"Whodunit?": A Murder Mystery One-Shot TwiContest
The Case: The Mayor's Mistress
The Suspects: Detective Jasper Whitlock
Liability: I do not own Twilight or any of the characters.
To see other entries in the "Whodunit?" contest, please visit the C2:
Seattle, 1955. The police come to Det. Jasper Whitlock with a sensitive case involving the mysterious death of woman of ill-repute. Can Jasper find whodunit?
Leaning back in his leather desk chair, Jasper Whitlock took a drag on his afternoon cigarette as he propped his feet up on the wide oak desk. His eyes were fixed on the frosted class window of his office door. From the outside, the backwards letters would read "Det. Jasper Whitlock, P.I." It had started out as a slow day, but he had a feeling that something interesting was going to happen today.
Just then, he heard the bells of the outer door jingle and Alice's voice chirp out a greeting to whomever opened it. A lower, male voice began to engage her. He could hear the irritation in the musical voice of his secretary, as she informed the stranger that an appointment was necessary. The male voice was insistent, and their voices were soon replaced by the rapid clicking of Alice's heels.
The frosted glass door swung open and in entered the tiny woman with peaches and cream complexion and short dark hair arranged in perfect pin curls. She was a looker. Her hips wiggled in her pencil skirt, and even though she was petite, her gams looked a mile long, but that was just a bonus for the detective. She was also organized, enthusiastic, and could practically anticipate his every need. Jasper took a good long look before turning his eyes to the man that followed her. If she wasn't such a good assistant, he would have asked her for a date a long time ago.
He wondered what she was doing this Friday.
Moving his attention, he took in the familiar man. His gray flannel suit wasn't enough to cover up his blond hair, blue eyes and boyish good looks, which he probably couldn't help, but it was really just his presence that irritated Jasper the most.
"What do you want, Newton," Detective Jasper refused to refer to the Chief of the Seattle Police Department by his title.
Newton removed his lid before he spoke with pleading eyes, clutching the hat in his hands, "I need your subtlety, on a matter of police work."
"Your men can't handle it?"
"It's a matter of a sensitive nature."
Jasper tented his forefingers together and brought them up to tap against his lips. Sensitive nature generally meant that one of Seattle's elite had engaged in some unfortunate transgression the rats on the police force couldn't keep quiet. This wasn't the first time Michael Newton had come to ask for Jasper's assistance, and he was sure it wouldn't be the last.
Newton seemed to take the detective's silence as a sign to continue.
"Well, you see, Mayor Black was paying a visit to a lady friend on his lunch break a couple hours ago, but when he got to her pad, she was dead. He tripped over the body, said the blood wasn't fully dry yet. I was the first one he called. He's trusting me to get to the bottom of this, and I need your help."
"A dead whore? You're coming to me for a dead whore?"
"But, she was the mayor's favorite," the police chief looked like a puppy with his pleading eyes. "You're the best snooper in town, and I assure you the mayor will compensate you admirably."
Newton had that right.
Detective Jasper Whitlock hadn't been in the business for terribly long, but his natural intuition and ability to read people had garnered him a lot of respect, clients, and decent wage. So far he had a perfect record, leaving none of the cases that crossed his threshold unsolved.
His claim to fame was that he could solve any case in under 48 hours.
Detective Whitlock paused for a moment, mulling over the opportunity. He didn't like the idea of working with Newton. They had gone to high school together and he just didn't like the kid. Mike Newton was a brown-noser extraordinaire, to his teachers, the principal, and now to the mayor. Jasper couldn't even fathom how Newton successfully made it through police training, let alone all the way up to Chief of Police at a relatively young age. He had a feeling that Newton was unwittingly a patsy in some corruption going on down at the police station, but that would be a mystery for another day. Working for the mayor, on the other hand, could wind up advantageous to Jasper. The mayor had a reputation for some debauchery, but he was still the most powerful man in the city, winning the last election by a landslide. It would be nice to have that connection, plus the promise of reward was appealing.
Finally, he nodded to officer.
He grabbed his gat and tucked it into the holster at his belt. One could never be too careful.
He accompanied Newton to his squad car.
As they drove, Newton tried to fill Jasper in on the case, but it became quickly obvious that the police chief didn't really have any information. From past experience working with the man, the detective should have expected no less.
The squad car eventually stopped in front of a hardware store in the north part of the city, and the two men climbed out of the car and toward the back of the building. Another officer was waiting for them at the back door, and together the three men climbed the stairs up to the apartment atop the store.
The officer pushed the door open and let Whitlock and Newton enter.
Jasper took a quick look around the apartment. It was sparsely furnished, but looked homey and well-lived in. He would have to take a closer look once the more important business was tended to. He took a few steps toward the body and looked down at it carefully.
Her long, fiery red hair was splayed around her half naked body, which was bent in an awkward position. This led the detective to surmise that she was dead, or close to it, before she hit the ground. Her blue dress was torn down to her waist, exposing her ivory skin and round breasts, and her skirt was pushed up to her thigh. Her stockings were still in place, though, connected to her garter belt, so it seemed unlikely that she had been taken advantage of before her death. Or if so, she didn't put up a fight.
He bent down to take a closer look at her wounds. He lifted up her head, careful not to touch any of the blood that had pooled underneath her. Her hair was matted into the wound on the back of her skull above the base of her neck. From what he could tell the cut was jagged, as if she had not only been hit in the back of the head with a heavy object, but that the object was also sharp. It wasn't blood loss that had killed her, though, so the blow to the head must have been pretty forceful.
He stood up and picked his way carefully around the room, pleased that Newton and the other officer were respecting his need to mull things over with their silence.
Jasper's first observation was that nothing in the apartment seemed to be in disarray. The picture frames on the wall were all straight, and there was a vase of flowers in tact on the center of the small kitchen table. Clean dishes sat in the drying rack in the sink. He poked his head in the tiny bedroom and saw some piles of clothes on the bed that looked like they were being sorted for the laundry, but nothing particularly out of the ordinary. There was a jewelry box on the dresser that Jasper carefully looked through, but it was so full that some strands of pearls were spilling out of it. The state of the apartment and the presence of the jewelry ruled out robbery. He doubted there could have been anything more valuable than the pearls in the apartment.
In fact, there didn't seem to be much sign of struggle at all.
After he did his initial walk through the apartment, he returned to the front door. The lock was in tact and there didn't seem to be any visible sign that the door was forcefully opened. All evidence pointed to the fact that it was likely the victim knew her killer, or was comfortable enough to open the door to him.
He returned to inspect the area around the body to see if the killer had left behind any traces of evidence behind.
On first inspection he had seen nothing resembling footprints, hair or a murder weapon, but on his second inspection he noticed a glint of something red and glossy near the body. He bent down to retrieve what appeared to be a piece of amber. The small scrap of plastic looked familiar but he couldn't quite place it, but he gingerly picked it up and placed it in a small envelop for further inspection.
After some more searching he was satisfied with his findings, or mostly lack thereof, and finally raised his first question to Newton, who was dusting for prints.
"How often did the mayor visit Miss..."
"Victoria," Newton supplied. "The mayor never even knew her last name."
"All right then, how often did the mayor visit Miss Victoria?"
"He said it had been going on for at least four months."
"Did he tell you how he met her?"
"At the deli on Second Street."
Jasper knew the deli. It was just a block over from their current location.
"Did she work there?"
"No, she had been waiting for a friend for lunch, but the friend never showed up. She was sitting by herself and the mayor noticed her all alone and took pity on her," Newton recited.
Jasper got the feeling that he was repeating Mayor Black's words verbatim.
"When was the last time the mayor was in her company before he found her?"
"I don't know," Newton didn't seem to know much of anything other than what the mayor had probably told him voluntarily. Jasper doubted that Newton could tighten the screws on a pair of eyeglasses.
"Well, then, I'm going to need to talk to him as soon as possible."
"He's hosting a fundraiser tonight at his mansion--"
"No, no. We can't go to that, Detective. It's invitation only."
"Close your head, Newton. You're the chief of police."
Newton's eyes grew wide, but he could tell that Jasper wasn't kidding around. Jasper needed the chief to get into the party, so he changed his tactic.
"So, besides the mayor, who's on the suspect list?"
"I don't think the mayor did it," Newton tried to look confident as he questioned Jasper's assessment, but the waver in his voice gave him away.
"I'm not going to rule him out until I talk to him."
"All right, we'll go to the party," Newton resigned.
"Especially since you haven't given me any other suspects," Jasper pushed.
Talking to Newton was like pulling teeth, and Jasper Whitlock was no dentist.
"Well, the girl does have a boyfriend, James. The mayor mentioned that she was unhappy with him. He runs the hardware store downstairs, but I already spoke with him and despite what the mayor says, I- I don't think he did it."
Finally, he shows a little backbone.
"Why? You should know as well as I, Chief," he spat the title back at Newton. "It's always the boyfriend. I need to talk to him."
He turned to the quiet officer and said, "We're done here, you can take care of the body however you were planning to."
The officer nodded and Jasper stepped outside. He needed a smoke. He stood outside the apartment, his eyes scanning the outer surroundings as he heard Newton giving his lackey orders for disposing of the girl. Eventually Newton stepped outside, and together they went downstairs to the hardware store.
Since Newton had been acquainted with James prior, Jasper let him enter the store first. He crossed through the doorway and did a quick scan of the store's interior. It looked like a typical hardware store, nothing out of the ordinary. There were two man aisles, with neatly organized hand tools, boxes of nails and screws, and other hardware. Detective Whitlock ended his scan by letting his eyes stop at the blond-haired man leaning against the counter behind the cash register. He was fairly nondescript in his appearance, thin and neat. The only thing out of the ordinary was that his eyes looked a little red and puffy. Otherwise, there wasn't much sign he had been affected by his girlfriend's untimely demise. He hadn't even closed the store for the day.
"James?" Jasper asked the man.
The blond man eyed Jasper up and down, folding his arms across his chest.
"Who wants to know?"
"My name is Detective Jasper Whitlock," he flashed his credentials at the shopkeeper. "I aim to find out exactly what happened to your lady."
"I told the Law here," he nodded toward Newton. "I didn't do it. I was in the shop all morning. There were customers in here the whole time. I can give you their names."
Though he could have been lying, Jasper could not detect a sign of it. Still, there was something about the man he did not like.
"You do that, and their addresses and phone numbers if you have them. I'll need to question them as witnesses. Say, what do you know about your lady friend's relationship with Mayor Black?"
"You callin' my dame a chippy?" James stood up straighter, folding his arms across his chest.
"I'm asking the questions here," Jasper straightened in response, puffing out his chest.
"Vicki needed some extra dough. Her mother's in the hospital, needs treatment, and I don't make enough here to take care of my business and hers." He shrugged, "Mayor Black offered her a pair of C's every time she agreed to meet him."
"Do you know what time the mayor came around yesterday?"
"I think I saw his car pull up around eleven thirty, maybe noon."
Jasper knew he wasn't going to get anything else out of the standoffish man, so he took a stroll through the store while James compiled the names and information of his morning customers. The detective took a quick glance at the amber piece he took from the crime scene and tried to see if there were any tools in the store that matched its color or material.
He could find nothing that matched right away. Nevertheless, he didn't trust James; the man seemed to be omitting some information. Plus, he didn't seem too worked up that his woman had been fooling around on him with the mayor of Seattle, even if she did need the money.
If James was telling the truth, it was unlikely the mayor was the killer. That dame had been dead since mid-morning, which ruled out the mayor, unless he was simply covering his tracks. Jasper had never met Jacob Black, but by all accounts, he was a clever man.
The detective still didn't have a lot to go on, but he mulled over the pieces of evidence he did possess on the ride back to his office.
"I'll meet you at the station at seven, Newton. For the party," Jasper said as he exited the squad car, slamming the door shut before the police chief had a chance to respond.
After helping Alice close up the office, Detective Whitlock went home and took a shower. After he dried off, he dressed in his black suit, the one he reserved for weddings and funerals. A light rain was beginning to taint the otherwise pleasant evening, so he threw on a trench coat over his suit and headed toward the police station.
Newton was waiting in the lobby, pacing.
The police chief's suit was a little rumpled, but he looked presentable enough that he wouldn't stand out among the party guests. They rode in awkward silence. Detective Whitlock couldn't bring himself to make small talk with Newton, and Newton was too nervous about crashing the mayor's party to concentrate on conversation. Jasper was really starting to wonder just what was afoot in the Seattle Police Department if they willingly made this nervous Nelly their leader.
Eventually, they arrived at the mayor's mansion, and Jasper gave the keys to his car to the valet. They didn't take the squad car so as to appear incognito, but Jasper was worried that Newton's fidgeting was going to draw unwanted attention to them anyway. Frankly, Jasper didn't really care if any of the party guests knew that a detective and the Chief of Police were at the party, but Mayor Black had asked for discretion. Even though he was still on Jasper's suspect list, he didn't want to ruffle any feathers before he was compensated for his work. If the mayor did turn out to be the killer, he hoped the city would reimburse him.
They slipped in through the massive double doors of the mansion that opened into an expansive foyer. A Tiffany chandelier hung down from the ceiling, bathing the entryway in sparkling light. A dapper man in a tuxedo greeted the two men. He was about to ask for their invitations when his eyes flashed in recognition at Newton.
"Sorry, sir. I didn't know that Mayor Black had added you to the guest list."
Newton's face reddened slightly, so Jasper decided he was going to have to take matters into his own hands.
He flashed his credentials at the suited man and said in a low voice.
"This is a sensitive matter, my good man, so I trust you won't mention it to anyone, but we were asked to keep watch tonight." He lowered his voice even further, "If you catch my drift."
The butler simply nodded and said, "Please, please, come in. Let me take your coats. The ballroom is straight ahead."
Once the man was fumbling with their coats, Jasper started for the ballroom, but quickly grabbed Newton's arm and darted to the left down a hallway, when he was sure the butler could not see them. He sniffed the air and let his nose lead him to the kitchen. There were always secrets to be found in a kitchen. Wait staff usually knew more about what was going on in a house than anyone else did.
"I don't think we're allowed back here," the police chief hissed.
"Shut your trap, Newton."
Detective Whitlock swung open the door to the kitchen and nodded to the chef, who merely shrugged at the intrusion, and continued squeezing custard out of a pastry bag into what looked liked miniature pie shells. Jasper grabbed one of the filled tarts and popped it into his mouth. The chef looked stunned, but was so flustered that he didn't respond.
"Very good," Jasper nodded to him after he swallowed.
The chef looked at the detective with his jaw slack, trying to recollect himself.
Before the chef could scold him, the three men heard a noise coming from behind the backdoor of the house, which served as a second entry to the kitchen. Before the detective could investigate, a woman and a younger looking man entered from it. She was a brunette, her hair falling down her shoulder in soft waves. She appeared to be about 30, though her flushed face made her appear more youthful. As soon as her sights settled on Jasper and Chief Newton, however, her eyes narrowed and her expression hardened. The man accompanying her was slender, about Jasper's height, with green eyes and rust-colored hair that was styled in a greased up jelly roll. They were both spattered with water spots from the light rain, but their appearance looked disheveled enough for Jasper to surmise that they were up to some funny business.
"What are you doing in my kitchen, Newton?" the woman said curtly.
Ah, so this was the mayor's wife, Isabella Black. The fact that she recognized and disliked Mike Newton endeared the woman to him a little, despite her rude demeanor.
"Sorry, Mrs. B- Black," Newton stuttered out.
"We're here for protection, ma'am." Jasper broke in. He couldn't tell her the truth of their presence, because it was unlikely the mayor had told her about the day's events. Instead, he did what he did best, and covered his tracks: "Got a tip that there was going to be an art heist during the party, your husband asked for some plain clothes to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity."
He wasn't sure she bought it, but she huffed and flounced out of the room, the young man at her heels.
As soon as she was out of earshot, Jasper spoke quietly,
"Who was the cat with her?"
"They say that's the man she's been keeping on the side," Newton said, a twinge of jealousy in his voice.
Jasper rolled his eyes, and looked to the chef who simply nodded in agreement.
"He got a moniker?"
"I've never heard it."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the chef shake his head in confirmation.
"Well, find out."
Jasper exited the kitchen, with Newton as his heels like a lost puppy. They made their way into the ballroom, which was filled with Seattle's elite. Jasper patrolled the outer edge of the large, elegant room and watched the party as it got into the swing of things. Well-dressed men and women were dancing, noshing on appetizers and chatting with one another.
The mayor was nowhere to be found.
"Where do you think he is," Jasper muttered to Newton. "His office?"
Newton nodded meekly, "That seems likely."
"Let's go," Detective Whitlock was getting irritated at having to prompt Newton for their every move.
The police chief reluctantly led the detective out of the ballroom and down a hallway to a set of double doors, less ornate than those that marked the entrance of the ballroom, but still gaudy enough to match the rest of the mansion's interior.
He pressed the double doors open simultaneously, revealing a very startled mayor who was sitting behind a massive desk near the back of the room.
He took in the mayor. Even seated, Jasper could tell he was a tall man, likely taller than Jasper by a couple inches. He had dark hair, a russet complexion and strong, chiseled features. Jasper could understand how he obtained such a high ranking position; there was something powerful about his presence and demeanor that demanded respect.
Unfortunately for the mayor, Jasper Whitlock had an issue with authority, even if he had been hired by them, so he didn't beat around the bush.
"Detective Whitlock, Mayor Black," he introduced himself briefly. "I need to ask you a couple questions about the death of your mistress."
The mayor very subtly flinched at the sound of the word, "mistress."
"Can anyone vouch for your alibi this morning?"
"Of course," the Mayor regained his composure so quickly, Jasper was sure Newton didn't even notice. "I was working all morning until I took my lunch break."
"What time did you go into work?"
"Eight-thirty, like I always do."
"Can your wife verify you were home before then?"
That got him.
"Why are you asking me all these questions? I thought Vicki's boyfriend did it."
"He's on the short list."
"The short list?"
"How's your marriage, Mayor?"
"That's none of your business, Detective." He spat Jasper's title back at him.
"It is my business when the dead woman in question was your mistress."
"That's enough. I need to put in an appearance at the party," the mayor stood and straightened his suit. "Newton, get this clown out of here. I don't care how good of a detective he is, if I'm not mistaken, neither of you were on the guest list."
Jasper just gave a nod to the mayor as the man turned and left the office.
Figuring there wasn't a lot more to learn on the premises, the two men left the party. After dropping Newton back off at the station, Jasper drove home and settled in for the evening, mulling over the events of the day, but not reaching any conclusions.
The next morning, Jasper was hard at work in his office before Alice had even arrived. She was surprised to see him already there, but smiled broadly at him when she greeted him. It had been a long time since he had been so excited about a case. She went down the block to the local bakery and bought him a bear claw, his favorite. He often forgot to eat when he was wrapped up in a case.
When she waltzed back into the office with it, he beamed at her with approval. She always took such good care of him; he wondered what he would do without her.
Around nine thirty, the phone rang in the outside office.
Alice connected the phone call to Jasper's office line.
"What do you want, Newton?" Jasper said as he picked up the phone.
"How'd you know it was me?" Newton asked.
Jasper didn't humor him with a response, instead he said, "What do you got for me?"
"The man with the mayor's wife last night? His name's Masen, Edward Masen. He's a mechanic up town."
Jasper had never heard of him.
He spent the rest of the morning going over all his notes for the case and making phone calls to confirm the alibis of his two major suspects. James was still the most likely suspect, even with the customers as alibis. Jasper had called the first name on the list and the man, a carpenter, confirmed that he had spent a great deal of time in the hardware store that morning. That didn't mean that James didn't have a chance to slip out of the store for a few minutes though. It seemed as if it was only one blow to the head that did in Victoria, and since there wasn't any sign of struggle, it could have been over in less than a minute.
The problem was that James hadn't seemed to be lying. The man felt shady, for sure, but he seemed on the square to Jasper.
The mayor was the other likely contender. Detective Whitlock had only been trying to ruffle the feathers of the mayor when he spoke with him last night, just to get a feel for the man, but he sure got Mayor Black flustered when he asked about his marriage. It didn't seem to make sense for him to kill his mistress, though, when they both seemed to be gaining from the relationship. If she had threatened to tell his wife, that might have given him a motive, but since she was in it for the money, it seemed unlikely she would try to threaten the agreement. Anyway, the mayor had pretty strong alibis for that morning as well, and it wasn't likely that Victoria had been killed before or after mid-morning anyway. All the people Jasper had talked to in the mayor's office that morning assured him the mayor had been in meetings all morning. Though Black's own staff could easily have been covering for him, it was unlikely that all the people he met with that morning could have been, too.
But there was something about the mayor he just didn't trust.
So far, the only solid piece of evidence he had was the small, slick piece of amber-colored plastic. He took it out and examined it closely. It was mostly smooth and rounded, but sharp on one edge where it looked like it was a piece that had broken off of something larger. It didn't seem to belong to any common tool or piece of equipment that would be in a hardware store, nor did it seem sharp or heavy enough to cause the wound on the back of Victoria's head.
It still looked familiar to the detective, but he just couldn't place it.
Alice came into the office around noon, asking Jasper if he was ready for lunch. They often had lunch together at the deli, but when Jasper was working on a case he liked to go to the Greasy Spoon, the neighborhood hash house, for a cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate milkshake.
"How's the case coming?" Alice's melodic voice broke through his thoughts.
"Well, I've got two suspects, but so far neither seems very promising."
"Who are they?" Alice was always good to talk cases out with. She had an intuitive mind, and Jasper was pretty sure she took the job in the first place because she wanted to get into the business. If any woman could be a detective, it was Alice, so Jasper liked to include her, to give her a taste for the work.
"There's James, the chippy's boyfriend. He's the most likely. It's always the boyfriend."
"You don't seem very confident about it, though," Alice chirped.
"No, my gut's telling me he didn't do it, but he has proximity and motive."
"Jealousy?" Alice raised an eyebrow.
"He just didn't seem very jealous though."
"Well, who's your other suspect, then?"
Alice's eyes widened. She was too naïve yet not to be impressed with power.
"I know there's something he isn't telling me. He seems to have an alibi, but he has enough money to pay off people to cover his tracks. I'm not sure what his motive would have been, but I still think logistically he could have done it. Why would he phone it into Newton, though? Newton's a dunce, but he's an honest man. If he found out that the mayor did it, he'd arrest him without question."
"What's the wire on the wife?" Alice asked.
Her question seemed irrelevant to Jasper, but he humored her.
"Isabella Black? Well, I don't think she and the mayor have pushed the beds together for a while, if you catch my drift. It seems she has a greaser she keeps on the side. I get the feeling the mayor knows about it though, or they have some kind of agreement."
"If my man had a kitten on the side, I'd still be angry at him. Even if he let me keep a man on the side in return," Alice said with a confident nod.
"But, she has access to all of the mayor's money. There's no way she'd do anything to get on his bad side."
Alice shook her head slowly.
"You have it backward, Detective. Rumor has it that Mayor Black married Miss Swan for her family's oil money."
"You don't say."
Alice nodded, "She has the bees, not him."
Jasper took in the information Alice had just shared with him. It still didn't seem like enough to give her motive, but Mrs. Black was definitely becoming a more interesting piece of the puzzle. The slight woman would never have had the strength to hit Victoria in the head so forcefully, even with the help of a blunt object. Yet, at the party she had seemed somewhat hostile, and Jasper could see vengeance being a part of her M.O. Nevertheless, surely she reaped the benefits of being the mayor's wife. It didn't seem like jealousy could have been enough a motive to ruin what she had going for her, and anyway, she had male attention on the side.
Jasper mused his reasoning to Alice.
Alice shrugged but didn't say anything in response.
They finished their lunch and began to walk back to the office. They stepped into the crosswalk at an intersection but had to jump back onto the sidewalk as a car sped through the intersection without obeying the stop sign.
"Hoodlums," Jasper muttered as he turned to Alice. "Are you all right?"
Alice assented, but her eyes were still wide with shock.
Once they got back to the office, Jasper sat down at his desk and tried to think about his lunch conversation with Alice, but his mind kept going back to the car that almost hit them on the way home.
Then, it came to him.
He knew where he had seen the amber he found at the crime scene.
"Alice," he called out to his loyal assistant.
He could almost see her jumping up from her chair, and a few moments later, she danced into the office, her hips swaying in a delicious rhythm.
"Yes, Detective?" She sounded as if she was feeding off the excitement in Jasper's voice.
"Can you get Newton on the phone for me? Please?" he added.
"Of course," she turned and walked out of the room.
Jasper could have sworn she pushed her rear out a little as she left. Even if it wasn't on purpose, Jasper took a second to appreciate her curves.
Shortly thereafter, the phone rang with the transferred call.
"I think I've got a lead, do you know where this Masen's repair shop is?"
"It's on Washington, between Second and Third," Newton surprised Jasper with his ability to provide him the information.
"I think we need to pay him a visit. Pick me up in your squad car. Twenty minutes."
He hung up the phone, not caring whether Newton gave his assent or not.
When the squad car pulled up exactly 19 minutes later, Jasper was waiting outside. He climbed into the passenger seat unceremoniously.
"You'd better not pull another stunt like you did with the mayor last night," Newton's voice had a touch of whine to it.
"Cool it, Newton. Don't worry about it. I'll make nice with the mayor."
"So, you don't think he did it, then?"
"No, his alibi's pretty clean, and the motive just isn't there."
"You think this Masen has any information?"
"Well, he's obviously close with the mayor's wife."
"Isabella? You don't think?" Newton gasped.
"Dames aren't all flowers and sunshine. I can tell the broad has a mean streak in her."
"But she's so beautiful," Newton mused.
The detective rolled his eyes.
"Beauty can be deadly," Jasper responded. "But I don't have anything to go on, just a hunch that she wouldn't have been at all displeased by the death of her husband's lover."
They passed by the hardware store they had visited the previous morning, before reaching the mechanic's garage a few blocks away. Jasper told the police chief to park around the corner, out of eyesight. The two men climbed out of the car, but Jasper urged Newton to stay behind.
"Newton, you wait outside. Stay out of sight. I'll whistle if I need you. Keep your roscoe ready."
Jasper pushed through the front door of the mechanic's shop and into a small office connected to the garage. No one was behind the desk, so he walked through the interior doorway into the work area. He saw a pair of legs sticking out from under a bright turquoise 1951 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe.
"You Masen?" Whitlock called out loudly.
The man rolled out from under the car on a creeper. It was definitely the same man who had been in the company of the mayor's wife at the party last night.
"Who wants to know?" the mechanic said standoffishly, as he stood, wiping his greasy hands off on his coveralls.
"You were working here yesterday morning?" Jasper cut to the chase. He couldn't tell if the man recognized him from their brief encounter last night or not.
"You writin' a book or somethin'?" the mechanic snarled back.
"No, I just want to know your hours for future reference."
"Yeah," Masen raised an eyebrow at Jasper, giving Jasper a sign that he needed to start backpedaling, but the mechanic continued. "We're open nine to five, Monday through Friday."
"Ever take drop offs on a Saturday?"
"Well, I live above the shop, so if I'm here I could probably arrange something." As he spoke, he jerked his head over to a door in the back that must have lead up the stairs to his digs.
Jasper nodded. So, Edward Masen lived in the area, and only two blocks away from James' hardware store and the crime scene. This was starting to get a bit too coincidental. Jasper circled around the car that was raised up on jack stands.
"Nice looking car you've got here."
"This Chieftain got bent out of shape in an accident. I bought it from Jackson's Junkyard, been fixing it up for a year now. Almost finished."
"A Pontiac Chieftain," Jasper murmured, turning the word over slowly.
"You don't know cars?" the hood questioned with a snicker.
"Well, I was going to say that from the body this looks like a '51 Chieftain Deluxe, but it seems to be missing the hood ornament."
"Yeah, uh..." Masen trailed off. "I still need to reattach it."
"So you have it?"
Then he saw it out of the corner of his eye on the work bench.
"Oh, good," Jasper nodded with approval, the hood ornament was from a Deluxe model, with an amber chieftain's face under a chrome metal Indian headdress. "It's nice to see the amber face. I'd hate to see a full chrome ornament on a Chieftain Deluxe."
He started to approach the work bench to take a closer look when Edward stepped in his path.
"Why are you so interested in the business of hood ornaments, Whitlock?"
So, Edward Masen did know who Jasper was.
"When they're used to kill an innocent woman, I make it my business."
Edward's eyes went wide and wild, but before he could move, Detective Whitlock pushed the barrel of his gun into the mechanic's gut.
"Let me see it," he hissed.
Edward shuddered, but walked backward to the workbench and Jasper followed him forward, the gun still shoved into the mechanic's middle. As they reached the workbench, Jasper could see it clearly. It was a large chrome hood ornament, consisting mostly of the large flat piece of chrome metal that stood up sharply into the air. With enough force behind the swing, it was definitely blunt enough to strike a deadly blow to the back of someone's head. Attached under the headdress was the plastic, amber face of an Indian chief tilting up toward the sky. When attached to the hood, it would light up when the car was turned on. Jasper squinted and took a closer look at the Indian's face, and sure enough, a piece of its chin was broken off.
"You seem to be missing a piece of your Indian chief's face there?"
"Yeah," Masen squeaked. "The car was banged up pretty bad, like I said."
It was obvious that Detective Whitlock was not impressed.
"Well, that's funny," Jasper snarled. "Because I have a piece of amber that looks like it could be a perfect fit."
He pulled it out of his inside jacked pocket, with his free hand, and held it up to the chipped hood ornament.
It was a perfect fit.
"You know where I found this, Masen?"
The man trembled against Jasper's gun, but said nothing.
"Next to a dead woman's head."
At that moment he grabbed the mechanic's left arm and spun him around. With the gun now pointed at the man's back, Jasper used his free hand to snap the handcuff around his left wrist, and held the connecting chain in the same hand with his gun while he snapped the second cuff around Edward's right wrist. He swung his leg out, kicking the suspect behind his knees until they buckled down to a kneeling position.
"Why'd you do it, Masen?" he hissed at his ear.
Edward Masen knew gig was up.
"He hurt her," he growled. "He took her for granted. He only wanted her money. He never appreciated her."
"But, she had you," Jasper responded. "That doesn't seem fair to me. Why shouldn't he be allowed to keep a skirt on the side?"
"James," Edward spat the name.
"How do you know James?" Jasper hadn't expected this.
"He's been givin' me the business since Junior High. He'd come down here, brag about how the mayor preferred his girl to mine, but I showed him. I showed them both."
The fire in his voice was clear, but his words were starting to get incoherent, Jasper jerked him up to his feet and whistled for Newton.
Just as he heard Newton open the front door of the shop's office, the door to the upstairs apartment swung open and out stepped a brunette in a housecoat and curlers, calling out for "Eddie."
It was the mayor's wife.
"Get her!" Jasper bellowed and the police chief raced toward the slight woman, grabbing her arms behind her back before she could make it back up the stairs in escape.
"Cuff her!" Jasper shouted.
Even though he looked stunned by his own quick actions, luckily, Newton complied.
"You were in on this too, weren't you Mrs. Black?" Jasper called to the squirming woman.
"Jacob never loved me!" Mrs. Black was shouting. "He just wanted my family's money! He never wanted me."
Tears began to stream down her face as her cries of anger were reduced to sobs.
Whitlock and Newton dragged the two conspirators out of the shop and toward the squad car. The air between the two men was one of congratulatory silence. Jasper had Newton drop him off at the office before taking the two lovers to be booked.
His work here was done.
Alice stood with him outside as Detective Whitlock watched Newton's squad car pull away with Masen and Mrs. Black both handcuffed in the back seat, off to the big house.
He had been right all along.
It was always the boyfriend.