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A summer mystery—Part 2: the victim

August 4, 2011

It was a little after one in the morning, and detective Brown stood holding a fresh iced coffee in the basement of an apartment building. He stared down at a white chalk outline where a dead body had been found a few hours earlier. “Sprawled” was the only way he could think to describe the position.

“ID?” Brown asked.

“Mr. Peter Johnson of 5C. Worked as a stockbroker. Married, two kids, wife is home, kids are not,” his partner read out of his notebook. Brown focused on a spot of blood on a pipe above the body.

“He was dressed in running pants, sneakers, and a blue button-down shirt, died from blunt trauma to the head.”

“College?” Brown asked.

“The kids? Yeah.” his partner answered, finding Brown’s eyes on the spot of blood. “You think it was an accident?” He stepped closer and they both stared at the splotch. “It’s possible he may have hit his head and fallen down.”

Brown scrunched his face and grimaced. “I’m not so sure about that,” he said, taking a sip of the iced coffee. “Mr. Johnson would have had to hit his head mighty hard.” He walked out into the hallway. “Why would he come into this room anyway?”

“I suppose he might have been doing some laundry.”

“The laundry is on the other side of the basement,” Brown said. “Get a blood-spatter expert down here, but I think we’ve got ourselves a homicide.” He stood. “I’m going to go talk to the wife.”

His partner held his watch up for Brown to see. “Take it easy; it’s after 1 a.m.”

“Poke around down here. Try to figure out how the body was moved.”

Brown grumbled on the way up in the elevator. He wasn’t looking forward to this chat. She would, of course, be hysterical and the Advil he had taken was having no effect on his usual headache.

Knock, knock, knock.

She had been crying but seemed put together. “Come in.”

Brown took a step inside. “So sorry to trouble you, ma’am. I am detective Brown.”

“Pleasure,” she mumbled as she returned to the couch and her drink. It was probably not her first. “Please sit.”

He took his time walking over and surveyed the apartment. It was a nice place. Neatly kept. Pictures of the family. Brown noticed that all the hangings on one wall were removed and instead tape and pencil marks were scattered about.

“Renovations?” Brown asked.

“Oh, yes,” said Mrs. Johnson. “We are splitting the apartment next door with our neighbor. We are each taking half.”

“Very nice,” Brown said.

“It’s been an ordeal. Like anything in New York City real estate. We finally have permission to start.” She choked up.