by Lily Rowe
The Jones trio decide to solve a murder similar to Charles Dickens's Christmas Carol.
|"Ace! It's half an hour past 7:00. What's keeping you?" Juniper called into Ace's new job at an investment agency just loud enough for him to know that she was there.
"I may kill you already! If I have to work on Christmas I definitely will kill you!" Ace yelled at his employer, Marvin Brecker.
"Then quit," his employer replied sternly.
"I am," Mr. Brecker gave him his final paycheck, signing the back of the envelope with his left hand. Ace took the envelope and walked briskly out the door, and Juniper followed him.
The drive home was silent, though it wasn't as long as it could be much to Ace’s dismay, for he knew that someone would tell Webster. He didn't know whether or not to ask Juniper to do it while he packed his bags and schedule a one way trip to Quebec.
Ace glanced at Juniper hopefully. Juniper quickly realized it was she that must break Ace’s incompetence to Webster. She stepped heavily on the tile floor. Her head was bent over, and Webster’s eyes were two burning orbs blasting straight at her heart.
“Yes, June.” He was so kind to her.
“Ace quit another job.” She winced.
“Another one?” He still seemed patient.
“And he threatened to kill this one.” She tried being brave. “Mr. Marvin Brecker.”
“Ace!” Webster’s temper flooded him. “Ace Jack Jones! Come here right now.”
“Temper temper brother dear,” Ace had crawled around the corners trying to hold himself up. His elder brother shot him down, and the brothers’ words clashed. Each line had its own sting. Each brother seemed thoroughly determined to wipe out the other with everything but their own fists.
Officer Rupert Hutchings came to the door. Juniper stepped in ending her brother’s argument before letting Hutchings in. "Ace," Hutchings was just inside the room. "Your employer died this afternoon." Webster gave his brother a sideways look. "The coroner says suicide," Hutchings finished.
"No, that's not it. He was too vain; plus he had no reason to die," Ace pondered. "Can I see the scene?" Hutchings nodded. "June, will you come with me?"
"Ace, I have a deadline to make on my new book. Why should I concern myself with some old miser?"
"Because you'd hate to see a murderer go free, and it'll only take two minutes. After that if you're not interested I'll let you go."
"Deal.” The siblings went back out to the office with Hutchings.
The body had been moved, and the gun had been taken away, but Hutchings told them exactly what it had looked like. The body had sat in the desk with the left side of his head resting on the desk. The gun was in his right hand, and his pointer finger still was on the trigger. There were no bruises or any other markings than the distinct bullet hole. The gun was fired not only from close range, but was resting on his temple. The bullet was found in his brain. No other fingerprints had been on the gun; everything pointed to suicide without an autopsy or a coroner. Immediately after entering the room Juniper took the case.
"Did he have any family or friends?" she asked.
"No friends, but he does have a niece, Amy Bedlam. The others all live far enough away they would show if they'd been here. You think this is a murder?"
"Yes, thank you Hutchings," She told the man.
Ace and Juniper went to Bedlam's home. When the two knocked on the door a tired looking young woman with her hair sitting in a tight knot on the top of her head answered.
"Police," Juniper began. "Are you Amy Bedlam?"
"Can we ask you a few questions?"
"Yes, of course, come in." The woman lived a little simpler than her vain uncle though it wasn't starving to say the least. She had a fine parlor room, but it wasn't a large home. It was simply quaint.
"Did you know that your uncle died this evening?" Juniper asked matter-of-factly.
"Why no, but if he was murdered you'll find that you have more suspects than you know what to do with."
"How did you know who we were talking about?" Ace interrupted.
"Because he's my only uncle," she laughed. "He has been rather unkind at times, but when mom died he was the closest I had and seeing how the rest of the family had long since given up hope on the old man I decided to have some, that's why I stayed here rather than running away like my grandparents, aunt, and cousins."
"That I understand, but we still have to ask, where were you between seven thirty and eight o'clock tonight?" Juniper said.
"I visited my uncle about the annual family Christmas party at five today, I went to the post office, that was at 6:00, then at seven I went to the little league match down the way," She faltered with unchanging looks still on her. "Look I can tell you who won, The Argonauts.”
“May I use your phone? Our brother, Webster, went to the game,” Juniper asked.
“Yes, of course.” Juniper phoned Webster, and Webster agreed that the Argonauts won the game. It ended at about eight thirty.
“If I may add I did see two men going in to see my uncle after I left.”
“Thank you Miss Bedlam,” Juniper told the woman, and the siblings left.
Ace decided that next on the list of suspects was Robert Wright, the only other employee of Marvin Brecker.
Mr. Wright lived in a small back part of town with his wife and four children.
"Hello Mr. Wright," Juniper began. "You're boss, Mr. Brecker died this evening."
"I know. I was the one that found his body, but the police said it was a suicide," Wright replied inviting the pair of them in.
"You don't believe that; he loved living and making life awful for other people. Everyone he met had a reason to kill him," Ace said.
"Now hold it I know why you're here, and I had no reason to want that man dead. He didn't leave me anything, and now that he's gone I'm without a job."
"He was mean to you though?" Juniper asked.
"Well yes, but to support my family I'd work with the devil himself. Now I have no way to do that. To anticipate your next question, no I do not have an alibi. I was in one of the back offices working alone when he died. I went in to see who had come to see him," Robert Wright said.
"Who came?" Juniper asked.
"I don't know. Four other people came to the office that day; I decided it was just his niece or you that came back. At 8:00 I finished up, and I went in to tell him. That's when I found him dead. Whoever came in, that's who killed him." He finished, "But like I said I didn't want him dead even though he was a real jerk."
"Four people? I came in at 7:30 and Amy Bedlam before me at five. Who were the other two?" Juniper asked.
"Two men came in from a non-profit humane society or something at about four; they had a big argument over it being Christmas, the season of giving," He replied.
"Thank you, Mr. Wright," Juniper said gesturing toward the door. Juniper drove back to the investment agency remembering something she only glanced at.
Juniper entered the room first. While turning on the light, her fingers brushed over a small hole. Inside the door were three sets of filing cabinets. The only other thing in the room was the desk he had been sitting at when he was killed. In the trash can by the desk was a pamphlet for a hospitality group. Juniper took the pamphlet out of the garbage and straightened it out. Then she gave it to Ace, pointed to the address, and told him to take them there.
"I'm looking for Mortimer Kellogg, and Mabuz Rounds," Juniper said.
"I'm Mabuz Rounds. My partner Mortimer Kellogg is here too, why don't you come inside."
"My sister and I are investigating the death of Martin Brecker. We heard the two of you went to see him at about four today, and got into a fight with him," Ace said.
"Even if we did want to kill him we only just got back from a bar downtown five minutes ago. The bartender could verify that," Mr. Kellogg said.
"Why not kill him, wouldn't Amy Bedlam donate to your cause, plus Martin hated Christmas," Juniper asked.
"When you put it that way then we do have a motive for killing him, but like my partner said we have an alibi," Mr. Rounds replied.
"We'll have that checked." Ace started for the door. "Thank you, gentlemen."
The siblings went back home where a certain brother sat waiting for them. Webster had brought a Christmas tree home, the ornaments and Christmas decorations out of the attic, and put the lights up four days before Christmas.
"Thanks Webster, but I'm tired." Juniper hugged her older brother. "I'll see the two of you in the morning." All three children were nestled all snug in their beds visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads. First thing Webster called up the Boar's. The two men's story checked out; they went in with him at five, and left at ten when he got a short break. Immediately afterwards Webster put a hot pot of water on the stove for tea, and the three of them went to work decorating the small house.
"I'll hang stockings, and put up the garland," Ace declared.
"I'll put up ornaments," Webster chose.
"I guess I'll do the nativity scene, holly, and mistletoe," Juniper was left. The three set to work. Within half an hour the small house was hardly different from the North Pole, and everyone's hands were still full. Then the teapot screamed.
"Ace, will you get that? My hands are full," Webster pleaded. Ace made his way into the kitchen while Juniper set down an ox and Mary muttering “hands are full.”
"Ace, Webster, I got it. Grab your coats and let's go," Juniper called.
Challenge to the reader: You now have in your possession all the clues pertinent to the correct solution. As a Christmas present I'll tell you that the hands are important because Brecker's hands were full if it was suicide. I'll bet your way ahead of me though.
Juniper brought Inspector Rehuitz, Officer Hutchings, Webster, Ace, Amy Bedlam, Robert Wright, Mortimer Kellogg, and Mabuz Rounds all into the office of Marvin Brecker. "This case was first given the stamp of suicide and deemed over, but Mr. Brecker was left handed. I saw myself that he signed a document with his left hand however the gun was held in his right hand. Why would anyone kill themselves with their wrong hand? Also though there is a bullet hole here in the wall next to the light switch. If it were suicide how would this get there?"
"Murder," the inspector said.
"That's why these four people are here, they each were suspected of his murder. Mr. Wright you had a perfect way of doing it. You were in the building all by yourself with him, but you needed your employer alive. How else would you earn a living for your ever growing family? Miss Amy Bedlam you have the most to gain from your uncle's death, but you have an alibi, as well as having forgiven your uncle. Mr. Mortimer and Mr. Rounds you undoubtedly had a heated argument over how Christmas should be celebrated, and if Miss Bedlam got the money, wouldn't she be much more willing to share in his good fortune. You had an alibi though."
"Miss Jones, haven't you just eliminated everybody?" Hutchings said.
"No, not yet, but I'll get back to whom did it. Let's for a second go back to how. Two bullets needed to have been fired because when he was killed the gun rested on his temple. One bullet was fired from simply close range and missed. It hit next to the light socket. The second shot the murderer couldn't take any chances, and he held the gun up to his temple. Two shots fired. Two people had a heated argument earlier in the evening."
"But the bartender saw us," Kellogg said.
"Yes, but it would have taken only five minutes to kill Brecker, and you were there for five hours, for most of that the bar was crowded and you could leave while still keeping your alibi. You had a ton of motive, first he wasn't very generous toward your cause, and then everyone in the city hated him. It doesn't matter who shot first, or who got the bright idea to make it look like suicide."
"Yes, we did it. We killed him. Mortimer thought that only the old man was there so late, we didn't even expect Mr. Wright would be there," Mr. Rounds confessed.
"I've got them Inspector." Hutchings approached the two men. Hutchings handcuffed the two criminals, and took them to a padded cell.
"Miss Bedlam, Mr. Wright and your family, Inspector Rehuitz would you like to come over to our house for Christmas dinner?" Webster asked. Miss Bedlam turned him down because she agreed to spend Christmas with her family, but Mr. Wight, Inspector Rehuitz, and later Officer Hutchings accepted the offer.
As they all were leaving Miss Bedlam stopped Mr. Wright to tell him, “I’m in charge of my uncle’s business now, but you see Mr. Wright; I don’t know anything about it. Do you mind continuing on, and working, managing, maybe even running the place for me? There may even be a salary increase for it.”
The young woman suddenly realized, she had never truly seen Mr. Wright smile before, and that she would probably never see anyone quite as happy in the same way as when he said, “I would be happy to run your uncle’s investment agency for you.” He couldn’t wait to tell his wife that the new owner of Mr. Brecker’s company had just raised his salary.
Christmas morning the Jones awoke to two feet of snow on the ground. Bells were ringing, and carolers singing. The bells in the chapel were ringing noel and silent night an hour before mass started. Juniper began baking cookies making the home smell like peppermint and gingerbread. Webster started cooking a ham at about noon. Ace cleaned up all the boxes that had decorations in it.
For Christmas Juniper got typewriter paper, and a book filled with real crimes that were difficult to solve. Ace got a sci-fi book, and a new bow tie. Webster was given a historic fiction book on the revolutionary war, and a scarf.
At four in the afternoon their guests began to arrive. First the Hutchings family (Rupert, Ellen, and Alexander) came. After them came Jack Rehuitz. Last came Robert Wright, his wife, Mary, and children: 17-year-old Kevin, 16-year-old Cecile, 14-year-old Matthew, and 8-year-old Lucas.
The fourteen people fit around the table only by a Christmas miracle. Juniper set up the feast, Webster carved the ham and they all had a very merry Christmas.