Niles walked across the street to the office and opened up. He started a fire in the potbelly stove and a pot of coffee.
“Three murders in four years,” Niles thought. “These folks must have absolutely no curiosity at all or just be numb.”
“But they are giving me clues,” Niles thought. “Yet, I’m certain they don’t know who is responsible. If they did, somebody would have told me by now, and so far nothing. It’s like everybody has a little piece of the puzzle. That’s what a detective does, collects the pieces and puts them together so that you get the whole picture.”
Tom reported in at 7:55 and drove away in the cruiser to check on a rumored marijuana patch on the east side of the island.
As soon as Tom left Niles unlocked the cell where the evidence was stored. He grabbed the ledger again. He sat at the desk and turned to March, two and a half years ago.
“There is no debit for $1,000 to Mr. B.” Niles flipped back to February. “Mr. B, $2,000. Mr. B is Keith Beauchard and he was putting the squeeze on Mrs. Petit. He demanded double and lived only one month to see it.”
Niles tossed the ledger back into the box in the cell and locked the door. He locked the office and climbed into the Jeep.
“The pieces of this puzzle are scattered all over the island and couple of them just fit,” Niles thought as he pulled into the street. “What is worth a $1,000, yet, not worth $2,000. That’s not a lot of money, but it isn’t exactly chump change either. Up here it is worth a lot more than down in the city. $2,000 a month is $24,000 a year. And in the mind of the one paying it out, they may figure the price goes up every year. Like all motives, they are more imagination than reality.”
Niles drove for another ten miles, thoughts swirled like debris caught up in a tornado. He tried reaching out to grab something, but it slipped away as if an apparition.
He turned on to a gravel road and drove for a quarter mile. He crested a small hill and looked down into a valley of rubbish – the landfill. Amid the rubbish, there it rested, singular and majestic – Keith Beauchard’s blue chair.
Niles drove the Jeep to the edge of the landfill and stopped. He climbed out and walked across the compacted soil mixed with putrid refuse. “Still better than rotting flesh,” he thought.
He reached the chair and flung it over. He opened his pocket knife and sliced the thin dust cover. Stashed between the jute webbing and burlap were bundles of $10 bills.
Niles removed his jacket to make a crude carrier bag. He removed the bundles from the chair and placed them in the jacket. The last bundle was made up of $20 bills. “His last payment,” Niles murmured.
In total, Niles counted 32 $10 bundles and one $20 dollar bundle. “Provided he wasn’t short counted,” Niles thought, “$34,000. Money to be paid for who knows how long. That’s killing money.”
Niles walked back the Jeep and placed the money in the passenger’s seat. He drove toward Brewster Harbor. “What was the money for? A college fund for his daughter? Saving to buy a lobster boat? Maybe he just liked to hoard money? I don’t know; all I know is that he’s dead and the money leads back to Mrs. Petit, who poisoned Mr. Petit. And in all likelihood, the same gun that killed Beauchard, killed Mildred, and tried to kill me. This sure is a happy little village.”
“Now,” Niles continued thinking, “besides a stuffed chair, where does one hide money?”
Niles rolled down the hill leading into town and parked in front of Harbor Antiques on Main Street.
He walked in from the cold without his jacket. “Hello, Mrs. Farber!”
“I’ll be right there,” Mrs. Farber said from the backroom of the store. A tiny lady in her early sixties emerged from the backroom. She wore a bright smile oversized well-worn jeans and a red flannel shirt.
“Hi, Chief,” Mrs. Farber said, “what can we do for you today?”
“I’ve been looking at that old suitcase in your window for quite some time,” Nile said. “How much will you take to part with it?”
“That’s an easy one,” Mrs. Farber said, “let’s take a look at the tag. The brown one?” Mrs, Farber said. “A fine piece, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”
“It reminds me of the one my Uncle Silas had,” Niles said.
Mrs. Farber walked towards the front window. “You’ll catch your death of cold without a jacket in this weather.”
“I had the heat turned up in the car,” Niles said.
“Folks who come up from the city, now I don’t mean to belittle you,” Mrs. Farber said. “but they don’t have the sense of a dead goose. This is the nor’east, Chief, if you don’t adjust you’ll spend much of your time nursing a cold or flu.”
“I always appreciate the advice, Mrs. Farber,” Niles said, “and you’ll never catch me without a jacket again.”
Mrs. Farber grabbed the suitcase. “I’d better not. You got an important job in this town and we can’t have you sniffing, snorting, and snotting up the place.” She lifted the tag. “$30, I’d let you have it for $25, but I gave you a good $20 worth of advice, so you still get yourself a bargain at 30.”
“That’s fine,” Niles said and grabbed it from her hand.
“Don’t they teach you to haggle down in New York City,” Mrs. Farber said.
“Yes,” Niles said, “but they also teach us to recognize immediately when you’ve met your match.”
“Indeed,” Mrs. Farber said handing the suitcase to Niles, “you are Irish, you got the gift of blarney.”
They walked to the register.
Niles set the suitcase down and pulled his billfold from his front pants’ pocket. He opened it. “All I have is 22,” Niles said, “can I bring the rest in a short while.”
“Ha!” she laughed and smiled, “another Irishman’s trick. No doubt used in every pub in Ireland. I bet your jacket is in the car just stuffed with money.”
Niles smiled broadly. “How on earth did you know?”
Niles ran out to the car and grabbed a 10 from one of the bundles and brought it into Mrs. Farber. “Here you go.”
“Maybe you’re not so Irish after all,” Mrs. Farber quipped. “I was about to let you have it for $22.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Farber,” Niles said. “I may be in the need for some more antiques, but I’ll wait you out the next time.”
“Take care, Chief,” Mrs. Farber said, “and thanks for stopping by.”
Before driving away Niles placed the money in the suitcase. He snapped a picture of it and drove to the office. He grabbed the suitcase and walked over to the Harbor Inn.