“Crazy old man offs himself. That’s all it is. Clean case. Wrap it up gentlemen.”
“Hold on just a sec,” Jeff says. “If he really wanted to shoot himself, why overcomplicate it by putting the gun so far away?”
My name is Todd Williams. I am a forensics analyst for the Wakanda County police department. Which is really just a fancy way of saying I look at dead people and give the really obvious explanation as to how they died. Most of the time it’s obvious because there’s a witness. My kids adore me; they think I’m their hero because I’m some really awesome detective. Their friends at school all want to be like me when they grow up. The truth? I hate my job. It’s boring. After seven years of looking at dead bodies, it’s just gotten old and stale. There’s only ever three explanations as to how they died. Murder, suicide, or accident. Murders are easy to spot because there’s always a witness or a blatantly obvious mistake the killer makes, suicides come with a note or something, and accidents are usually just a car crash that happens within a ten-mile radius of the town bar.
Anyway, back to this particular case. I was ready to write it off as just another suicide in the recent string of them we’ve been having.
Jeff Howard thought differently.
Jeff is new to the force as of two days ago. He was assigned to be my partner in forensic analytics, and this was our first case together. In fact, it was the first time I was meeting him at all. He analyzed the gun, holding his hands up and peering at it through his fingers the way I’d been seeing him do all day. I don’t know why, but it was really starting to get on my nerves.
“I just don’t see it. I think there’s more to this case than a simple explanation.”
I took a deep sigh. “Look, Jeff, I’m going to let you in on a little trade secret. I know how in movies, there’s always that big case that’s not quite what it seems on the surface, and it takes deep thinking by the detectives and some big CGI action scenes to uncover the plot of world domination and catch the culprit. Guess what. That doesn’t happen here. Never. It’s always exactly what it seems on the surface.”
“I don’t think this one is, though. C’mon, even you have to admit that it’s strange for somebody who wants to off themselves to place a gun in the wall, go to the middle of the room, and then do it. I think this something else is going on here.”
“Right,” I told him. “Well, while you’re busy thinking that, I’m going to go sit down in the other room and have myself a coffee.”
I’m not dealing with a newbie that thought he was Sherlock Holmes. I’m not doing it. My life is stressful enough already. I walked into a dimly lit sitting room, with one leather couch and an old, worn out armchair. I chose the armchair, sat down, pulled out my thermos of coffee that I carry with me at all times, and relaxed.
I could still see Jeff in the kitchen, continuing to scan everything through his fingers. I scoffed. “What does he hope to accomplish by doing that same...thing…over and over again,” I asked myself. Honestly, I will never understand the mentality of new recruits.
Forensics isn’t exciting! Don’t they understand that? Just the thought of having to write another report on this eighty-some-year old guy tired me out. Good thing the chair could recline, so I could have myself a short siesta while Jeff thought he was doing actual work. I pulled the recliner and relaxed.
I instinctively leaped to my feel and reached for my firearm. I ducked behind the armchair and quickly scanned the room for where the shot might have come from. Jeff eyed the room from behind the doorway, his gun also c***ed and ready to fire.
Then, all of the sudden, I hear a gut-busting laugh. Jeff holstered his weapon and marched over to where a new hole in the wall was, one that I was certain was not there before. Jeff pointed at the 12-gauge shotgun that was tucked neatly back in the hole. Once hidden behind the wall, it had blasted the hole through it in an attempt to hit me as soon as I touched the lever on the armchair to recline it. The curious thing was, it was only a gun, with no human anywhere near it. The exact same thing, in fact, as the 12-gauge tucked into the wall in the kitchen that had shot the old man.
“Do you believe me now?” smirked Jeff.
“Alright fine, I admit it!” I told Jeff in frustration. “It’s not as simple as it seems on the surface! You were right. You win. Happy?”
Jeff thought about it for a little bit. “Yep. I’m happy now”.
“Fine. Prick.” I thought to myself.
Back at the office, we were pouring over the case file of this old man. Erik Von Bron was his name, a first generation American whose parents were from Germany. After interviewing neighbors, we found out that he was reclusive. In fact, they all said they would’ve thought he was dead long before then, aside from the garbage being taken out once a week. We also found out that he had one surviving family member, a kid that was dumped on his doorstep by a mother they never found. All we knew about this kid was that he bounced in and out of rehab for various accounts of drug use, was in jail a few times for it, and wanted absolutely nothing to do with Erik.
“I think he did it,” stated Jeff boldly.
“I don’t think so Jeff.”
“There’s a motive.”
“It’s not the kid. He just stays away from the father. Sure he’s a no life druggie, but that doesn’t make him a murderer.”
“I’m not ruling him out anyway.”
“Good choice,” I say just to humour him.
“Since we’re both in agreement that something fishy is going on here, I think we should go back and have another look at the house. Agreed?”.
“Sure, I need something to do anyway,” I respond. I throw on my jacket and grab my keys.
“At midnight,” Jeff added. “And no backing out now. You agreed.”
“Why the hell would we go then?” I exclaimed.
“I’m calling this a murder case. And I think we might find somebody cleaning up at night when nobody is supposed to be there.”
“How would you ever come to that conclusion?”
“Just a hunch.”
“I’m gonna need a little more than ‘just a hunch’ before I agree to go somewhere at midnight of all times.”
“Because of this,” Jeff announced, as he sat down and opened up a file on one Jakob Von Bron. “This is his kid. He was on trial for murder in Boston, out east. If they do it once, they’re more likely to do it again.”
“On trial. But he was acquitted. He didn’t do it.”
“Just because he was acquitted doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. They acquitted OJ.”
“Right, but you also said he was in Boston. This is Seattle.”
“I was stuck on that detail for a while too,” admitted Jeff, somewhat reluctantly. “Until I found out that he’s reported to have left Boston. And get this, nobody really has much of a clue about where he moved to.
“Fine. I hate you for making me do this. But I’m going with you just to see the look on your face when we don’t find anything.”
Looks like I’m going to have to bring extra coffee. I resigned myself to a long night up, before a lot of paperwork the next day. Perfect.
“Todd. Todd, wake up,” whispered Jeff in my ear. The coffee had not done its job, and I fell asleep immediately upon parking for our stakeout of the old man’s house. Jeff thrust a pair of binoculars into my hands. “Look,” he ordered. I looked. What I saw surprised me. A hooded figure dressed in all black was entering the house. “We’re going in after him,” Jeff told me. I nodded my agreement and we bolted for the house, weapons drawn.
We found him in a bedroom, a scribbled-on blueprint of the house in hand, and a large bag on the floor. We flipped the lights on, surprising him.
“Freeze!” we shouted. His immediate respond was to aim at me with the 12-gauge in his hand.
I dove behind the bed just in the nick of time. The howl of the cold air around the shot rushed past me, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. Fear took hold of me.
The hooded figure turned and aimed at Jeff, who instinctively gave him a swift kick to the midsection. He stumbled backwards, arms flailing about, and tripped over the bed. His head landed perfectly square with the pillow.
I heard the chilling sound of another shot. It didn’t come from any one of us in the room. I looked at the now headless body of the intruder, and the newly created hole in the wall of the bedroom where the sound came from. Jeff pointed at the hooded figure.
“There’s your suicide,” he softly spoke, his voice trembling with fear.
My face showed the incredible confusion that I was feeling. Jeff didn’t say a word. All he did was pick up the blueprint that was dropped on the floor and hand it to me. I saw markings along walls, X’s marking the spot of…something. I was still confused.
Jeff pointed to the bag that the intruder was carrying, which I realized was filled with weapons exactly like what were placed in the walls. Jeff pointed to the one in the wall of the bedroom, and I immediately connected the dots.
Jeff did it. He solved the case before the case was finished. A DNA test on the intruder confirmed it. It was Jakob Von Bron, the old man’s kid. Jeff was right, the kid was the murderer. What he was doing in that house at midnight was exactly what Jeff predicted as well, Jakob was picking up his traps that he used to kill the old man. The reason Jeff had called his death the suicide that I was looking for was because Jakob had accidentally fallen into one of his own traps, one that he had intended to pick up before we appeared and surprised him.
“Maybe I won’t mind Jeff as my partner after all,” I thought to myself.
Jeff walked by me in the office the next day with a stack of papers in his hand and a smirk on his face. He handed me all the papers he had. “Have fun with your half of the paperwork. Oh and by the way, about that case. I told you so,” he sings as he walks off.
I thought to myself, “or maybe he’ll just continue to annoy me.”