Bobbing for Clue, a Cozy Mystery
November 20, 2012
Alice and her snooping are moving to the next level...
"Why is it," Alice thought, "that every time she chose to cook in lieu of take-out, regardless of what she wanted to make, she always needed one more thing from the store."
Jasper’s Country Mart was close to her place, but the thought of another errand, no matter how small, almost kept her in for the night. Her mood wasn’t great at Steven’s dismissal, but she had decided to poke around a little and see if her theory had any meat.
"Can’t snoop on an empty stomach," she said to herself, as she picked her purse back up.
At Jasper’s, she quickly found what she needed but gave in to browsing anyway. Perhaps, she might just avoid this problem next time if she bought more than one thing.
As she was about to make her way to the express line, she spied something interesting. Jeffery Cassidy was just strolling through the doors.
Trying to look as casual as possible, Alice followed Jeffery’s path straight to the liquor aisle. She did her best to look interested in the supply on the shelf, but was paying no attention to where she stopped.
"So the town librarian is in the market for grain alcohol?" Jeffery quipped.
Alice glanced up and confirmed her location with dread. "I couldn’t have landed in the brandies?" she thought. "Actually, I’m looking for supplies for a science project the homeschool club is doing." Her quick rebound only worked because Jeffery didn’t truly care what she had to say.
"It’s alright,” he said. “I’m refilling my stores as well." He had three different kinds on bourbon in his basket.
"You are quite the bourbon connoisseur, aren’t you Jeffery?" Alice tried to make friendly conversation.
"Actually, I’m more of a martini man. I can’t stand this stuff, but I try to keep it on hand for clients. It goes with the whole lawyerly image. I had a true appreciator in recently, thus the refill."
Alice added, "I understand about the keeping up the image," she said, gesturing to the cat food in her cart. "Like librarians and our cats." She didn’t include any stories of her cat. She just let him fill in the story from there.
"Um, yeah…exactly," he said it as though he meant not exactly.
"It’s quite the headline for our little town, right? I can’t believe Jack’s gone, and that they suspect foul play – wow. I guess you’re close to Katie, so you must know first-hand how awful this is for her," Alice was double-dipping here. She didn’t trust Jeffery at all, and that she had seen him with Katie made her curious on more multiple fronts.
"Close," he acknowledged. "I’ll be helping Katie with Jack’s estate. She and I got to know each other through the business I was conducting with her father." He wasn’t letting anything else go.
"When did you hear about his passing?" Alice asked and quickly added, "It must have been such a shock."
"Yes, well, Katie told me. She got the call while she was on campus. I happened to be there for a conference as well, so I was able to be there for her."
"How convenient for her that a family friend was near," Alice said trying to look like she meant it. How very convenient indeed.
"You know the man was a shark when it came to a deal he was trying to make," Jeffery said as he wrapped up their conversation. "That type of behavior always comes back in the end." Sounds like Jeffery thinks Jack got what he deserved, Alice thought.
"Hopefully, I can do my part to reverse the public perception of our town council," Jeffery said.
"I guess that answers my next question," Alice replied. So Jeffery would run for the vacated council seat. Again, it was so convenient.
At the library the next day, Alice couldn’t stop thinking about the conversation with Jeffery and the slippery way he glided through their interaction, his artificial smile, his nonchalance… that man was up to no good.
Steven’s regular visit was a little later than usual. He came in juggling paperwork and his books to be returned. Alice stepped in to try and help, but the pile was awkward and her clumsy involvement only guaranteed disaster. Books, papers, and all went tumbling to the ground. She tried to help him pull everything back together.
"I’m sorry. I just thought it looked like you had more than you could manage," Alice said blush spreading.
"Don’t worry Alice. It’s not my morning," Steven tried to soothe her embarrassment.
His two-way radio squawked. He had another "I’m sorry" in his eyes. Alice was holding the books and the paperwork pile. She mouthed "don’t worry" and carried it over to the circulation desk for him. He stepped into the foyer to see what Carl needed. Alice dropped the pile and saw that right on top was a toxicology report.
Curiosity got the better of her. After a careful glance up to confirm Steven was still engrossed in his conversation over the walkie, she risked a glance inside the folder.
Jack had sleeping pills and lots of booze in his system.
"Alice, you aren’t doing what I think you’re doing right?" Steven was staring at the open folder.
"Sorry. It was open," Alice tried to look convincing.
It was already too late to back out now, she told herself. "You know I saw Jeffery last night with a basket of bourbon, and he even told me he doesn’t drink it. He was refilling because someone else cleaned him out."
"So you’re saying based on that he might have gotten Jack drunk?" Steven stopped to rub his eyes like he was tired of theories.
"That may be true, but I still don’t have any other reason to suspect him," Steven said. "Since you are snooping, I’ll tell you Jeffery probably lost a lot of money thanks to Jack’s death. They had some real estate deal together and it was contingent on Jack. I verified this morning that it’s done for."
"I don’t know about that Steven. He’s helping Katie liquidate Jack’s assets," Alice interjected. "I think there’s money in this for him."
"Alice, you need to leave this alone."
Alice didn’t say anything else to Steven, but shrugged instead. She had hoped he would trust her instincts, and she didn’t want him to hear the hurt in her voice. After he left, she momentarily thought about complying, but got right over that.
"I think this calls for Dottie," Alice thought.
Dottie Dorsey was the city clerk, and she was one of Alice’s favorite sources. In terms of what Dottie knew and shouldn’t mention to anyone, the list was long. Dottie should have been a vault. In terms of what Dottie wouldn’t tell Alice, the list shrank considerably. Woe to the person who gave a secret to Dottie.
"You know he was updating his will," Dottie started in. "Did that every time he got to feeling matrimonial. Makes you wonder, right?"
"Really," Alice needed to keep Dottie going. "I saw Katie the other day, and she didn’t seem too broken up. I wonder if that had anything to do with it."
"I heard he was going to cut her out," Dottie continued. "Guess that lawyer of his will be delivering the bad news any day now."
"Dottie, do you mean Jeffery Cassidy?" Alice asked.
"That’s the one."
Alice called the station. Carl answered. She explained that Jack had updated his will to exclude his daughter. "It should be on file Carl, right?"
"Alice, I don’t know who your source is, but we have a copy of the will, and Katie is the only beneficiary. It hasn’t been changed since his last divorce was finalized. Don’t let other people’s gossip work you up." He let her go without a goodbye.
So, the new will hadn’t been filed. Which meant Jeffery might still have it. If she was ever going to prove to Steven that her suspicions were correct, she’d have to do more than gather gossip.
"I think it’s time to visit Cassidy Law," Alice thought.
The reference section of the Walker Public Library is small and dusty. In the digital age when answers online are plentiful, it seemed to be the most endangered area for print materials. On the up side, Alice could sit back there going through building plans and no one would even notice. Jeffery’s office was next to an abandoned boutique, and it looked like they shared a common storage space.
One quick call to Shelley, the acting landlord for the vacant space, and Alice had the keys for the empty shop.
She had to concoct a story about her interest in a little shop of her own and why she needed time to envision the space completed in private, but Shelley didn’t care. She was dabbing her eyes daintily and trying to portray the widow soldering on. Alice didn’t have to try very hard.
She waited around until she saw Jeffery switch off the lights. She made her way into the empty store just as Jeffery was leaving the law office. Even from inside the store room in the back, she could hear his jaguar roar to life on the street outside.
"Moment of truth," she said as she tried the adjoining back room door. It was unlocked. There’s a stereotype about small towns and unlocked doors, and this time she was happy it was true.
She was in Jeffery’s office just like that.
Cassidy Law Firm was really one room with a few dividers in place. The back room exited straight into Jeffery’s space. As she opened the door, she knocked over a stack of manila folders that had been right in front of it, confirming that he never opened that door.
She used the light from the street light outside to search by. The desk was very well ordered and didn’t seem to have anything useful. His datebook was missing – probably with him. She went to the file cabinet. His client files were alphabetical, and once she reached "H," she was excited to find Jack Hamilton was the only name under that tab. The folder however was empty.
Just then, the distinctive sound of Jeffery’s mid-life crisis mobile caught her attention. He was back. She pushed the stack of folders back into a pile and slid through the narrow pass she afforded herself, back through the back room and into the empty shop.
She heard voices. He was chatting someone up. She knew her window of opportunity had closed, and it was a little too close of a call, even for her. She skulked to the front of the empty shop and made a break for her car.
Jeffery had only switched the lights on when he noticed his stack of folders had been moved. The back room door lock was broken, and his former landlord, the late Mr. Hamilton, was not around to complain to again about it. The folders had been there to keep the draft from pushing the door open. With the shop next door vacant, there really shouldn’t be a draft to worry about.
Jeffery went to the window and saw, none other than, Alice the librarian nervously making her way from the sidewalk outside the empty shop to her car.
"Katie," he said, addressing his guest for the first time. "We have a problem."