Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Murder of Mr. Weathers

The Murder of Mr. Weathers

Of all the offices in all the world, she had to haunt mine. In her defense, though, this place used to be her house before it was renovated into a series of offices. That’s the way things go here San Francisco. The City that I call home. My name is David Poblocki, and I’m a private detective. Her name, I learned after our first meeting, was Rose Phillips. She’s a ghost. And also my partner in my detective agency. I realize that all sounds rather odd, so let me start my tail at the beginning.

I had been working in a detective agency for a few years now, but really, there was nothing out of the ordinary about that job. I did my time following cheating spouses, finding lost pets and searching for missing loved ones. In fact, I got something of a reputation as someone that’s great at finding missing people. I was able to work a couple of the bigger cases, earning enough in bonuses combined with my savings, to finally open my own detective agency. One with just me, not even a secretary to answer my phone, but with advertising and a new office.

So, there I was, my own boss for the first time in my entire life. Admittedly, I was only 28, but still, I felt like I want busted my ass to get to this point. I already had two cases, but they were the normal cheating spouses, and those never take long. A few days of following said spouse with a camera trying to get proof. It’s not fun work, and sometimes I feel guilty following someone around and taking their picture, especially when it turns out they are not cheating, but it pays well, and meant I would have my first months rent both at the office and at home.

So, there I was working on the paper work for these two jobs, when I got the phone call. It was a rather frantic older woman on the other line, so I calmed her down.

“Ma’am, I’m having trouble understanding,” I said. “I want to help you, but I can’t until I understand what the problem is.”

“My husband,” she said, and I started to roll my eyes. Another cheater. Then, after a sob, she continued. “He’s missing. Please, I have been told that you’re an expert at finding missing persons. I need you to find my husband. The family is in such disarray without him, please Mr. Poblocki, come find him!”

A missing person! That was something I could really sink my teeth into. I got her information, and discovered that this was Mrs. Weathers, wife of the famed Edward Weathers, local Internet tycoon and wealthy socialite. His websites were known through the country for those fancy little cartoon greeting cards you could send a friend. This case could pay me a lot of money. I gave Mrs. Weathers a slightly increased fee and she agreed.

“Fantastic,” I said, hanging up the phone. “Not only is it something that will be fun, but I’ll make nearly twice my normal rate out of it too!”

“Taking advantage of that poor woman like that?” said a voice from behind me. “You ought to be ashamed.”

I practically jumped out of my chair, and started to scramble along my desk as I turned around and saw a woman. She was wearing a purple dress that had a stiff collar that covered her neck, puffy shoulders and a sever cut to it. She also wore a large brimmed hat with feathers that matched the dress. The most amazing thing about her, however, was that she was translucent. I could see the wall and window behind her.

“What the hell…?” I said.

“Tisk, tisk,” she said, waiving her finger at me. “Such language. I thought it was rather plan to see that I am a ghost.”

“What?” I said, no longer back up because I had hit the wall across the room.

She rolled her eyes. “Please tell me that you do know what a ghost is. A spirit? A spector? The undead spirit of one who has passed on?”

“What?” I said, then shook my head as she started rolling her eyes again. “No, I mean, I know what a ghost is. I’ve just…”

“Ah,” she said. “You’ve never seen one before. Understandable, then.”

With that, she nodded her head and introduced herself to me.

“This building you find your office in was once my house,” she said. “Or rather, my husbands until he died. I got a job as a photographer for the miners here in San Francisco to help pay for it afterwards.”

She went on to explain to me that she wasn’t really haunting the house that was now my office so much as this was her home, and she just didn’t see the need to go on to anyplace else. She then suggested I should go out to the Weather’s Estate to aid the poor woman that called me. I nodded and shakily got my jacket and hat and headed out. I entered the address Mrs. Weather’s had given me into my GPS unit and drove the hour trip to her place. Much to my surprise, my unanticipated roommate decided to travel along with me. She assured me that it was quite all right; no one could see her unless she chose them to. She would remain ‘quite invisible’ to everyone else.

On the trip over, she was amazed by the GPS, and asked me all kinds of questions about it. It was very surreal, but at the same time, the conversation and the simple act of answering her questions made the whole thing seem more normal. By the time we arrived at the Weather’s place, I had become somewhat used to her presence. This made it rather awkward when I parked and Mrs. Weather’s came out to greet me.

“Mr. Poblocki,” she said, “I’m so glad you came.”

“Please, just call me David,” I said, and then started to introduce Rose before I caught the ghost lady shaking her head.

“She can’t see or hear me, remember?” Rose said. I nodded, somewhat unnerved by the fact, and went on about my business.

“Mrs. Weathers,” I said, pulling out a note pad and pen, getting my mind on the job, “Please tell me, when was the last time you saw your husband.”

“Well,” she said as we walked up the steps, “it was yesterday, right after the big announcement he made to the family. Around noon time, it was.”

It was obvious from looking at her that she had been crying, probably since yesterday. “Can you tell me more about this announcement?”

“Well, he… uh…” she hesitated. She obviously didn’t want to tell me. “You see, my husband had asked the family here for just this announcement,” she said after a few moments. “He was making some major changes to his will, and felt it would be best if he let everyone know what those changes were in person.”

“I see,” I said, making notes. “And can you tell me what those changes were?”

“Well,” she hesitated.

“I can,” said a gruff voice from ahead of us. I turned and saw a muscular man with short-cropped hair and an angry look on his face at the front door. “He was telling us all that we were cut out of the will, and that everything would be going to his dear wife, here. Bastard.”
“I’m sorry, and you are?” I asked to the newcomer.

“I’m Jeff Weathers, Detective, SFPD,” he said, emphasizing his rank. I noted that he did not extend his hand.

“I apologize, Detective Weathers,” I said, “I wasn’t aware that the Police had been called into this matter.”

“Oh, they haven’t,” Mrs. Weathers assured me suddenly, fear on her face.

“He knows that, Emma,” Jeff said, disdain dripping from his voice. “He’s trying to pretend to be polite while at the same time insulting me. Isn’t that right, Mr. Poblocki?”

“Something like that,” I said, not really seeing the need to deny anything. “And please, call me David. I’m always looking for my dad when people call me Mr. Poblocki.”

He didn’t move, he just kept staring at me. So, I decided to ask him a few questions.

“So, Detective Weathers,” I said, “am I to take it that Mrs. Weathers here is not your mother?”

“Of course she isn’t,” he said right away. “My dad married her ten years ago.”

“Ten years?” I asked. “And your father only just now decided to change the will?”

“Why do you think we’re all so pissed off,” he said.

“I see,” I said, writing more things down in my notebook. He watched carefully, then finally moved out of the way. I got the distinct impression that he was making sure I did my job correctly before letting me by.

“Please, come in, Mr… uh… David,” Mrs. Weathers said, catching herself on my name. “I’ll introduce you to the rest of the family.”

She lead me into the house, and I use that word lightly. This place was huge, and the front atrium had so many windows I felt like I was still outdoors. I followed her down a corridor that was wide, the walls covered in fancy, original artwork. It opened into a large room that featured a TV larger than the wall in my office, several couches and chairs and a few beanbags. There was enough room there for twenty people to watch a movie comfortably. There were currently three, two women, and a man. They seemed to be in the middle of arguing about something when we came in.

“I don’t care, there’s got to be something we can do about it,” one woman, the older one, was saying. “I’ll call my lawyer, I bet I can get Edward declared insane, that will fix this whole mess.”

Mrs. Weathers cleared her throat. “Everyone, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. David Poblocki. He’s the private detective I hired to help find Edward.”

“Great,” the older woman said, “just what we needed.” She threw her self onto one of the beanbag chairs and made a concerted effort to not look at me.

“That’s Lynda,” Mrs. Weathers said. “She’s Edward’s sister. Don’t mind her. She’s just upset over this whole will thing.”

“I think we all are,” the man said, and then he stood and shook my hand. “I am Anthony Weathers, Mr. Poblocki. I wish I could say that it was a pleasure to meet you.”

“You’re Mr. Weathers’ son?” I asked, taking notes on who everyone was. He nodded.

“And this,” he waved towards the younger woman in the room, “is my sister, Donna.”

“And just so I am completely clear on this, none of you are related to Mrs. Weathers here?” I asked, though I already knew the answer. I find that asking obvious questions like this will sometimes get people to reveal information they would otherwise keep secret.

“That’s correct,” Anthony replied.

No wonder everyone here was upset. Dad remarries, and then ten years later decides to cut everyone else out of the will and give it all to his not-so-new wife. If all that were true, he really was a bastard. Now I just have to find out if it was true.

“All of you were here for the announcement Mr. Weathers made yesterday?” I asked.

They all nodded, but no one offered any information, and Mrs. Weathers turned her head away. She was clearly embarrassed or shamed by the events of the previous day. I didn’t yet know what her relationships with her husband’s children were before, but it’s clear that her husband did not win her any friends.

“Would someone mind filling me in exactly on what he said?” I asked.

“Jeff didn’t tell you at the door?” Anthony asked. He appeared to be the spokes person for the group.

“No, I didn’t,” Jeff said as he entered the room behind me. He passed by close but made sure not to touch me. He glared as he walked by. Nice guy. “I told him all he needed to know. As for the rest, well… I didn’t see that it was his business.”

“Listen, Detective Weathers,” I said to the rather angry man. “I get that you don’t like me. Probably don’t like private detectives in general. I’ve run into that before with cops. You feel like we’re stepping on your toes, and sometimes, we are. But, I’m here at the request of your father’s wife, who is concerned that your father seems to be missing, and would like me to find him. I can do my job just as well without your help, if you’re not willing to led such aid to find your dad, but I would really appreciate if you did.”

He simply glared back at me, but declined to say anything. When I looked around the room, no one else was forthcoming with the information either.

“Fine,” I said, “I guess I’ll continue my investigation without all the information. It’s not like it’ll be the first time. Now, were you five the only people in the house at the time of Mr. Weather’s disappearance? At the time of the announcement?”

“Well, yes,” Mrs. Weathers said.

“No,” Donna said at the same time. Mrs. Weathers looked at her, confusion on her face.

“Your house servant,” she said. “He was here. He’s always here.”

“Jose?” Mrs. Weathers asked. “Well, I didn’t even think of him.”

“No, I’m sure you didn’t,” Donna said, glaring at Mrs. Weathers.

“Donna, that’s enough,” Anthony said. “I didn’t think of Jose either, are you going to try and say I’m racist?”

“I may,” Donna said. “Honestly, Jose is a person, just like we are. Why can’t you people see that?”

Obviously, lots of love in this family. “If I may interrupt this lovely discussion,” I said, “who is Jose?”

“He’s our house man,” Mrs. Weathers said. “He did stuff like clean the house, cook dinner for Edward and myself, and occasionally he did some yard work. Except of course for my garden. I don’t let anyone in my garden. Not even Edward.”

“I see,” I said. “And he’s still here? Now?”

“Well, he came back, yes,” Mrs. Weathers said. “I mean, he doesn’t live here, so he went home last night. He’s in the kitchen right now, cooking us lunch.”

“Thank you,” he said. “I’ll go talk to him, I think. No, no, please, Mrs. Weathers, stay here, I’d like to talk to Jose by myself.”

“He wants to make sure you’re not going to coach or intimidate the help,” Jeff said.

“Yes,” I replied. “Yes I do. Can I trust the rest of you to stay in the house in the mean time?”

Everyone started to grumble but Anthony cut them all off. “Yes, we’re all sticking around.”

“Good,” I nodded, and moved off towards the kitchen. The place was amazing, and the whole thing was larger than my bedroom. I looked around for a few moments, just in awe by the pans and cooking utensils. Then, I was caught by the smell. It was chili, but it was the most amazing smelling chili ever. I then saw the figure that must be Jose. He was tall, and rather muscular compared to the image I had in my head. He wore a suit, though he had off the jacket and tie off, and had a smock over it. It was covered in stains from whatever tomato sauce he was using in the chili.

“Jose?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said simply, never looking up from the massive pot he was stirring.

“My name is David Poblocki,” I said, moving up closer to him. “Mrs. Weathers hired me to help find her husband.”

“Ah,” he said, a slight trace of a Spanish accent. “Mrs. Weathers informed me she was doing so. I made more then enough lunch, sir.”

“Ah, thank you,” I said. “It smells fantastic. But, that’s not why I am here.”

“No?” He said, looking at me for the first time. “You wish to ask me questions, then?”

“I do,” I said, relieved to be talking to someone that was not angry. “I need to find out what everyone in the house was doing at the time of the disappearance.”

“Do you know when Mr. Weathers disappeared, then?” he asked.

I looked down at my notes and realized that I didn’t. Just that it was some time after the announcement. “Not specifically, no,” I replied honestly. “I do know that he was last seen just after his big announcement.”

“Yes,” Jose said. “Afterwards, he came into the kitchen to get some carets and a glass of water. He loved to eat carrots. Then, he walked up the stairs to his room, and I have not seen him since.”

“Was anyone else here at the time?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“Do you know if anyone else saw him after that?” I asked, taking more notes.

“Yes,” he said. “I heard him arguing with his sister, Mrs. Lynda.”

“Arguing?” I asked. “What were they arguing about?”

“Mrs. Weathers,” he replied. “Mrs. Lynda does not like her, and was very unhappy that she was to be left out of the will.”

“I bet she was,” I said. “Anything else?”

“No,” he replied. “They argued about that for a few moments, Mr. Weathers stated that his decision was final, and then he continued upstairs and she left. I heard nothing more after that.”

“And how, exactly, did you hear this fight to begin with?” I asked.

He pointed a ladle at a vent on the wall by the ceiling. I looked at it and then to the stairs and saw that they winded up towards the place where the vent was. I nodded at him, and walked up the stares. On the way up, I saw Rose.

“Well, well,” she said, only the top of her torso appearing through the wall. “This seems like an interesting case. Is he really missing? Or maybe one of the children killed daddy for revenge.”

“You sound like you’re enjoying this,” I said in a whisper, trying to make sure I wasn’t heard by Jose down stairs.

“Oh, I am,” she said. “Quite simply, this is the most fun I’ve had in a hundred years. Plus, I know something you don’t know.”

“What?” I asked, suddenly realizing that I was talking to a ghost. She could get into places I couldn’t, and even spy on people without their ever knowing. It was perfect.

“I know where Mr. Weathers is,” she said.

“Where?” I asked again, almost forgetting to whisper. I had reached the part of the stairs where the vent was. I was clearly visible on the floor, but only if you knew what to look for. This section of the stares was a bend, and the vent was just beyond it, making the vent out of most common eyesight.

“He’s under the stairs,” she said, giggling. Then, she slipped back through the wall. Disturbed, I walked down the stairs and found that they lead to a landing where a small closet could be found. Somewhat apprehensive, I opened the door. Inside the closet, as I feared, was a body, folded in on itself, the back of it’s head smashed in.

I called in Mrs. Weathers and Detective Weathers to come look at it. Both identified it as Mr. Weathers, and Jeff called the police. They took my statement over the phone and said that a detective would be there shortly. Jeff informed me as a professional courtesy that this was not his precinct, and so it was likely that he would not know the man arriving. I thanked him, and then asked if I could ask him a few more questions. Grudgingly, he agreed.

“I know you don’t like private detectives,” I started, but he waved me off.

“Mr. Poblocki,” he said. “My father was killed. That’s obvious by the fact that he was shoved in a closet. I want to know who did it, and I want to help whoever can find that out. You currently have a head start on whatever suit the PD will send out here. So, for now, I’ll assist you in any way I can.”

“I appreciate that,” I said, somewhat taken aback by his honesty. “I’ll try my best. Now, to my questions. Were you aware that your Aunt and your father fought right after the big announcement?”

“No, but that doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “Those two were always fighting. They were worse that Dad and Mom. Dad never did approve of her husband, who, as normal, couldn’t quite make it to this little family gathering. And so Aunt Lydia always made sure everyone understood that she didn’t like Emma. Usually quite loudly.”

“I see,” I said. “Do you know why your father suddenly pushed everyone out of his will?”

“I have no idea,” he said. “It’s rather out of the blue, and I even have trouble suspecting Emma on the matter. She’s so meek, usually stuck out in her garden tending her flowers and veggies. I have a hard time imagining she would even want all that money, never mind demand that Dad cut out all his children for it.”

“Really?” I said. “So you don’t suspect Emma in the murder?”

“Honestly?” he said. “No. It’s not her style. She had to get Dad”

“When was the last time you saw your father, Detective?” I asked.

“The announcement,” he said. “He told us all that he was cutting us out of the will and turning all the money over to Emma. He also told us that he was going to divorce Emma, and then move out of the country. Wouldn’t say where, just that he was going on some kind of spiritual quest of some sort.”

“Spiritual quest?” I asked. “This is what you wouldn’t tell me earlier?”

“It is,” he said. “Apparently, this is what sparked the change. I haven’t seen the will, but I still don’t understand why cutting us all out of it would be needed before he went about traveling the world to find God.”

“Thank you, Detective,” I said. “I’ll need to speak to your siblings now.”

Next, I spoke to Donna. The meetings were happening in the dining room, just outside the kitchen. I made sure that Jose couldn’t hear us.

“Donna,” I asked. “Tell me, what did your father say at the announcement.”

“He said that he was going to go on a vision quest,” she said, with a smile on his face. “It was something he had been talking about for a while now, at least to me. He said that he wouldn’t need much, just enough for food and travel, and the rest he would work out as he needed. And so, he was going to give all his money to Emma.”

“And you approve of this action?” I asked.

“Well, I wasn’t happy about being cut out of the will, no,” she said. “But I did like the idea of Dad going on a spiritual quest like that. I did one once, and it’s amazing.”

“Did he say anything about divorcing Emma?” I asked.

“Divorcing? No, I don’t recall him saying anything about that,” she said in shock.

“When was the last time you saw your father?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, thinking. “I think it was just after the announcement. He went into the kitchen to get some snack, a glass of milk I think. I saw him in there, and said I was proud of him, though I still didn’t understand why the will needed to be changed, but that I would back him up. Then he went off to bed.”

“Than k you, Donna,” I said, scribbling down notes.

Next, I spoke to Anthony.

“Tell me what your father said yesterday,” I said.

“Simple,” he replied. “He was leaving Emma. Oh, not like a divorce, of course but he was going on some harebrained scheme to travel the world to, I don’t know, find God or something. I don’t pretend to understand. Anyway, this apparently necessitated the change in the will. I was pisseed let me tell you. In fact, I confronted Dad, that night, in his bedroom. Emma was there, sadly. I hated to do all that yelling in front of her. But still, Dad had no right to give our rightful inheritance to this woman. Not to mention that he’s still… well, he was still young. He was only 50, for crying out loud. I was pissed, and I let him know it.”

“I see,” I said. Then I thanked him and moved onto the next person. Lydia Winters.

“Tell me, Lydia, when was the last time you saw your brother?” I asked.

“When he told us all he was cutting us out of the will and leaving everything to that bitch, Emma,” she said. I could see that her eyes were puffy, clearly from crying.

“She’s lying,” said Rose, who was suddenly standing next to me. That was going to take some getting used to.

I looked sideways at her. I already knew she was lying.

“I mean, about more than the last time she saw him,” she said, looking me square in the eyes. “She’s not just not telling you the truth, she’s holding something back.”

“Lydia,” I said, turning back to my suspect. “I have information that indicates that you were having an argument with your brother not long after the announcement.”

She hesitated, glaring at me. “Yes,” she said at last. “Yes, we did. I accused him of cutting all of us out of the will to get at me, out of spite. He argued, and we yelled at each other for a few minutes. Finally, he said that this was final, and left for bed. I did the same. It was the last time I saw him, I swear.”

“She’s still hiding something,” Rose said.

“Thank you, Lydia,” I said, and she left. Rose turned to me in shock.

“You’re letting her go?” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “I can’t question her based on a ghost’s intuition. I need something more than she’s lying to me. All of them are lying to me. It’s pretty normal in a murder investigation. No one wants to be fingered, so they all lie.”

“Listen to me, Daivd,” Rose said in a low voice that almost echoed. “this is not intuition. I believe that this woman murdered her husband, and that belief is because as a ghost, I can look into her heart. She’s holding back something important.”

“Oh, believe me, Rose,” I replied. “I believe you. I just can’t act on this information. I need proof, evidence.”

“Well,” she said, “there’s still one more person to talk to.”

And with that, Mrs. Weathers came in and sat down at the table.

“How are things going, David,” she said, making sure to say my first name this time. “Have you found who it was that killed my husband?”

“I have a suspect,” I said. “But I need to ask you a few questions first.”

She nodded, but said nothing.

“Were you aware that your husband was changing the will?” I asked.

“Oh, heavens no,” she said. “I would have tried to talk him right out of that. Imagine, cutting your own children out of your will, and then leaving it all to someone that they all hate. I don’t blame them one bit. I was upset too. In fact, I was so upset that I had a tough time sleeping. My husband got out of bed to go get me some milk in the kitchen and that was the last I saw of him.”

“I see,” I said. “One last question, Mrs. Weathers. Do you normally have a glass of milk before bed?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Some times long after getting in bed.”

“And did your husband get them for you?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “I normally got up and got them for myself.”

“Is this common knowledge?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” she said. “I mean, Lydia might know, she bumped into me a few times over the past week while she stayed here.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Weathers,” I replied. “Would you be so kind as to gather the family?”

A few moments later, I stood back in the living room, facing the family and Jose. I was ready to make my announcement.

“I believe I have solved the crime of who killed Mr. Weathers,” I said simply.

They looked at each other and then back at me expectantly.

“It’s quite simple,” I said. “The murder wasn’t aiming at killing Mr. Weathers, but rather his dear wife, Emma. Isn’t that right, Lydia?”

She gasped, and then glared at me. I continued.

“See, after the announcement, Lydia confronted her brother. They argued about her husband and his wife, someone Lydia hated. After the argument, she was unable to convince her brother to change the will back, and so she decided to get her revenge by killing the person who would get all the money. She knew Mrs. Weathers liked to get herself a glass of milk late at night, and so waited for her to leave the bedroom. When someone did, she waked that person on the back of he head with some kind of heavy object, and the body fell down the stairs. It was only after that she discovered that the body was really her brother, so she quickly hid the body in the closet.”

Everyone gasped and loved over at Lydia. She was crying. Then, she got up and pointed at Mrs. Weathers.

“it was supposed to be that bitch,” she said. “She took my brother from me, and then she took my remaining share of the money left to me and my brother from our dad. I wasn’t about to let that happen. But instead, she sent my brother to get the milk, and… and… I hit him on the back of the head with a crowbar. I was supposed to be her!”

“Thank you for that,” said a voice from the door. It was a man in a dark suit and glasses. He flashed a badge. “A confession will make this all go so much smoother at the office.”

It all went pretty normal after that. The cop arrested Lydia, Mrs. Weathers wrote me a check that was far larger than my fee, and the rest of the family went back to arguing over the will. As I drove away, Rose appeared at my side.

“That was very well done, Mr. Poblocki,” she said.

“Well,” I replied, “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“We do make a rather good team, don’t we?” she asked.

“Yes. Yes we do.”

The End.

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