A pair of CSIs had arrived and milled about the home. Thanks in no small part to my luck with the chair, Norburg had noticed something odd about how the rope had been tied onto the banister above and pointed it out.
“Okay... the rope is strung over the top rail and under the bottom in a figure-8,” he said. “At first I thought it might have been Dare’s way of making sure the knots wouldn’t fail and drop him to the floor. Nope, it was used like a block and tackle to hoist the body.”
He called over one of the investigators and spoke to him. The CSI nodded and dashed up the stairs.
“The height of his toes to my knee told me the body was up too high,” I said. “At least, too high for a normal dining room chair. Whoever hoisted him up likely lifted him just far enough to meet the height of the seat cushion and tied it off. They didn’t take the normal pointing of the feet at rest into consideration.”
“Lieutenant?” called the CSI from above. “You were right. We have some abrasion on the banister and some wood splinters. Definitely inconsistent with a suicide hanging. It looks like the rope was pulled over and under the banister to lift the body. If nothing else, it will make it easier to lower it back down.”
“Well, Case,” Norburg drawled, “looks like you got your murder.”
“Double murder. Your boys would have figured this one out without me, but I hope you can finally see that I’m not just running off half-cocked.”
“Jury’s still out on that,” he said. “Oh… don’t know if this is what you want to hear, but I can’t seem to locate hide nor hair of your Warden Crabtree back in Florida.”
“I know I talked to him, Norburg.”
“Now, hold on. I didn’t say he didn’t or doesn’t exist. But it seems no one can locate him at the moment. Up and left suddenly. No foul play is suspected at the moment, but let’s just say it’s out of character for the old bird.”
“But we know for sure that Oscar Fortuna is worm food, right?”
That’s when Norburg turned a little green.
“Well, the authorities back there are saying that they’ve found some trace evidence at Crabtree’s home that they can attribute to the late Oscar Fortuna. Looks like there may be an exhumation in the very near future.”
“During one of my last contacts with Colleen, she said that there was a dust-up with some guy in Saul Gordon’s office. I wonder if Oscar came back to claim what he thinks still belonged to him.”
“Have you seen Gordon recently?”
“Me? Not since – ” My phone started vibrating. I snagged it from my pocket. “Case.”
A worried Holly replied, “I think Saul’s in trouble.”
“I finally turned on my phone. I have a bunch of messages from Saul’s number telling me that he’ll be killed if I don’t show up at the Factory by noon.”
I look around the area until I saw a clock. 11:15.
“Did he say – ”
“It’s Oscar,” she sobbed. “I know it.”
I was pushing Ol’ Blue as best I could in Sunday traffic, needing to get there faster but not needing to draw the attention of police, all the while hoping that Norburg was good to his word about sending someone out to the Fantasy Factory to investigate.
But I was also torn. Saul wasn’t the precious daughter of my client. My first inclination was to rush to the motel to ensure Holly’s security. I had to make sure she was safe. Right turn, Holly. Left turn, Saul.
“I hope you sent someone, Norburg,” I said as I cranked the wheel to the right.
I skidded to a stop in the motel parking space next to the rental Impala. I fumbled for my room key when I saw a flash of Holly’s face from a quickly pulled-back curtain. I could hear the deadbolt and chain latch being undone and then the door opened for me.
“What are you doing here?” she nearly growled. “Saul’s the one in trouble.”
“Saul’s mom isn’t paying my fees,” I snapped back. “And you shouldn’t have – ”
A shove from behind drove me into the room while the door was slammed closed.