As the clock chimed 12:00, I pulled up to my office alongside my assistant, Alan Clark. We stepped out of the taxi and it felt as though I was being swallowed by the thick black night. New York’s air was crisp during autumn and especially quiet at this time of night, interrupted only by the sounds of our breath. I looked up just in time to notice that someone was standing beside the door to my office concealed by darkness.
“Hello, are you detective Rachel Grey?” the figure questioned. As the person emerged into the light it appeared that it was a woman around the age of thirty. She had neat blonde hair and emerald eyes that seemed to glow in the dark. The woman loomed over me as she was a considerable amount taller.
“I am indeed. How may I help you ma’am?” I confidently replied.
The woman slowly inched forward, further into the light.
“My name is Diane Walker.” Her voice trembled, “I need help with something. I recalled my friend telling me all about how her brother had come to see you for help and had his problem solved in only a few days so I came straight to you.”
“I would be happy to help you,” I replied. “Why don’t you step into my office and tell me what’s going on.”
We hiked up the stairs to my office on the 3rd floor. I was chilled to the bone and asked Alan to light the fire place. The orange glow chased away the cold in a matter of minutes and I began warming my hands by the fire.
“Now let’s not waste time with introductions, Ms. Walker, I already know all I need to know about you. You’ve been to Africa, you swim competitively and have a dog waiting for you at home right now.”
Ms. Walker was momentarily stunned before sputtering, “How would you know such things?”
“It’s really very simple, Ms. Walker, you are wearing a bracelet that displays beads unique to a community in Africa so you evidently must have travelled there at some point and brought back that bracelet as a momento.”
“But how on earth could you tell that I swim?” Ms. Walker’s face contorted into a puzzled expression.
“You hair is what gave it away! It is ever so slightly tinted green which could only lead me to believe that you spend more than an average amount of time in the pool because of the chlorine’s effects on your hair. Since you spend so much time in the pool it is obvious that you are constantly training and swimming competitively. And finally the dog, your shoes appear to have small circular dents similar to a bite mark left by a dog and your leggings are littered with hair.”
Taken aback, Diane Walker blurted, “Well, I don’t know what to say detective. That was incredible!”
“Thank you, Ms. Walker, it is my job after all. Tell me what has been causing you trouble,” I said while perching myself on a large comfortable arm chair.
“It all began a week ago,” Ms. Walker started. “I was receiving these mysterious notes almost everywhere I went; by my front door, my locker at the pool and even in places inside my house. At the beginning I figured these notes were just meaningless pranks played by the teenagers that lived down the block from me, but then the notes began to get more mysterious and dangerous. They displayed messages about my life and family that only I would know. And then, the letters turned to blackmail. I began receiving threats from someone who said they would hurt my family if I didn’t leave them one million dollars by Monday, which is only two days away!”
“That is very unusual, Ms. Walker, I’d love to further investigate this for you.” I was excited at the thought of landing this case. “Do you happen to have any of the notes on you at the moment?”
“No, I don’t, but you may come by my house tomorrow to pick them up. Here is my address.” Ms. Walker willingly handed me a slip of paper.
“Thank you, Ms. Walker. Don’t fret, I will have solved this case by Monday and will be delighted to share my findings with you!” Alan hurriedly escorted Ms. Walker out the door, and then spun around exclaiming,
“How on earth will you solve this one, Rachel?”
“With ease, Alan. However, there is no rush and I imagine you would like to rest for a while just as much as I would so we can commence in the morning.”
We began our investigation bright and early the next morning so we would have a full day ahead of us.
“Are you coming?” Alan shrieked from outside my apartment. He wore a thick navy parka, a large grey sweater, tall rain boots and a toque to hide his messy black hair. Alan looked as though he was ready for negative ten degree weather when is was current plus five degrees.
“Yes I’m on my way out now.” I took one last look in the mirror and ruffled my messy chestnut hair. Then I slid into my large black boots, grabbed my overcoat and hustled out the door.
“You know it’s not winter yet, right?” I snickered.
“Yeah, whatever, Rachel. I get cold easily.”
“Whatever you say, Alan.”
We stepped out from under the awning of the apartment building and onto the street. A soft wind enchanted the leaves tossing them around in the air. The glaring sun that reflected off the moving cars and back into our eyes making it nearly impossible to
spot a taxi. At last, we spotted one and pushed our way through the crowded streets
that were bustling with people. Ms. Walker’s house was only a five minute drive from the apartment but in this traffic it could take us as long as twenty minutes.
“Come on, Alan, let’s bail on the taxi!”
“Well, how do you suppose we get to Ms. Walker’s house?”
“We can walk instead.” I shoved Alan out of the cab, nearly knocking off his glasses. Once I climbed out of the taxi as well, I began briskly striding down the street.
“Would you slow down Rachel!” Alan sprinted to catch up and narrowly avoided being hit by a car.
“There’s no time to waste, Alan. We must get to Ms. Walker’s house!”
After five long minutes we finally reached Diane Walker’s house. I briskly knocked on the door and within seconds Ms. Walker opened the door and handed me a thick pile of notes she had received.
“Thank you very much, Ms. Walker, and have a nice day!” I spun around and
trotted down the front steps. Diane Walker’s house was enormous and it took us nearly five minutes to trek across the front yard. I took a quick glance at the pile of notes Ms. Walker had handed me and noticed one very pertinent detail. The ink used to write the letters was particular to one store that was just three blocks away from Ms. Walker’s house.
I knew that this store opens in half an hour and that we had to get there before it opened so I began walking quite quickly.
“Wait up, Rachel!” Alan hollered.
“There’s no time to waste, Alan, we have to get to the store that sells the ink used on these notes before it opens,” I snapped back at him.
Finally, catching up to me, Alan stammered, “Why on earth would you want to get there before the store even opens?”
“We must investigate and a thorough investigation cannot be carried out while the store owner is observing our every move. Now would you stop slowing us down and get a move on!” At last we arrived at the general store. A large wooden billboard was hung above the entryway to the store that read “Mr. Collins General Store”. I looked down to where the large mahogany door stood and noticed that it displayed a closed sign which meant the store owner was likely not here yet. I peered in the window just to confirm no one was inside before I tugged a bobby pin out of my hair and stepped up to the door.
“What could you possibly be doing now, Rachel?”
“Don’t you worry, Alan, I’m getting us inside.” I pushed my bobby pin inside the lock and struggled with it for a few seconds before hearing a click as the door glided open. Suddenly, a blaring alarm began to sound and I knew we had to shut if off immediately.
“Alan, you stand watch while I disarm the system.” I raced across the store in
search of a control panel that managed the alarm while Alan stubbornly turned around pouting to himself. A flickering red light caught my eye from the other side of the store and drew me over to the where the control panel was. One quick snip of a wire and the system shut down.
“I did it, Alan, now get in here and help me,” I muttered from across the store. Alan trotted over to me, happy to abandon his position as watchdog.
“Look!” I pointed over to spilled bottle of ink that was concealed by the janitor’s mop and jacket. It appeared that someone had made an effort to ensure no one would notice it.
“Keep your eyes open for more clues, Alan. We must solve this case before Monday comes around.”
“Copy that!” Alan darted around to every inch of the store scanning for any related details. I started over to where the cash register stood and noticed a pile of folded up receipts. After putting on my gloves, I unfolded each one carefully as not to damage them and catch the attention of the store owner. All the receipts were for things like gardening supplies, sewing kits and tools until I opened one to reveal documentation of a purchase made three weeks ago of the ink used to write the letters.
“Come on, Alan, we have to get out of here before the store clerk arrives!” I motioned for Alan to come quickly as he poked up from behind a shelf.
“But I didn’t find anything.”
“I have all we need, now let’s go!” Clutching the receipt, I dashed out the door followed by Alan and relocked it before waving down a taxi and jumping inside. Conveniently, traffic was much smoother now and I knew we would arrive at our next destination in a few short minutes.
“What did you find Rachel?” Alan reached for the receipt I had tightly clutched in my hand.
“It’s a receipt I found by the cash register for ink purchased three weeks ago.” I handed the slip of paper to Alan. He quickly scanned it with his eyes and exclaimed, “there’s an address printed at the bottom! That must be where the purchaser of the ink lives.”
“Yes, and that is where we are headed now,” I replied while handing the taxi driver the address.
Five minutes later we pulled up to the house and jumped out of the cab. I reached for the receipt just to check we had landed ourselves in front of the correct address. No car in the driveway meant that no people were home and we could go inside. We snuck around to the back door and peered inside the house just to confirm that no one was there. I reached for the cool silver handle of the back door and as I twisted it, the door easily glided open.
“Yes! We are lucky the house owners left their back door unlocked.”
“Where do we go from here?” Alan questioned.
“We have to scan the house for that bottle of ink. You go to the basement and I’ll take upstairs. As soon as you’re done meet back on this floor.”
“But why do I have to do the basement?” Alan complained.
“Because I said so, now go!” With one last glare, Alan trudged down into the basement.
I continued on to carry out a quick survey of the main floor and found nothing except dust and dated furniture. Maybe I’ll have more luck upstairs. The staircase leading to the top floor was very long and steep. The thick carpeted steps looked as though they had been here a very long time and were coated in dirt and stains. After what seemed like forever, I made it to the top and was ready to investigate. I started in the first bedroom and found nothing, the second bedroom had nothing either and all that was left now was the third bedroom. With only one bedroom remaining, I was starting to worry that we would come out empty handed. I began walking over to the third bedroom when suddenly, I could distinctly make out the sound of footsteps walking on the hardwood of the main floor.
“Are you coming upstairs?” I radioed in to Alan.
“No, I’m still in the basement. Have you come down to the main floor? I can hear footsteps.”
“Alan, listen carefully,” I whispered urgently. “I am still upstairs so the people who live here must have just arrived home. Whatever you do, do not let them see you!”
“What do I do?” he panicked.
“Just get out of the house! I will meet you by the intersection outside.”
Before I had a chance to hear Alan’s reply, I shut off the radio. I could hear the footsteps proceeding up those long carpeted stairs to where I was standing. I knew I had to get out of there, I just didn’t know how. The footsteps were growing closer and at any second someone would emerge over the top of the staircase and look me dead in the eyes. I darted over to the bedroom that was closest to me and dove under the bed. My heart felt as though it would beat out of my chest as I tried my hardest to conceal the heavy sound of my breathing. I could tell that the person had reached the top of the stairs now because the sound of their feet was closer than ever. I watched as the person started over in my direction. I could see their feet now, large and encased in thick white socks. I just knew that they would see me cowering under the bed. I was absolutely terrified and knew that I had to get out of there. I watched as the person sat down on the bed directly over where I lay, shuddering in fear. I was really in trouble now. How was I supposed to get out from under the bed
without the person seeing me? I lay there for five minutes trying to come up with any
ideas to help me escape. Suddenly, it was as if an angel answered my prayer to escape. I could hear another person downstairs calling out.
“Mike! Get down here,” the voice screeched.
Quickly, the person sitting on the bed jumped up and proceeded downstairs. This was my moment to escape.
I squirmed out from underneath the bed and poked my head around the corner to ascertain that no one else was on the top floor. After confirming that it was all clear I made my way over to the window in the bedroom across the hall. Seeing that it was not far to the ground I opened the window and stepped out onto the roof hoping I could gather enough courage to jump. I could see Alan standing at the intersection and I knew that I had to jump in order to escape. Then, the footsteps came back and I realized I had only seconds before I would be spotted standing on the roof. This gave me all the courage I needed to jump. I stepped to the edge of the roof and let my feet carry me off the edge.
The ground came fast and hard sending a prickling sensation up and down my legs. The pain stopped me from moving. I had to run but my legs would not allow me to move. Abruptly, the pain disappeared and I bolted. Luckily, Alan had called a taxi and it was pulling up as I half limped over to him. He helped me into the taxi and then jumped in after. Alan slammed his door shut and taxi driver took off towards my office.
“What happened in there? Did you find anything?” I could hear the stress in Alan’s voice.
“No, I found nothing at all on the top or middle floor. What about you?”
“All I found in the basement was a bunch of dust and cobwebs.”
“That’s too bad. We must have missed something! Let’s just go back to the office and review our evidence.” Neither of us spoke for the rest of what seemed like an hour car ride but was only ten minutes. At last we pulled up to the building my office was in and Alan and I drearily slid out of the cab. We hiked up the long monotonous staircase leading to my office and eventually arrived at the top. The office was rather warm so I opened some windows and hung my long grey overcoat and thin black fleece on the coat rack. Alan pushed through the door after me and draped his navy parka on a chair. Sitting down at my desk, I pulled out the notes Ms. Walker had given us and reviewed them in hopes of finding something we missed.
“Where do we go from here Rachel? It’s Monday tomorrow and we have not yet found any new evidence.”
“Don’t fret, Alan, I’m reviewing the notes and I’m sure there is something here
we missed.” I did not notice anything initially as I looked at each individual note.
However, as I lay the notes out on the floor for an overview I noticed something
“What is it Rachel? What did you find?” Alan couldn’t contain himself.
“There’s no time to explain. I’ll tell you later but we have to leave right now and go back to Mr Collins General store.”
We took another taxi back over to the general store and arrived very quickly this time. I swiftly pulled out a pen and paper and marched up to the store clerk. He was tall and had rather broad shoulders as well as messy blonde hair. He stood next to the cash register and appeared to be working on something.
“Excuse me sir, as a member of the community would you mind signing this petition?” He looked up and I thrust out the piece of paper and pen.
“Uh, sure, no problem.” The man hesitated as he took the paper and pen from
“Thank you so much.” I took back the pen and paper and turned around to see the janitor lurking in the back room. He was mopping up yet another ink spill and collecting fallen papers from the ground.
“Excuse me, would you sign the petition as well?” I questioned the janitor.
“Why not?” He casually walked over to me. Once again, I handed off the pen and paper and then took it back after he signed.
“Thank you very much and have a nice day.” I marched out of the store and jumped into the cab with Alan who had waited there while I was inside the store.
“Did you get whatever you needed?”
“Yes, I did indeed. Now I’m going to head back to my apartment for a while to freshen up and relax. I have done all I can for the moment. May I suggest you do the same and I’ll meet you at Mr. Collins General Store at 10 o’clock.”
“Ok, Rachel, whatever you’re thinking, I hope you’re right.”
“Aren’t I always?” I slid out of the taxi as it pulled up to my apartment.
“I’ll see you at 10.” I confirmed with Alan as the taxi pulled out to deliver him home.
“I wouldn’t miss it!” Alan shouted out the window of the cab.
Five hours later, I pulled up to Mr. Collins General Store. The crisp air nipped at my ears and nose as I walked towards the front door. Seconds later, Alan pulled up and jumped out of his car. He jogged toward me, trying to escape the cold.
“What are we doing?”
“You’ll see, Alan, you just have to be patient.” I sauntered around to the back
entrance of the general store and glanced inside the window to see that the light in
the back room was still on.
“What is it now?”
“Just be patient, Alan, you won’t have to wait for much longer,” I assured him. We hid around the corner from the back door and waited. Finally, a figure appeared like a large black bat swooping out into the night.
“Come on, Alan, let’s’ go,” I whispered in quiet excitement. This time he willingly followed me without asking questions. Like ninjas, we stealthily trailed behind the large dark figure. After about five minutes we arrived exactly where I knew we would. We watched as the figure reached into the pocket of its large overcoat, pulling out a small slip of paper and sliding it under the door of Ms. Diane Walker’s house.
“Stop right there, Travis Collins!” I stepped up to the large, dark figure who jerked around to reveal the startled face of the person I was expecting to see. It was the owner of Mr. Collin’s General Store, Travis Collins.
“Put you hands up, Mr. Collins!” I stared him dead in the eye while holding him at gunpoint. He reluctantly lifted his hands in the air and I thrust down his arms, handcuffing him behind his back.
“It’s over,” I assured Travis Collins as the police shoved him into the back seat of their car.
“We did it,” Alan exclaimed.
“And now my friend, it is time to go home.”
Later that night, while Alan and I sat by the fire in my office he asked,
“Rachel, how on earth did you know that it was Mr. Collins before you even saw his face?”
“Now that I think about it, Alan, it was quite simple. When we first entered Mr. Collins General Store to investigate, I noticed a framed family photo that included Mr. Collins as well as Ms. Diane Walker. This, along with the fact that they both had crisp blonde hair led me to believe that they were related. At first, I thought them to be siblings until I realized they did not share the same last name. So, I suspected may be cousins. If they were related and Mr. Collins was blackmailing Ms. Walker, I knew she must have something he wanted very much. This had to be something no one would know about unless they were related to her. You know what it was Alan? It was that she had recently inherited a whole lot of money. Ms. Walker has an enormous house and property as well as a great uncle who had recently passed away. I presumed he had left her all his money. If this money was left to Diane Walker and not Travis Collins, it would have ignited a spark of anger and envy inside Mr. Collins.”
“You only had one suspect all along?” Alan excitement caused him to interrupt.
“No, Alan, my other hunch was that it could be the janitor. When we were investigating Mr. Collins General Store for the first time I also saw some spilled ink in the corner of the store concealed by a mop and the janitors jacket. When we went back into the store a second time, the janitor was lurking in the back room and cleaning up yet another ink spill and several scattered papers.
“Did you think Janitor knew Ms. Walker?”
“Yes, I thought that Ms. Walker and the janitor didn’t just know each other, they were friends. I spotted several photos of Ms. Walker standing next to the janitor inside Ms. Walker’s house when we went to pick up the notes from her this morning. Ms. Walker had so many photos of them together that they were obviously more than just friends, they were extremely close friends. Since they were so close, Ms. Walker could have told the janitor about the money she had recently inherited, once again igniting a spark of envy inside the janitor because he was not nearly as wealthy as her.
After knowing the motive and having two suspects I just had to confirm whether it was the janitor or Mr. Collins that was sending the notes. Then, came my next clue. When I was reviewing the notes today, I noticed one very important detail. The ink on all of the notes was ever so slightly smudged, indicating that whoever wrote them was left handed. I knew this because a left hand would drag over the most recently written word, smudging the fresh ink. After gathering this information I knew I had to somehow get my two suspects to write something so I could see which was their dominant hand. From this, my petition idea was born. I walked into the store asking both Mr. Collins and the janitor to sign a fake petition and found that the janitor used his right hand while Mr. Collins used his left. This confirmed that it was Mr. Collins and not the janitor. From there I knew we had to catch Mr. Collins in the act of leaving a note for Ms. Walker. The janitor went home at three o’clock but Mr. Collins leaves the store when it closes at ten o’clock so I decided it would be best to follow him to Ms. Walker’s house from the store and catch him in the act. Well, there you have it, Alan, every step to the solving of Ms. Walker’s case.”
“Wow, Rachel, that was amazing!”
“Thank you, Alan. Tonight, New York can be at peace, at least for now.”