Murder by the Written Word VII
Before Tiffany had gotten more than a few steps, she felt Dale grab her arm. He twirled her around, unbalancing her, which caused her to fall into his arms.
“Well, I see you’re the same little spit fire you always were,” Dale laughed standing her upright. “Now come to your senses and get into my car. You realize that you’d never be able to walk a few blocks, much less the few miles we have left, in those things you call shoes.”
“I guess you’re right,” she answered contritely, thankful that he had taken charge so she wouldn’t have to walk since her hurting feet were already throbbing. “Onward, James!” she teased as she climbed gracefully into his comfortable car. Tiffany slipped off her shoes and began to nurse her throbbing feet.
“Why do you torture yourself like that?” Dale shook his head as he maneuvered down the road.
“I guess for the height. People take you more seriously when you’re not just five feet tall.” Tiffany had to smile as well questioning the sensibility of such shoes.
It seemed like just moments before they were turning into the estate driveway. Ambulance lights flashed and policemen were running back and forth.
“What in blazes happened now? I suppose they tried calling me when I was checking your tire. You’d better sit pretty while I go check things out,” Dale commanded.
“Don’t bet your boots on it!” Tiffany answered as she rummaged through her bag and pulled out a pair of Go Anywhere Flats. Slipping them on she leaped from the car, and began racing towards the house, like a gazelle in hot pursuit of a mate.
As they approached the ominous carved oak door of the estate, they were met by hordes of EMS workers, and a contingent of detectives from Dale’s precinct. “What’s going on,” he asked in what Tiffany had begun to recognize as his “I am here, I am important, I am the authority” voice.
Several people attempted an answer in unison sounding like a poorly orchestrated, out of tune barbershop quartet. Finally, one of the medical personnel stepped up and answered, “I don’t know, sir, we just arrived ourselves. We got a call that there was an emergency, but so far there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the house.”
With a strong-armed shove, Dale impatiently pushed the white coated ambulance driver aside and made his way into the cavernous vestibule of the marble floored estate. The light from the chandelier was casting star-shaped shadows on the Venetian plastered walls. Everything looked normal, no signs of a struggle, and nothing out of the ordinary. Dale walked carefully through the first floor with Tiffany close at his heels (like a sheepdog working the herd). They avoided turning on additional lights, not wanting to disturb what might be yet another crime scene. With a lighted flashlight they approached the library, which was to the left of the sitting room, when something shiny caught their eye near a huge overstuffed leather chair in the corner of the room. They walked slowly and approached the area where the shiny object was casting rainbow rays of light on the ceiling.
“Oh, it’s just a cat. The buckle on his collar is reflecting the flashlight’s beam.” They were ready to walk from the room.
“What’s this?” Tiffany wondered, “His paws are covered with blood and there’s blood on his tail.”
At this discovery, Tiffany was conscious of a bitter taste rising in her mouth making it difficult to swallow, and causing “county fair roller coaster” sensations in the pit of her stomach. Dale knelt down to scoop up the cat, only to have it run from the room and complete an impressive four-foot leap to the center of the stairway and straight up the carpeted treads in the direction of the master bedroom.
It was reminiscent of a chase scene from a Keystone Cops movie: one blood stained cat whose feet were rapidly becoming a blur, running as fast as he could, being hotly pursued by a slightly stained, trench coat-clad detective, and a journalist who at this point resembled an incapacitated “green around the gills” ghost (Tiffany was white as a sheet and trying to retain the chicken salad sandwich she had wolfed down at lunch.)
Reaching the landing of the second floor, the cat hesitated, as if to wait for the duo to catch up, and then scrambled toward the master suite where it leapt onto the meticulously made bed. It rolled over on its back and seemed to beckon for someone to attempt a belly rub. It was obvious that no one had slept in this room for days. It was cool, dark, and quiet, reminding Tiffany of the viewing room at the local funeral home.
Mr. Andrews, the patriarch of the estate had been admitted into the local hospital having suffered a mild stroke after the shooting death of his nephew. Since then, the elderly, arthritic, Margaret Andrews was alone in this huge castle-like mansion, having to fend for herself, preparing her own meals and even driving herself to the hospital to visit with her husband.
The bedroom was antiseptic in its cleanliness. “Mrs. Andrews must have one hell of a housekeeper,” Tiffany mumbled under her breath, just loud enough for Dale to hear.
“What’s that,” he asked, “did you say something important?” Tiffany had just about had enough. She was still uncomfortably nauseous, had a splitting headache, and at this point in time just had to get away from Dale. She was starting to remember why this relationship never really had a chance.
“Take me home, NOW,” she demanded. Dale implored her to get herself together. He needed to find someone here in the house. He needed answers. Who called 911, and why? Suddenly, he noticed Mrs. Andrews’ cane standing upright in the corner of the room next to a small table where the contents of her purse was strewn, spilling out onto the floor. But, where was Mrs. Andrews?
To be continued~