Apartment 19

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Chapter 4

Larry was not enjoying the wait in a technocratic lobby.

He scratched his pink Irish face.

“Oh hell.”

It was an old basal cell on his forehead.

What’s taking him so long?

Ten more minutes passed.

Larry stood up, stiff from sitting too long on a hard mattress on a hard bench, hustled to Obi’s office, and opened the door to another man sitting at Obi’s desk.

“Who are you?”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Inspector Leahy, SFPD. I was speaking to Finneas Obi. Who are you?”

“His lab assistant. Finneas left an hour ago. Sorry you missed him.”

Larry flew into a fluster and ran to his car.

He’s eluded me.

Larry called Obi’s phone, which went to voicemail.

Certain Obi would go home, he headed for Lombard, 20 minutes for the ordinary citizen, 10 for him with a happy red light flashing all the way.

Just seeing the apartment building gave Larry an unpropitious feeling, compounded by the fact Milo was standing at the front door. He hopped out of the Chevy right there, leaving his vehicle parked at an odd angle, inconveniencing foot or vehicle traffic, and touched Milo lightly on her elbow.

“Good morning, young lady. What brings you here?”

“Fin called me. Why are you here?”

Going from the Chevy to her side gave him little time to prepare an answer, but there was a readymade one, one he had given a thousand times before. “Fin eschewed me. Let’s see if he’s home.”

“I’ve been ringing but no answer.”

Just then, a man opened the door and said he was the building manager with a package for Finneas Obi. He said he recognized her, and would she accept it?

“Here. UPS left it when there was no answer.”

“Thank you. We’d like to go up and see him?”

“No problem.”

Milo began opening the large envelope in a hurry.

“Are you worried, Milo?” Larry asked, as he led the way up the stairs.

Milo discarded bits of sticky cardboard as they climbed the stairs, and by the time they had reached the third floor, she was pulling out contents.

“The letter says, ‘Congratulations. Your application for transfer to Pfizer SA Sandton Republic of South Africa is approved, and you will be joining us in the important search for a COVID-19 vaccine. Materials are included for you to peruse, and various documents require your signature to get the process started.’ What is this? Fin never told me about going back to South Africa. He knows I would’ve said no. How could he do this without telling me?”

They stood in front of the apartment. Larry told Milo to be quiet, placed his ear against the door, and listened. He shook his head, signaling to Milo that he could hear nothing. He knocked, knocked again, and knocked yet again.

Nothing.

Larry took Milo down the hallway a few paces and whispered, “What brought you here?”

“Fin called me about twenty minutes ago saying he needed to see me. Why are you here?”

Larry thought quickly, decided not to give her his reasons, and asked, “Do you have a key?”

“Yes. It’s right here in the pocket of my purse.” She set down the letter and plucked out the key.

“Thanks,” Larry said. “Stay here. Let me go in first.”

“Why? I want to go.”

“No.”

With the service revolver in his right hand, he turned the key with his left hand, and struggled, but heard a click, turned the handle by the key, and pushed the door open with his right knee. He let the door hit the wall behind and stood still, listening for movement or voices. Hearing none, he proceeded, turning back quickly and motioning with his free hand for Milo to stay put.

Marijuana permeated the air, an empty bottle of gin lay turned over at the edge of the coffee table, but the room was empty.

Milo pleaded, “Where is he?”

Larry passed the kitchen on the left and peered into a bathroom on the right. Several more steps down the hallway brought him slowly in front of a doorway and there he saw the body of a man half on and half off the bed, obviously Finneas, obviously dead. A syringe lay on the floor below his left arm. Larry immediately surmised suicide with the same toxin used to kill Marlowe.

Larry placed the gun back in its holster.

Milo came running and stopped.

She turned and said, “This is what he wanted me to see? How could he do this? I hate him. I hate him,” and burst into tears and managed to say, “He knew I wanted to marry him. He knew.”

Is he deranged by intoxication or something else?

Milo started to collapse when she saw a piece of the paper on the bed.

Larry held her and backed her up enough to make sure she was where she should be and give him the space to do what was needed. He stepped forward and read as much of the note as he could without touching it.

I killed Marlowe….

Larry then moved Milo out of the apartment. From the hallway he called 9-1-1 and reported a dead body. He called Central Station and spoke to Captain Dempsey. After that he asked Hieu to come to the scene, and there in the quiet hallway of 892 Lombard, Larry and Milo waited for the Situation Investigation Team and the medical examiner.

Several minutes passed in silence, giving Larry time to think about what he had seen. Even from a few away, Larry had recognized the handwriting on Fin’s suicide note as the same handwriting on the suicide note attributed to Marlowe, and now he was certain it was a homicide, as he had suspected all along. When the crime scene investigators arrived, he asked one of them to retrieve the suicide note. In this way he could keep Milo in place and ask her for more information, though he wasn’t sure what he would say.

The investigator handed the note to Larry. He looked at Marlowe and said, “I’m going to read the note aloud. I feel like you should hear it, but only if you are able to listen to it, or would you rather not?”

“I’m okay, just do it, Mr. Leahy.”

I killed Marlowe. Milo did not know. I placed the body in a travel trunk. I asked Milo to help me move it to my car. I drove to the China Beach parking lot and we carried the trunk to the building and I asked her to go back to the parking lot. I pulled everything out of the trunk. After that I called her on her cell phone and asked her to help me bring the empty trunk back to the car. Milo didn’t see the body on the ground because I blocked her view. I told her there was memorabilia in the trunk and now I’m making my home in San Francisco and don’t want it anymore because it reminded me of my father and I hated him and I threw it out there at China Beach.

Milo fell to the floor. Larry thought he knew women pretty well, or well enough, and bent down to give her comfort, but a female police officer had just arrived, nudged Larry out of the way, and assisted Milo. The rest of the note did not beg for forgiveness or explain why he did what he did. Yet, now, Larry could guess the reason. Jilted lover.

Hieu arrived with Captain Dempsey.

Right away Larry started explaining to Dempsey. “So, I read the suicide note and what had me confused was the absence of blood splatter at China Beach. The murder occurred in the kitchen, which is how the blood wound up inside the toothpick holder and on the toothpick. I discovered Obi was doing cancer research and had access to Botulinum neurotoxin. The drug was found in Marlowe Hastings’ body. Obi injected him with it. ”

Dempsey nodded.

Milo got up and said she would go home to her parents. “They are in a 14-day quarantine and need me.”

Finally allowing himself to be seen as a caring man, Larry said, “Thank you for helping, Milo, and I’m truly sorry for what has happened. I wish I could have helped you and me understand a little better. I had trouble figuring out how a toothpick with DNA on it could be in the kitchen.”

“Mr. Leahy, it’s simple. The three of us had drinks and hors d’oeuvres that night. Marlowe was in good spirits and seemed relaxed to be back in Fin’s apartment. There was a lot of blood in the kitchen, even on the table and the little toothpick holder, but it couldn’t be helped. It just happened.”

Larry suddenly, irrevocably realized that she was there.

“Milo, did you join in?”

“What? What are you saying?”

“How did you and Finneas do it?”

“What? What is going on?”

Larry looked sympathetically into her eyes and said, “Tell me what happened.”

Dempsey and Hieu stood absolutely still.

And there is where Milo began to tell the rest.

“Well, you see, please understand, you must, you really must. I took offense at Marlowe’s rejecting Finneas a few days before, and I felt sorry for Fin, but then I realized, with Mar out of the way, I could marry Fin, and I told him and together we plotted how to get back at Mar, and we got him good and drunk. Fin injected him with that toxin, but he didn’t die right away, so he gave me his gun, that pretty purple thing, and said shoot Mar through the mouth, and I did. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

“I’m very sorry, Milo Hastings, you are under arrest for the murder of Marlowe Hastings.”

Milo’s response came in a way that only a tax accountant could relish for its bare honesty, trouble-free innocence, and extraordinary lack of regret.

“Boyfriends fall out of love with each other all the time. I knew Marlowe would never kill himself. We would have done it together. Finneas wanted too much from my brother. I’m the one who really loved Marlowe, in spite of what you think. I said to him many times, ‘As long as I am here, no one will ever hurt you.’ He said the same thing back to me. I guess I failed, but I would have tried to whisk him away and take care of him, just the two of us, and forget the rest of the world.”

What came next shocked even steady-eddy Leahy.

“Now, I feel like I’m drowning…sinking deeper with every attempted breath…dead, you see. I’m scared without him...without Marlowe, Marlowe!”

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