|Will Schwartz swear on the bible?|
“Where did you get that idea?” I asked as I sipped on my bourbon and water.
“Lupa hired that Dremel artist to stylize his GT,” she said referring to the lord of our manor, Lupa Schwartz. Mia worked with him in his basement garage. Well, it was more a subterranean classic car collection nearly an acre in area; but it was under his house, and it was accessed by a door in his hallway; so technically it was his basement. “I liked his style, so I asked him to design something for me.”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” I said. “I mean where did you get the idea for a saxophone? Trevor plays clarinet.” He played it beautifully too. He and several of his fellow police detectives and one of their wives were in a band called the Blues Whailers.
“That’s true,” Beverly said. Bev was Schwartz’s housekeeper/gardener/cook. She was the final member of our household. The three of us ladies lived and worked with the in-some-ways generous egomaniac detective-for-hire in his Squirrel Hill Victorian. Beverly seemed as if she had more to say, but instead she pulled at her Mai Tai which she had been nursing for close to half an hour.
“Clarinets are not aesthetically interesting visually,” Mia said. “Saxophones have that interesting arch and that bell shaped opening.”
“That’s true,” Beverly said, and she took another pull on her tropical potable.
Mia paused to stare at Beverly, waiting to see if she had anything more valuable to offer. Beverly simply raised her glass, and took another sip. “I suppose I could always get a G-clef,” she said. “Those are pretty.”
Beverly finished her swallow, and Mia and I said in unison with her, “That’s true.”
“What’s true?” Trevor asked as he stepped out onto the covered back porch with Schwartz and Schwartz’s most recent female companion, Taimi Shossling, close behind.
“It’s true that the G is the most aesthetically pleasing of the clefs,” Beverly said raising her glass in toast of the G-clef’s loftier splendor.
“I don’t know,” Trevor challenged. “The C-clef has a sort of rigid charm. It doesn’t flow like the G but it is more symmetrical. Why are we talking about clefs?”
“I’m thinking about starting a charm bracelet,” I interjected in an effort to present a credible counter story.
“You don’t wear jewelry, Ms Hoskin, and you’re not a musician,” Schwartz insisted.
“I didn’t say it was for me, I like music, and who asked you? Why are you guys here so early?” Schwartz and Taimi had left earlier for their regular Friday night date, and Trevor had begged off his date with Mia due to a problem with a case he’d been investigating. All three of them should have been away for several hours yet.
Schwartz sighed. “I came home because Taimi received a call on her cell phone from John Dachnewel saying that I was needed concerning an investigation and that I should return home. I knew there was a reason I don’t carry one of those things. As to Detective Johns, I have no idea why he’s here, but I assume it has to do with the same case.”
“It does,” Trevor said as he plopped himself heavily onto the veranda next to Mia who began absently playing with his collapsed blonde pompadour. “Mr. Dachnewel should be arriving shortly; we can discuss it when he arrives.”
“Fine,” Schwartz said. “In the meantime I believe I’ll enjoy a beer. May I get you something, my dear?” He was addressing Taimi, but Beverly had an empty glass so she responded.
“Yes, please. I’d like another Mai Tai.”
Dachnewel did, in fact, arrive shortly. We’d moved from the porch to the kitchen by this time, as the evening springtime air had begun to chill as a result of the rain we’d had over the preceding few days. We’d gathered around the breakfast counter on the central island as Dachnewel and Trevor filled us all in on the situation.
Trevor, it turns out, had been involved in the arrest of a West Virginia farmer who was accused of having stalked his local councilman who had come to Pittsburgh for a meeting with some oil company lobbyists. According to the charges, the farmer had followed the council member after his meeting, had driven him off the road into a ditch, and had then executed him by putting a bullet into his skull as he struggled to get out of his car.
The farmer was being detained in the Allegheny County jail as his trial proceeded, and he was cell-mated with a client of Dachnewel’s; a petty larcenist and sometimes stoolie who had called Dachnewel to try to barter information for time. Apparently, the farmer had been bragging that his lawyer was working on a technicality which would result in the judge being required to disallow key evidence against him. Should this happen, the trial would be rendered moot, as his exoneration would be all but certain. Trevor and Dachnewel wanted for Schwartz to either find the same evidence independently, or find new evidence which was just as strong.
“What was the evidence?” I asked.
“We can’t tell you that, Cattleya,” John Dachnewel said as he scratched at his full beard. “The whole point is for Mr. Schwartz to find the same evidence independently so that whatever technicality they use to get it thrown out won’t apply.”
“For example,” Trevor said, “if we were investigating a stabbing, and a cop beat up the accused to find the murder weapon, that would be inadmissible. However, if a second cop stumbled upon the weapon while exercising a search warrant that had been granted for reasons unrelated to the coerced confession, it would be admissible.”
“Did one of your cops get a little over zealous?” I asked.
“That was a for-instance,” Trevor said defensively. “But I can neither confirm nor deny the implication of your question.”
“I’m certain that’s not the issue,” Schwartz said. “Detective Johns is intelligent enough to fashion an example that’s as far from the actual situation as possible, and that’s what he would do in this case. Therefore, I would presume that it’s a safe assumption that the issue has naught to do with the weapon, wrongdoing by the police, nor is it evidence which could be gotten with a search warrant. Presumably that leaves motive, opportunity and means. The opportunity that has been assigned by the police is going to be common knowledge, and any investigation we would do would lead us to learn their charges basis, so it’s obviously not means either.” Schwartz leaned back in his chair and began to stroke at his chin just below his bottom lip. “That pretty much leaves motive, so our investigation will focus on that assumption.” He had pointed to me absently when he’d said the word “our.”
“Our investigation?” I said. “So I’m with you on this one?”
“Yes,” Schwartz said. “It may not develop into an interesting article for your magazine, but I may need somebody’s corroboration when I take the stand. You will be compensated for your time.”
He’d never offered to do that before. My role in the house was that I assisted him in his investigations in exchange for free room-and-board, and I got to write our adventures in article form for Gamut Magazine. Between cases, I bided my time editing other writers’ work for the magazine. If a case was too routine to result in an interesting article, I simply sat it out.
“You realize we’ll have to negotiate some kind of contract first,” I insisted.
“Mr. Dachnewel can handle that for us if you’d like,” Schwartz said.
“Seriously?” I said. “I was half joking.”
“Perhaps,” Schwartz said, “but you make a valid point.”
“Wow, you need me. How much will you pay me?” I asked twisting the knife. “How much of your fee will be mine? Thirty percent? Forty?”
“I’ll be receiving a fee as an expert witness. That fee is paid by the prosecution based on a set rate. If they call you as corroboration, they’ll pay you. I’ll also be working as an investigator for the county. I’ll share 25% of that with you.”
I looked to Dachnewel. “Is that fair?” I asked.
He nodded and said, “It’s very generous, actually.”
“Can you write it up tonight?” I asked. “I want him to sign it before he has a chance to reconsider. I don’t trust him.”
Beverly raised her glass. “That’s true,” she shouted.
END OF SAMPLE
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