by Lawrence Christopher
According to his case file folder, Kenneth Banks is the thirty-two year old, father of two boys, ages nine and ten, with Brenda Jackson. Banks is twenty-seven thousand dollars in arrearage on his child support payments. He was presumed to have left the city of Odelot, Ohio. My assistant Verna Jones who works for the Credit Bureau of Odelot came across a recent credit check on Kenneth Banks. He applied for a cellular phone account with AT&T, in which he was denied. The credit check gave me a current address on Kenneth.
At six o'clock in the morning, I am sitting in my car outside the address Verna gave me from Kenneth Bank's credit record. He comes out promptly at 6:15, walks to the corner and catches a number five-transit bus. I follow the bus until Kenneth gets off at the corner of Collingwood Boulevard and Door Street. Kenneth walks into a McDonald's restaurant I assume to have breakfast. Continued observation shows me that Kenneth is there instead, to make and serve breakfast. I'm the first customer of the morning.
"Welcome to McDonald's. Is this for here or to go?"
"For here, Kenneth."
"Do I know you?"
"No, but I know about you Kenneth Banks and Brenda Jackson and your two boys Jeremy and Jerome."
"Who are you man?"
"My name is Mick Hart. I'm a private investigator, hired to find people like yourself who don't pay their child support."
"What do you motherfuchas want from me. You already had my drivers licenses suspended. I lost my job as a driver for UPS when that happened. Now I have a new family and kids to feed, working two jobs, this one and at a gas station. How am I suppose to take care of another family?"
"Brenda and the boys were your first family. I'm here in their interest."
"Listen man, I haven't heard or seen Brenda and the kids in years. She's got to be kickin' it with some other niggah by now."
"That may be. This is about your obligation."
"Can't you give a brotha a break?"
"What about Brenda and the boys, who gives them a break?"
"Look, if I can kick her off some money when I can, will you not turn me in?"
"Something may be worked out."
I hate to see anyone get caught up in the system. By notifying the Odelot Child Support Agency of Kenneth's employment, would cause garnishment of his check of an amount that wouldn't make it worth his while to work. He would undoubtedly quit and that would be of no benefit to anyone. I made a personal arrangement with Kenneth to pay me an affordable sum of money that I would make sure got into the hands of Brenda Jackson and her children. By this special arrangement, I lose my finder's fee of a third of the amount Kenneth Bank was in arrearage to the OCSA. I can afford to take the lost more than Kenneth Banks and both his families. ~~~~~~~
Back in my office of Mick Hart Investigation Agency, which is in the den of my home, the phone rings several times before I really hear it. My voice mail service finally stops the phone's ringing. I simply sit there and look at the phone before picking it up to hear the stutter dial, which indicates that I have a message waiting.
"Mister Hart, this is Calvin Morrison. I would like to hire you for a job. Please call me at my office at 555-3746. Thank you."
It's 4:00 in the afternoon when I return the call to a cellular phone instead of an office, which I expected. A man with a professional and proper tone answers.
"Mr. Morrison, this is Mick Hart. You called and left a message."
"Yes, Mr. Hart. Could we meet?"
"How about at six o'clock at Have Mercy Hospital."
"I'll explain later. I'll be wearing a blue Armani suit, waiting for you in the lobby."
The reason I returned Morrison's call was to give me something differently to do. Sadly, I had enough files on deadbeat child supporters to keep me busy for the rest of my PI career. It is the outside calls from people looking for missing persons, which break up the humdrum. Like the call I received from an elderly aunt looking for her niece. The Dog 'Em case turned out to solve an ongoing serial rape and murder case of the Odelot Police Department. The danger of that case, Latasha, my former administrative assistant, cited as another reason why she needed to find someone who was in a more stable job. I would have wholeheartedly agreed with Latasha, if I had not saved the life of an innocent woman and reunited an aunt with her comatose niece.
At five forty-five I walk into the lobby of Have Mercy Hospital. Calvin Morrison is waiting for me. He is a very handsome, distinguish looking man, impeccably dressed in a blue double-breasted business suit. I second-guess my decision to wear some Dockers and pullover sweater. In my line of work, I have little need to dress in a business suit. It doesn't seem to phase Morrison as he stands as soon as he sees me.
"Mr. Hart I presume."
"Yes." We shake hands. Morrison has a strong grip, equaling my own. My father told me you judge a man's character by the strength of his handshake.
"You look like a private investigator."
"Good thing I don't do any undercover work."
"Yes, I suppose."
"So what is this job Mr. Morrison."
"I want you to locate this man."
Morrison hands me a magazine opened to a page that has a photo of a man with the caption naming him as Morris Chandler. According to the article, Chandler has just made millions of dollars with an Internet startup company. The company is located in Norcross, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta.
"This article says Morris Chandler is in Georgia. You would be wasting your money for me to locate him." I tell Morrison.
"It's not that simple Mr. Hart. I've made numerous phone calls to Mr. Chandler on behalf of my client and he won't return them," irritatingly replies the man, as if I insulted his intelligence.
"And who is your client and why are you trying to contact Chandler?"
"Come with me."
Morrison and I obtain passes at the visitor's desk to see the patient in room 211. When we arrive at the room, there is a beautiful woman at the bedside of a woman who appears to be in her forties. The woman in the bed has an assortment of machines connected and tubes running to her body. My focus is on the beautiful woman who is in attendance. I feel that I know her or at least have seen her someplace before. There is a third woman in the room who is sitting quietly reading a book. Neither of the women looks up at Morrison or I at the door. We step back into the hall.
"Okay, so who's your client?" I ask Morrison.
"The woman in the bed. She's Mary Chandler, the man in the photo ex-wife. She's dying." He says the last two words grimly and quite emotionally.
"And what is it you want me to do?"
"I want you to make sure Mr. Chandler knows of his ex-wife's condition."
"I'm not a messenger boy Mr. Morrison."
"I'm not relegating your role to that of a messenger. I just want to make sure Mr. Chandler is made fully aware of the matter, before proceeding with legal actions. Your fee and all your expenses will be paid Mr. Hart."
I look back into the room at the woman in the bed and the beauty at her side.
On my way home I catch a glimpse of the side of a transit bus and there she is, the woman who was in the hospital room. The face is the same but the hair is different to suit the shampoo ad. She's a model. What is her relationship to Mary Chandler? Another question is, why would an ex-husband need to be made aware of his ex-wife's dying. Being in my line of work I should no better than to ask that question. I still need to know more.
I pose the questions to Morrison before I leave Odelot, Ohio for Atlanta, Georgia. He tells me that the Chandlers' have two adult children, one being Lea; a single named model who was at the hospital. The other sibling Carl, Morrison said was a son who was institutionalized in a mental hospital.
Verna was the only one I told that I would be out of town for a few days. I told the temporary agency that I wouldn't need anyone for a few days. It is a short two and a half-hour direct flight from Detroit Metro and Atlanta Hartsfield International airport. Calvin Morrison made all the arrangements for the flight and my hotel lodging. He gave me complete instructions on how to take the transit train system in Atlanta, MARTA to my hotel downtown. Morrison was thorough and a man of his word. Everything was paid for in advance and I was given an advance of a thousand dollars. Keys to a rental car were waiting for me at the Ritz Carlton hotel when I checked in. Before venturing out into the city, I decided to sleep in the first night and get an early and fresh start tomorrow.
All-n-One.com is the latest company and web site venture of Morris Chandler. "All-n-One.com provides the service of personalizing a web page for users, bringing to one web site the personalized links of their preferred services and sites. The web site does away with bookmarking and saving favorite pages. Banking, travel and shopping sites are all on your personalized web page. The bonded and technical staff of All-n-One.com handles the coordination of your links and passwords. This is the latest of a string of successful Internet startup ventures for Chandler." That was an excerpt from WEB Review Magazine that had Morris Chandler' photo featured.
The physical location of Chandler's office I learn is in the heart of an Atlantan suburb Norcross, Georgia. Norcross is also the hub for computer software and technological companies in the Atlanta area. It is a good thing I got an early start to travel to Chandler' office. The traffic in Atlanta is insane. It took me two trips around what is called the Perimeter before I realized I was literally going in circles. The highways in some stretches of the road, are six lanes across and all of them will be at a complete stop.
Finally, I find the road exit to head me in the right direction. The modern office building, which bore the address I was looking for, is impressive. I walked into the lobby entrance where I see people walking around with ID tags hanging around their necks or clipped to them. There is a security guard posted at every entrance to go pass the lobby where everyone entering presented their badges. Chandler's business isn't the only tenant in the building. The sight of this made my getting in to see Chandler questionable. I approach the receiving guard at the main desk.
"Yes, may I help you?" She says authoritatively.
"I'm here to see Morris Chandler" I answer.
"Are you expected?"
"Yes. We're suppose to have lunch." I lied of course.
"Just a moment. Your name?"
"Mick Hart." She gives me a look that is either from her training as a security guard to scrutinize everyone or her female instincts that knows when a man is lying. I could overhear the phone conversation with someone from Chandler' office.
"Yes, he said his name is Mick Hart. Okay. - - Mr. Hart, someone will be down in just a minute."
I made it this far. I doubt that it would be Chandler himself that would come out to greet me. That would better my chances at bluffing my way pass a staff person. That is if they had have sent down a staff person and not the vice-president of operations Regina Alexander. It's a small world after all. Regina Alexander and I used to be high school sweethearts back in Odelot, Ohio, and seventeen years ago.
"Mick Hart? Oh my gosh. When I heard the name, I didn't believe it could actually be you. What are you doing here?"
"Regina! I'm in town on business." The security guard watches me closely, while her suspicions are being confirmed that I was not an expected visitor.
"I can't believe it's really you. What has it been, fifteen, sixteen years?"
"No, . . . and you still are looking good."
"You don't look too bad yourself." I meant that sincerely as I took peeks at Regina's still taut body, tightly canvassed in a short skirt dress. From what I could tell, Regina is as physically fit and capable of performing some of the cheerleading routines she did back in high school. What I would give to see her try, while in the tight dress she's wearing.
Regina signs me in at the desk and the security guard hands me a temporary pass to clip on. Regina leads me to the plush office space of Chandler Enterprises. She takes me directly to her side of the "his and her" matching offices. The nameplate on the other office door is Morris Chandler, President. Just as impressively displayed on her door is Regina Alexander, Vice-President of Operations.
"Would you care for something to drink?" Regina asks.
"No. I'm fine." I give in response.
"Mick I just can't believe how small the world is. I could see this happening in little old Odelot, but not Atlanta."
"I heard the city was made up of more transplant residents than actual people born here."
"That's probably true. But what are the odds of you coming to town and us meeting . . . when you came to do business with my fiancé."
Sometimes when you hear something, you actually want to shake your head to believe that by doing so, it would unclog your ears. Maybe I didn't want to believe what I had heard, after seeing Regina looking as beautiful as ever after all these years. Or it might be the point of my being here in the first place, to tell Chandler that his ex-wife is dying. I wondered if Regina even knew Chandler had been married before.
"Your fiancé'." I repeat.
"Yes. Morris and I are engaged to marry in two months on my birthday." Regina confirms.
"Congratulations." Lying is very distasteful.
"Do you really mean it?"
"Sure." Leftover lies taste badly too.
"I haven't told anyone back home, because Morris and I have only known each other for six months. I think my family would try to stop me."
"It's your life not theirs." That is the best I can come up with.
"So what business do you have with Morris?" Damn, she would have to ask. But I should have expected it as well. I already had a foul taste in my mouth from the previous two lies that I might as well get a mouthful and swallow like a man.
"Actually, I'm here representing a group of people from Odelot who have a vested interest in Mr. Chandler's business." Well, that didn't taste so bad.
"What kind of interest?"
"Nothing personal Regina, but I'm under strict orders not to discuss the matter with any one other than Mr. Chandler."
"But I'm his business partner and his soon to be wife. There aren't any secrets between us."
"I'm sorry Regina."
That's when the familiar little pout came on her face. The one I remembered back in the day. It is the cutest thing I have ever seen, when Regina pokes out her bottom lip and her eyelids go to batting real fast. She hasn't changed at all. Regina walks to her office door in a huff.
"Will you excuse me a moment."
I have seen it all before. One night in her parents' home, Regina and I were sitting on the couch watching TV in the basement. Well, that's how we started out. Regina was playing a tease game and she made it a point to remind me that we were only going to watch TV. I didn't want to watch the game show that was on, so I picked up the newspaper and began reading the comics. At the first commercial break, Regina makes her way over to my side of the couch and begins messing around and eventually we are kissing. So I give in. All of the sudden Regina wants to prove her sexual prowess by posing a question; "I thought you wanted to read the paper?" Immediately realizing her intent and I was not going to give her the satisfaction, though at the time I should have. I responded in kind with a question of my own; "I thought you wanted to watch television?" Regina seemingly leaped off of my lap, back to her side of the couch and resume watching TV. Her bottom lip poked out even further that day.
Changing my mind about having something to drink, I go out into the reception area in search of a pop machine. I make the mistake of inquiring of the woman sitting behind a large oak wood desk if she was the secretary. The young woman sternly corrected me and told me she is the executive assistant. I profusely apologize, not sure if I knew the exact difference. I still needed to know where I could get a cold can of pop. That too I learn was an error on my part.
"Pop? What is pop?" Asks the woman whose head seems to be balancing on a swivel to accentuate a verbal point.
"Pop. You know, it comes in a can. You drink it. Coca-Cola."
"Oh. You mean a soda. I can tell you aren't from Georgia are you?" The head spin is on.
"No I'm from Ohio."
"Hmmph. The soda machine is down the hall to your right."
I retrieved my soda pop and return to Regina's office to find her leaning on to the desk of her executive assistant discussing some document. The seductive pose that Regina strikes makes me wish that I had the power to turn back the hands of time. I can't, so time marches on.
"Oh there you are." Regina turns effortlessly, while saying, "I thought you might have run off."
"No. I just went to get a soda." Aiming the emphasis at the woman behind the desk.
"Well Mick, Morris is going to be out of town until the end of the week. He's expected back on Friday. I'm sorry you came all this way for nothing."
"Oh, it's no problem. I can stay in town until then."
"OH GREAT!" Regina's enthusiasm didn't seem to please the assistant any. "Then we can spend some time together and catch up on old times. How about dinner tonight?"
I call Calvin Morrison back in Odelot, to keep him updated as to my progress or lack there of as the case would be. I told him Chandler wouldn't be back in town until Friday per his fiancée slash vice-president. Morrison seemed quite interested in the news of Chandler pending marriage. Before ending our discussion, he had me to confirm Chandler's business and home address "for possible notification by mail" he said. I would do that later.
I told Regina where I was staying. She suggested that she pick me up so I wouldn't get lost traveling around the city. It was a week of wining and dining, all at the expense of Regina and Chandler Enterprises. We ate dinner at Ray's On the River. Lunch the next day was at the Shark Bar. Dinner the next night was at Veni Vidi Vici's. We dined well. I attended my first Major League baseball game. And not just any game, a pennant game between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets. We also attended a performance of Circus De Soules, an acrobatic troupe.
For Thursday night dinner, Regina suggested that I come to their home in Lithonia, Georgia. The invitation seemed innocent enough. Of course Regina drove to make sure I got there. The drive took almost forty-five minutes, closer to an hour to make. The couple has a lavished four-bedroom home that would equal the finest of any mansion back in Odelot. Regina gives me a tour of the extravagant dwelling, making me envious even more of Chandler's life, starting with my rekindled feelings toward his soon to be wife.
Not only is Regina still as attractive as she was in high school; now she is an accomplished businesswoman. It is rare to find that combination in women. I know that makes me sound sexist, but a woman going from cheerleader to corporate executive isn't your everyday success story. At best, I could see Regina marrying Chandler and staying home to spend his money. The thought of Regina in this way made her more desirable. But I would not disrespect the man's home and his relationship.
Regina served some after dinner cordial liqueur and we began talking about old times.
"What happened to us Mick? Why did you break it off with me?" Regina asks.
It was a painful memory I buried deeply. There are a few times when a man knows he's truly in love. One of those times for me was when I was with Regina. She was the captain of the varsity cheerleading squad. I was the star quarterback of the varsity football team. Everyone thought we were a perfect couple, including me.
The night after our high school team won the state football championship, I wanted to happily explode and that included sexually. The game was played in the state capital of Columbus, Ohio, a three hours ride from Odelot. So we spent the night after the victory game in a hotel. When I snuck out of my room to Regina's room, I saw my teammate Billy "White shoes" tip-toeing in her room. Regina's roommate, who left the room so the two of them could be alone, passed me in the hall. Realizing what I saw, the roommate started laughing. I never told Regina and to this day, I guess she never knew. When we saw each other the next day, I simply broke off the relationship. No explanation given. I don't want to dredge up painful memories that can't be soothed.
"It was a long time ago Regina, let's leave it at that." I force out.
Regina doesn't want to leave it at that. She presses the issue, then her lips on mine. I am vulnerable and longing for someone to replace the loss companionship of my assistant Latasha. Regina is a good fit. It became too late to drive me back to the hotel, so I spent the night in the guess room, with Regina lying next to me. ~~~~~~~
Morris Chandler arrives in Atlanta Friday late afternoon. He's tied up for most of the day, is what the executive assistant tells me. Regina isn't accepting any of my calls. When I finally get through to Regina, she tells me that we, Chandler and I, can meet at their house later that evening. I call Morrison in Odelot and tell him of my plan and he sounds pleased.
It's around eight thirty in the evening, when I pull into Chandler's driveway. I do feel some shame in facing the man whose fiancée' I had sex with the night before, in his own home. I don't see Regina's car. I do see a black Porsches that undoubted belongs to Chandler. I sit for a minute thinking what is the best thing to do. Should I go in and tell him of the news before Regina arrives or wait? A car pulls up. It's not Regina. I decide to get it over with.
As I get out of my car, the neighbors, in the other car are getting out also. It's dark on the rural street. I knock on the door. It takes several minutes before someone answers. Morris Chandler opens the door wearing a silk smoking jacket and carrying a sifter. He appears almost too unreal. As he focuses his eyes, I notice that they are not so much on me as they are looking past me. His eyes widen and he shouts, "What the hell are you doing here!"
When a person is knocked unconscious, it is like having a light bulb blow out in your head and everything goes black. The light that was abruptly put out in my head hurts to have come back on. There is a flickering that won't stop. It hurts with each flash. To ease my pain, I feel the light brushing of a soft warm hand grazing my forehead. The hand isn't soothing where I feel the most pain. A cushioning thigh is providing the most comfort at the moment.
The fight to open my eyes is against myself to also keep them closed. I put a hand out to help raise myself. There is two throbs going on in my body. They are out of sync. One is a rhythmic heartbeat I have known all my life, while the new beat is in my head. Fortunately, my head is being cushioned by the lap of soft thighs. I almost don't want to move, but I must. The throbbing and the beating continue, but increase on their own separate rhythm. I fall back to the pillowing lap.
There is a low wailing sound growing louder as the flickering light in my head steadies and the throbbing in my head becomes closer in synchronization with that of my heartbeat. There is something else. My hand, it's damp and sticky. I raise it to the front of my face and painstakingly try to focus on it. There is a dark substance, gooey in texture. It's blood, which is coagulating.
I look to my immediate right and there lies the bloodied bodies of Morris Chandler and his daughter Lea, dead. The crying that is distinct to me now is coming from Regina.
The local police arrive and take us both into custody. Four hours of interrogation is intolerable even without a throbbing headache. There is no direct evidence that links either Regina or I to the slaying of the father and daughter who were slashed to death. Though an over zealous detective tried to paint a picture of me being a jealous old boyfriend coming to town to rekindle a love affair and killed the man who got in my way. The daughter being killed punched holes in that theory. I learned Regina Alexander had been aloud to leave hours before me. It was funny hearing the actual words "not to leave town." in person and not through some old movies script. That's what the detective actually told me. I'm released the next morning.
Now it is time for me to do some investigation of my own, to find out what happened after I was knocked unconscious. My first phone call is to Regina's home, then to Chandler Enterprises. There is no answer at home. The executive assistant gives the short answer that Regina called saying she wouldn't be in. My next call is to Calvin Morrison.
"Morrison, I have some bad news." I inform him.
"Oh." He says too coolly.
"Morris Chandler is dead and so is his daughter Lea."
"Morrison, how did Lea get here and how did she know where to come?"
"She was brought by her personal assistant to answer your first question. And as for your second question, I told her. She wanted to meet her father.
"Where is this personal assistant of Lea's?"
"I don't know. Your job is done Mr. Hart"
"Unfortunately, I'm being asked to stay in town until a complete investigation has been made of the murders."
"You have an open end, round trip ticket. Good luck."
The overzealous detective tells me that I am free to leave Atlanta. Their investigation concludes that Lea killed her father and then herself. Forensic technicians concluded that the fingerprints on the knife and the blood found at the scene were all of the immediate family. It belonged to either Lea or Morris Chandler. There was no cuts found on either Regina or I. And there was no blood found on Regina or I other than that on my hand being placed in the seepage.
When I left Atlanta it was in the low seventies as the high temperature and sunshine. The temperature in Odelot Ohio is 54 degrees and raining. I get soaked on my way to my house and trying to retrieve the overflow of mail from my mailbox. Now inside, I open the one envelope that just has my name on it and no mailing address. It contains a cashier's check signed by Calvin Morrison, for one thousand dollars. I place the check on my desk and stare at it. It felt like tainted money. Why? I could not put my finger on it.
The Odelot Herald Newspaper printed the obituaries of former Odelotean Morris Chandler. The obit read that "Chandler was survived by his sister Eileen Chandler, an ex-wife Mary Chandler and three children, son, Carl and his daughter Lea Chandler." I noted the two typos in the obit, first the number of surviving children stated and the naming of Lea as a surviving member of Morris Chandler's. To add insult to the injury the newspaper inflicted on the Chandler family, further down the page is a studio photo of Lea Chandler announcing her death.
Miss Lea Chandler of Odelot, died Monday, October 13, 1999. Survived by her mother Mary Chandler and her two brothers Carl Chandler. Funeral service for Miss Lea Chandler will be held Wednesday, X at 11 a.m. at Holistic Salvation Church 459 Always St., Rev. I. M. Lowdown, Pastor officiating. Internment, Forrest Lawn Cemetery, Odelot, OH. Family and friends are asked to assemble at the church at 10:30 a.m. Faulkner Bros. Mortuary
Again, I note the error in the print of the account of the surviving members of the Chandler family. The editor obviously cut and paced from Morris Chandler's obit. Other than the errors, I note the date and times of the two funerals. In my line of work, I seem to be constantly breaking an intended tradition that I have not yet been able to establish. That tradition is to not attend a funeral unless I am in it. The same applies to weddings.
The first funeral for me to attend is that of Morris Chandler. I did not make my presence obviously known. My instinct proved prudent when I noted Regina Alexander in attendance. Despite the occasion, she is still exceptionally attractive. How can I face her, with me being partly responsible for her fiancé's death. I led his supposed killer, his daughter to him. My only consoling thought is that I didn't send her, nor did I drive her to his door. That thought drew my attention to a surprise attendee at the funeral.
Calvin Morrison, dressed in a thousand-dollar suit and designer overcoat, stood in line to view Morris Chandler's body. He showed no outward appearance of being affected by Chandler's passing. But why would he? His only interest was that of his clients. Just where were his clients? Mary Chandler, the ex-wife is still hospitalized. Lea Chandler is now dead. That left the surviving son Carl Chandler. Morrison starts to leave after he views the body. I meet him at the funeral home entrance.
"Mr. Morrison." He seems startled seeing me.
"Why Mr. Hart, what brings you here?" utters Morrison. We shake hands once again. Morrison emits a slight whence as he tries to match my grip. Being the consummate professional and gentleman, he adds, "Excuse the glove." He refers to the lambskin glove he's wearing.
"I'm here to pay my respects. I feel somewhat responsible for this whole thing."
"Don't be so hard on yourself Mr. Hart. You were cleared of all wrong doing."
"You're right. I didn't do anything wrong. I didn't send Lea to Chandler's house." I look to see Morrison's reaction. None. Maybe this will bring about a change in his indifferent demeanor. "That is if Lea is responsible for killing Chandler." Morrison's eyes aligned themselves with mine. We stare at each other until a woman interrupts us.
"Calvin. I mean, Mr. Morrison" She corrected herself.
"Miss Chandler." Morrison addresses her.
There is nervousness coming from Miss Eileen Chandler, the deceased sister I presume. Morrison excuses himself from me to speak with her privately. I walk away from them but stay close enough to witness an argument ensues between them. Morrison pulls out what appears to be a portion of the newspaper and shook it in Eileen Chandler's face. He hit her with the paper like a pet owner scolding a dog. Then he walks away, leaving Eileen in the cove crying. I go to comfort her.
"Are you alright?" I offer, pulling a handkerchief from my pocket and handing it to her.
"Yes. I'll be fine." She tries to sound convincing, but she's not.
"I saw what happened. What was Morrison upset about in the paper?"
"He's a meticulous man. I made a mistake in the obituaries."
"That hardly seems worth getting upset over."
"It is if you are Calvin."
"You sound as if you know him personally."
"Ah, no, I don't. Please excuse me."
"Miss Chandler." Eileen abruptly moves away from me, seeking the sanctuary of the funeral parlor.
As I turn to go after her, the sight of Regina Alexander exiting halts my steps. What could I possibly say to this woman? It didn't matter, she turned and walked away just as quickly as Eileen Chandler had. ~~~~~~~
The second funeral within days of each other, was that of Lea Chandler. I only attended the burial ceremony at the cemetery. Once again, I stand away from the main party to better observe from afar. By Lea's graveside are all the beautiful people. Scores of models, mostly women stood by in funeral fashionable style clothing, weeping. Calvin Morrison is also in attendance, with Lea's personal assistant standing closely by, too closely by.
I observed Morrison and the assistant walk away together to the same limousine. I tail them. The driver takes them back to their cars at the funeral home. When they arrive, Morrison exits the limo, ungloved, which breaks up the usual seamless break of color coordination of matching gloves, overcoat and scarf. His right hand is wrapped in a white bandage. That accounts for the whence when we shook hands at Chandler's funeral. The assistant approaches Morrison just before he gets into his Baby Benz. They hug and kiss. A few intimate words are spoken between them and they drive away separately. I follow Morrison to Have Mercy Hospital. There is no doubt in my mind who he is going to see. I allow him enough lead-time to reach his destination. Unbeknownst to him, I step quietly into the doorway of Room 211, to observe Morrison kneeling at the bedside of an unconscious Mary Chandler.
"It's over. Lea looked beautiful. Everything is going to be fine now. All you have to do is get better. The papers are being drawn and soon you won't have to worry about money ever again." Morrison lowers his head on Mary Chandler's IV hand.
For the second time in my life a light bulb imagery enters my head. This time, instead of a light going out, it comes on like in animated cartoons when a character gets an idea. The idea that comes to mind chills me to the core. Then the heat of anger overcomes it. I have work to do.
There is no client to pay me for my time, but I'm convinced there is a case of a missing person. The person missing is the true murderer of Morris and Lea Chandler. If what I suspect is true, the motive is as old as they come, money and greed. My job now is to prove I am right and how the murder was carried out. I will need the help of my co-worker Verna Jones and the all-knowing computer database of the Credit Bureau of Odelot.
"Welcome back. How was Atlanta?" She asks.
"If I told you, you wouldn't believe me. One day I might write it down and you can read about it in my best-selling book."
"Yeah, right. So what do you want?"
"I need you to pull a credit profile on a Calvin Morrison. It ought to be pretty extensive."
"Do you have his social?"
"Oh, so you gonna make me do this the hard way."
"That's why I pay you the big money."
"You know we need to talk about that."
"Not now Verna."
"Nothing comes up."
"What do you mean nothing comes up? Calvin with a C and Morrison, M-o-r-r-i-s-o-n."
"Oh, now you gonna tell me how to do my job. You are really pushing it, Negro."
"Verna, this man drives a Mercedes. He dresses better than any man I've ever seen. There has to be some kind of credit card."
"There is nothing even close. This Calvin Morrison doesn't exist if I can't find him."
"How about Chandler, Calvin Chandler."
"Bingo. You've hit the mother load with that one."
Verna gave me all the pertinent details that I need to go forward with my investigation. My next phone call is to Eileen Chandler, Morris' sister. "Miss. Chandler, I need to see you right away. I know who killed your brother and your niece."
There was some hesitancy in her voice, but she agreed to meet. My next call is to the cellular phone service provider that Calvin Chandler alias Calvin Morrison uses. For backup in case I need the strong arm of the law, I place a call to Detective of Homicide, Benjamin McIntosh of the Odelot Police Department. There is going to be a need for his intervention before it's all over with.
"Miss Chandler, thank you for seeing me."
"I, I don't know what we have to talk about. We know who killed Morris. Lea, then she killed herself."
"Yes, that is what we all have been told and that is how it conveniently appeared. But everything and everyone isn't what it appears is it Miss Chandler?"
"I don't know what you mean, Mr. Hart."
"I believe you do. Who is Calvin Morrison or should I say Calvin Chandler?" The ringing of hands was the sign I was looking for.
"He, he is a lawyer, Mr. Morrison that is."
"No he's not, Mr. Chandler that is. He's the second son of your brother." The crying begins. It is several minutes before Eileen is able to talk. Then she confirms my suspicions, with the explaining details.
"My brother has, had syphilis. He was a carrier, but he didn't have any of the ill affects of the disease. Being a carrier, he passed it on to his wife. Poor Mary and their children . . . Mary became pregnant with triplets. As we feared, the syphilis was passed on to the children. Oh my gosh, . . . Carl was born blind and mentally retarded. Lea as you know, was a deaf mute. Calvin was the only one born without a birth defect. When the doctors told Morris this, he called Calvin 'the pick of the litter.'
"Morris asked me to raise Calvin as my own. Then he and Mary divorced, leaving her with the other two kids. Carl and Lea never knew Calvin was their brother. Keeping the secret all these years was hard for Mary. It wasn't until the syphilis took its toll on Mary's health that she decided to tell the children. I told Calvin."
"Eileen, I believe Calvin killed your brother and his sister Lea."
"I don't think he did it alone. Lea's personal assistant was in on it too."
"Calvin was angered when he found out that his natural mother Mary's was dying and that his father was Morris' and had become a millionaire. It was too much."
"Killing is too much, Eileen. ~~~~~~~
Calvin Chandler was arrested on two counts of murder. Lea's personal assistant was charged as his accomplice. They planned and carried out the murder, using me as their pawn to lead them to Morris. Their motive, was money and revenge. Morris Chandler was a millionaire. Calvin's posing as a lawyer with the false name of Morris-son as an irony gave him a personal satisfaction in carrying out his plan.
Calvin learned from Eileen of a Morris Chandler's standing will that still showed his mother Mary and the children as sole beneficiaries. It was my telling Calvin of his father's intent to remarry that drove him to commit murder. Once Calvin knew exactly where to find Morris, he and Lea's assistant followed me to the house. Phone records confirmed roaming charges in Atlanta on the day of the murder. They brought Lea to Atlanta on the guise that she was going to meet her father. Then they murdered them both after knocking me unconscious. Calvin cut his hand in the struggle. The blood found at the crime scene belonged to the immediate family members; Morris, Lea and Calvin Chandler. With Morris and Lea dead, Morris' millions would default to Calvin, Carl and Mary. With Carl Chandler being institutionalized, he could make no claim on any money. Mary would soon die from her illness. That would leave all the money to Calvin and his accomplice. And to think, Calvin was "the pick of the litter" and "blood related."