The first snow came the first week of November. It turned out to be just a dusting, but it gave everyone down at the Inn something to talk about.
After Niles started a fire in the potbelly stove at the office he called Lute.
“Hi, Lute, this is Niles.”
“Good to hear from you, Niles,” Lute said. “I hope the other evening didn’t come off as personal. I took a little heat when you were hired. I can’t appear prejudice.”
“One of my best friends back in New York was my supervisor; it got ugly sometimes, but we had a beer afterward. You’ve got a job, Lute,” Niles said. “Don’t let it worry you.”
“I’m glad that’s cleared up,” Lute said. “What can I do for you.”
“Did Sam Petit have any insurance with you?” Niles said.
“Yeah,” Lute said, “house, car, boat, but I suppose you mean life insurance.”
“That’s what I’m interested in,” Niles said
“He had it on his mortgage and another small life insurance policy,” Lute said. “Give me a minute and I can give you the payout to Mrs. Petit.”
Niles heard Lute typing on his computer keyboard.
“Here is is,” Lute said. “There was only $21,337 remaining on his mortgage and that was paid out and he only had a remaining $20,000 on his life.”
“Hmm,” Niles said, “Seems hardly enough for a motive to kill someone.”
“So Mrs. Petit is your suspect in Sam’s murder,” Lute said.
“Actually I have someone else in mind,” Niles said. “If this ever goes to trial, I don’t want the prosecutor to be surprised by someone with a better motive.”
“Is that it, Niles?” Lute said.
“Yeah,” Niles said.
“You really cross all the Ts and dot all the Is,” Lute said.
“I just want to make sure everything is in a nice little package with a big ribbon,” Niles said.
“Well, anything I can do to help,” Lute said. “Take care.”
“There is one more thing,” Niles said. “I suppose I should have been a little more specific.”
“By all means,” Lute said, “what is it.”
“Did Petit have a retirement account?” Lute said. “Those are good places to hide huge sums of money.”
“That’s right,” Lute said, “I’m glad you brought that up. That gets very complicated. I will have to contact the company I administered that with to give you some accurate numbers.”
“Could you give me a ballpark figure?” Niles said.
“There may have been $25,000 in it,” Lute said. “That’s not a big account.”
“No,” Niles said. “Hey, Lute, thanks for the help.”
“Anytime,” Lute said. And they hung up.
“She’s got to have a bigger motive than that,” Niles thought and tapped a pencil on a legal tablet. “I wonder if I’ve lost my edge. Or maybe this is the way things are done here in Maine. This is like investigating your own family. In New York, after work, I never saw anybody who I was investigating. There were a million people between the 10th precinct and my house. And in a few months, I’ve seen every face in town and know at least half of them.”