Episode II: Part II - The Case of the Menacing Notes
“How long have I been out?” I asked, siting up and grabbing Becca’s hand. She had been patting my face and forehead with a moist rag, kneeling next to me as I lay flat on my back on her kitchen floor.
“About fifteen minutes," she replied, her eyes darting anxiously around the kitchen.
I grabbed the corner of the kitchen counter and pulled myself upright, still a little woozy, my head feeling like it had been on the chisel end of a jackhammer. “What happened?” I asked, leaning over the kitchen sink. I turned the cold water handle, splashing water on my face and the back of my neck.
“Some guy was hiding in one of the bedrooms. He came running out just as you turned around to leave; he hit you with some small, black object. Then he bolted out the front door.”
I placed my hand on the back of my head. A small lump protruded just above the occipital bone. I grimaced when I put pressure on it. “Must have been a sap.”
“A what?” Becca asked.
“A sap. A short, weighted leather club. Did you get a look at him?” I asked, the lump on my head throbbing.
“I didn’t see his face, Matt. He was wearing a mask, like one of those black ski masks.”
I removed my cell phone from the inside pocket of my sports jacket and dialed 911. I sighed, shaking my head in response to the usual slew of irrelevant questions from the emergency dispatcher, stirred in with my report of what had happened. After identifying myself and the location a final time, she confirmed a detective would be dispatched. “MPD is on the way,” I told Becca.”
“Can I get you anything, Matt? she asked.
“Appears you were right,” I answered, ignoring her question. It also explains the missing notes. And he had every intention of leaving with them, which is why he slugged me from behind.” I placed my hand on top of my throbbing head again, as if to emphasize the point.
Becca fidgeted nervously. “This is getting crazy,” she blurted out. “Why would someone send threatening notes only to steal those same notes later?”
“That’s for me to find out,” I replied, my exasperated tone obvious. I was infuriated to the point I was now fully onboard with my investigation. The threatening notes, the apartment break-in, and now the knot on my head certainly appeared to corroborate the allegations made by my client. The doorbell rang, followed by loud knocking, then a shout of, "Police."
“I’ll answer it,” I said, glancing at Becca and pushing myself away from the kitchen counter. I walked stealthily in the direction of a hallway separating the living room from the two bedrooms. I motioned for Becca to move further back into the kitchen, then positioned myself halfway around a dividing wall with only my left side visible. I gripped my short barrel revolver firmly underneath my sports jacket, then shouted, “door’s open, come in,” assuming the door remained unlocked after our unknown visitor bolted out earlier. A uniformed officer slowly pushed the door inward, stepping cautiously inside. He could have been the poster child for alertness. His hand rested on top of his holstered service revolver.
“Police,” he shouted again, followed by a second uniformed officer and a plainclothes female who I assumed was the detective.
“I did,” I shouted back, releasing my grip on my revolver and walking slowly into the open living room, my empty hands in plain view. “I’m Matt Duggan, Private Investigator,” I continued in a normal tone.
“Did I hear someone say, ‘Matt Duggan?’” the female officer asked, walking in my direction.
I glanced directly at her. She looked familiar. It was then I recognized her. “Officer Kate Blanchard, MPD?” I asked, referencing her previous position as a uniformed officer.
“That was me,” she clarified. “Now it’s Detective Sergeant Blanchard, with the 38th precinct. I knew your ex-partner Seth McPherson. I was one of several ‘Officers on scene’ whenever Seth and his partner Leah Mulholland were called out on a homicide investigation; at least before was she was implicated in his murder.”
The light bulb clicked on. Kate Blanchard was a road patrol officer who was assigned to the16th precinct several months after I retired and Mulholland took my place as Seth’s partner. Seth had mentioned Blanchard on several occasions, stating more than once he would have preferred to have her as his new partner over that of the obnoxious Mulholland. Blanchard was bright and ambitious, with an intuitive nature that Seth believed would make for a good working chemistry. The problem was that Kate was new, a rookie, and even with his influence would not be able to overcome that hurdle. It would more than likely lead to a grievance complaint by Mulholland, and one that Seth would lose. There was also the possibility of damage to Blanchard’s reputation as a new Officer, something Seth didn’t want on his conscience.
I remember speaking briefly with Officer Blanchard on a few cases I worked with Seth as a Private Investigator after
retiring from MPD. I understood why Seth liked her. As a new rookie, she would have to put in her time ‘on the beat’ patrolling the streets, responding to calls and gathering information -- standard operating procedure for a new uniformed officer.
“So, was it you who called for a detective?” she asked.
“On behalf of my client, that’s a yes,” I replied with a faint smile. I introduced Blanchard to Becca, then briefed her regarding the entire scenario, including the missing notes. She wrote onto a small notepad, flipping it open and shut several times during our conversation before stuffing it back into her jacket.
“How’s that bump on your noggin,” the Detective inquired, moving closer for a better look. “Do you need medical attention?”
I shook my still aching head. “No, I’m alright,” I replied, refocusing on the matter at hand. I suggested a meeting with her and the State Attorney. Placing the DA on notice might allow for an expanded search of criminal and civil public records, and any other confidential sources available that could shed some light on the suspect law firm and their client pharmaceutical companies. Detective Blanchard agreed, agreeing she would would contact me before the evening was over.
One of the uniformed officers approached. “We’ve checked out the entire apartment. Everything looks clean.”
Blanchard turned and looked at Becca. “Anyone other than you and management have a key to the front door?”
“No,” she answered, shaking her head nervously.
“There’s no sign of a forced entry,” Blanchard continued. “He either obtained or made a duplicate key, or jimmied the door handle lock and deadbolt." She looked at Matt, then glanced back at Becca. "If I were you, I’d find somewhere else to stay, at least for the time being.”
I felt terrible for Becca. The sum of events had obviously taken its toll. She was a frightened wreck, and I couldn’t say I blamed her. “I’ll take care of that,” I said, jumping in. I thanked the Detective Sergeant, adding a reminder I’d be waiting for her call later. She nodded, then led her two officers out the front door.
Becca walked slowly around the living room. She was quiet and contemplative. I didn’t interrupt her. She needed a little time for everything to sink in. Finally, she walked up to me. “So, now that I’m officially in hiding, where do you suggest I go?”
I didn’t hesitate. “You’re staying with me,” I replied firmly. “Gather what you need and we’ll drive back to my office. I have a spare room upstairs and a guest bedroom in my home. You can use the room upstairs during the day and can stay in the spare room at my home in the evening. Delia will keep you company during the day while I conduct my investigation. If you need to go anywhere, Delia will go with you.”
“Thank you for the offer, Matt, but I’m sure I’ll be fine here,” Becca replied nervously, attempting to put up a brave front.
“I don’t want any argument,” I countered. “You’re being intimidated and threatened. You’ve retained my services and the other part of my job is to protect you, and that’s exactly what I intend to do. Start packing.”
“Alright, alright,” she blurted out. Becca walked into her bedroom and pulled a suitcase out of her closet.
I carried her suitcase, a garment bag, and a few other items and placed everything in the trunk, then drove back to my agency. Delia helped settle Becca upstairs while I checked my email and phone messages. I was just finishing when my iPhone’s screen illuminated. It was Detective Blanchard. “That was quick,” I answered, not correlating her sooner than expected call with anything other than a confirmation of our pending meeting. “So, what time is our meeting with the State Attorney tomorrow?”
“Forget the meeting,” she snapped. "We’ve got another problem.”
My ‘gumshoe’ intuition kicked in, prompted by the tone of Blanchard’s voice. I pushed my chair back and away from my desk, then stood. “Okay, I’m listening; what’s the problem?”
“We just located someone who matches the description of the suspect who broke into your client’s apartment earlier today.”
“How’s that a problem?” I asked, smiling. My mind was already busy conjuring up questions about the perp I assumed was in custody. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by her answer.
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