"I have always felt a peculiar frisson upon seeing for the first time the actual handwriting of a master composer, alive with its irregularities, its visible impulses, its detectable moments of ease and worry, of joy and despair... No printed score can offer such insights."
Judith thought she might go to the grave with her secret. There was no one she could trust. She kept writing in every spare moment.
Ocean Vista Hospital was swirling with activity outside. Reggie found a spot within walking distance to the front door and put their police placard in the window. The fall trees were bare but the remnants of leaves clung to the sides of the curb like stubble on a man’s face. Stevie didn’t mind that it was a typical November gray day. The shade of gray blended nicely with the hospital exterior. Pedestrians with brightly colored jackets gave a much needed contrast to the monochrome world.
She checked the time on her phone. It was late afternoon. They moved through the crowd, getting to the elevator just as a door opened to take them up. The Monarch County Medical Examiner’s Department was on the second floor. Stevie’s eyes looked up to see Reggie’s head in the ceiling mirror. He had a tiny bald spot developing which she had never noticed before.
The button glowed for the second floor and the door opened. Reggie held the door for everyone. He was always polite, even though he was stubborn about other things. He had been polite from the beginning of their partnership and she must remember to thank him. They showed their badges at the desk and asked to see the medical examiner’s report for Judith Whitesides.
“Please wait over there.” The receptionist didn’t bother to look up. Her fingers were perched over the computer keys in front of her.
The time they had spent on the ferry had put Stevie’s body into a slower rhythm. She stretched out her legs and sighed. Reggie reached over and lightly punched her in the arm unexpectently.
“Hey, I’m over my irritation with you. I admit you may have insight into this case that I do not. I apologize.”
Stevie grimaced at Reggie but inwardly she was relieved that he giving up his resentment. He never stayed angry very long, at anyone. She returned his playful punch just as the medical examiner for the Whitesides’ case came though the door.
He cleared his throat and gave them a questioning glance. “I’m glad I caught both of you, detectives. Let’s step into my office.” He led them into a small, brightly lit office with organized clutter on bookshelves and filing cabinets.
As she sat Stevie sensed he had information that would change the trajectory of their investigation. She gripped the sides of her chair and readied herself for the facts.
“Okay, this is why I asked to have homicide detectives come over to the island and investigate. While examining Ms. Whitesides, I found a pinprick of a needle on her thigh. It looked like she was injected with something. That sent up a red flag. There were also other bruises on her lower leg.”
“Why?” Stevie asked.
“And the tox report?” Reggie asked his question at the same time.
“Okay, hang on, one question at a time.” The medical examiner passed a file over the table towards Reggie. He opened it for both of them to read as he continued speaking. “It was just as I thought. The tox report showed evidence of sleeping pills and a drug called Fentanyl in her system. I believe she took the sleeping pills and then someone injected her with the drug and they interacted together causing her death. In my opinion this was not self inflicted. I believe it was murder. Do you have any suspects who might have access to these drugs?”
“We don’t have any definite suspects yet. But, we have a few leads. What do you think caused the other bruising on her leg?” Reggie asked.
“Perhaps she was dragged and bumped. It didn’t look like blunt force trauma.”
“Was her death quick upon being injected?”
“Yes, pretty much. Fentanyl is fifty times stronger than heroin. Sometimes before the needle is removed the person is on the floor.”
“Do you need expertise to inject the drug?” Reggie asked.
“I’d say you are looking for someone who is a user or knows the world of drug use. Maybe someone who deals?” The doctor waited for them to digest this information. “Anything else?”
Stevie looked over at Reggie. Because of this new information the conversations earlier were now interrogations in a murder case. She would want to go over the talk with Judith’s husband again, although he had an alibi for Tuesday night. They needed to find out who the housekeeper was and what Tony Chavez wasn’t telling them. Reggie moved to the edge of his seat. He looked ready to go.
“Thank you, now we know what we are looking for,” she said.
They both shook hands with the doctor and left the office moving towards the elevator. A heavy, low feeling came over Stevie. This always happened when the facts in a case became more clear. Some detectives thrived on the details of the crime but she was always moved by the plight of the victim. Her past partner told her she needed to disconnect her heart from her work, but that might also rob her mind of important perspective.
They were alone on the elevator going down.
“Did you suspect it was murder, Reggie?” she asked.
“Honestly? I thought it was a drug overdose. I am a little surprised. I can’t see a motive yet. I’d like to dig more into the background of Tony Chavez.”
As they left the hospital and headed for the car Stevie saw a parking ticket on their window.
“What the heck?” Reggie ripped the ticket from under the windshield wipers.
“Just tear it up” Stevie reached to take it from Reggie.
“No.” He folded the ticket and put it into his breast pocket. “I’ll give it to the traffic department and make sure they tell their people to believe a police placard when they see one.”
Stevie was glad that Reggie was driving on the way to her home in West Seattle. Cars were moving so slowly through the city she could have walked alongside and kept the same pace. Stevie turned to Reggie and noticed that his grip on the steering wheel had relaxed once they were moving faster on the freeway.
“I have a sack of papers in the trunk which I took from Judith’s music room. It should take me some hours to sift through that. It is 5 o’clock. Do you want to join me for dinner at my house and go through the stuff?”
Reggie looked at her sideways and laughed. “You are just trying to ease up my irritation. Sure, what are you making?”
“That my friend, is not for you to know. I’ll give you a clue. There are noodles involved.”
When they arrived in West Seattle Reggie took a few minutes to really look at the house where Stevie lived. He tried not to gawk, but her house was several steps, no triple digit steps above the apartment where he lived. She must be living with someone or could it be she was living with her parents? That was not a negative idea but it would be a long time before he took her to his dingy digs. The house was older but well preserved and gave the impression of gracious living. It reminded Reggie of a Frank Lloyd Wright house called the Meyer May House. He had always liked looking at American architecture. Three stories of windows faced the street. The top floor window looked like a small attic room. The second floor had four leaded colored glass windows side by side, tucked under the eaves, which stood out from the house similar to bay windows. A covered porch area had boxes filled to the brim with greenery.
“This is a great house.”
“Thanks. I love the architecture. It was built in the early 1920’s.”
He followed Stevie up the stairs to the porch where a few comfortable chairs looked out over the street. Reggie turned back to look at the rest of the street while Stevie unlocked the front door. There were many beautiful homes but Stevie’s was the most unique. He ducked his head just a little as he stepped through into a dark room where the lights from the street intruded through the slats of brown, wooden blinds. The outside light made patterns on the walls. Stevie switched on a lamp which illuminated the dining room on the right and the living room on the left.
“You can hang your coat on the coat rack.” Stevie said.
Reggie checked behind the door. He stopped and looked at a tall, dark , curvy wooden shape.
“Yup. That’s the coat rack. It is in the shape of a treble clef. Just hang your coat on one of those dowels.”
Stevie continued through to the kitchen and he heard her open a fridge. He walked through the living room and beyond into what was surely a music room. Open french doors with gauzy curtains separated the two rooms. He was drawn to the piano and gently touched the black and white keys. There was a grandeur to the shiny black instrument. He moved his hands across the smooth surface. The black body seemed to be longer than a car.
“This is a big piano.” He said, hearing Stevie come in.
“It is my mother’s six foot concert grand.” She joined Reggie on the piano bench. He could smell her light citrus perfume.
“What is a trouble clef?” he asked.
“You mean the coat rack?” Stevie laughed. “It isn’t trouble but treble and it’s a musical sign that indicates higher notes on the staff. My mother had the large wooden one made to amuse her piano students.”
A blue music booklet entitled, Consolations by Franz Liszt, lay open to view on the stand in front of them.
Reggie reached up and touched the book. “Have you been playing his music?”
“I have. These pieces called Consolations have been rumbling around my head throughout the last few days.”
“Does this Liszt guy offer consolation to the nasty work of murder?”
“Surprisingly, he does.” Stevie stood and took his arm firmly nudging Reggie to his feet. “Come on into the kitchen. I’m reheating some lasagna from Sunday.”
The kitchen had bright yellow walls and frilly patterned curtains. A round kitchen table was nestled into the bay window which looked out to the garden. Reggie thought that his mother would have loved a kitchen just like this. The garden outside was barely discernible as dusk fell.
“I can’t get used to the fact that it’s dark at 5:00 o’clock. It feels like the middle of the night.” Reggie said.
Stevie handed him two placemats and two white china plates.
“Can you grab two glasses out of the cupboard there?” With her head she motioned to the cupboard by the sink. She balanced a steaming platter of noodles with sauce and cheese in her hands.
He carefully brought the glasses to the table and seated himself across from Stevie.
“You look hungry. Let me dish you up a big plate.”
“Looks really good. Thank you.” He suddenly felt a little self-conscious eating in front of his work partner. Reggie picked up his fork and without further hesitation commenced devouring the food. It was delicious and it’s warmth made him relax.
“You have a tiny splat of tomato sauce on your lip.” She picked up her napkin but Reggie saw her stop herself from bringing the napkin to his face.
“I’ve got it.” he said, as he brushed his napkin across his mouth.