When Clement arrived at his office twelve hours later, he half-expected to see Jeff still reading the newspaper and sitting with his feet propped on the bottom drawer. Instead the office was empty and it was nearly as dark as Aaron’s had been. Switching on the lights, Clement took out a filter, measured ground coffee, and began the lengthy process of brewing enough to fill the large canister. He sat down at his desk while he waited for the first batch to drip through and pushed the button on the answering machine.
“I know you told me you don’t sell those sausages with the peppers and the olives but I called all over town and nobody else does either. I had them before somewhere. Is there any way you could track them down and order me some? I’d be happy to pay you extra for your trouble. Call me back at 555-0127.”
“This message is for Mr. Powell. This is Mrs. Lamb. Thanks again for your visit to our school and for taking such an interest in the children. I received your voice-mail and I would very much like to meet with you to discuss your perspective on the challenges sensitive children face in our classrooms. It’s always nice to get input from members of our community. I’m free most weekdays after 3:30 p.m.”
“Clement, I’m really sorry about yesterday. I guess I’ve been kind of a jerk for a while. I haven’t been a very good friend, have I? I probably haven’t been very nice to Mari either. I called her and tried to apologize but she didn’t answer. Anyway, if you could call a lawyer when you get this message I’d really appreciate it. You know, like Perry Mason? The thing is somebody killed Aaron Whittaker last night. They killed him with a shovel. All the guns in this town and somebody uses a shovel. How weird is that? But it gets even weirder. The cops think I did it. Is that nuts? I wouldn’t kill anybody. Yeah, I was jealous about him and Mari and I told you I went to see him last night but I wouldn’t kill him. I mean, you’re the one who was talking about beating people to death. Right? Hey, I gotta go. Okay? Call somebody good, huh?”
The number “two” flashed on the answering machine. Clement dumped eight sugars and some milk into his travel mug before filling it from the freshly brewed pot. The lights flickered as he pushed the switch down then changed his mind and pushed it back up.

On television, the rooms in which people wait to be taken to talk with friends or loved ones who’ve been arrested are filled with seedy-looking couches and seedier-looking hookers. The magazines, if there are any, are old and dog-eared. The coffee was made last week and although it’s strong that strength is gained by dissolving and absorbing stirring spoons. The room in which Clement now sat was nothing like this; it reminded him of the business traveler’s lounge at a large metropolitan airport. Carefully arranged coffee-table books had been selected to compliment the deep-red leather sectional sofas, the birds-eye maple furnishings, and the café au lait carpet and valances. The woman who came toward him, hand extended in greeting, was also fashionably if conservatively dressed. Her hand was cool and soft and when she spoke her voice was too.
“Are you Mr. Powell?” Clement nodded. “I’m so glad you could come. Mr. Matthews is very upset. His attorney isn’t here yet and he hasn’t been able to reach his girlfriend.”
“The attorney I got and he’s on his way. The girlfriend is gonna be a little tougher to pull.”
“Mr. Matthews is under the impression she may have left town, that she may have left him.”
“Can I tell you something and you’ll keep it just between the two of us?”
“Of course. I don’t work for Mr. Matthews; I work for everyone.”
“Let’s just say then that Mr. Matthews hasn’t been acting in an exactly rational manner lately. Let’s also say that his impressions about his girlfriend aren’t off-base.”
“Do you know where she is? Can you contact her for him?”
“The answers are ‘no’ and ‘I wouldn’t if I could’.”
“I see. It’s like that?”
“It’s exactly like that.”
“Not quite the kind who’d do anything to help a friend, Mr. Powell?” A short man in a dark gray chalk-striped suit had come through a door while Clement and the woman were talking.
“I happen to believe that preventing someone who isn’t thinking clearly from doing something they’ll regret later is helping a friend.”
The man in the gray suit grunted. “You say you got him a lawyer?”
“That’s right.”
“Who is it?”
“Malcolm Case.”
“He’s no Ben Matlock but he’s better than somebody you could have found by sticking the Yellow Pages with a pin.”
“Why, thank you.”
“Did you know the victim?”
“I knew of him. I heard about him a lot and I met him once.”
“When was that?”
“Last night about eight.”
“How was he when you saw him?”
“In pain. He had a migraine. He drank some coffee and it seemed to be getting better.”
“If that’s true it got a lot worse after you left. You have anything pressing you wanted to say to Mr. Matthews?”
“Not really.”
“Then let’s go.” He turned to the woman who had been following their conversation as one might a ping pong match. “Tell Matthews his attorney is on the way and I’ll be back. I want to take Mr. Powell over to the scene to get some initial impressions and thoughts before the place gets any more tracked up.” He started toward the door Clement had come through what seemed like moments before.
“Why are you taking me? How do you know I didn’t do it?” Clement took several quick steps to catch up.
“The person who did this was passionate, crazy or both. You’ll understand more when you see the place but I could tell as soon I heard you talking with Sylvia that this was not something you could have done.”
“To put it bluntly: you think too much, you analyze things. The person who killed Mr. Whittaker went in there on a mission; they were fired up and intended to have satisfaction. You’d never kill like that. It would have to be a spur of the moment thing. Maybe somebody would push you too far and you’d wrench off their Doc Marten and beat them to death with it.” He chuckled and Clement turned to look at him. “Yes, Mr. Matthews told me about the little trick he played on you yesterday. He had motive, he had opportunity, he had the means, and he’s just close enough to the edge to have slipped over it last night then caught hold and dragged himself back up this morning.”
“The tinted windows you have on your cars- do they keep you from seeing out or only keep other people from seeing in?”
“They couldn’t keep us from seeing out. It wouldn’t be safe for one thing plus we wouldn’t be aware of what’s going on around us. Why?”
“I was just hoping they did. I’ve seen enough of the neighborhood around that office to last me a lifetime.”
“You’re not the one at work; you don’t have to keep your eyes open. Sit back, close your eyes, and pretend you’re going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. Of course, when you get there you’ll find out someone decapitated Grandma last night while you were asleep.”
“Is that what happened? Someone decapitated him with a shovel?”
“I’m not saying any more about it until you’re there. Be a good boy. Close your eyes. Enjoy the ride.”
Clement closed his eyes and rested his head against the cushioned seat. The words “elephants”, “paint”, and “multi-vitamins” began chasing each other around in his brain. “Hibachi” joined them. Then they were all replaced by “re-agent” and “reducing sugar”. “What did you say about a hibachi?” Clement sat up and realized he had made a small puddle of drool on the car window.
“You were really out. The hibachi was awhile ago.”
“Sorry.” Clement looked at the puddle then at his sleeve. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and dried the window.
“Look, you’ve made a clean place.”
“I was asking if you’d ever heard of Benedict’s Solution?”
“No. I don’t play chess.”
“It sounds like chess, doesn’t it? It’s a chemical though. They use it to test for sugar in a solution. My grandma used it in the old days to see how much candy she could eat.”
“Yeah. This was before the blood-testing machines.”
“Wow. Decapitation and urine all in the same morning.”
“Perk of the job.”
“So, why were you asking?”
“They found some in Whittaker’s desk.”
“Don’t know.”
“Any idea what he did in there? I don’t remember seeing any signs and there was nothing on the door. He had an old coal mining shovel. The only reason I know that is he told me not to knock over his dad’s shovel and as I was leaving I kicked it.”
“Weird heirloom.”
“Assay office?”
“You mean filing mining claims and like that?”
“Not many new mines starting. Even if he inherited the business he’d have to be doing something on the side.”
“Maybe he inherited the money that went along with it. Maybe he got a couple of old mines that were still producing from his dad along with the shovel.”
“Maybe. More likely he’s been using the office for something else.”
“What? Smuggling?”
“Possible. This would be a tough time to be doing any smuggling. The TSA has really clamped down on what people can ship. It would have to be something that’d make you a lot of money and that would be so sought after people would be willing to take the risk.”
Clement smacked the arm-rest. “I’ve got it!”
“Blow-up dolls to the Middle East.”
“You serious?”
“Not a bad idea for a racket though. I like the way you think.” He pulled into the same parking spot Clement and Jeff had used on their trip to the offices. “You ever see a guy without his head?”
“Not the Hollywood smoke and mirrors guy loses his head to a chainsaw. I mean have you ever seen a real guy or a real anything without its head?”
“A roasted chicken. The Thanksgiving turkey.”
“That’s what I thought. We can take it slow.” He opened the door and stepped out of the car.
A man by the door of the building spotted him and started walking over. “Hey, Buzz. I figured we’d see you around here sooner or later. How’s it going?”
“It’s going, Jim. This is Clement. He knows the guy we got in the room and he met and talked with the victim not long before he probably got it.”
“That’s rough.”
Clement eased himself from the car and smoothed his jacket down. “Is there any coffee around?”
Jim came forward and clapped him on the back. “Sure thing, Columbo. Right this way.”
Clement stood beside a window on the third floor holding his cup with both hands. The window was not the one in Aaron’s office which faced the street and the traffic; this window looked the opposite way toward the area that was still fields. In one of the fields, he could see a small gray shape beside a patch of dandelions. The creature tore some of the yellow flowers from their stems and chewed them thoughtfully before returning for another mouthful. Chew, swallow, repeat. Chew, swallow, repeat.
“Sometimes I think I’m in an endless loop just like that goat. Work, sleep, repeat. Work, sleep, repeat.”
“His life doesn’t look so bad. He doesn’t pay taxes. He comes and goes as he pleases. Butting his head into things that bother him actually makes a difference.”
“I wonder what it’s like being a goat in a field and seeing all the places you used to eat dandelions being paved over or having offices dropped onto them.”
“That’s a domesticated goat,” Buzz said. “He doesn’t get around much anyway, probably doesn’t care.”
“I bet he does care. I bet he doesn’t like looking at these things any more than we do.”
“Come on, it’s not like he was a mountain goat and he was used to scaling the Alps or roaming around the Rocky Mountains. For all we know, he thinks this thing is a mountain and he’s mad because he can’t get loose and come over here and climb the side of it.”
“It’s not good for us. Not for goats and not for people.”
“What isn’t?”
“Being penned up, having to look at so many other people or other goats or big piles of stone you can’t climb up and you can’t jump over.”
“You seemed like the real civilized type to me. The kind that likes his indoor plumbing and his dry cleaners and his refrigeration.”
“But too much civilization makes people act uncivilized. They do crazy things: shooting people, mugging people, assaulting them with containers of grape jelly.”
“Yeah, I bet you see all kinds in the chicken strip sales business.” Clement laughed and finished his coffee.
“Sorry. Probably preaching to the choir, huh?”
“A little.”
“What was it like in there?” Clement jerked his head towards the office.
“I’m not gonna lie to you and tell you it’s pretty but it’s also not the worst thing I’ve seen. I’m not gonna tell you what that was so don’t even ask.”
“I wasn’t going to.”
“You only met the guy once, right?”
“Then maybe it won’t be too bad. If it really starts getting to you, you can come back out here and keep an eye on your new friend.”
Clement followed Buzz across the hall to the door of Aaron’s office which was standing open. The shovel was gone. The chair he had sat in the night before while discussing the future King David’s motivations was broken and tagged. As Clement looked around he noted that nothing else was as he had remembered it either. Had he been in this room with the lights on? He and Aaron had talked by the streetlight filtering through the blinds. Yes, he had left a note on Aaron’s desk the day Dolores had caught him so he must have seen this room. “There was a painting on that wall.”
“Yeah, it was a painting of Aaron, the man who had this office, and he was looking very much like one of those old lumber barons.”
“The Robber Barons.”
“Exactly. I thought at the time that it was funny someone that young would be so arrogant. Maybe it was confidence.”
“You know anything about a painting?” Buzz asked a guy with a brush.
“Yeah, somebody found a big frame down in the dumpster. It could have had a painting in it before they tore it up.”
“Did you find out any more about what he did here? I mean, while I was out in the hall.”
“The guys found some of what looks like coal but also some kind of orangey rocks, some blue ones and some green ones. We don’t know anything about rocks so we’ll have somebody that does give us a report.”
“Why would they ruin the painting?”
“Maybe they took it down looking for a safe and it happened that way or maybe they didn’t find a safe and they were ticked off and vented their uncivilized feelings on the painting.”
“Do you think that’s why he was killed?”
“Nah.” It was the man with the brush. “Whoever did that came along after he was dead or maybe didn’t even know he was in here and found the door standing open and decided to take advantage of it.”
Clement remembered Aaron saying something about excusing himself and encouraging Clement to take advantage of his absence. “Where is he?”
Buzz came to stand beside him. “You sure you’re ready?”
“I’m probably more ready than he was.”
“Yeah, there’s that.”
Clement walked to the window, tracing the path he’d taken the night before. When he reached the side of the desk, he looked down. “Holy crap! That’s a lot of blood.”
“That’s what I thought, too.”
“Is that the usual amount when someone’s head gets cut off?”
“I’ve only seen one of these before now myself. I asked somebody else and he said he thought it was a lot. Maybe some people lose blood faster than others. Some people got high blood pressure and that doesn’t help.”
“It was the coffee.”
“He told me people should drink coffee if they have a migraine because it constricts the blood vessels and keeps the pain from getting through.”
“It might constrict your blood vessels but it’s also going to raise your heart rate and as soon as the circuit gets cut-” Buzz looked apologetically at Clement.
“It’s a lot more okay than I thought it would be. He’s not still here and that makes it easier.”
“No, they moved him out of here real quick as soon as they got things marked. The rug would be outta here too but I wanted you to be able to look around and see what you remembered.”
“So, this is where they found him?”
“That’s just about where he was when I left last night.”
“That tells us something then.”
“Either he was really attached to that spot on the floor and he went back to it after he got up or-“
“Or else he didn’t get up to let the person in because they had a key.”
“Who would have a key? Or who could get a key?” They were back in the hallway beside the window that looked out on the goat. Two men wearing coveralls and gloves walked into the office then one stuck his head back out.
“Okay if we take the rug now?”
“You wanna look around in there any more?”
“I don’t think I’m gonna remember anything else standing there. I’m not sure I’ve been any help at all.”
Buzz nodded to the man in the doorway. “Yeah. Thanks for waiting on it.”
“No problem. We’re on the clock.”
“Mari’s out of town. She made a copy of the key to Aaron’s office while they were still together.”
“According to who?”
“According to Jeff. He didn’t say she made more than one copy though and supposedly I had that solitary copy last night when I unlocked the door and talked with him.”
“Heads up!” The two men in coveralls had the rug hoisted on their shoulders like a pig going to a luau.
“You guys are fast.”
“Takes practice.”
“Like putting on a condom.”
Buzz watched them carry the rug as far as the elevator then turned back to Clement. “So, you had a key and Mari may have had a key. Did Jeff have a key?”
“Not unless Mari gave one to him too. Or maybe he made a copy before he gave the key to me.”
“Okay, you, Jeff, and Mari. Who else?”
“Mr. Gomez or somebody else on the cleaning crew had one or they couldn’t get in to clean this office.”
“You think they’d clean if they thought Whittaker was gonna be gone for a couple of days?”
“Maybe not. Probably not. He said last night that the crew was competent but not impressive or something like that. He also said they’d never get anybody better as long as Dolores was in the building because she was so protective of Mr. Gomez and minority rights.”
“Did Dolores have a key?”
Clement leaned his head against the cool window and closed his eyes. “She came running up to me as I was getting off the elevator. We talked about what I was doing here. She insisted that I talk to someone else on this floor and she decided that person was Aaron. We knocked on the door and he wasn’t here and then-. Yes! She has to have a key. She let me into his office and made me write him a note. I wrote the note on his desk so we must have gone at least as far in as that.”
“Let’s get out of here.”
“So that gives us you, Jeff, Mari, Dolores, and somebody from the custodial team who probably was further from the office than any of the rest of you.”
“Why, Buzz. I believe you’re a cynic.”
“I’m a skeptic; it’s not quite the same.” They were sitting at a long table that appeared to be several picnic tables shoved together and covered with a large piece of oil-cloth.
“Why are we having lunch here at Judy’s? I mean, I understand it’s lunchtime but why bring me here?”
“I like to have a big juicy burger for lunch; it gives me a good excuse for a nap or a coffee break around four o’clock. Somehow I wasn’t really in the mood for a burger today. Plus I remembered what you’d said about being in the neighborhood around the office and I figured you’d like to get as far away as possible. Staying in the same city, of course.”
“Of course. Restrooms are where?”
“Over there in the corner and they’re guaranteed to be immaculate until you use them.”
“I see my reputation precedes me.”
“Yes. You want a Caesar salad, no anchovies, extra croutons?”
“Did Jeff tell you that too?”
“No. That’s how I order mine.”
It took Clement longer than he had expected to get back to the table from the bathroom. Judy’s was the kind of place he would never have gone on his own. There was a gift shop selling canned seafood and T-shirts with messages like “Judy gave me crabs”. Old toys, clothes, and furniture hung from the walls and ceiling of the dining room and more items were tucked into the rafters. Postcards- from loving couples describing honeymoons at Niagara Falls or from car dealerships congratulating buyers on the one-year anniversary of their purchase or from visitors extolling the beauty of Ames, Iowa rested under the glass table-tops. Clement felt eyes on the back of his head and stopped examining a candy-apple-red Duncan Imperial yo-yo. Buzz was watching him and he nodded his head at the two salads and coffee.
“Wow! That was fast.”
“No, you were slow. It’s all right though.”
“I had one like that when I was a kid.”
“A red one?”
“Yeah. I didn’t realize they made them in any other color but I guess they must have.”
“Took me six months of wheedling, cajoling, and bargaining to get my mom to buy me one. Coincidentally, she gave in a week before my birthday.”
“Coincidentally, huh?”
“Did you have one?”
“Not like that. I had a glow-in-the-dark Butterfly.”
“One of those tricky guys.”
“You got it.” He waited while Clement added cream and sugar to his coffee. “I did some checking while you were gone.”
“Aaron Whittaker was diabetic. That’s why he had the Benedict’s Solution in his desk.”
“It couldn’t have been used for anything else? No mineral tests or anything?”
“The one and only use according to my people is detecting the presence of glucose in a solution. In this case, that solution was urine.”
“If he was diabetic, why didn’t he use one of those blood-testing machines? Your grandmother used Benedict’s but that was before they had the newer technology. Right?”
“Maybe Whittaker didn’t like needles. Some people are like that. My sister became diabetic while she was pregnant and had to stick herself in the finger about eight times a day. Her hands shook so much the first time she did it that I thought she was gonna stick my brother in law instead but she finally got the hang of it. I guess some people never do.”
“I’d have a hard time doing it. But maybe he had the stuff for somebody else. Mari maybe?”
“I don’t think so because his fear of needles might also explain the coffee.”
“What about it?”
“You said Whittaker was lying in the dark and he had a thermos of coffee. That’s a very old-fashioned way of treating a migraine. Most people would take some kind of pill.”
“I thought I heard some of those things can give you a heart attack.”
“Yeah. It’s rare but I guess it happens.”
“So maybe he wanted to be out of pain but he didn’t want to take a chance on being dead. Makes sense.”
“Yeah, but there’s other ways of dealing with a migraine. Frank, the gentleman with the very tasteful prophylactic comment, goes to the doctor and gets a shot of Demerol. It knocks him out for a day but if he’s got a migraine he’s not gonna be much use to anybody anyway.”
“But that’s a shot.”
“That’s right. It’s another needle Whittaker was trying to avoid. I think it adds credibility to the idea that he was the diabetic and that solution belonged to him.”
“Let’s say that’s right and he was diabetic. How does that get us any closer to knowing who killed him? He was killed with a shovel, right? That could have happened to anybody. If you’re gonna kill him by cutting his head off then it doesn’t matter whether he was diabetic or not, does it? I mean, if you knew he was a hemophiliac and you wanted to make sure there was a better chance of him being dead before anybody found him then cutting off his head would be a good idea.”
“You say that so calmly.”
“That’s because I’m not thinking about it being Aaron who sat on the floor and lectured me on good and evil. I’m pretending this is one of those cold case shows on TV and I’m trying to figure out who did it before the hour is up.”
“You don’t strike me as the kind of person who watches a lot of TV.”
“I don’t. I don’t watch those shows either but I’ve heard a lot about them. And I do love ‘Murder, She Wrote’.” Both men laughed and Buzz signaled for more coffee. The waitress refilled their cups and Buzz watched Clement put in the milk and four sugars.
“You always put in four sugars?”
“Pretty much.”
“Good thing you’re not diabetic. Do you like coffee?”
“I like caffeine.”
“Why don’t you have a Coke?”
“Because you ordered coffee.”
“Did Whittaker take sugar in his coffee?”
“I don’t know.”
“You said he had some in a thermos.”
“Yes, and he offered me some but I turned it down.”
“Did you see any food in the office?”
“No, but it was dark except for the light coming in through the blinds.”
“Did you smell any food?”
“No. I wasn’t expecting to smell any. Before you say it, yes I do know you can experience something without expecting to but I wasn’t expecting to and I don’t remember any.”
“Let’s make this the last cup. Your friend, Jeff, claims to have been in the office and to have left Whittaker alive. Maybe he saw or smelled something.”

“Well, you can sure tell who your supposed friends are and who’s being paid to talk to you. My lawyer was here hours ago. Where were you? Out eating lunch? You know what I had for lunch?” They were sitting in a light-blue room the size of a guest bedroom. Clement and Buzz were on one side of the table, Jeff was across from them. All three of them had coffee and Jeff’s agitation, the slight tremor in his hands, and the half-dozen paper cups empty and discarded at his feet clearly showed this was not his first of the day. Buzz nodded at Clement.
“Yeah, funny thing about that, Jeff, because we wanted to talk to you about food. Well, food and Aaron.”
Jeff thumped the table and some of the coffee sloshed from his cup. “I’m tired of talking about Aaron. Do you realize all I’ve done all day is talk about Aaron? I’ve never talked about anybody so much in my life. And, like I said before, where the hell were you? Where’s Mari?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is she okay? Is she dead somewhere too?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, don’t you think somebody ought to find out? Like maybe me since I’m her boyfriend? I am still her boyfriend, right?”
“Yes. If you haven’t heard from her then just assume everything’s okay between the two of you.”
“Oh no no. You know better than that. Even you know better than that. You can’t just assume that because a woman hasn’t said there’s something wrong then there’s nothing wrong.”
Buzz leaned forward. “Jeff, I understand you’re probably very tired of talking about Aaron Whittaker-“
“You got that right.”
“But we need to talk about him a little more. Just a little and then we’ll leave you alone and we’ll put some people to work looking for your girlfriend.”
“I don’t want some people to go looking for her. I need to do the looking because I’m the one that knows her. She’s my girlfriend. I’ve got to get out of here. I can’t do anything while I’m in here. I can’t find Mari. I can’t sell any chicken strips. Who am I kidding? I wasn’t selling chicken strips anyway. My life is a black abyss and it’s just spiraling downwards.” He sat down at the table again, folded his arms and laid his head down on them. Buzz nodded at Clement.
“Jeff, I know you wanna get out of here but the thing is right now this is the safest place for you to be.”
“Oh yeah, and why is that?” Jeff lifted his head and glared at Clement.
“Well, to put it bluntly, they think you killed Aaron. You said you were in his office-“ He held up a hand to quiet Jeff and continued, “I know what you’re gonna say, ‘he was alive’. That means you were probably the last person to see him that way except for the person who killed him.”
“I didn’t see him alive or dead because I wasn’t in his office last night.”
“Your car was spotted in the parking lot about ten,” Buzz said.
“Yeah, I went over there. I parked in the parking lot. I walked around the building.”
“Because I thought about how I felt when I told you we didn’t have to worry about the pictures and the truth is I felt really good. I thought maybe I actually could go over and talk to him and ask him to leave us alone.”
“You didn’t like him still talking to Mari all the time, you were the last one in his office and you could easily have made a copy of the key before you gave one to me.”
“I didn’t kill him. I didn’t even go in. I started to go in but everything was dark and I got scared and left.”
“I hear you but you being there at ten makes you the likeliest suspect. What you also have to understand is that makes you the likeliest target.”
“Target for what?”
Buzz stood up, walked to the wall, and walked back to the table. “Let’s assume you didn’t kill Aaron Whittaker.”
“Yeah, let’s assume that since it happens to be true.”
“If you didn’t kill him then somebody else did since even someone with a migraine would have a hard time committing suicide by decapitating himself with a shovel.”
“As long as we’re focusing on you then the person who really killed him thinks they’re gonna be okay.”
“And if they think they’re gonna be okay then they’ll go out and do something stupid and then you can catch them. I watch TV, ya know. There’s a problem with your plan though.”
“Jeff is right. There is a problem.”
“Thank you, Clement. I thought maybe having lunch with this guy made you go clear over to the other side.”
“Shut up, Jeff. The problem is something like that only works if the person who was murdered got killed for the insurance. They figure someone else got busted for the crime and they wait a little while and think they’re home free and then they start spending the money and bam!” Clement hit the table and Jeff startled. “But there’s no indication anybody killed Aaron for the insurance. We don’t even know if he had insurance. We don’t even know why anyone killed him or would want to kill him.”
“That brings us back to you,” Buzz said. “You’re the only one with a motive. A bunch of people- definitely more than I’d like- had the opportunity and the means was right there in the office. You are the only one who’d be better off because you wouldn’t have to worry about sharing or losing your girlfriend.”
“But I wasn’t worried. She’d been talking to Aaron all along so why would I get worried and kill him now?”
“Wait a minute! We don’t know if there was any insurance but there is somebody who might have had a reason to kill him for money.”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t know about any-“
Clement stood up and leaned over to Buzz. “I’ve got an idea but if I just spring it on Jeff without giving him any warning first he’ll come unglued.”
“What are you guys talking about?”
“Is there any way you can leave us alone for just a minute and then come back in? Maybe get us some more coffee?”
“You’re that sure about him?” Clement nodded. Buzz sighed and said, “I could use another cup right about now. Anybody else?”
“I might have had enough,” Jeff said.
“I second that. My eyeballs are about to start floating.”
“All right, coffee for one.”
Clement sat down at the table and Jeff grabbed his arm. “Where’s Mari?”
“I told you I don’t know.”
“Do you know why she left?”
“I don’t know anything except Buzz is gonna come back in a minute and I’m going to have to tell him something you don’t want to hear.”
“It’s about Mari, isn’t it?”
“You think she killed Aaron.”
“I don’t think anything. I’ve got no idea if she killed him or if she didn’t.”
“How can you say that? You know her. You’ve been with us for hours. You can’t tell me that in all the time we spent together you saw anything that would make you think she’d cut someone’s head off with a shovel. She’s not even that big.”
“You can do anything if you get enough leverage. If there really was money involved that’s even more reason.” Buzz had returned with his coffee.
“I don’t want to believe that Mari killed him any more than you do but if you didn’t kill him and she had a good reason then we have to look at everything.”
Buzz sat down and sipped his coffee. “Tell me about this money. It’s not insurance?”
“Mari, wouldn’t get any insurance. They weren’t even together any more.”
“No, this isn’t guaranteed like that; it’s more of a gamble than anything. Jeff, you remember the pieces of paper we’ve been finding?”
“Yeah, there was one of a beehive and one of a cat and then the one I found yesterday.”
“Right. When I had lunch with those two boys yesterday the older one explained what we were looking at.”
“How did he do that?”
“Because he’s a really smart kid who’s insufficiently challenged. If I ever get out of here I’m gonna go see his teacher and the principal and maybe we can get things fixed. Anyway, he explained what was on the paper and he told me about something called the Millennium Prize.”
“What the hell is that?”
Buzz whistled. “It’s a million dollars and international fame.”
“For doing what?”
“Solving one of the six math problems on the list.”
“Math problems? Like what?”
Clement reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a sheet of paper folded lengthwise. “Proving or disproving the hypothesis that all nontrivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function have a real part of ½.”
“And you think Mari had something to do with that?”
“There’s no way in hell.”
“She’s the one who was working on the other things we found. Those pieces of paper were notes she jotted down.”
“She got those from Aaron Whittaker. She had to have gotten them from him.”
“Because Mari wasn’t that smart. She isn’t that smart. I guess I should watch how I say things. After all, I’m already in here for one murder.”
“How do you know she wasn’t very smart? Did you ask her?”
“Did I ask her? I didn’t have to ask her. If it wasn’t on Oprah, Dr. Phil, or ‘Entertainment Tonight’, she didn’t know about it. She could barely walk and carry on a conversation at the same time. I told you how she nearly blinded me with the perfume.”
“You just knew, huh? Or maybe you assumed like everybody assumed Aaron was married. He wasn’t, by the way.”
“Okay, so he wasn’t really married. Why am I on trial here?”
“There were no pictures either, Jeff.”
“Well, if you knew there weren’t any pictures how come you spent so much time trying to get me to go in and get them back?”
“I didn’t say I knew there weren’t any pictures. You just told me there weren’t any pictures and I said, ‘Okay’ as in ‘That’s very interesting. Thank you for enlightening me. When can I get the hell out of here?’ Like that.”
Buzz turned his chair around and straddled it. “I understand this may be a hard thing for you to think about but is there any way you can imagine- no matter how dense you think she may be- your girlfriend killing Aaron Whittaker?”
“No, of course not.”
“Not for a million dollars?”
“No! She wasn’t very smart but she wasn’t stupid enough to think she could get away with murder.”
“Jeff, did you know Aaron was a diabetic?”
“No. How the hell would I know that?”
“Mari told you what TV shows he liked and when he got his hair cut so I thought maybe she told you that too.”
“Well, she didn’t.”
Buzz stood and put his palms on the table. “Did she tell you he was afraid of needles?”
“No, she didn’t. Where is this coming from? Why does it matter if he was diabetic and afraid of needles? Did somebody take a big syringe in first and scare him to death before they cut off his head?”
“Not that we know of but we’re checking into everything.” Buzz looked at his watch then at Clement. “You’ve got another appointment this afternoon, don’t you?”
“What is it? Are you meeting Mari? You really do know where she is?”
“No, it’s not with Mari and I really don’t know where she is. Buzz here is going to get some people to help us find her though.”
“Absolutely. The more I hear about her the more I can’t wait to sit down for a chat with her myself.”
“I can’t believe you think she’d kill Aaron. She had no reason to kill him. She didn’t care about money.”
“Jeff, look. In order to get in and kill him the person had to either have a key or be somebody he knew well enough to let in or to leave the door open and tell them to come in. Mr. Gomez the custodial supervisor and his people had a key. Dolores worked down the hall and she had a key. I had a key that I got from you. Mari had made a copy from the original. Maybe you made a copy before you gave the one to me.”
“Mari gave the copy to me and I-“
Buzz put his hands over his ears. “This is something I don’t need to hear right now. I have a couple of things to check into and I think you two should get some rest.”
Jeff held his hand out to Clement who shook it then allowed himself to be pulled into a hug. “You’ll find Mari?”
“I’ll try.”
“I didn’t kill him.”
“I hear you.”
“You’ll come back?”
“As often as they’ll let me.” Jeff extended his hand to Buzz who also shook it but did not embrace him. Buzz knocked on the wall and two of the men left by one door and the third by a different one.


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