City Different

Chapter 1


The two detectives trudged up the stairs, single file, while I sat watching.  I wasn’t going anywhere, not with the uniformed policeman standing near the front door occasionally flicking his eyes toward me and then looking away.  He was one of the two who had originally responded to my call.  His partner was still upstairs in Joe’s bedroom, apparently preserving the crime scene.

            Flashes of light came from the bedroom at the top of the stairs.  It took a minute for me to realize they were taking flash pictures up there—apparently recording the scene now.

            The flashing eventually stopped and I waited, looking up, hearing mumbled conversations coming from Joe’s room.  After a while, the two detectives emerged and came down and took seats across from me.  I still sat on the couch, where they’d told me to wait, my hands hanging between my knees.  They stared at me for a few seconds.

            “Did you touch anything up there, Mr. Collins?” one of them asked.  Earlier, when he’d arrived with his partner, he’d told me his name.  I was having a hard time concentrating, but I remembered now that it was Ryan.  I looked over at the other one, trying to remember his name too.  He stared back at me, sitting with his hands folded in his lap. 

            The first one, Detective Ryan, was waiting for me to answer.  He looked up as a man came in through the front door carrying a hard-side case in one hand.  The door was still open from when Nina had run through it earlier, and that bothered me for some reason.  I wanted to go close it.  The detective whose name I couldn’t remember stood and went over to talk to the man with the case.  They spoke in low voices for a minute.

            “Mr. Collins, did you touch anything up there?” Detective Ryan asked again.

            I turned back, trying to make sense of what he’d said.  He was asking: did I touch Joe?  Why would I do that?  Or he was really asking: did I shoot Joe?  No, he wasn’t asking that.         

            “No,” I finally told him.

            The man with the case, what I thought must have been some kind of evidence kit, went up the stairs, and the other detective came back and sat down again and continued his staring at me.  The evidence kit must have been to capture fingerprints and whatever else they looked for in a crime scene.  Blood, probably.  There was enough of that.

            Detective Ryan looked down at the notebook in his hand.  “You said when you came in, your wife was running out the door.”   

            “Yes,” I said.

            “Why was she doing that?”

            “I don’t know.”

            “Did she say anything?”

            “She said my name.”  It was still in my head, the way she’d said it

            “That’s all?  Just Edward?”

            “Eddie,” I said.  Nina had practically knocked me over when I’d opened the door, coming in.  She’d looked at me, her eyes wild, and said, “Eddie,” in a strangled voice before running past me out the front door and jumping into her car and driving off, squealing the tires all the way up the long driveway.  The way she’d said my name sounded as if she’d been gasping for air. 

            “Do you know where she is?”


            He waited for a few seconds.  “You have no idea?”

            I shook my head.

            “And you don’t know why she ran away.”

            I turned to look at him.  “Isn’t it obvious?”

            “Not really, Mr. Collins,” Detective Ryan said.  

            “She was scared.  What else?”

            “Of you?”

            I didn’t know how to answer that.

            Detective Ryan stared at me for a few seconds and then looked over at his partner, and then back at me.  “So your wife ran out the door, after saying your name,” he asked.  “What did you do then?”

            I remembered standing in the open doorway, looking up the driveway for a minute after Nina had gone, but I didn’t mention that.  “I went upstairs,” I said.  “I found Joe in his bedroom lying there.  There was blood all over his shirt and all around him on the floor.”

            “What did you do next?” Detective Ryan asked. 

             “I’m not sure.  I must have called you people.”

            Detective Ryan looked again at his notebook.  “The dead man’s name was Joseph LaFont, correct?  He was a houseguest?”

            The word, houseguest, didn’t seem to fit.  “He just lived with us.”

            The detective looked around.  “Well, you got enough room, it looks like.  There’s how many bedrooms, seven or eight?  Maybe more than that.”  He turned his head one way and then the other appraising the place.  “But he wasn’t a houseguest, you say.”  His eyes came back to me.  “He just lived here.”

            “He worked for me,” I said, with the thought that what I was saying wasn’t making much sense to these detectives.  It was disconnected and not making much sense to me either.

            “He worked for you in that big office complex of yours over in Cupertino.”  Detective Ryan jerked a thumb over his shoulder.  “What did he do for you there?”

            It felt like I had to filter my answers through some thick substance in my brain.  “He was my Chief Financial Officer,” I told Detective Ryan.  The words came out like they were sticking to my tongue.  I sounded like a drunken man trying to act sober.  The two detectives traded looks.

            It’d been Nina who had first brought up the subject of Joe going to work for me.  It seemed like a long time ago, but it was only a few months back, a time when I was having trouble getting control of my own company.  We’d grown too fast with no decent fiscal control, and I was hopeless when it came to matters of money.  The fact was I had no respect for it.  Joe LaFont was an accountant, working for Nina’s Aunt Helen in Santa Fe, and Helen had brought it up to Nina that Joe might be able to help straighten out my books.  Joe made a trip out to California to see me and to look over the situation.  Within a week he’d impressed me enough that I convinced him to stay at least semi-permanently.  I made him my acting Chief Financial Officer, or CFO, reporting to me.



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