Posts Tagged ‘perry mason


Fate Pays The Rent (Fourteenth Installment)

Chapter 5

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.”


Great Portland Interview Experiment

I was interviewed by @mariadeathstar also known as Marie Deatherage for the Great Portland Interview Experiment. (I’m interviewing @Jmartens but he’s been very busy with CitySpeek.)She asked interesting and insightful questions and I hope I gave interesting and insightful answers. Prepare to learn more about me than you perhaps ever wanted to know about anyone.

I see from your blog you write poetry. How long have you been up to that? Are you planning to respond to my interview questions poetically?
I’ve been writing poetry on and off since I was about eight-years-old. I’m also a sometime singer and songwriter and I made my debut last Februrary at Artichoke Music in Portland as part of a group called “Decent Folk”. I haven’t had time to perform or even practice since April but I have written a few more songs. I’m using the blog to nudge myself to focus on poetry and to produce more poems. So far I’ve been able to post poems I’ve written some time ago but that won’t last long. @DrPFenderson and I are plotting #CampfireReads a storytelling/poetry meet-up that we hope will get more people composing and sharing.

I don’t plan to answer all of your questions poetically; I do plan to answer them honestly, probably preventing me from ever holding public office.

How do you spend your days? Nights?
My parents moved into a “gracious retirement living” facility and I moved out of my apartment and into their house. It’s the house I grew up in and they had lived there for forty years. Never let anyone tell you there’s no God or that God lacks a sense of humor. Why else would a housework-impaired person who was barely functioning in a one bedroom apartment wind up caring for a three-bedroom house? The part of the day not spent doing homework or on Twitter is devoted to sorting out my stuff and sorting and rehousing or recycling or throwing out forty years accumulation of you-name-it.

My nights are spent in class, playing the Sims 2, helping my kid with her homework or trying to get her to talk to me. Occasionally I drive out and play pool with my dad. We’re both horrible players so we walk around the table for an hour or two and that’s at least good exercise.

What is your present state of mind?
Generally happy but also confused. I’m confused because I’m supposed to be graduating in June if not before and I still don’t know what kind of job I’m going to be looking for, where to look, or even what might be available in this economy. I’m generally happy because I have an awesome supportive family, lots of coffee, and I’ve met some very cool people online and had an opportunity to interact with them offline as well. When my daughter and I went to CyborgCamp she told me I was “radiating happiness”. Yeah.

Please tell us about your particular path to geekdom?
As a kid I watched “Star Trek” and I was very impressed with Mr. Scott. Not just the accent but he was obviously the go-to person when things really hit the fan. Unfortunately this was the Dark Ages- late 1970s- and the only computer I saw was the one in the counseling center. It was a dumb terminal that enabled you to figure out occupation was right for you. (Spending hours playing with this program should have been a clue to the counselors that you didn’t need the program.) At college, my roommate was on the custodial staff. I had arrived between terms and had nothing to do and when she got tired of me following her around she parked me in front of a computer and introduced me to “Adventure” and another game I don’t know the name of in which your weapon was a rat-tailed comb. Somehow I was convinced to enroll in a BASIC class and, since I was hanging out in the computer lab, I encountered Dungeons and Dragons. This led to the wasting of many hours over following years and the overconsumption of Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew and Cheetos. Time passed, I held a variety of jobs, I took the occupational assessment at the Employment Office and they said I should become a MicroComputer Support Specialist. I enrolled at Clark College in Winter of 2008 and here I am. I haven’t played D&D in years but I regularly beta-test interactive fiction games and look forward to IFComp every year when I get a lot of them to play.

And you are one of the geekmoms. Tell us about your child.
She’s sixteen, beautiful and brilliant. Somehow though she seems unaffected by her beauty or her brilliance and takes it completely in stride. She does her Advanced Algebra homework last because she likes it the best and that way it’s motivation. She’s had access to a computer and the Internet since she was about five so it’s old hat; She played with Photoshop 5.5 when other kids were using paper and crayons. She’s aced all her technology classes but doesn’t consider herself a geek because she prefers a GUI and refuses to learn to program. She’s outspoken but rather shy and that means she gets easily embarrassed like the time it was pajama day at work and I didn’t change before the parent-teacher conference. (In my defense, I did remind her and she said, “Whatever. Just get there on time.”)

Where were you on this day 10 years ago and what were you doing?
I was in Clatskanie, Oregon in Columbia County. I was beginning the fundraising for the Reading is Fundamental program I started at my daughter’s elementary school. I was also following the whole Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Memories of the grand jury testimony can give me the creeps to this day.

Where do you think you will be on this day 10 years from now and what will you be doing?
Ten years from now- unless I’ve been there already- I will be packing for a trip to Tokyo. Years ago I listened to Thomas Friedman’s book “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” and he described being in a hotel in Japan on New Year’s Eve, ordering some oranges and having trouble getting what he wanted. That’s a long way to go for oranges but that idea of being there on New Year’s Eve has stuck with me. My parents aren’t in the best of health and they’ll likely be gone by then. My daughter will be off having her own life. She’s invited along but if she doesn’t want to go it will be a fun place for a nearly sixty-year-old woman to start the new year. I imagine I’ll still be wearing sneakers then- I love Converse- so maybe I’ll be there on business having to do with either sneakers or some kind of technology. I don’t think I’ll be the Foreign Affairs correspondent for the New York Times but it’s possible.

What are your favorite books of all time? Why?
One of my all-time favorite books is “The Closing of the American Mind” by Alan Bloom. The first half of the book discusses the sad state of the American education system. The second half traces the history of Western Philosophy. I learned so much from that book because Bloom would say “Bertrand Russell says thus and so” and I’d think “Well, who did Russell learn that from?” I’d have to go look it up. Maybe he learned it from Descartes and Descartes learned it from someone else and I had to keep looking things up and learning and it took quite a while but it was like an idea scavenger hunt so I was having fun and didn’t mind.

Now I have to cheat and say that my other favorite books were the Harry Potter series. It’s cheating because there were seven of them rather than one and because what made them my favorite wasn’t the writing. What made them special was the anticipation and the community. I remember being at the Barnes and Noble at Jantzen Beach the night “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” came out and there was a magician and a costume contest and babies with lightning bolts drawn on their foreheads and there’s just as much craziness online to this day. Because of the Harry Potter books I’ve met wonderful people like @pennygersh who helped me so much after my mom had her stroke. And my daughter and I could discuss the books when both of us were in pissy moods and wouldn’t talk about anything else.

Who is your Blazer boyfriend and why?
I’ve been told that a good Blazer boyfriend for me would be Rudy Fernandez because he’s 23, he’s a millionaire, he’s good at basketball and he’s smoking hot. Also he’s often the one who puts the Blazers over the one-hundred point mark and the crowd all gets chalupas. I love chalupas.

If you’d made it my Mariners boyfriend that would have been an easy choice. I’m J.J’s girl all the way. He goes out and does a good job. He’s the closer so he has to work well under pressure but if things don’t go well he puts it behind him and starts over the next day. I’ve had relationships with people who even after they say they forgive you and it’s all over it still isn’t over so J.J. would be a refreshing change.

Do you think our best days are behind us or ahead of us? Discuss.
I think that for us living as adults the best days are still ahead of us. I think that for kids the best days are probably behind. When I was a kid it was fairly likely that you might be molested by some family member or friend of the family. A lot of kids were and, in fact, that happened to me. But it was extremely unlikely that some psychopath would snatch you up on your way to the park and molest you or kidnap you or who knows what other awful thing. We played outside at the park or in the yard and our mothers didn’t have to have GPS locators on us. We clothespinned towels around our necks and pretended to be Batman or Batgirl or some invented superhero and got fresh air and occasionally fell down and sprained or broke something. Now kids don’t really have those options.

I think our best days as adults are still ahead because there is technology and knowledge allowing us to live longer and healthier lives. (They’re not talking me out of bacon though.) We also benefit because we can connect with other people via the Internet and find jobs or share recipes or patterns or experiences or just have someone say “There there. Have a sip of coffee. Breathe in and out.” Those things are especially important for older people who aren’t communicating with their family for one reason or another or they can connect with someone who’s actually interested in their stories and experiences.

Please tell us about dating the guys who are probably dying.
I lived in my apartment building for four years. For the middle two of those years, a man lived across the hall from me. The first year we’d see each other on the way to the garbage chute or in the stairwell and say “Hi” or something else noncommittal. It turned out he was a Mets fan and neither the Mets nor the Mariners were having a very good season so we’d chat about that. Then a friend of mine sent me a belated Christmas present of a lot of chocolate and coffee and I thought, “Oh, who am I going to share all this with?” I remembered that my neighbor drank coffee and I figured everyone likes chocolate so I knocked on his door. He was very happy to see the chocolate and coffee and by extension me. A few days later he returned my coffee mug and we talked about Valentine’s Day coming up and I said I was going to an open mic poetry reading and try out some of my stuff. He asked if I wanted to have dinner before or after and then laughed and said “But, of course, you’ll be with your date” and I said that I didn’t date because no one ever asked and I’d had one disastrous date involving a jack-in-the-box and he asked me to brunch for the following Sunday. We had a great time and he was a good sport even when he came back from the bathroom and caught me taking notes to be used in later e-mails. He kissed me “Good-bye” at my door and the following Friday night invited me over to watch “Monk” and everything went fine until Valentine’s Day. That morning I was leaving for work and I was locking my front door and he said, “Good morning” and I turned around and he was getting his newspaper and he wasn’t wearing a shirt. This next part sounds very silly because God help us all I was 45 but he met me in the middle of the hallway and we kissed and I turned pink all the way to the tips of my ears. I giggled all the way to work and when I got there I told the other ladies who were very similar to me in age and they all giggled too. There we were ho-hoing and tee-heeing about my having seen this guy without a shirt and having kissed him. I ended up having to work overtime that day and we never made it to the poetry reading but he fixed me a nice pasta dinner with sauce from scratch and we watched “The Departed” and it was very nice. After the movie ended and we were just sitting on the couch he said something like, “Remember how I told you before about my heart attack?” and I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Well, my heart still isn’t very strong” and I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Until it hits” I forget what the exact number was now “percent we can’t have sex.” And I said, “That’s fine. Geez, this isn’t even our third date. I can wait. It’ll give us time to save up money for a room at the Hilton so we don’t scandalize the neighbors.” The thing is though the relationship pretty much went downhill from there. Before that he’d call and leave me messages and I loved to hear him talk because he was from New Jersey and it was like being in an old movie but after that I never really saw him in the halls and he only called me when he was out walking to strengthen his heart. He really pulled away from me and it was totally his choice. I was absolutely willing to wait. Wait to have sex with a guy who could cook like that and kiss like that? Are you kidding me? His having had a heart attack didn’t scare me that much because he was 51 and like I said I was 45 and I figure by the time you get to be our age body parts start falling apart- everybody’s got some kind of baggage and it’s all about how you carry it. He thought I was funny and I thought he was funny and we could talk for hours or just sit and be in the same place and he seemed like a great guy. I guess he was too busy trying to keep from dying to have time to live.

What do people need to know about you to truly grok you?

I understand that I need money in order to pay bills and buy food and keep myself in Flash drives and Converse sneakers but I don’t entirely get how the money thing works. I have a vague idea how much is in my bank account because I check online but I never even attempt to balance my checkbook. And if I didn’t have to have money for those things I listed earlier I would just do whatever people needed or wanted to be done and not charge them for it. I have spent hours on the phone helping my parents’ friends’ fix their computers or classmates do their homework. I have spent many many hours knitting hats and scarves for homeless people or cancer survivors or friends while I was watching Mariners games on TV or listened on the radio. My ex-husband wisely said that if I ever won the lottery I’d have no money left after a year but there wouldn’t be a kid in the Portland Metro area without braces, fillings, sturdy shoes, and a warm coat. Oh and lots of books. It’s not a self-esteem issue. It’s not like I feel I have to do these things so people will like me or that I feel what I do has no value. It’s more like if I have these skills then I must have them to make the world a better place and who am I to let money get in the way of that.

Please confess your guilty pleasures.
I love to watch “Perry Mason”. I’ve loved it ever since I was a kid. It’s on at noon on channel 12 just as it’s been for probably forty years. I’m sure I’ve seen all the shows by now and I usually know who did it but it’s kind of comforting to sit down and spend an hour with these people I grew up with.

And I majorly heart Alan Rickman. I don’t know why. It isn’t just his voice although I did sit through all of “Return of the Native” just because he read it. (After hearing him read one of the love scenes I arrived at work blushing to the ears again and had a rough time convincing people I’d just been listening to an audio-book.) It can’t be his acting because I’ve seen so many movies in which he was just bad like “Rasputin” and “Truly Madly Deeply” where he was a ghost and had that cheesy mustache. I tell myself he’s too old for me and he’s happily living in England with an avowed Socialist and then I’ll find myself watching “An Awfully Big Adventure” or as my friends call it “The Many Moods of Alan Rickman” and none of that matters.

What question do you wish you had been asked? And what is the answer?
What would the perfect afternoon/evening look like? The perfect afternoon/evening would involve caffeinated drinks, Crazy Eights and Egyptian Rat Screw, wireless Internet, Buffalo wings, ideas zipping through the air, whiteboards, an assortment of music from The Ramones, Vanilla Ice, Kraftwerk, whatever other 70’s and 80’s bands we could think of and a handful of really great people to share it with.