Justin Case: Finding Fortune

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Chapter 35

The Lieutenant had gotten us in through a rear sliding glass door. No break-ins like I had done at Colleen’s place.

“So, tell me again why you came here to begin with.”

I sighed. “I got a text message from Bobby Dare blaming me for Colleen Carter’s death. Had the same flavor of the original text I received from Colleen’s phone. Hints to me they came from the same person.”

Norburg pointed at Dare’s dangling body. “So you think that this guy killed your friend?”

“I’m very doubtful of that after talking to the coroner,” I replied. “There’s no way Bobby Dare could have carried Colleen to her car to create the suicide scene.”

“Maybe he convinced her to go to her car while under the influence. Just to talk to her, you know? Wait for the drug to take effect and then start the car and bail, and let nature and a VW Beetle do the rest.”

“Too much of a reach, Lieutenant.”

“Really? No more than you reaching for this to be anything but a remorse-type suicide.”

I slowly panned my eyes across the room. Everything appeared clean and undisturbed. In a way it was too neat and clean, but Bobby Dare did strike me as the stereotypical fussy gay man, so I wasn’t really surprised. Still, something felt out of place. I looked again to my right and found the anomaly. I stepped over to the computer desk.

The desktop computer was on, humming softly, but the screen was dark. I nudged the mouse with the back of my hand and the monitor came to life, displaying a word processing program with a single sentence in large, bold letters.

YOU’RE TOO LATE. I GOT IN OVER MY HEAD. I’M SORRY.

Norburg scoffed. “Interesting place for a suicide note.”

“Not really. It’s a plant. Since it’s not a written note it eliminates any chance at handwriting comparisons.”

“What made you think to look there?”

I pointed at a glass with a watered-down drink next to the monitor. Condensation remained in a puddle around the base.

“The glass.”

Another Norburg scoff. “So he had a drink while typing a suicide note. How highly unusual.”

“Look around the house,” I said with a wave of my hand. “The place is spotless. A guy like Dare wouldn’t leave a glass out like that. He’d probably wash it and put it away before he hung himself, not leave it out to make a ring on the desk, especially when a set of coasters sits all of six feet away on the coffee table.”

“A suicidal man’s mistake, Case.”

I leaned over the desk to take a sniff of the glass without picking it up. “Probably wine from a bottle we’ll find in the fridge, and probably spiked with the same Scopolamine that Colleen Carter had in her system.”

“Even if he murdered Ms. Carter – which I’m still not yet believing – then the best that does is establish a murder-suicide theory,” Norburg said. “Makes sense that he would take the same drug that was in her if he drugged her and tried to cover it up.”

“Or it means the same person killed both of them,” I replied. “Same M.O., same results. It’s like the house… too... neat and clean.”

“You’re still reaching, Case.”

Anomaly number two hit me. I reached down and grabbed the mouse this time, not worried about fingerprints. I pointed the cursor at the ‘undo’ arrow in the program’s toolbar.

“That’s evidence,” Norburg growled.

“I’ll restore it,” I replied as I repeatedly clicked on the undo function until the only word on the screen was ‘YOUR’. I then fished my cell from my pocket and brought up the morning message. I handed the phone to the Lieutenant. He briefly compared the two notes.

“Okay, so the guy was bad at grammar and punctuation,” he said.

I then clicked the ‘restore’ arrow until the message was back to its original form.

“The suicide note was corrected by the program.”

“So what? Welcome to the world of auto-correct.” Norburg handed back my phone. “Most people turn theirs off on their phones so they can use those stupid texting abbreviations.”

His stubbornness didn’t surprise me. After all, I was kind of running on my gut feelings. I needed one more piece of the puzzle to convince the Lieutenant.

“Cell phone. I need Dare’s cell phone.”

Norburg puffed out an exasperated sigh and surveyed the room along with me.

“Over there,” he said, pointing to a small table near the front entry. We stepped over to the table.

“You’re the guy with the gloves, Norburg, so I’ll let you do the button pushing this time. Check his outgoing texts in any message.”

Another pained sigh and he checked the messages folder as I watched over his shoulder. Together we read a number of the messages. Throughout, as I had suspected, the texts were typed with correct grammar and punctuation except the one sent to me this morning.

“Bobby Dare did the cover notes on the Fantasy Factory videos and maintained the website,” I said. “When you’re always writing for public consumption you stay in the habit of using proper spelling, punctuation, and so on.”

“Okay, okay,” Norburg snarled. “So it maybe leaves open the possibility that we have a murder here.”

The Lieutenant then stepped away, crooking his finger to call me along. We walked over to Dare’s suspended corpse.

“But from here it still looks like a suicide, Case,” he said, pointing at Dare’s body. “Odd little tidbit the M.E. told me about one time is that if a person was unconscious before the noose was placed around the neck that it makes it almost impossible to tell if it’s a hanging by suicide or homicide.” He then pointed at the dining room chair laying on its side beneath the body. “But the lack of shoes says ‘suicide’ to me here because it ties in with your ‘neat-freak’ theory, ’cuz, you know, he didn’t want to leave dirty shoe prints on his nice dining room chair.”

Norburg had me there. I stared at Dare’s stockinged feet hovering near my knee, the toes pointed to the floor, when I was struck by anomaly number three. I leaned over and set the chair back on its feet. Dare’s toes barely touched the top of the seat cushion.

“Unless he shrunk after death, Bobby Dare couldn’t have been standing on this chair to get the noose around his neck.”

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