So we’re decorating the tree last night and my four year old suddenly gets upset. Santa was mentioned and he realizes we don’t have a fireplace or chimney. “How is Santa going to bring my presents,” he wailed, eyes tearing up and everything. (It was past bedtime and he was tired. Always makes the blow ups worse.) So I say something about Santa being magic and can just magic his way in. He’s skeptical but buys it for now.
This morning, Santa was a guest on the CTV morning show and that very question came up. Santa showed everyone his magic key, which lets him in all the doors where there are no chimneys and fireplaces. And now I have a much relieved little boy. Well played, Santa man, well played.
Just a little something that came to me. I’m not sure if it works, guess it depends on whether you buy the killer actually being the killer. But it involves a couple things I wanted to try and maybe is a little noir-ish.
It was dark when I pulled up, the squad car’s lights shining off the tree as they spun. The uniforms had the crime scene tape out and were holding back the locals. I wasn’t sure yet what I was in for, but Loo said it would be bad.
I flashed my shield and the uniform lifted the tape so I could duck under. I stopped just on the other side, scoping the scene. The techs had thrown up some floodlights and were bustling about like ants on a picnic blanket. “What do we got?”
“Murder, it looks like. Dead baby.”
Shit. Loo was right, this was bad. The press would be ravenous once they got word. Especially Bilton over at the Daily Tabloid. Fucker always liked sticking it to the department.
“The father. Was home alone with the kid. Momma comes back from the store to find…this,” he waved a hand around. “He swears it was an accident but she ain’t so sure.”
“Must be some family.”
“Don’t recognize the address?” I shook my head. “It’s the Beddows. Must remember ol’ Commodore Beddow.”
“Indeed. But that’s why you make the big bucks, Detective.”
“And fuck you, too, Malone.”
I looked around again then went over to the grieving mother. The techs didn’t need me getting in the way and they would send me a report when they had it. “Mrs. Beddow? I’m Detective Campbell.”
She looked up at me, mascara running down from tear soaked eyes. Somehow they still shone like diamonds. Must have been the floodlights. Her hands were at her waist, twisting at a tissue.
“I’m sorry for your loss, ma’am, but I need to ask you some questions, find out who did this.”
“Find out? I know who did it,” she hissed. “That son of a bitch I’m married to.” The venom in her voice almost had me taking a step back. I made a note to never piss off Sabrina Beddow.
“You weren’t here, right? How do you know what happened?”
“Look, he’s a snake in the grass. A charming snake but still a snake. He was afraid I was about to divorce him and toss him on the street. With no money. John Curtis isn’t a man who does well without money.”
“How would killing the kid fix that?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe he thought I’d turn to him in my grief. Or maybe he thought it gave him some way into Charles’ trust fund.” She blinked long lashes at me. “I’m not really good with money, Detective, other then spending it.”
I sighed. Her husband wasn’t the only charming one. The chief would have my ass if I got involved with a witness. Again.
“The officer will drive you downtown and take your formal statement, if you don’t mind, ma’am.”
“Oh, don’t call me ma’am. It’s Sabrina. And yes I will go. I want to get this over with as soon as possible.” She left with Malone, hips swaying more than I thought a grieving mother would be capable of. But she was a Beddow, the Commodore’s granddaughter at that. A woman who knew what she wanted and exactly how to get it. She was definitely a person to not take lightly. Word was the Beddow’s came out of the womb scheming. The father was next, who at least seemed to be guilty of negligence.
“Mr. Curtis? Detective Campbell. I need to ask you some questions, find out what happened here.”
He was sitting on a stump, head in his hands. He looked up as I spoke. His eyes were red, like he might have been crying but that was the only sign.
“What happened? My son is dead. The cradle fell and landed on him. Can’t you see that? Why is a detective here anyway? It was an accident.”
“Routine, sir. We have to dot all the I’s you know. Make sure nobody can come along later and accuse you of anything.”
“Accuse? What the hell? Anyone can see it was an accident.” He grabbed my hand and pulled over to the site, ignoring anyone in the way. “Look. This cradle thing was designed to hang up, let the baby look around or nap while its mom or dad was busy. It got a little windy but it seemed like a thick enough bough. Maybe it was rotted or something and with wind and the weight of the baby…” He trailed off, unable to finish. He seemed genuinely upset by the death of his child but one would act that way in front of the police. Not that I automatically believed Sabrina, er, Ms. Beddow. But something seemed off here. And what would the mother have to gain?
“We’re you and your wife about to divorce, Mr. Curtis?”
“What? How did you…” He sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Yes. She was accusing me of fucking around on her, with girls at the university. Like any girl could compete with that woman.”
“You would be left with nothing in the event of divorce, right?”
“Oh yeah. The Commodore’s lawyers drew up an airtight pre-nup. I’d be lucky to leave with a suitcase of clothes.”
“So what? You found some way to tap the baby’s trust fund if he died?”
His head rocked back as if he had been struck. And in a way, I guess he had. Anger flashed across his eyes and quicker then I would have thought, he swung at me. Caught me a pretty good clip too, knocked me on my ass. He rushed in for more but a few of the techs caught him, held him off.
“That was a fucking stupid thing to do, Curtis. Now I got you for assaulting an officer. And at this time of day, on a Saturday, you won’t see a judge till tomorrow or Monday at best. Jackson, take this shithead to the station. I’ll be along shortly.” The officer slapped on the cuffs and drug him to a car, Curtis swearing at me the entire way.
I straightened my tie and smoothed down my jacket. Was his actions the sign of guilt or an enraged father? There was no way to tell yet. Evidence was the only way to tell. If Curtis had planned this, surely there would be some sign. (For the first time, I also wondered why Sa…Ms. Beddow had never taken her husband’s name.)
The techs were finishing up, wrapping up evidence and putting away their equipment. I walked up to the ranking guy there. “Anything you can tell me, Green?”
“It’s been a slow day, I’ll have you a crime scene report in a few hours. Autopsy? Talk to their morgue.”
“Come on. I got to sweat this guy. Give me something to work with.”
“I don’t really have much. The limb was partly sawn through, up above where it couldn’t be seen. I think we found the saw in the shed but will verify when I get back to the lab. Same with finger prints. But nothing tying Curtis directly.”
“Damn. What do you know about these folks? The mother thinks he wanted the baby dead, was fucking around on her with college girls. She was going to divorce him and maybe he found a way at some money.”
“Sounds far fetched. How would that help? Besides, gossip is that it’s Miss Tight Ass Beddow that’s got some on the side. I hear its a boy in blue and the Commodore is none to happy about it. Curtis is a writer but at least he comes from good stock.”
“Where do you hear this shit?”
“My wife. She’s distantly related, gets invited to the family tea once a month.”
“There’s a family tea?”
“Yeah, the Commodore is big on that shit.”
“Heh. What are your thoughts on this?”
“Accident. I don’t see how anybody benefits. But I’ve been wrong before.”
I drove back to the station, the details of the case turning over and over in my mind. Only Curtis and Sabrina had been at home, the servants having been given the weekend off. And she had went on a trip to town, leaving Curtis alone with the child. He decides to work outside and the rest is history. It had to be him. A mother wouldn’t do that. And no stranger would benefit.
Sabrina Beddow was sitting at my partners desk, giving her formal statement to Loo. We ran a light unit on weekends and It was Adams turn off. Next weekend was mine, and I had a fishing trip in the Caribbean to look forward to. The hard part would be coming back when it was over. I nodded as I walked past, trying to ignore the smile Sabrina flashed me. Awfully friendly lady.
John Curtis was waiting in the interrogation room, head in his hands. Man looked awfully shook up. I slapped my hand on the table, causing him to jerk upright. “We found out what happened. How you cut through the branch so it’d be weak. All you had to do was wait. Now what? Sabrina takes comfort in your arms and forgets the divorce? How long before your banging college girls again?”
“What the hell? Why would I do that? I’ve never heard of a divorce. And I’ve not slept with anybody else.”
“Work with me here, Curtis. Help yourself and confess. Maybe get psychiatric treatment and a reduced sentence.”
“Detective, you sure are dumb for a guy who acts like he knows everything. Sabrina was the one screwing around, not me.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Now I’ll remain silent until my lawyer arrives.” He turned toward the window. “You hear that? I’m asking for my lawyer.”
There wasn’t much to do after that. I left, fighting back the urge to smash his pompous face in. Fucking intellectual twat. Oh look at me, I teach writing at a university. Big deal. Some of us have to work for a living. Sabrina wasn’t in sight when I got back to my desk and Loo was just gathering some papers together.
“We have anything yet?”
“A tree branch sawn part way through. Tools in their shed that looks like the ones used. A husband that’s been cheating and a wife about to get a divorce.”
“Anything to take to a judge?”
I shook my head.
“Where’s this talk about divorce and the lady’s husband cheating come from?”
“Sa…Ms. Beddow told me. Said she had phone records and everything. He’d been messing around with students.”
“See, here’s the thing, Campbell. She says that never happened. She says she never told you that. That you came to her with this story, trying to get her husband out of the picture.”
“What? Oh, come on, Loo, that’s ridiculous.”
“Is it? There’s security footage of you visiting her house, during times when her husband was away.”
There wasn’t much to say about that. Not without sounding like a kook. “She had some security questions. Must have gotten my name from a friend.”
Loo crossed his arms. “Right. And how does that explain you scaring her into sex, and trying to convince her to run off to the Caribbean with all her money. Poor lass couldn’t see anyway out but to agree. And then you kill her child and try to frame her husband for it?” He shook his head. “I thought I knew you, Campbell. Hand over your weapon. Malone, cuff him and get him to a cell.”
There was no point in fighting. Not in a police station. And with no one to go. I didn’t talk much, pleaded guilty when it came to trial. Least that way I might get out before I’m a decrepit old man. She visited me once, before sentencing. Brand new designer dress on. Sweetest smelling perfume you ever caught a whiff of.
“Well, it all worked out in the end, Joe.”
“Not for me.”
She smiled, teeth blinding white. “Of course not. But dear John gets none of my money since he started the divorce proceedings. And Charles’ trust fund is all mine.”
“I could talk.”
“Sure and who would believe you now. They think you terrorized a poor mother and murdered her child. After that, who can blame me for moving away from this hellhole and the fucking Commodore.” Her voice had started to rise at the end and she stopped, taking a breath and calming herself. I never did know what she had against her grandfather but it ran deep.
“Have fun then.”
“Oh, I will, Joe. I imagine I’ll be a hit on those Caribbean beaches. Maybe I’ll even be able to find my groove again. Ta ta, Joe. I’ll send you a postcard.”
Then she was gone, leaving me with the scent of her perfume and a flash of legs and cleavage. Probably just to torture me while I was behind bars. “Rock a bye, baby,” I muttered as I watched her flounce away.