Death By Rush Delivery
Mystery Files: Detective Jonathan Barrett
BY K.J. Griffin
Stirring under the covers and expressing my displeasure at the disturbance that had aroused me from my slumber, I mumbled a profanity laced rant before groping in the dark for the bedside phone.
“Yeah?” I asked incoherently.
“Barrett, it’s Captain Marr, I’m sorry to wake you at such an early hour but I wouldn’t bother you if it wasn’t of the utmost importance.” My eyes strained to see the red glowing digits of the clock that sat on the bedside stand. When my optics became accustom to the darkness, I grumbled. Three o’clock in the morning and to say that I am tired would be a complete understatement. “Are you there, Detective?”
“Yes, yes. What do you want?”
“Mr. Rhodes is dead.” That single statement spoke volumes.
“Dead? Like no longer living, journeyed to the Great Beyond . . . ” The shock evident in my voice.
“Dead, dead. Can’t get much deader than that.”
“Wow. What happened?” I craved for details practically salivating.
“That’s kinda why I called you. Mr. Rhodes assistant found him dead at his vacation home, located in Half Moon Bay. I can’t tell you everything over the phone. I need you here. But what I can tell you is that there is no obvious cause of death.”
“Not a cut, burn, bullet wound, bruises or even a scratch. Nada.”
“I can’t believe it. Does the press know?”
“Absolutely not and I would appreciate it if it stayed that way.” Captain Marr stated this rather sternly.
“Of course. It will take me some time to get there, but I’ll get there as soon as I can-“
”Go to the police station, and a helicopter is standing by for your arrival.”
“Okay, see you soon.” The line went dead and I was left to my thoughts. I quickly dressed, grabbed my jacket and car keys making record time to the station. The news of this mans death woke me up faster than coffee ever could.
The helicopter ride lasted about an hour and while in the craft I digested the news that had been laid before me. Mr. Rhodes is a genius of a man, not to mention the richest and most powerful man in all of Europe. He was also making quite the name for himself in the good ‘ole U.S.A. Mr. Rhodes dabbled into everything profitable, from real estate to medical breakthroughs, technology, and energy industries. The headlines over the past month have been investigating where his funding for his many projects derives from. Speculation is that the money may not be clean. How so? Not for sure nobody has been able to prove if the allegations are true. Now we may never know.
As far as his current project is concerned, we know far less. This has been a secret operation held near and dear to the billionaire. I can’t wait for the opportunity to snoop around, I just wish that it could be under better circumstances. Just another downside of the job.
Within minutes after exiting the helicopter I was shuttled to the scene by an officer. Pulling up to the gates that allow entry into the property I was amazed at the sheer size and splendor of the home. Compared to what lay before me, my little apartment back in Bakersfield was more than just quaint- irrelevant is a better term. The whole apartment building could fit in this house!
Surrounded by the local fauna; mostly palms and fruit trees, gave way to a three-storied home, with plenty of windows to show case the view, and the craftsmanship is superb. The architect had an eye for detail. A large porch wrapped around the house decked out with plenty of seating and tables.
The squad car was parked behind a dark Bentley that had been left in the driveway. Captain Marr, who I had met on just one prior occasion, was waiting impatiently for my arrival.
“‘Bout time, Barrett. There is no time to waste, follow me.” He turned and briskly trotted up the steps and into the home. I had to jog just to catch up to the man.
“What’s the hurry? Mr. Rhodes isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”
“In no time at all the press will get wind of Mr. Rhodes death and then all hell will break loose. I want to get as much of the investigation finished before questions are asked.” Marr snapped back. The Captain is of an average height, natural tan complexion (I think his family is of Greek descendant), dark short hair, athletic build, and very meticulous. Not a hair out of place, tie snug and straight, and shoes shined.
Entering the kitchen, the scene of the crime- if in fact a crime has been committed- I saw the billionaire laying face down on the floor. Just out of reach of his left hand was a cordless telephone. “Evidently he was going to call someone before he collapsed,” I stated the obvious as I knelt down beside the body. “From his clothes I garner to guess that he has been dead for a few hours.”
“That’s what we suspect. We place the time of death around late evening, seven . . . eight o’clock.”
“Who is this man? What is doing here?” A tall thin man with black square glasses, also meticulous in appearance, marched into the room demanding answers.
“Detective Jonathan Barrett.” I stood and extended my hand.
The young man ignored me and continued with the questions. “Captain Marr I don’t want this investigation jeopardized.”
“I know, but this man knows what he’s doing. He’s the best.”
“By the looks of him, I would say that he is the best that you got.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I look a little rough: I needed to shave and my hair was semi- wild, my face had the appearance of someone who was in desperate need of sleep, but I was perfectly comfortable in my jeans and white T-shirt.
“Captain Marr I suggest you shut this guy up or I’m gone. This is the last thing I need right now.” It had been a tough week, personally and professionally and this weasel does not want to mess with me. Not today and I figure that I could totally take him.
“Okay, okay you two chill out. We are here to figure out how Mr. Rhodes died. Let’s stay on task.”
“Who discovered his body?”
“I did,” the weasel spoke up.
“And just who are you?”
“I’m Rhodes assistant, Casey Chase. We were to have a business meeting tonight, and when I arrived the door was opened. I found him right here.”
“Who was the last known person to see him?”
“Denis,” called the Captain to another officer, “bring in the delivery man.” In walked a confused and tired young man, probably early twenties, still dressed in his uniform the name tag on his chest read Justin.
“Justin, my name is Detective Barrett. I understand that you were the last person to speak to the victim.”
“I guess so. I delivered two packages here earlier today.”
“What time was that?”
“How did the victim seem at the time? Was he nervous or acting odd in any way?”
The delivery man pondered the question for a moment, running his hand through his copper colored hair. “He seemed fine to me; in fact I would describe him as energetic and cheerful. Nice guy. We chatted about the weather and baseball for a couple minutes.”
“Nothing out of the ordinary?” I needed to be sure.
“No, not at all.”
“Thanks, Justin. Get some sleep.”
“That would be nice.” A pathetic grin spread across his face. I feel the same way. Leaving the weasel with Captain Marr I began to search the room. On the counter laid a small, brown-wrapped box, a knife lying next to it. It had been opened but I was unable to find what might have been inside. No note, a receipt . . . nothing. The box was postmarked Brazil. No return address or name of sender.
Peering into the trash that had yet to be emptied, offered no clues whatsoever. No notes, letters, or anything else of use. Moving back to the epicenter of the crime scene, I once agin inspected the body. Wearing latex gloves, I gently touched the body looking for needle pricks, cuts, scrapes, anything that might indicate the cause of death.
“Find anything?” Marr inquired.
“Nope. Just this small wound on his right index finger. Is it possible that he died of natural causes? Heart attack, aneurism, an undisclosed disease . . . ”
“Highly unlikely,” I was not surprised when the weasel chipped in with an answer. “This was a man that ran five miles a day, worked out relentlessly- just take a look at the weight room down the hall- and as far as diseases he was as healthy as a man can be. In fact, he just visited the doctor a week ago. Clean bill of health.”
Removing my Dodgers cap, I scratched the top of my head. Thus far in my investigation, I had been unable to connect the dots. I plead constantly for a challenge and this case might just be the one that I was asking for.
“What’s wrong, Detective Jarrett? Is the amateur detective stumped?” The weasel nagged.
“The name’s Barrett and no I am not stumped just puzzled. I do not possess the “little grey cells,” that the great Hercule Poirot used to solve his cases, but I am the proud owner of some mad skills.”
Lying on the small round table by the bay windows was a copy of yesterday’s paper. Smack dab on the front page was the article that I had referred to earlier; the suspicious reports of funding from unethical parties. “What was Mr. Rhodes working on?” I directed the question to the assistant who was completely mum on the subject. “Are you going to answer me?”
“Nothing you would understand.” I rolled my eyes expecting such a snub from him. “The project would not have got him killed.”
“So who did fund his projects?”
“I don’t entirely know.” I didn’t believe him for a minute, but frankly that was of no concern to me. All I am here to do is figure out the cause of death, not apprehend a suspect.
“What the hell was that?” Captain Marr broke the silence rather abruptly.
“Something crawled across the floor. It looked like a spider, a rather large one at that.” He was frantically searching the premises, obviously very concerned about the arachnid.
“I doubt the spider is of any importance.” The weasel was eager for some answers and clearly felt that we had lost sight of the task at hand.
“There it is!” Yelled Captain Marr as he simultaneously pointed at the object scurrying across the tile floor. Grabbing a small glass that had been sitting on the counter, with skill and agility I was able to place the glass over the spider. Sliding a thin sheet of paper (I removed the pad from a kitchen drawer) under the glass and placed the creature on the table. Looking up I was a bit surprised to see the Captain standing on a chair, peering over my shoulder. The look on his face was of sheer horror.
“Afraid of the tiny spider, are we?” I laughed.
“No, just making sure you got it.” He came down from the chair and stood as far away as possible. “Are you done with your investigation?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Do you have a theory on how Mr. Rhodes met his untimely death?” Weasel issued the challenge.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.”
“I would love to hear it,” quirked the Captain.
As you’re accustomed to, I will give you a few minutes to put your magnifying glass to work and to exercise those mad skills I know you posses. If you happen to be off your game, don’t you worry; I’ll solve the mystery for you.
Solution to the crime: How was the billionaire Mr. Rhodes killed? (And for a bonus, was it homicide?)
DEATH BY SPIDER BITE
“He was killed by that spider?” asked Captain Marr moving even farther away from the critter.
“And how did you come to this conclusion?” Casey Chase was not buying this piece of ideology.
“The ever-so-small wound I found on his right index finger, was a prick where the spider had bitten him, injecting him with a lethal does of venom.”
“So it wasn’t homicide?” Captain Marr sounded rather relieved, but I would have to rain on his parade.
“Actually it was.”
“How so?” Casey was bewildered. “You could attempt to charge the spider with murder in the first, but I just don’t think that would pan out.”
“Did Mr. Rhodes purchase any bananas recently? I didn’t see any, but maybe I overlooked them?”
“He hates . . . or hated bananas.”
“Did he have any exotic flora around the house?”
“Mr. Rhodes suffered from allergies and he is notorious for forgetting to water his plants. Why do you ask these questions?”
“Do you know what species of spider this is?”
Both men shook their head no and stared at me for the answer. “The Brazilian Wandering Spider. Believed to be the most dangerous spider in the world.”
“How did it get here?” Captain Marr was not on his game.
“The package on the counter is postmarked Brazil. Someone sent him the spider in the mail, knowing that when he opened the package the spider would be extremely aggressive- a characteristic of the species- and would bite the billionaire ultimately causing his death.”
“That’s crazy.” Casey was overwhelmed at this possibility.
“The only other way this creature would have gotten here is by being in a bunch of bananas or hitching a ride on exotic flowers.”
“Was it a painful death?”
This was the first time I actually felt sorry for Casey Chase. “Most likely yes. The bite is excruciating because of the large size of the fangs and the high levels of Serotonin contained in the venom. As soon as Mr. Rhodes was bit he felt immediate and overwhelming pain, associated with heavy perspiration and drooling. Along with the Serotonin, the venom is a fast acting Neurotoxin. Was he allergic to anything other than plants?”
“Prone to anaphylactic shock. Could explain why he died so quickly.”
“It’s a shame. Now I need to know why he was killed.”
“I know that answer as well. The other package. I searched for it and have yet to find it. The delivery man, Justin, said that he dropped off two packages. You need to find out where that package came from. Find the package, find the killer.”
Captain Marr wasted little time screaming out orders and activating his small squad of police officers. Needing a place to think, I stepped out onto the upstairs balcony, watching as the waves crashed onto the shore. “Thank you for your help, Detective Jarrett. I really appreciate it.”
Without so much as a look in Weasel’s direction I shot back, “The name’s Barrett. And you are welcome.”
“The F.B. I have taken over the investigation, guess that’s the end of it for you.” With that information he turned and left me to ponder who killed Mr. Rhodes. Was it one of the people that supplied him illegal funding? Or did it concern his secret project?
Maybe the answers will be revealed in the newspaper in the following weeks.
Or maybe, just maybe I’ll be invited to work the case . . .