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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"D Is For Doxy" Chapter 6

For your reading pleasure, here is chapter 6 of "D Is For Doxy."


    I got in touch with Miss Stalmaster from the nearest telephone booth and she agreed to meet me at Maxwell’s office.  It had been closed for the day because of his death, but she assured me she had a key and wouldn’t mind opening it up.  I found the place pretty easily and was there waiting when she arrived.  I had only been there a few minutes, though.  I recognized her right away, not from any description I had of her, but because she truly looked like a secretary.  She was around 26 or 27, and fairly average in every respect – height, weight and build.  Plus she wore her hair up in an ungodly-looking bun.  She also wore glasses.  A fairly mousy sort of woman; the kind that probably doesn’t go out much because she’s not asked to.  As she walked up to me, she said, “Mr. Randall?”
    I replied, “Yes.”
    She acknowledged me with a nod of her head then pulled a key out of her purse.  She used it efficiently to unlock the door and we both went in, with her going in first.  The first thing she did once inside was to turn on some overhead lights.  These illuminated the office quite well and we could both see where the body had lain.  She skirted the residue of a large bloodstain and walked to a desk.  I followed in her footsteps.
    “Now, is there anything you particularly wanted to see?”
    “No, not really.  I just wanted to look around.”
    “Okay.  The desk isn’t locked and the filing drawers are over there.”  She pointed to them at the side of the desk.  “If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.”
    I sat down behind the desk and began opening drawers.  I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but if I found something noteworthy, I’d be sure to know.  While I looked, I asked questions to the secretary.
    “How long did you work for Maxwell?”
    “About two years.  But only on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s.”
    “I take it, you really knew his operation well, huh?”
    “Yes, I’d say so.”
    Not a real talkative person, I was finding out.  I felt around under the bottom surfaces of the desk, because you can’t be too careful sometimes.  I didn’t feel anything hidden.
    “Were you happy in your work here?”
    I turned to the filing drawers.
    “Had anything happened around here lately that was out of the ordinary?  And not necessarily work related.”
    “I was trying to think of that this morning when the police asked me.  I couldn’t think of anything then and I still haven’t remembered anything.  Nothing went on here, just business.
    Of that, I had no doubts.  I tried to get her to loosen up about her boss.
    “What about Mr. Maxwell.  What was he like to work for?”
    “A very pleasant, honest man.  It’s hard to find as good an atmosphere to work in like this one is.... was.”
    “I see.  And how did you get the job?”
    “Through an agency.”
    “Which one?”  I had a feeling I knew what the answer was going to be.
    “Westbury Placements.”
    “Oh?”  I sat up unexpectedly and she looked at me with a sudden, startled expression.
    “What is it?  Have you found something?”
    “No, only that name rings a bell.”
    “It does, how?”
    “I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but there have been three murders in the last week, and every one of them were similar to this one.  Did you know that?”
    “I think I read something about it in the newspapers.”
    “Well, one of the other men that died had a secretary from Westbury Placements, also.”
    “What was her name?”
    “A Susan Prescott.”
    “Yes, I know her.  I still go there two days a week for temporary placings.  You know, a job that only lasts a few hours or so.  I’ve run into her occasionally.”
    “That’s very interesting.  Now, about last night.  What was it like?”
    “Well, he wanted me to work over, for as I’ve told you, I don’t come in on Tuesdays or Thursdays.  But, he had some things he needed for me to get ready and he was busy doing something, too.  So, he got me working on a project he needed first thing in the morning, and when I finished it, he was done with me and sent me home.”
    “What time was that?”
    “It was between eight and nine o’clock.”
    “Can you be any more precise?”
    “Let me think.  Oh, yes.  I remember it now.  When I was walking out of the building, I saw a girl I worked with and glanced down at my watch.  I remember it said eight-forty exactly.”
    “And Maxwell, did he give you any indication as to how much longer he was going to be?”
    “He hoped to be finished by at least ten.”
    “Do you think he would have been done by then?”
    “I have no reason to doubt it.  He was good at estimating his time.”
    “Did he mention any further plans?  For after his work?”
    “No, I assumed he’d go home to his wife at that time.”
    “There’s nothing else you think that might be relevant?”
    “One thing, but I don’t know if it’s relevant to what you’re working on.”
    “What is it?”
    She walked over to the corner of the room and stood by a big potted plant.  Since there were no windows in the place, it undoubtedly had to be fake.
    “He always kept some cash around the office, for ‘expenses,’ he said.  As long as I’ve known him, he always
had some on hand.  But, he didn’t know that I knew where he kept it.  One day, I came in early and saw him
replacing this plant.  Later on, when he was out of the office, I checked under it.  And I found about four
thousand dollars.”
    “Whew, that’s quite a lot to keep around.  Is there any there now?”
    “We’re about to find out.”
    She grasped the plant around the middle of the stalk and lifted it, pot and all, over to the side about two feet.  Underneath it was a large brown envelope.  She picked it up and looked inside of it.  It was unsealed.
    “Well?”  I asked.
    “I don’t understand it.  It’s empty.”
    “That’s odd.  And you say he always kept some there?”
    “And how do you know that for sure?”
    “I.... uh.... well, I checked on it from time to time.”
    “For what reason?”
    “No reason, really.  I was just curious.”
    “Oh, I see.”
    “I never took any of it, if that’s what you’re implying.”
    “I wasn’t thinking that at all.  I was simply wondering where it had gone.”
    “Yes, I wonder that myself.”
    She put the plant back and we left the office.  I hadn’t found anything, but it had been a longshot chance anyway.  When she locked the door, she said:
    “I guess I’ll have to give this key back to Mrs. Maxwell.  Technically, I have no use for it anymore.”
    “No, I suppose not.”
    I could have volunteered to take it back to her, but I didn’t know if I needed to see her again.  No use making any unnecessary trips if I didn’t have to.  However, I did need to make one necessary trip.
    I wanted to find out if Martine’s secretary had worked for Westbury Placements, too.