They Do It With Lenses- Chapter I
A new serial...
A sleek black car glided smoothly on the lonely roads leading to Asheville, North Carolina. The music was loud and the sole passenger was enjoying the pre-sunset view. The driver was a man in his mid-thirties. He’s good-looking, a man of wealth and taste, but that’s not what made him jump off the screen. It’s his vibe. Arrogance steamed out of his every pore. He hummed the lyrics, “I am a man on a mission, I need no permission...”
The song was interrupted by a call, my call. “Please tell me you have a good reason for interrupting my karaoke, Winston” He irritably said.
“There's been a murder,” I said.
“Boring.” “Harvey, let me complete.” I complained,
“Leyla Gardner, the writer, was found dead today.”
“The one who wrote Promises under the Lighthouse?”
“The one. The thing that would interest you is the fact that her body was found in her own home. When found, the body was warm and her muscles stiff.”
He scoffed, “Did you run for poisons and drugs?”
“Do you think I am a fool? Obviously, I ran the drug test. It came negative.” I shouted.
“So how did she die?”
“We are still waiting for the forensics. Do you want to come over or not?” I asked.
“Where?” “Ashville,” I said before he abruptly cut the call.
The music was now slowed down and the speed was now higher. Harvard was on the top of the world. He loved nothing more than a good mind-bender and a puzzling case was the best he got. “Pull over, Sir.” A cop announced.
“I am with the FBI, officer.”
“That won’t matter. Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“To act superior to the one person whom you can impose your authority upon.” Harvard smiled.
“Sir, I may have to give you a ticket. Could you show me your driver's documents?” Harvard pulled out his wallet and handed him a business card,
“I am with the FBI and I have a case I need to attend. So why don’t you be a lamb and text me your bank account number. I’ll tip you a few hundred bucks for your cooperation.”
“Is this some sort of bribe?” The officer asked.
“Yes. Could you now let me go?”
“You can’t be serious.” The officer said, “You are telling me that you are FBI and then bribing me. It's against the law, as you might know”
“Seriously? You break the law sometimes, don’t you?” Harvard asked.
The officer nodded, “but…”
"Harvard pulled out a fifty, “Keep it. Get yourself something nice. I have someplace to go.”
“Okay, sir, you have a nice evening.” The officer grabbed the note while Harvard and his Lotus Evija faded into the darkness.
“How’s it going, Winston?” He announced his arrival. We were outside Leyla’s 2500 ft luxury apartment. It was on the twelfth floor of a fifteen storied building. The house, like others in the building, reflected the high tastes of its residents.
“One of the pioneers of the writing of our time is dead, how do you think I am?” I asked.
“That answers my question. Can I see the crime scene?” He asked.
“The forensics are sweeping the place up.”
“Who is the woman crying over there?” He asked.
“I suppose she is a...” before I could complete my answer he walked up to her.
“Hello, miss.” He greeted, “I don’t believe we have met yet. I am Harvard, Harvard McCoy, a consultant with the FBI.”
“So you are the cops?” She asked, amid sobs.
“I am no cop. I am just a guy with incredible skills.” He replied.
She smiled a little, “Leyla was a close friend. She had helped me get my first big break.”
“The pain of her loss will be felt by countless lives. Your good name?”
Harvey grinned wide, “Is that so? I know that this is not the right time but I must admit I am a big fan of your shows.”
“That brings me pleasure. If you may permit, I’ll take a leave.” She said the sobs were less now.
“As you wish, miss,” Harvard said.
As soon as Elisa was out of our earshot, “What was that about?” I asked.
“Winston, I saw a pretty woman crying and I consoled her. You should thank me for it.”
“What should I thank you for? ”
“For building rapport with her. She is close to our victim. With her co-operation, it is going to be easier to identify the potential suspects.”
We would have argued further, But an officer announced from inside, “The forensics are done. Sir, you can inspect the scene.”
“We are coming,” Harvard announced as he pulled off his blue blazer and proceeded to fold it neatly and put it inside his briefcase.
The grand house was littered with plastic cups. Plastic plates with remains of food were kept on the otherwise neat furniture. Party lights were hanging by the ceiling. The speakers were still on. “Where is the body?” I asked.
“The bedroom.” The officer replied before proceeding to escort us there.
The bedroom had a king-size bed with clean white sheets. The nightstands were mahogany and there was a sole laptop on the window facing the study table. The open laptop was marked with chalk. Marking that Miss Gardner had died while writing and had fallen face first.
“Did the forensics check the plates and the glasses for traces of poison?” Harvard asked.
“Um, why would they do that?”
“Why won’t they do that?”
“We know that the body has no trace of poison. So why check for poison?” I asked.
Harvard pulled out a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket, “Why is this paper crumbled”
“Cause you crumbled it,” I replied.
“At what time did I crumble it?”
“How am I supposed to know that? You are asking as if I saw you crumble it.”
“So you never saw me crumble it and you still know I crumbled it?” Harvard asked.
I sighed, “The paper came from your pocket and is crumbled. What else will one suppose, other than you crumbled it?”
“A woman is lying dead on her table with no external marks. What else will one suppose, other than she must have been poisoned?”
“But there is no poison in her bloodstream,” I shouted.
Harvard remained calm, “You did not see me crumple the paper, did you? That does not mean that the paper is not crumpled. Same here. The poison may be unidentifiable in blood. It may have a delayed effect and may have left the body. It may have taken effect through the digestive tract or nasal tract or a thousand other things. If it was an oral poison which never enters the bloodstream. In that case, it may have entered through the food and drink.”
“Why did I not think of that?” I was frustrated with myself.
Harvard just smiled, “Luckily, I did. I don’t think we have much to work with until we get the autopsy as well as the crime scene report from the forensic guys.”
Addressing the room, he added, “Good night, gentlemen. Winston, can you meet me at eight thirty sharp at The Confection Connection.”
“Where?” I asked.
“The Confection Connection, it is a damn good bakery. Ask anyone.”
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Text (c) 2022 by Arjun Agarwal.
Header image is LA at Night-time.