Detective Brown wanted them all there by 3:30 p.m. sharp. Some had grumbled that they would have to get out of work early. But they all said they would be there.
Brown arrived last but had sent his partner ahead to secure some evidence and keep the peace. He suspected that tensions could be running high.
Brown swished his iced coffee and surveyed the room. The neighbor Tom and Mrs. Johnson were deep in conversation. Eddie, the doorman, talked to the young couple from 5B. Brown’s partner sat observing quietly, pretending to root through his notes. Brown waited until they all noticed him.
“I suppose you’ll tell us what this is all about?” Tom asked quickly.
“If all goes well, we are going to solve the murder of Mr. Johnson.”
“All of us, together?” Mrs. Johnson asked.
“If all goes well,” Brown smiled as warmly as he could. He knew this might be tough on her. He began.
“We know that Mr. Johnson returned home at 11:30 in the morning. It’s clear that something happened to him here in this apartment. Obviously, he was not alone.”
“You heard nothing?” Brown turned to Tom.
“Nothing,” Tom said.
Brown spun toward the boyfriend. “You heard ticking.”
The boyfriend jumped back, startled. Brown tried to suppress a grin.
“I heard ticking,” he said after steadying himself. “I think it was around 2:30 p.m.”
Brown crossed to the far side of the room and picked up a chess clock. He placed it on the table. He ticked each side back and forth and looked at the boyfriend.
“Could have been,” the boyfriend said. Brown nodded and crossed to the front door.
“Mr. Johnson was taken downstairs. Very conveniently, the back staircase is accessible from this apartment. It’s obvious that the killer knew about it.” Brown swung opened the door to the stairway leading downward.
“I think everyone knows about it,” said Mrs. Johnson nervously.
“Will you please lead the way?” Brown said to Eddie.
“Certainly,” Eddie said and started down the stairs, followed closely by the couple, Tom, and then finally Mrs. Johnson. Brown hung back and whispered a few things to his partner, who stayed behind.
The stairs were steep and it was slow going.
Brown continued, “Eddie, you arrived at what time?”
“And when does Santiago leave?
They came to the lobby floor.
“The killer obviously couldn’t have taken the body through here.” Brown pushed open the door to the lobby and there was Santiago standing there. “Afternoon, Santiago.”
“So, the killer must have continued toward the basement,” Brown said.
The group now stood in the basement room where the body was found.
“The body was instead brought here,” Brown continued. “I do not think that the killer realized that during this time of day there are two doormen on at the same time.
“I think the killer was trying to stash the body somewhere else in the basement. Or get it out of the building. But when Eddie came around the corner here, the killer panicked. A plastic bag that had been wrapped around Mr. Johnson’s head to make sure no blood was dripped was removed and the body was covered with cardboard.”
The group stood in silence.
“Well, I guess all that makes sense,” Tom said.
“Terrible,” Mrs. Johnson said.
“Now our killer simply has to exit the building through the service entrance and return a few hours later, waltzing back past Eddie and acting like they hadn’t been home for a few hours.”
Brown polished off his ice coffee loudly.
“Would you like to explain to us why you did it?”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Definitely not. Boyfriend over here heard you playing speed chess with Mr. Johnson.”
“You have no proof.”
“A black chess piece was found on the floor of the apartment. It had fingerprints on it.”
“And these fingerprints were mine?”
“Curiously, your prints were not on that specific piece and that had me stumped for a while.”
“We did find them on the rest of the pieces that were in the chest board. The ones that you picked up after they were scattered when you hit Mr. Johnson over the head. Unfortunately, you missed one.”
“It seems that you won’t be saving that new apartment between you from foreclosure after all, which, I suspect, is why you killed Mr. Johnson in the first place. His life insurance policy, however, will certainly allow Mrs. Johnson to go through with the sale, renovate and move in. Not much of a consolation.”
“I want my lawyer.”
“I’m sure you do, sir.”
Brown radioed his partner.
“When you come down to the basement, bring me a fresh iced coffee.”
Brown winked at the girlfriend. “Also, come arrest this jerk.”