Episode II: Part I - The Case of the Menacing Notes
“Sorry to interrupt, Matt - you have a visitor,” Delia announced quietly, knocking on and opening my office door simultaneously, a revealing smile on her face all but confirming our ‘walk-in’ and I were already acquainted. In this business, becoming re-acquainted isn’t necessarily a good thing, and, as events progressed, that would soon become apparent.
“Who is it?” I asked, shifting my attention from my computer monitor and glancing upward at Delia.
“She wouldn’t say,” Delia answered, “but finally did blurt out, ‘Matt and I know each other.’”
I took a deep breath. “Tell her I’ll be right there,” exhaling my reply. It was my usual practice to greet appointments or walk-ins, introduce myself after Delia’s initial greeting, then engage in a polite amount of superfluous small talk. It was my way of making potential clients feel comfortable before inviting them into my office to discuss how I might be of help. Appears I’d be able to skip the, “meet-and-greet” part this time around.
“Matt?” a female voice uttered, catching sight of me as I exited my office.
I turned and locked eyes with an attractive middle aged woman, my memory finally matching a face to a name. “Rebecca? Rebecca Blakely?” I repeated, a dubious smile working its way across my face. We embraced momentarily before I took a step back, my arms fully extended, my hands gently resting on her shoulders. “Rebecca, I can’t believe it! How are you?” I skeptically asked, my arms length allowing my eyes to thoroughly scan her face, first impressions telling me she hadn’t appeared to age a day since our last encounter more than ten years earlier.
“Matt, it’s wonderful to see you again,” she responded. “I was so afraid you wouldn’t remember me, or at the very least without some reminiscent coaxing,” she continued, laughing.
“Rebecca, it’s .....,” I began to say as she quickly cut me off.
“Please, Matt; it’s Becky, remember?”
I paused, then smiled. “As I recall it was, ‘Becca,’ remember?” I playfully parroted.
“Yes, I remember,” she replied, still smiling.
I placed my hand behind her elbow and guided her into my office, directing her to a small couch. I grabbed a chair in front of my desk and positioned it several feet away from the sofa, then sat. ‘Meet-and-Greet’ time was over. I suspected from the moment I recognized her she didn’t drop by on a whim to indulge in memorable past events; for all the wonders of modern technology, there was never a substitute for gut instinct. I motioned for Delia to come into my office. It was time to find out why Ms. Blakely was here.
“Lovely office,” she said as she looked around, continuing her reticent facade.
“So, Becca, what brings you here?” I finally asked, the tone of my voice confirming the time for exchanging pleasantries was over. The smile on her face disappeared, quickly replaced by a foreboding expression.
Becca suddenly turned around. “I need your help, Matt,” her tone now serious, her facial expression almost desperate. She stood and slowly wandered around the office, as if the sword of Damocles hovered over her.
I had a strong sense of déjá vu, recalling how my representation more than ten years earlier nearly cost me my license. “Tell me about it,” I requested somewhat disingenuously. I was hesitant to become involved in another of Becca’s serial tragedies. Truth be told, she was intelligent, beautiful, and ambitious, although at times misguided, with a penchant for trouble that followed her like a bad odor.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” she moaned, her words still trembling, both confirming her flare for drama.
“It’s usually best to start at the beginning,” I reluctantly suggested.
She continued to pace around the office, finally blurting out, “I believe someone is out to hurt me, maybe even kill me.”
“Kill you....., for what?” I asked skeptically. My thoughts reverted back to our investigator/client relationship of ten years earlier. It didn’t take long at that time to figure out Becca had a flare for getting herself into one mess after another; ten years later, and, if her hunch is correct, she’s now managed to piss someone off to the point her life might be in jeopardy. I shook my head slightly, letting out an exasperated sigh.
“Can you help me, Matt?” her misty, piercing blue eyes pleading for my approval.
I rose from the chair and walked back to my desk, turning around and sitting on a corner. I placed a hand over my mouth, moving my index finger back and forth across my day old mustache stubble, exchanging dubious glances with Delia. I was debating silently whether I wanted her as a client, particularly considering what she put me through the first time.
“Would it be too presumptuous to say you want me to find out who this person is?” I asked, my question a half baked ‘yes’ to Becca’s request for help.
Several weeks earlier Rebecca Blakely was employed as a certified legal assistant with the prestigious law firm of Colby, Miller, & Wright, a boutique firm located in the Metropolis central business district. She was with the firm just over three years, happily employed as a senior paralegal for one of the firm’s founding partners; happy until recently, that is, when she inadvertently uncovered evidence they were helping several well known pharmaceutical companies deliberately and aggressively market known addictive opioids. Additionally, the firm was advising the companies on how to down play the risks of addiction, that the drugs were safe, and to the contrary, underutilized.
A month later, and in spite of the fact she had not disclosed her discovery to anyone, she was called into her boss’ office and summarily fired. No plausible explanation was given for her termination.
Another week went by before she received what she perceived as the first of several threatening notes. The first slipped under her apartment door, the second note delivered through a slightly ajar window on the driver side of her SUV while parked at a grocery store, and the third pushed though a louver on her locker at the local gym. Each note was more threatening in intensity, composed of individualized clippings of letters or words glued onto dark colored paper stock.
The common denominator appeared to be the perpetrator, who knew enough about Becca to deliver the notes where they made the most frightening impact. The last note implied she was talking to authorities, and that if she wanted to remain 'healthy’ she would cease and desist immediately. She thought about contacting the police, but believed it too risky. That’s when she sought my help.
“I was really frightened, Matt, especially after the third note. If they really believed I was talking to the police, that last note convinced me my life was in danger. That’s when I decided I to contact you.”
“Do you have the notes with you?” I asked.
“I meant to bring them, but I was so agitated before I left my apartment earlier that I forgot; they’re inside a computer desk drawer in my living room.”
I grabbed my sports jacket on the coat valet. “Let’s go to your place,” my response now a confirmation I was officially on the case.
“Keep me posted,” Delia reminded me as Becca and I left the office to drive to her apartment. I wanted to take a look at the ‘notes’ she had earlier described. It was sometimes possible to glean information from the evidence, in this case, the notes, depending on how they were worded or constructed. I also wanted to place them in a sealed baggie for fingerprint preservation. If the threats appeared credible we would also need to bring the responsible police precinct into the investigation.
I pulled into a guest spot after a nearly thirty minute drive. Becca’s residence was a corner unit on the first floor. There was a backyard with two medium sized trees and another related apartment building separated by a small retention pond. It appeared to be well maintained.
“Very nice,” I observed. How long have you resided here?” I asked.
“I leased my unit shortly after I was hired by the law firm,” she answered, pulling a key out of her purse and unlocking the front door.
We walked into Becca’s apartment. It was of moderate size, nicely furnished and decorated, a pleasant scent emanating from two electric fragrance warmers. There were framed photos in several locations of who I assumed were family members or friends. Becca placed her handbag and keys on the kitchen counter. Initially, nothing appeared out of the ordinary.
“Can I offer you something to drink?” she asked, opening the refrigerator door.
“A bottled water would be fine,” I replied, completing my visual scan of her apartment. "But I would like to take a look at those notes,” I added, a not so subtle reminder of why we were here.
Becca glanced at me and smiled. She slowly closed the refrigerator door, and, without saying a word handed me the bottle of water as she walked quickly in the direction of her computer desk. I followed her as she stood next to the chair, reached down and opened a small drawer next to the keyboard tray.
“What the….?” she called out, a puzzled look appearing on her face. Becca stuck her hand inside and began rifling through the contents. She slammed the drawer shut and walked around the chair to the left side, opening the opposite drawer and brusquely scouring through its contents.
“Well?” I asked in a skeptical tone.
The expression on her face answered my question. She looked at me with a mixture of befuddlement and shock before finally yelling, “they’re not here!”
“What do you mean, ‘they’re not here?'" I fired back, my mind locked in a moment of, “total recall,” remembering from past experience Becca’s inclination to exaggerate a current predicament, or create a new, and potentially more dangerous problem.
“They were here, Matt!” she cried out a second time, becoming misty-eyed again.
Any sympathy and sentiment for the truth she had initially convinced me to feel was rapidly dwindling. “When you find what you’re looking for, drop by the office,” I said, disgusted I had wasted almost half a day on what I perceived as the proverbial, “wild goose chase.” I turned and placed the unopened bottle of water on the counter, intending to leave her apartment. That’s when she screamed ....., and the last thing I remembered.
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