The word for this week’s BlogBattle was rope. Being that my only novel so far—The Red Dress—is a mystery, my mind went the only place it could—Neckties.
While thinking of mysteries and neckties, my mind naturally flocked to Stephanie Hawthorne and Daniel Atwell. For those who don’t know, Stephanie and Daniel are the protagonists in The Red Dress. I couldn’t just leave them out when what I had in mind fairly screamed for their appearance.
So I gave in.
THE LIEUTENANT’S NECKTIE
Today wasn’t my day. Not only had the police hauled Stephanie away from the office two hours before her weekly knitting group, but they’d taken her to an active crime scene, complete with dead body. For someone who handles an above average rate of murders for her profession, Stephanie Hawthorne, genius private detective, hates few things more than a corpse.
Of course, I’d been dragged along as well. Bully.
Leaning back in the chair I’d commandeered, I crossed my arms and stared up at the late M. Elizabeth Drood. I’ll save you the morbid details, but suffice it to say she was well dressed with only a rope necktie which connected her to a set of playground monkey bars ruining her appearance.
Leaning over, I glanced ostentatiously down at Stephanie’s sweater of green, pink, and brown wool that looked like a finger-painting rejected by a five year old. “Next time, you should dress better.”
Stephanie grunted. “James did this.”
James Hawthorne was Stephanie’s older, smarter brother who also happened to be the inspector in charge of homicide in our neck of the woods.
“He did this from New England?”
I didn’t say it was a close relationship.
Lieutenant Nelson Armatige III was nearby, however. He’d overheard us and now came waddling over. Standing not a hair over five foot three, he did his best imitation of a towering shrub. “Nope. This was my idea. We could use the help, if it’s all the same to you.”
“My usual fee,” Stephanie said, “is more than you make in a year.”
“Be as that may, I figured with your brother being part of the police and all, you wouldn’t mind donating your time. If you’re brother were here—”
“Then I’d be at home because he’d have already solved this.”
“Now, Ma’am. . . .”
A fire lit behind Stephanie’s emerald eyes. Normally, I’d have let Stephanie chew out the bumbling fool while he hit every one of her buttons. All I’d need was the popcorn. But I wanted to get my wife off to her shindig as much as she wanted to go.
“Why don’t we go take a look?” I said, removing myself from the chair with a groan.
With a sigh I turned to Stephanie. “Why?”
“I can see everything from here.”
“And. . . .”
“I’m not telling.”
“That’s withholding—” Armatige cut off as I held up a hand.
“Please Left-Tennant,” I pronounced his title in the English manner, “let me handle this.” I turned back to Stephanie. “Why’s that?”
“Why won’t you explain what happened?”
“It’s not important.”
“Think about it.”
I turned and looked hard at the crime scene for the first time.
“Then that means—”
Stephanie nodded and I returned to my seat, crossing my legs. “It’s all yours Left-tennat. Sorry.”
Armitige grumbled something under his breath, took several steps away, then returned at a faster clip. “Both of you, I’ll hold you in contempt. Tell me what’s going on. The mayor will be down my throat if he learns that I’ve shut down one of his parks this long. It’ll be my job. I don’t wanna lose my job. There’s the baby to think of. My wife’ll kill me.” His voice went from strident to three year old within the same breath. It was all I could do not to roll my eyes.
Stephanie didn’t have that reservation. “Contempt of what? Use that hat rack of yours and see what I see. I saw it seconds after I arrived.”
We all couldn’t be geniuses, but then this wasn’t a genius level conundrum.
“What is it?” Armitige cried.
With raised hands and her own cry questioning how Armitige learned how to breathe, let alone walk, Stephanie strode away from the two of us. I stood as well, intending to follow in a few moments.
“Left-tennant,” I said, “has anyone touched the body?”
“No. We wanted to preserve everything for Miss Hawthorne.”
“Misses,” I said absently.
“Nevermind. If no one’s touched since you’ve been here—how long ago was that?”
“About ten minutes before you arrived.”
Stephanie grunted from behind me. She’d approached unnoticed and now stood behind my right shoulder, her red hair twitching in the wind. I shot a glance over my shoulder before continuing. “You should have waited. If you didn’t touch the body, how’d you identify the victim?”
Armitage pointed to a purse that one of the forensic guys was cataloging. “Driver’s license. I’ve seen better ones, but I’ve seen worse.”
“You are a police lieutenant, and you can’t spot a fake I.D. No wonder you needed help.”
“A fake.” Armitage blanched.
Stephanie shook her head and walked over to the body, grasped it firmly by the arms, and yanked. Her head popped off, falling to the ground to lie beside the rest of her body. No blood, just too wide eyes and an open mouth.
“It’s called a RealDoll. Look it up.”
“A real doll. . .?”
“Yes.” Stephanie brushed hair away from her face as she passed us. “Not real. Latex, I believe. Now, if you will excuse me—” Not stopping, she made it to the street and turned left.
I looked back at Armatige. “It’s a sex thing, Lefty. Ask your wife to explain it to you. All in all, just a poor joke.”
With a pat on his shoulder, I followed after Stephanie.