“Mr. Peta. A broad’s waitin’ for ya.”
“The red dress with blonde hair? Yea? Did you offer her somethin’ to drink? I got a feeling she’s gonna need it.”
I acted surprised when I saw her. The news coverage pretty much summed up what the meeting would be about. Socialite inherited fortune after bloody breakfast accident.
“Hello Mr. Peta.”
“It’s Mr. Peter.”
“She can’t speak. What can I do you for?”
I sat down and shoved old newspapers with half-finished crossword puzzles to the side. I didn’t want her to know I couldn’t finish what I had started. I offered her a glass of bourbon smokier than a factory working ballet dancer.
She smiled at me. Her dentist must have been carving diamonds ‘cause her teeth were sparkling.
“My husband is dead. He died in a buttering-the-bread-incident at home.”
“Didn’t anybody tell him butter is bad for your health?”
“I fear it wasn’t an accident.”
My chiseled jaw line caught her attention and she stumbled for a second. I lit a cigarette and the smoke rose in the lamplight.
“Aren’t you gonna smoke that?”
“I quit smoking years ago. Disgusting habit. I just never got rid of the habit of lighting it up once in a while. So your husband’s dead and here we are.”
“I was still up in my room and in my bed when it happened.”
“When what happened, Mrs. Mayhew?”
“Oh you are a bad boy, Peta.”
She ran her fingers up and down on a nearby banana. I always keep a banana nearby for sexual innuendos.
“So you came down and saw him.”
“Yes, but there was another man in the house. Just when I came out of the room I heard the front door. I figured it was Robert leaving the house so I took a shower. When I came down he had eighty-nine butter related cut wounds in his throat.”
“And what did the police say?”
“They said suicide. The coroner said accidental suicide. They found his fingerprints on the butter knife.”
“There you go. Open-and-shut case.” I played with a couple of melons. Same sexy fruit basket. “You think there might be something more to it?”
“Couldn’t those fingerprints been from when he buttered the sandwiches. From before I mean.”
“That gives us a little wiggle room. What about the inheritance? Who are his other relatives?”
“Only his brother. But they had a falling out years ago. Robert even ended up in the hospital. If it wasn’t for our maid, Robert wouldn’t have survived. So I don’t think James, Robert’s brother, was likely to inherit any money after that incident.”
“That rules him out. Mind if we took a drive up to the mansion?”
“Not at all. I can show you around…”
I drove steadily while a downbeat jazz piece played. She crossed her leg. It’s not easy with seatbelt on and in a car but she made it look easy.
“Nice set of wheels.”
“Gets me around.”
“Here we are.”
I pulled up to the front gate and she entered the code. “Only you know about the code?”
“The maid and our gardener.” She pointed to a tree. “See.”
“That’s not a gardener. That’s a tree.”
The tree was arching like an un-aroused capital letter C. The aroused kind can be found in regular trees and the letter I.
“No I meant it’s a C.”
“Yea… What does the C mean?”
“I think it means ocean. So the police checked the lock. No sign of breaking and entering. There were several footsteps found in the hall all the way to the kitchen.”
“Let me guess. The footsteps belonged to the cops.”
A dog with the face of a cinnamon bun came running.
“Yes.” Another dog came. “Bingo and Yahtzee.”
I placed my hand on the face of the ugliest dog and my appetite came back.
“Here. He was lying on the floor right next to this chair. Nineish.”
“About nine in the morning.”
“What did he say about nine in the morning?”
“He was lying on the floor about nine in the morning.”
“Very specific lie. Tell you what Mrs. Mayhew. It all points to him being struck by madness and committing suicide.“
“I fear for my life. I have received a death threat. Here’s the letter. See!”
“Yes. C is a letter. Now give me the death threat.” She handed me an opened letter. “You will be next. Huh. I wouldn’t butter too much bread if I were you.”
“Can you help me?”
“Give me a piece of bread and I’ll show you.”
“What about Robert? Can you help me?”
“Yes. It was the maid. The dogs didn’t bark. No unusual footprints or fingerprints. Nothing with the locks. The gardener have no keys to the house, am I right?”
“Oh my gosh. Yes! But why?”
“He only works in the garden. There is no need.”
“Why would she kill him?”
“You told me the maid saved Robert the last time his brother hurt him. She wanted a cut. And that’s why you’re next.” I showed her the letter. “Also there is no stamp on this letter. So the person writing this dropped it off after the death of your husband and managed to sneak by the police.”
“What should I do now?”
“Hush! I hear something. Quick! Go over there and butter something.”
I hid behind the front door. The maid walked in. She held an object and walked towards the kitchen. I hit her in the back of her head and she fell down. I turned her around. It was a shovel.
“She would have made it look like an accidental shoveling incident. Problem solved. Mrs. Mayhew.”
“Please, Peta. Call me Jane.”
“Maybe we can make sure everything is in order in your bedroom. Just to be safe.”
“Not so fast, Jane and Peta.” The gardener strutted in. He held a larger pair of scissors. The type you cut letter C’s with. “Drop the gun or I’ll kill the maid.”
“Oh yea I remember.” Jane snapped her finger. “He does have a key.”
I pointed the gun at him. “You’re not gonna do it.”
“Oh yea why?”
“That shovel is a garden shovel. The kind you scoop up dirt with. Well I scooped up enough dirt in this mansion to put two and two together. Now drop the scissors. Jane, call the cops and tell them to hurry. I’ve got a bedroom to inspect.”