The fog lasted to past noon. Sid drove home and Tom and Niles investigated a couple of fender benders.
Tom continued the afternoon on patrol and Niles returned to the office.
He sat at the desk doodling and writing down notes.
“Mildred and Steve are back on the list as suspects,” he thought, “No matter how remote I my think that is, something was said that puts them there. And an investigator should always consider the people who put them there may have a motive, other than justice. How many times have I been led away from the guilty to the innocent person by the guilty person? A whole bunch.”
“As uncomfortable as it sounds, that puts Lute on the list too,” Niles thought. “Steve, he’s a bit mysterious. Mildred, although she could not get the body out in the harbor on her own, she could have had help. Words can deceive. Perception and interpretation of words can be wrong. Evidence is like a road map. Words can take you down the wrong road or the right one; evidence will tell you which.”
“I can’t really do anything without officially opening the case,” Niles thought. “I have a few bags of clues. The key to opening it up is for Steve to report to the State what he knows about where Petit died. That establishes my jurisdiction in Brewster Harbor. I don’t think Steve will do it. I could ask him, but at this point I don’t need him to clam up. He holds more information, I know he know more. Besides, what was he doing there? If involved, he wouldn’t have said anything to me and implicated himself in some way. It just has to be handled cooly.”
“Return to the scene of the crime,” Niles murmured and stood. He locked the office and walked across the street to the Harbor Inn
Betty Logan, a local part time desk clerk greeted Niles as he walked in.
“Coffee, Chief?” Betty said.
“No,” Niles said. “Is Charley or Shelly in?”
“Charley’s on the back deck fixing some railing,” Betty said.
“Thanks, Betty,” Niles said, walked though the dinning room and out onto the deck.
“Reducing your liability,” Niles said approaching Charley.
Charley knelt next to a stair railing leading to an upstairs room. He zipped a deck screw in with his battery operated drill.
“A guest was leaving today and lost his balance trying to carry luggage,” Charley said. “It kept him from falling over, but it won’t the next guy.” Charley zipped in another screw and stood. “What brings you this way?”
“In the time you and Shelly have been here, have you come across any personal items left behind by the Petits?” Niles said.
“Yeah,” Charley said, “I didn’t think about it till just now, but there’s about three boxes of stuff in a storage room. We thought Mrs. Petit might ask us to ship it or have somebody come by and get it.”
“Do you mind if I remove them?” Niles said.
“No, not at all,”Charley said, “it would be nice to have the room. Let me show you where it’s at.”
Niles followed Charley to a small room off the kitchen. All the way to the rear of the room sat three medium size boxes labeled, “Petit.”
“There they are,” Charley said. “Where do you want them?”
“Over to the police department,” Niles said.
“Let me give you a hand,” Charley said.
Charley helped Niles carry the boxes to the police department. They placed them in one of the cells.
“I have a theory,” Niles said. “You can learn more from what people discard than what they keep. What they throw away is what they want to forget and want nobody to know about.”
Charley left the office and Niles couldn’t wait to open the boxes. “
Niles pulled open the first box. He removed a shoe box and opened it; inside, a man’s hair brush. He collected a dozen samples of hair from the brush. With the naked eye it looked similar to the hair he removed from the row boat beneath the deck.
Niles placed the two different hair samples in separate envelopes. He filled out a form and stuffed everything in a large brown envelop and addressed it to the State crime lab. He walked the envelope to the post office and made certain it went out in the day’s mail.
He returned to the office and called the crime lab to see how long it might take them to compare the samples – two weeks.
Sid pulled into the parking lot to take over for Tom who was on patrol.
He stepped in the office.
“Hi, Chief,” Sid said, “anything going on.” He continued past Niles’ desk and to the coffee maker. “How old’s the coffee?”
“About an hour,” Niles said.
“What’s in the cell?” Sid said.
“That’s now our property room,” Niles said. “We’ll keep it locked. It’s stuff stored at the Harbor Inn left behind by Mrs. Petit. I collected hair samples from a man’s hair brush and sent them to the State crime lab.”
“What’s that going to prove without a body,” Sid said, “wasn’t he cremated?”
“We can assume hairs found in his brush are his,” Niles said. “A few weeks ago I found hair lodged between the seat and the side of a row boat beneath the deck of the Harbor Inn. If they match the ones from the brush, it would mean Sam Petit’s head rested in that boat. How does ones hair get stuck on the seat of a boat other than if he laid there. Proving jurisdiction is a pretty low threshold. Those samples give raise to enough doubt on the current case to change jurisdiction.”
“Do you think they will?” Sid said.
“If they don’t we can petition the reason and that will lead us to anyone who wants the murder not to be investigated any further,” Niles said.
“Sounds like you might have somebody’s beanbag in a vise,” Sid said.
“One turn at a time,” Niles said pretending with both hands to the turn a vise’s handle.