Niles knocked on the door of the Webster house. A rugged girl in her late teens dressed in jeans and a plaid flannel button shirt came to the door.
“Hello,” Niles said. “I’m Niles Quinn, Brewster Harbor Chief of Police. Are you Jessica Webster?”
“Yes,” Jessica said. She immediately seemed freighted. “Did I do something wrong?”
“No, no,” Niles said. “I understand you cleaned the home of Mildred Carmichael and I have a few questions I’d like to ask you. It’s merely routine. Could I step in for a moment?”
“Yes,” Jessica said and opened the door for Niles to enter. “Would you like to sit in the living room?”
“That’s very nice of you,” Niles said, “yes.”
“We have some coffee,” Jessica said, “would you like some?”
“No, thanks,” Niles said.
Jessica led Niles to a chair and she sat on the couch.
“That was terrible what happened to Mildred,” Jessica said. “She was so nice. I really liked her. We went to the funeral.”
“We’ll all miss her. How long did you clean for her?” Nile asked.
“Since I was 15,” Jessica said, “three years.”
“How often did you clean?” Niles asked.
“Once a week,” Jessica said. “Even when she went someplace and was gone for a week or two she still paid me. She said it was a retention fee.” Jessica pressed a smile. “She didn’t want me going anyplace else. She said I was the best cleaning girl she ever had. I’m gonna miss her.”
“How much did she pay you?” Niles said. “It was $10 when I first started and for the last two years it’s been $20. There was hardly anything to do, she was neat as a pin the way it was. Every now and then there might be a dirty cup or saucer in the kitchen sink. Everything else was just dusting, sweeping, mopping, and clean the bathroom. I could do the whole thing in less than an hour.”
“In the last month or so did you notice anything unusual or different than before?” Niles said.
“Nothing comes to mind,” Jessica said. “Everything seemed routine.”
“What sort of contact did you have with her?” Niles said.
“None, really,” Jessica said. “She always left a check on her desk the first cleaning day of the month. I used to come into her office every now and then to make sure I was doing my job right. Whenever I came by, she always treated me. We would walk over to have a coffee and dessert at the Harbor Inn.”
“When was the last time you cleaned for here,” Niles said.
“I don’t know if it was the right thing to do or not,” Jessica said, “but two days ago I cleaned. I mean, she paid in advance. I didn’t feel right about not cleaning. Did I do anything wrong?”
“No,” Niles said, “it was nice. It was not only honest, but a respectful thing to do. She would want it that way.”
“There is one more thing,” Niles said, “you said she always left a check on the desk. Was the desk normally opened?”
“That’s funny,” Jessica said. “It was always open, except for the last time I cleaned.”
“Can you think of anything else like that?” Niles said.
“No,” Jessica said. “Is that important.
Niles smiled. “I’m not sure, but it may be valuable.”
Niles stood. “Jessica, you have been very helpful.” He handed her a business card. “Give me a call anytime for anything.”
“I’ll do that,” she said.
Jessica walked with Niles to the door.
Niles turned suddenly. He snapped a key ring from his belt and removed a key. “Do you know where I live?”
She smiled. “I think everyone knows where you live.”
“This is the key to my place,” Niles said. “Can you come by once a week and clean my place. Does $25 sound good?”
“Sure,” Jessica said. “I’m not messy, but I’m no Mildred either.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jessica said.