

Three years after Roger’s marriage to his second wife Catherine a stroke nearly claimed Roger’s life. He was on his way to meet his attorney and start divorce proceedings against Catherine. Now he was left almost entirely paralyzed; except for the use of his right arm, he would have been totally incapacitated as he lost the use of his vocal cords. Perhaps it would have been better for him, to have joined Gale than to watch the feeding frenzy over the family estate and watch New Tech Enterprises being sold off piece by piece. As time passed Willard began to suspect that Catherine somehow had a hand in it all. She was Gale’s lady in waiting at the time of Gales and Rogers wedding. He would bet a week’s shillings she was as poisonous as some of her precious exotic flowers.

<>

Catherine put her hand on the door handle, “Jessie it’s almost time to leave,” she shouted up the stairs as she inspected her out of fashion pants suit in the mirror, her plain blouse was stained with fresh soap lather and the baby powder. The powder gave it a little more effect, she could say she left the house in a hurry after giving Roger a bath and hadn’t had the time to change. “Is Roger still in the study?” She impatiently asked.

“Yes, mum, he’s playing a game or whatever it is, he does on the computer just like he does every day. You would think he would get tired of all those games.”

“Be thankful he can still play those games. It keeps him out of our hair. Just give him a shot and make sure he’s asleep before you leave, I don’t believe he would, but I’d rather not take the chance on him passing notes to the help again.” Catherine replied.

“Yes, mum, it’s still hard to believe, he rewrote his will. I know he didn’t use his computer, not after I disconnected the wire in the wine cellar. Have you found out how he did it yet?’ Jessie asked.

“No, not unless, I left my phone lying around and he texted someone, the household staff knows phones are forbidden on the estate. Hopefully, I can get everything undone this morning. I have all the paperwork from Howard declaring Roger mentally incompetent. When we get back get one of those memory stick things and copy everything on his computer. I want to make sure he didn’t find a way to hook it back up.”

“Shall I call the staff; Bibbs and Timothy are still in the kitchen or just leave him in his wheelchair?” Jessie replied.

“Just leave him there in his mobile chair, but make sure he’s breathing alright before you leave. We can’t have him croaking before we get this will taken care of. I’ll be waiting in the limo and make sure to lock the room and turn the lights off on that appalling looking Christmas tree that Willard decorated for him.”
<>

The steady tick-tock of the Big Ben sitting beside the floor to ceiling bookcase with its shelves stuffed with Tec manuals was like a soothing wave lapping on a long forgotten beach… Gale’s trim figure lay stretched out across the blanket on the white sandy beach shaded by the overhanging green branches of a grove of coconut trees. Two coconuts fell sending the multi-colored birds into a squawking frenzy… Roger heard the Big Ben strike and counted off the chimes through the fog in his mind. He could hear the high-pitched gibberish from Catherine and Jessie coming from the other room, apparently, their meeting had been postponed another day and they were quite distraught about the situation. He sat there listening with his head on the keyboard to Catherine’s daughter; she was about to sir-pass her mother on sniffing out money. He should have seen through Catherine at the beginning, her dressing like Gale, the same make-up and hair style even down to tilting her head a certain way when she laughed. He should have seen it coming, but he had been grasping at anything that would bring just a little part of Gale back. He took his good hand and wiped at a tear that suddenly appeared, even after all these years the emotions were overwhelming at times. He found his bottle of water and took a long drink of the warm liquid. It would be a couple hours before the shot worn completely off and his head would be clear again.

If he had just listened to Jack; Jack knew and the world was full of…If’s.., but the dog had known; now Jack was gone. He’d disappeared six months after he married Catherine. Catherine had caught him unprepared today. She moved her schedule up, luckily her lawyer was out of town. He would have to do it today or in the early morning hours before they got up.

He slid the chain off his head and stuck the key in the lock of the top desk drawer. He reached inside. The pick hammer was still there. He hadn’t known at the time what he was going to do with it, but he wasn’t about to throw anything of Gale’s away and it had Catherine’s fingerprints all over it, along with the can of hospital blood clottier Catherine had misplaced.

He pushed a key on the computer keyboard, the screen lite up. He typed in his password to unlock his vaults and checked downloads to make sure the completed program was still hidden in his vaults. His other programs had a way of mysteriously disappearing, it was still there. He moved over to [Movie down loads] and pulled up cartoons, it was the only thing Catherine hadn’t destroyed. Outside it was snowing again, but here he could almost feel the ocean breeze as he watched the surf washing back and forth on the long expanse of beach. Jack was chasing seagulls across the sand. Gale sat on a pale blue blanket, her arms around her legs. She smiled and blew a kiss at the camera then waved. He watched the movie of their honeymoon for a few minutes then pushed the delete button. After supper he left a note on his tray, he would stay up until ten and then they could help him to bed.

<>

At 9:30 P.M. Big Ben struck on the half hour. Catherine and Jessie wouldn’t be down again tonight, he’d wait another ten minutes, Bibbs and Timothy wouldn’t appear until precisely 10 o’clock. He unlocked the drawer again and with a piece of tissue carefully removed Gale’s pick hammer. It was well used from their trips to the Swiss mountains, next was the piece of cotton, straight pin, tape and can of blood clottier. He brought the hidden program on the computer up and just left it unopened and then carefully moved the pin across his numb left wrist, just enough to bring a good flow of blood then wiped the pick hammer across the blood. He let part of the blood drip onto the carpet, moving the control of the wheelchair he left a trail of blood to the door and back to the desk. He sat there a few minutes holding his left arm across his shoulder where the blood could drip onto the back of his night shirt. He waited until his back felt sticky before moving his arm around, then he sprayed his wrist and the surrounding area with the blood clottier. The cotton he taped to his arm. The bloody pick hammer he shoved to the very back of the drawer next went the can of blood clottier and then he locked the drawer. The tape he just threw to the end of the desk. The pin, he shoved into the seat of the wheelchair then he proceeded to maneuver his wheelchair around in an erratic pattern over the blood trail as if he was trying to get away from someone. Satisfied he moved back to the computer and opened the program.

He could hear sets of footsteps coming down the hallway; the program was still loading. He had miscalculated on the time. He held the computer mouse to his chest, the door opened, he hit enter.

<>

At 3:00 A.M Big Ben struck. The musical notes vibrated across the room. Detective Wright paused wiping his glasses. He took the whole room in again before speaking, “I’m sorry Mrs. Mooney, there’s no evidence of a forced entry anywhere, his clothes are laying on the wheelchair. We’ve searched the grounds; he had to have been carried off. I’ll be back in the morning and we’ll go over the grounds again. We’ll take his computer with us as the camera was activated, there may be something on there. We’ll also leave a man here for tonight.” He noticed Mrs. Mooney was looking around him into the room again. He sensed there was something in the room she didn’t want him to find. He’d had to ask her twice to leave the room before. He didn’t want the seine contaminated by her nosing around which was his main reason for leaving a man here and just the off chance that Mr. Mooney had actually been kidnapped and there might be a ransom demand.

Detective Wright looked at his notes after Mrs. Mooney retired upstairs. A maid passed the open door to the study at 9:00 P.M. and Mr. Mooney was in his motorized wheelchair looking at the computer. At 10:00 P.M. Bibbs and Timothy found the room vacant, bloody clothes were in a pile on the wheelchair seat, house shoes on the foot rest. A trail of blood led to the hall door. The other door was locked, something was not quite right, why place his shoes back on the footrest if he was taken from the wheelchair? His clothes were in a pile on the seat, but with the pants legs hanging down as if he was still sitting there, that was almost reasonable, but not quite. Why undress him at all and why move the wheelchair back to the desk if he had been murdered in the doorway or was he murdered?

Detective Wright closed his notes, a 200-pound man who couldn’t walk. He knew about New Tech Enterprises or his sons did. They wrote all the programs for the Merlin Game Series; a lot of money was a good motive for someone to disappear. He picked a piece of chocolate from a box sitting on what looked like a very old French table on the way out. It was quite good, he’d bought a box of it for his wife on their anniversary, it was five pounds three shilling and a sixpence a box. She’d kidded him about living like the rich. He almost missed the note under the wiper blade of his car and got back out into the frigid air. It read…He used to send notes until Mrs. Finney died.

<>

It was too early for the morning sunlight to bathe the inside of the greenhouse on the back side of the manor, but the long rows of soft white lights imitating a false sun would soon cause moisture to start forming on the glass walls of the various sized aquariums, waking the hundreds of different beautiful flowering plants and reptiles from their sleep. A hand moved from the light switch back to the wooden handle of a nightstick.

The less than one-inch creature sat watching from her well-hidden glass-walled enclose setting beneath the leaves of a large Amazon elephant ear plant. The blue dressed figure moved through the gallery of deadly toxic plants secured from the rain forest, now and then the figure would stop and examine a plant or look into a glass covered cubicle at some small innocent looking specimen.

The creature flicked out its tongue and tasted the freshly imported ant, then moved beside the rock turtle searching for another. It watched as the top was removed from the enclosure, if it had been younger it would have tried to escape, but that was a long time ago. It watched as a bare hand extended down from the blue sleeve and picked it up.

The Constable checked the remaining rooms then returned to the door outside the study. He wiped his runny nose again with his hand and sat down in the chair thinking he needed to get something for this sudden cold. He touched his perspiring forehead. He would have to tell his son about this new colored reptile, he had happened upon. He doubted his son would ever find one this color.

In the greenhouse, a white-gloved hand moved to check the top of a glass case and then shortly after darkness returned to the greenhouse. A few minutes later the Constable O’Toole fell to the floor outside the study.

Light snow was still falling in the early morning hours. The hospital parking lot outside the emergency entrance was crowded with cars. Detective Wright rubbed his eyes as he left the hospital; he didn’t feel up to talking to O’Toole’s wife, Deloris right now. The Chaplin was with her. He doubted if he could find the right words to say right now. If O’Toole was going to have a heart attack, it should have been the weekend before last at the bike marathon. It was another part of life no one had an answer for. Right now he needed a good strong cup of coffee to keep his sleep deprived mind focused.

<>

It was late Wednesday evening in London before Detective Wright could return to his office. He looked at the new pile of paperwork that needed his attention then leaned back in the chair and stared at a spot on the ceiling. His predecessor had painted a two-inch question mark on the ceiling above his desk. He said it was to remind him to ask the right questions and you would never ever have all the answers to the questions. He thought about that, maybe there was some other motive. He picked up the ringing phone it was Mrs. Mooney again…someone had laid out Roger's sailing clothes on the bed. She seemed sincerely distraught over the situation. He assured her he would send someone over. More than likely someone on her household staff was trying to get her goat as he got the impression the only reason they stayed was because of Roger Mooney. Perhaps she had a right to be distraught. He was good at reading people and he wasn’t buying the loving, caring wife she tried to portray. He still held to the feeling it was Mrs. Mooney who had done her husband in or the daughter, probably both as Mr. Mooney appeared to be a big man. He couldn’t picture one woman dragging him off, maybe a big man, but who; then there was the cam picture from the computer of her standing behind Mr. Mooney holding a pic hammer. Then finding the bloody hammer and can of blood clottier covered in Mr. Mooney’s blood and Catherin’s fingerprints on both items.

He had enough circumstantial evidence to bring her in, even without a body. The freshly turned dirt at the back of the estate proved useless unless you counted the dead cat. That only proved Mr. Mooney wasn’t buried there and they only had an hour to dispose of the body, so the grave would have to already have been dug and they hadn’t found it or the body was moved from the property, which brought up another problem. The only tire tracks in the snow were from their vehicles and all the vehicles in the carriage house were cold and accounted for. The back gate was locked and the only footprints outside were the ones the officers made.

There was a body somewhere. He was sure of that; it had to be in the house somewhere? He would have his partner, Klamm go over the centuries-old manor again, especially the wine cellar. He had of yet to find someone who knew how many rooms or passages were underground. The medical examiner had said; a pic hammer end placed at the right spot could cause instant dead with a minimum amount of blood loss which would account for the blood clottier, but they had gotten a little off their mark from the obvious blood trail. The changed Will was the duck in the pudding, they had to keep him alive or they got nothing. He hadn’t completely marked Roger’s brother and sister off the list. The brother was a well-to-do doctor in New York and his sister was a teacher in Canada who seemed content with her station in life, still, that didn’t mean that couldn’t have paid someone here to do Roger in or hold him for ransom
.
He made a note to call Mr. Mooney’s personal physician in the morning to see how long he had been in this condition and if there was any way that he might have been faking his condition the last few years, he was sure he was dead, but if he wasn’t and he was still in the same condition just where was he and did he plan this on his own? If he did, he would have to have help or he was a magician; he didn’t like where this last line or reasoning was taking him. He needed a motive for Mr. Mooney and right now that tray was empty. “Klamm are you still over there, he shouted over his shoulder?”

“I was going over these embedded files they dug out of Mr. Mooney’s computer; for someone wheelchair bound, I would think he would have found other things to entertain his mind rather than poisonous plants and reptiles. They're some nasty creatures in here, if you want to dispose of somebody and one is downright wicked, it paralyzes the body until it gets ready to eat you, only thing is, your still alive in your little screaming nut house of a brain. Can you envision just lying there awake, not being able to speak or move, your just waiting to get eaten; now that is pure evil.”

“It’s out there Richard; every time, I think I’ve seen it all, something else takes its place. I need some things checked out, pull Stanley in here to help, he loves digging for dirt, start first thing in the morning. I want to know every move Mr. Mooney and his first wife made and his second plus that fruit cake daughter of hers and check into a death of a Mrs. Finney; I presume she worked on the estate at one time and make sure his brother and sister weren’t over here on a holiday.”

Richard Klamm swung around in his chair, “What are you going to be doing?”

“I’m going to see if there’s person behind the pen that wrote this note, shouldn’t be too hard, not many people write like this anymore.".
<>
In a place between reality and dreams a Merlin Game Series program was running…A small breeze moved the gentle waves one after another across the lagoon and up onto to the pearly white sand. A colony of seagulls scattered to the safety of the palm and coconut trees that surrounded the bluish green water as Jack came bounding across the sand. The 60 foot Sail Maker lay at anchor, her sails hanging limp, just waiting for the never ending breeze to push it off towards the fluffy white clouds strung across the far edge of the horizon.
Roger lay next to Gail on the forward deck drinking in the sweet fragrance of her long perfumed hair. He watched her eyes flutter. She pulled him to her; her lips were hungry and inviting. He tasted the ripeness of her sweet lips. The years slipped away, time was turned back. He pulled back where he could see her eyes. She radiated an overflowing love and the innocent mischief and adventure were still there, but a shadow pulled it all back.

Roger I can’t open the door for you,” Gale said.

“I can’t stay, can I?” Roger stated. He already knew the answer.

Roger you can stay, you wrote the program. But you didn’t finish it, did you? You can’t leave it that way. I can only stay for a little while. If you do, we’ll forever be apart. Please go back or it will all be for nothing.”

“I don’t know if I can do it, she took you from me and robbed us of so many years and I only wrote the program for a one-way trip.”

She took his hands, smiled and said, “She doesn’t matter anymore, she’s not worth it, you have to let go of the hate, there’s no room for it here; just push the [Home] button on the computer. It will take you back.”

<>

Snow changed briefly to rain as a fast moving warm front moved across the English landscape. Catherine was dreaming. She stood outside the uptown boutique. Willard had yet to bring the limo around. Her gaze was fixed on a familiar figure sitting at a table across the street, but he was younger and he was looking straight at her. The bundle slipped from her arms falling onto the rain cleaned street.

The car was traveling too fast for the narrow street and swerved to miss the bicycle. The puddle changed from street brown to red as it heaved itself up from the centuries-old cobblestones and blood began dripping from her sterling white dress. Catherine screamed and sat up in the wet bed wide awake.

“Mum, I heard you call out, are you alright, you’re completely wet.Did the help leave the window open? ...Thunder rattled through the house again… I’ll get someone to change the bedding and you should turn the computer off.”

Lighting cracked outside the room, a blue-white light filled the room as Catherine got up to turn off the computer, her complexion changed to a ghostly gray as she saw the man sitting in the desk chair turn and return her gaze. She screamed again. It was the man in her dream.
Jessie turned around startled, “Mum, what wrong? You’re white as a sheet!

<>

For two days Detective Wright was sifting through the lives of four people. He marked the brother and sister off the list. Gale he wished he had known, she was one of those people that didn’t let the bad side of life rub off on them. She and Roger were made for each other or so it seemed. Fairy tale stories were a rarity he never ran across. Roger seemed to be holding up well, considering what he had gone through with Gale’s death and then remarrying after a respectable time. There were no dramatic behavior pattern changes until six months before his accident then something began to turn him, he had become obsessed with a game program he had been programming, a real-time reality game that would break barriers and leap the company 50 years into the future; but where was the program? Whoever had it could name their own price. He took a pen and underlined…program...He’d come back to that later, but he believed he had found a motive that would buy a dozen manors.

Jessie was following in her mother’s footsteps, looking for the richest boyfriend, but Catherine was like peeling a lacquered onion, the layers were so tightly held together they did not want to be pried apart. Before South Wick Zoo, she didn’t exist, but she had made her mark there, stepping on toes and using her charms to climb the ranks in record time, to the reach the position of curator.

He laid the last folder down and picked up the newspaper clipping he’d retrieved from under his car's wiper blade. There were no fingerprints on the clear zip lock bag or the news clipping. No doubt there was a connection; he just needed to find it. The newspaper clipping was15 teen years old. The two emergency workers, who tried to get Gale from the burning car, both died the same day from apparent heart attacks. He stuck the copy of the clipping in a new folder, there was nothing in the files at Scotland Yard about Gale’s accident as it was ruled accidental, other than they dispatched a car from the precinct. He doubted if an autopsy been done on Gale’s body since it happened just before Christmas it was probably ruled as accidental as she was alone and the roads were icy according to the clipping. “

“Klamm what was Catherine a curator of at the zoo? Detective Wright asks.

“They didn’t tell me and I didn’t think it was important, that being the biggest zoo, I imagine they’ve got a dozen curators, I can call back and find out?”

“No, I’m going up there,” he handed the new folder to Klamm. “See what you can find out about these deaths, then call me in the car, it’s a long drive,” then said, “They find what was missing from the evidence room?”

Klamm looked up from the file, “The computer and pick hammer on the Mooney case, their looking at the tapes now; that could punch some holes in our case.” He said.

<>

Dr. Bloomberg at the South Wick Zoo was a jolly over bubbling type of man who did not have to search for words before he spoke. He seemed to never run down and could remember precisely what the Misses served at lunch a forth night ago at the table
.
“Gale and Catherine were very close friends and went to lunch together all most every day unless they were so busy that Gale couldn’t get away from the visitor information desk or Catherine’s ex-boyfriend Author Bisbee happened to show up, there was always a squabble.” Dr. Bloomberg said, then went on to explain the death of a custodian; “So they discovered it was the discarded burning gloves that had killed the poor soul. Catherine was the one who tied it to the deaths of the grave robbers found in the cursed tomb of Ramsey’s the 2nd; they’d apparently tried to burn the wrappings of the mummy instead of unwrapping him to get at the gold jewelry. The museum in Cairo was most gracious and sent us an endowment for clearing up a centuries-old mystery.”

Detective Wright lite his pipe and said, “Dr. I’m not sure I follow you.”

“Oh, it’s really quite plain, I’m surprised someone didn’t figure it out years ago, the clues were right there in front of their faces. If they had researched why there was such a high turnover of apprentices and the deaths of people doing the embalming, they would have realized it had to have something to do with the materials they were using. They didn’t have gloves at that time in history, as we know them today and to scrape the compound from the frog with the tools of that time period was like playing Russian roulette. They only used the compound mixed with vinegar to saturate the mummy before it was closed up. You might say they were spraying for bugs, but with a very lethal can of Raid that’s expiration date is a few thousand years, as long as the room is air tight and not exposed to sunlight. This little frog has only one defense system and you do not want to get it on your hands and then put them into any opening of the body or breath the fumes. That’s what happened to Mr. Rush, he was incinerating trash without protective gloves or a mask on. It’s probably more lethal breathed in as the lungs would take it directly to the heart and then on to the brain, it doesn’t cause a heart attack.”

“Just what does it do doctor?” Detective Wright asked.

Dr. Bloomberg took out a large handkerchief and blew his nose before going on, “A mild dose would mimic a stroke, whereas a drop will start flipping all the switches in your brain to the off position. This little frog is full grown and less than an inch long, but he could kill ten men. I’m sorry it’s a her, wrong coloration. Would you like to hold it?”

“Another time Dr., just how long is this stuff lethal out in the sun?”

“A dry hot sunny climate, no more than a day, but here where our sunny days are erratic and the moisture continent is high, a full month would be a good guess.”

“How about in a coffin?” Detective Wright asked.

“That would be different, just depending on how long the body has been out before the coffin was closed and if the coffin had a perfect air seal; I’d say until the body is completely decomposed. Look at the mummy, plus it would depend on the amount of poison and how much the body was exposed to high-intensity light.”

Detective Wright thanked the Doctor and returned to his car. He sat there a minute studying his notes. Bloomberg did not think too highly of Author Bisbee, Catherine’s ex-boyfriend when he got back to questioning him about Catherine’s friends. He referred to him as being uncouth, his appearance was above reproach but his brashness reminded him of a carney hustler or one you found at the Doncaster Race Track taking side bets. It was clear Bloomberg did not like Author Bisbee and for an ex he appeared at least once a week.

He phoned Klamm, they would need a court order to dig up the graves and to see what he could dig up on Author Bisbee. He closed the phone and started the car. New Tech Enterprises would be his next stop.

It was late evening when Detective Wright left New Tech Enterprises. He watched the security gate close behind his car. He hadn’t expected all the high-tech security measures the company used. Now, that he had new insights into the company, the motive for Roger Mooney’s disappearance leaned more towards kidnapping, but there were things that just didn’t fit. No one knew exactly what Roger and Penny Stout were working on, other than Penny was quoted as saying ‘it would be a game changer and not just in money’. She and Roger were close, but it was always professional according to the majority that knew them, though that wasn’t entirely true according to Rogers’s private secretary, who said… Penny had a thing for Roger, even if he was married to a bitch. He would come to his senses shortly and Christine would be out the door, but that never happened because Penny had a heart attack on Sunday while at her mother’s home in Braintree and died, then on Monday Roger had his stroke. She was sure of the dates because someone had gotten passed security and broke into Penny’s office on Sunday morning.

Wright pulled over to the side of the expressway and answered the phone. Klamm was on the line, “Thought I would let you know we can dig up the bodies at the cemetery in the morning and Author Bisbee was an easy find, due to his arrest records and being on a missing person report, you’re going to love this; it was the day after Roger and Catherine were married.”

“Now that is a coincidence Klamm, now see if you can locate any Stout’s in Braintree. They may be all deceased but work backwards from a Penny Stout. Too many people are having heart attacks that are healthy. What about this Author Bisbee what does his record show?”

“He started with a lot of small stuff and kept moving up. All of it involved flim-flam of a sort. They’d work the con on wealthy older men or older woman. Don’t know how many they scammed as only three pressed charges, you know how that goes.”

“Backup Klamm, you said they?”

“Right, he worked with a girl, but she was never apprehended. Description varies with the people they were pulling the scam on. The only thing that is consistent is her height of five foot eight or ten and weighing around one hundred and forty pounds. Hair color was different every time, same as the eyes. Clothes just depended on the occasion. John this girl is a pro, but she dropped out of sight before Author Bisbee disappeared.”

Detective Wright closed the phone, was there a connection between Penny Stout and Author Bisbee? He didn’t think so, too many years had passed since Bisbee’s disappearance unless she stumbled onto something later or maybe Roger didn’t want a partner to share with, but that didn’t fit his profile. He made a note to get a description of Penny, just in case. He turned the key in the ignition, time to go home. He didn’t know if he was getting any closer to some answers or not as he still had six questionable deaths and two disappearances. It seemed every turn was adding another body.

<>

Detective Wright put his morning paper down, a thought just surfaced, he quickly picked up his phone; “Klamm's phone was in use, he closed it and pushed the numbers for the Queens Chapel Cemetery, it was picked up on the first ring; he left instructions not to open the caskets until he returned to Scotland yard with the chapel secretary. Hopefully, they hadn’t gotten an early start.

His phone rang just as he laid it down. The director of the cemetery apologized for the miss in-formation, his secretary had given out. There were two markers for the deceased EMT’s on the cemetery grounds, but there were no bodies buried there. They had been cremated and an unknown party donated the headstones.”

He asks a few more questions then called Klamm again, he picked up on the first ring: “Klamm get an order to exhume the Mrs. Finney body and put a rush on it, somebody doesn’t want us digging up bodies and see if you can find out who donated the markers for the EMP's. He laid the phone down. He didn’t want to bother Gale’s body if he didn’t have to, the more he read about her the more he wanted to learn. He felt he had grown to know her. It would be a violation in his own mind to bother her and he doubted if there would be any evidence to use after the fire. He thought of a few more questions he should have asked yesterday and decided to give New Tech Enterprises another visit, sometimes an unexpected second visit rattled someone’s conscience or memory.

The right question sometimes gets some unexpected answers. Nothing concerning the company had been taken in the break-in of Penny’s office, only her personal correspondence was missing and a ledger. All her effects were sent to her mother along with some unopened letters that that had been held in the mailroom. Now, why would Penny instruct the mailroom to hold her personal mail?

John digested this new information on the way back to Braintree. Stanley called before he could get on the M-2 expressway and said he had located the elderly Mrs. Stout and he might want to talk to her himself.

Two hours later he left the small flat Mrs. Stout shared with another lady on the outskirts of Braintree. She had surprised him as she seemed so thin and frail. He suspected it was pure stubbornness that kept her from giving into the ravages of time and her belief that foul play was involved in her daughter’s death. Peggy was the picture of health and a person with a heart condition did not go for a run every morning; rain or shine; the doctor did not know his ass from a hole in the ground the old lady plainly stated causing Mrs. Gladstone to spill her tea. He had almost choked on his, the old lady did not waste words, but cut right straight to the bone. Then she went to get the box she kept Peggy’s belonging in from under the bed. There’s nothing in there that will help you, someone broke into the flat on the day of Peggy’s funeral and took a lot of unopen mail that I hadn’t had time to read, but I had laid one letter out because it looked like it was official and put it in my purse meaning to read it later. I think it might help you; she said and pulled a brown envelope from a picture album. He’d read the letter from Brose Brothers Investigation Services, it was the basic thank you letter and to give them a call if they could be of service in the future. Why, would my daughter need a private eye, Mrs., Stout asked?

Before he left he pointed to a picture setting in front of a tall wooden urn on the mantle. Mrs. Stout’s face brightened, “Yes, that’s Peggy. The people she worked for were so kind, they took care of everything. You don’t see that type of appreciation today.”

“No you don’t,” He said as his eyes shifted from the picture to the urn. He returned to his car. He was familiar with the Brose brothers; they were only a few blocks from his office.

<>


Why indeed, he thought as he left the office of the Brose Brothers in the heart of London? Mrs. Catherine Mooney was really Candy Farris Bisbee born in Paris. Now the pieces were beginning to come together. Peggy got to close and figured out the con and Catherine couldn’t let her go public.

<>

The house was quite at the Mooney Manor. Part of the staff was surprised to have the day off with pay. Catherine walked into the study and sat the bottle of wine and large key ring down on a table. She had been looking for something stronger in the cellar. She was sure there was something there with more zip to it. This room would need a good cleaning now that the police had released it. Roger’s computer shouldn’t be here, but it was back on his desk. How did it get here? The little lights on the keyboard were jumping back and forth then the screen lite up. Twinkling silver edged words appeared on the screen…”You have been a very bad girl” …Christine screamed, “Jessie, This is not a joke if you are trying to drive me insane.”
<>

Detective Wright eased his tired frame into the old familiar chair and looked up at the century-old light fixture and wondered with all our modern gadgetry if we were any better off today. Klamm was off the phone, “Sorry John, we were too late on getting to Mrs. Finney, she was cremated yesterday and they had all the paperwork in order. The only problem is Judge Simpson never signed any of it. Dania’s working on that right now. What about the Stout girl?”

“You can forget her, but I was wondering about O’Toole, he didn’t have any connection with anyone out at the Mooney place, other than he just happened to be on duty on the property.”

“You left the funeral early didn’t you, John?”

“Klamm, don’t tell me.” Detective Wright said as he sat upright.

“Afraid so, John. It was his wish to be cremated.”

“Damn, this case is taking on setbacks like an overloaded ship taking on water, if this keeps on; it’s all going to go down the drain and we’re not going to have a damn thing other than theories and a lot of circumstantial evidence, bigamy is the only thing I can nail her with right now and that just depends on whether Author Bisbee is still alive. Klamm, I need a body.” He said as the phone started ringing.

John let the telephone ring half a dozen times before picking it up. He laid it back down. “Come on Klamm, apparently Mrs. Mooney has flipped her wig.”

<>

Catherine stood in front of the computer, her long blond hair back to its natural color reached the middle of her back. Wine stained the front of her robe, the broken goblet lay smashed against the wall. She pulled the silken robe together with her free hand while holding the bloody pick hammer with the other.

The computer flickered again. She didn’t know how Roger had done it, she made him sell his precious boat 15 years ago, but there he was with Gail on that boat of his. It had to be an old film she hadn’t destroyed. She moved closer to the screen. Roger’s face filled the screen…”I forgive, you Catherine”…He said.

“NO, you’re gone, you’re too young, and you’re dead, go away and leave me alone. It’s another one of your damn programs isn’t it”?

“No, Catherine, it’s me and I forgive you and to show you I don’t hate you anymore, have some Christmas candy. From the same box you gave to Gale at Christmas.”

A box of Christmas candy and a card appeared in front of the monitor just as the pick hammer hit the computer screen. “Mum, are you alright, why are you screaming again, what’s all that noise? What happened in here? I’m going to call the doctor,” Jessie said while hurriedly searching for her phone.

<>

In a place between reality and dreams, another program was running…Roger pulled his face back from Gales; she kissed him again. “That’s for the other thing you did, see it wasn’t hard at all, was it? Did you notice how much brighter the colors are now?”

I noticed, I could never have copied that in the program.”

“Ahoy on the ship,” The voices came from across the water.

Roger looked around and said, “Dad, Grandpa.”

The men said, “We heard you were going to need some help sailing this boat, didn’t want you to get lost and J.C. said, it was a little unorthodoxed, but you did alright.”

Today it’s the second star to the right; the other one’s pretty busy, it being Christmas Eve.”

Let’s get at it then, come on Jack.”

Gale put her arms around him, “We don’t have to be in a hurry. We have eternity ahead of us.”

<>

At the Mooney Manor, John Wright knelt down and checked for a pulse. Catherine had apparently had some type of seizure, a burnt box of Christmas candy lay smoldering and scattered across the floor. Willard bent over and picked up the card, his name was written as extravagantly as he could have penned it; inside it said “Mary Christmas Daddy, Gale”.

John glanced up at the computer screen, the pick hammer was embedded in the screen, and electricity still sparked off the steel. For just a second in time, he could see a large sailboat, a young lady seemed to be waving at someone behind him, and then the man beside her turned and saluted. John heard Willard say, “Merry Christmas Gale,” and then the screen went blank and said Game Over.

Detective Wright watched the ambulance leave then went back inside searching for Klamm who met him in the study and said, “You wanted a body, follow me.”

Klamm turned the flashlight on at the end of a tall rack of bottles sitting at the very back of the wine cellar cloaked in darkness. “Watch your step,” he said as they moved along the passageway.

“It doesn’t seem slick,” Detective Wright said.

“It’s not. I hate rats,” Klamm said.

At the end of the passageway, Klamm made another right turn then stopped around a corner. He flashed the light on the centuries-old door with steel bars in a picture frame opening about head high. He gave the door a push. A spider webbed skeleton was hanging in chains attached to the wall. Klamm picked up a moldy billfold and handed it to his friend.

John opened it; the driver’s license was issued to Author Bisbee. He took a picture from the billfold. Klamm moved the light over the old photograph; a younger Catherine was holding a baby, while Author’s head was pressed against his wife’s. “How long do think he’s been here?” Klamm ask?

“According to this license, about fifteen years,” Detective Wright answered and moved the light around the room. There were no other bodies.
“What now, John? This will put her away a long time, but what did she do with her husband,” Klamm asked.

“I’ve got a theory, but if we pursue this anymore, I suspect we’ll both be directing traffic over at Piccadilly Circus. I think this game is over with and I’m going home.


THE END

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