by The Milkman
Part two of the Mystery Newsletter Serial.
|Mrs. Jaminson sat at her desk, arms folded across her chest. She gave me a stern look like I was about to interrupt something.
I wondered whether it might be something important or perhaps illegal.
I opened my mouth with my first question; I saw a ripple movement through her fingers. From these movements I knew I was not going to dominate this conversation.
“Can we get on with this?” She said, as she
unclenched her arms and laid them on her overly neat desk.
I couldn’t see all of the writing on her desk pad
calendar. The messages I did see were incomplete, hidden because of the bulk of her arms. Was she trying to conceal an appointment from me?
Was there something that I was overlooking about her?
These were questions that were going to need to be answered. I just hoped for a break in the conversation with her to get a glimpse of that pad.
“I know without a warrant I can’t look at your
files without permission, so I was wondering if I could ask you some questions about your operation.”
“I won’t tell you anything about Martha, but you
can ask away about the functions of this office.”
She said a name that wasn’t one of the two I had, was this a clue as to a pattern?
Was it a slip of the tongue, or was this a planned detour? From here on out, I knew I had to be careful with what I asked.
“The first question is...How long after you are
notified of a death is the computer updated?”
“Well, of course we have to verify it first with
either a copy of the death certificate or coroner's report. Sometimes this takes hours or days, and then we change the listings on the computer.”
“Are the checks still delivered until the death has been verified?”
"Yes, we have discovered that it is easier to stop payment on a check; then hold it upon verification.”
“Have you cancelled a lot of checks in the history of the office?”
I believed I knew the answer before she even opened her mouth. She was going to say that that this was an efficient office and, therefore, unnecessary checks were never issued.
I would say they were issued alright...with the office being the benefactors.
She was about to answer when her phone began to flash and she waved me into the hallway. I had enough information for now and I could always come back for more when and if needed.
* * * * *
I spent the afternoon with my good buddy, Steve Wurther. He was the police detective assigned to the murders. For the cost of lunch, he told me that both of the women had large quantities of arsenic in their bodies. This led to more questions that as of now couldn’t be answered.
Questions like how do two women in two different communities get large doses of rat poison in them?
With Steve accompanying me, I was able to search both houses for clues as long as I , in turn, greased their palms by sharing whatever I found with the detectives. It was an easy decision to make; having the manpower and the tools of the police on my side was going to be a plus in this case.
I kind of knew what I was looking for intuitively. I was looking for that needle in the haystack.
Both of the victims wore glasses, but I didn’t think it was very likely that they both misread a label of a box of arsenic and subsequently added it to their tea.
I looked in the kitchen because where else could they have made tea? And, of course, the police lab results confirmed that the poison was in the tea.
I opened the cupboards above the sink, the refrigerator and the counter tops.
Everything had a place on a shelf. These women were both intelligent and organized, so it didn’t seem probable or logical that they would fall victim to a slow, agonizing death, which took them both by complete surprise.
I found the cupboard with the hot beverage items. There were a couple of jars of Cremora; one was opened and almost empty. The tea bags were the Orange Pekoe type but yet the lab said it was some kind of herbal tea, containing mint. I found none of this tea in each woman’s cupboards.
I sat at the kitchen table of Mildred Petersen and I put my head into my hands. I began to vocalize my thoughts.
“How can two women be killed while enjoying their favorite drink? Where did they get this tainted tea?”
I got a little discouraged and I hit my fist soundly on the tabletop.
A silver-plated lazy Susan vibrated and I gave it a passing glance. There was a small wooden box with a sliding top sitting in the middle of this round tray.
There was also a small tag on the box that read, “Enjoy Sleepytime Tea, compliments of Stony Ridge Community Bank”.