THURSDAY: Imminent Danger

BY NANCY BOYCE

Nancy Boyce lives in Buckhorn, Ontario with her husband John. Copyright is held by the author.

 

“WHAT’S THAT?” Joe asked.

“It’s a card for a fortune teller,” Catherine answered.

“A fortune teller?” Joe asked incredulously.

“Some woman gave it to me on the way to work this morning. You won’t listen to me. Maybe you’ll have better luck with the fortune teller,” Catherine retorted.

“Screw it!” Joe shouted as he stormed from her office.

Joe had finally got up the nerve to seek help and wasn’t happy that the psychologist wouldn’t believe how badly his ex-wife had treated him. “Joe,” she would say, “this isn’t about what she did wrong, it’s about how you’re going to deal with it now.” Joe wanted a sympathetic ear. He wasn’t ready to repair his damaged life. He needed to wallow a bit longer.

***

Joe was in his car organizing notes after an interview with a witness. The crumpled business card lay on the seat beside him, the address peeking out at him until it caught his eye. He grabbed the card and smoothed it out. The fortune teller was five doors down.

“Screw it, what the hell!”

Joe knocked on the door of the shabby house. The woman that answered the door had on a loose fitting blouse and a flowing tie-dyed skirt. “I’ve been expecting you,” she said and then she turned and walked away.

Joe followed her to the kitchen at the back of the house. “Tea?” the woman asked.

“What do you mean you’ve been expecting me?” Joe demanded.

“I say that to everyone,” the woman laughed. “They expect it. I’m Jean. Sessions are 45 minutes and $45.” She waved him to the kitchen table and then took a seat herself.

Joe showed her his private detective badge. “I’m here on official business. May I ask you a few questions?”

Jean took his hand and held it with both of hers. She closed her eyes for a moment. Joe didn’t know what to make of this.

Jean opened her eyes and with Joe’s hand still in hers, she said, “I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think what?” Joe retorted.

“I don’t think you came here to ask questions about a case,” Jean explained. “You don’t need to be a fortune teller to know that you’re deeply troubled. But it’s more than that. I sense something.” Jean hesitated before continuing and said softly, “She doesn’t love you. Why do you keep trying?”

“How does she know?” Joe wondered. “No, she’s grasping. These people are never legit,” he thought.

Jean couldn’t look at him any longer. She hung her head down. Her voice was almost a whisper. “You saw her last night, didn’t you?”

Joe sat there staring, not knowing how to respond. He had seen her last night.

When Jean looked up tears welled in her eyes and the pain showed. “She wants to hurt you.”

“She’s already done that,” Joe said sarcastically trying to convince this woman and him that he was immune to it now.

“No, she wants to hurt your reputation. She wants to destroy what’s most important to you.”

Joe sat there stunned. He took his hand back. This was more uncomfortable than the session with the psychologist.

“I’m sorry. Suddenly I don’t feel well. Would you please leave?”

“Great, thrown out of two places in one day,” Joe thought. He tossed a $20 bill on the table and left.

***
“Tammy, open the damn door!” Joe knew his ex-wife was at home and that she didn’t want to answer the door after what happened last night. He had been surprised by her call, even more surprised that she let him stay all night. He remembered kissing Tammy, but didn’t remember much else. He had woken up groggy and fully clothed on the sofa and late for his appointment with the psychologist. He was in a bad mood when he reached Catherine’s office and it had gone downhill from there.

Joe could see the curtains move at Mrs. Parker’s house next door. Tammy finally opened the door. “Forget something?” she snarled at Joe. “What a reversal from last night,” Joe thought. “Yeah, my gun.” Tammy stepped aside and let Joe enter. She followed him and then took a seat on the sofa. She was freshly showered and her scent lingered in the air for a moment as she passed by. Joe breathed her in and then reminded himself he was angry. “Don’t get taken in by her again,” he thought.

“I want an explanation Tammy, but first I want my gun.” Tammy jerked her head towards the gun lying on the side table. Joe retrieved his gun and placed it in his holster. He struck his most intimidating pose as he sat down across from her leaning forward and staring hard.

“Did you slip something in my drink last night?” Joe asked.

“You got drunk Joe, don’t blame it on me,” Tammy retorted.

“Give me a break; I hold my liquor better than that. You slipped me something, I know you did. You must have hidden my gun too.”

Tammy began to cry. “I thought you wanted to kill Derek,” she said between sobs.

“Derek? Why the hell would I want to kill Derek? I don’t even know the guy,” Joe shouted.

This set Tammy off even more and she started to wail. “Because you’re jealous.”

“Jealous?” Joe snorted. “Look Tammy, sure I’m not happy about this guy banging my wife, but murder?”

“I’m not your wife!” Tammy screamed. Joe noticed that she snapped out of her crying fit rather quickly.

“Okay, ex-wife,” Joe said more softly, “and that’s the point, isn’t it? Ex-wife, as in we don’t have a relationship anymore, so why should I care about Derek?”

Tammy sat there looking sullen as Joe continued. “If I had wanted to kill Derek, what makes you think hiding my gun and putting me out of commission for one night was going to help?”

“His ex-wife said he was in imminent danger. I thought as long as I protected him for one night, he’d be okay.”

With the morning trip to Jean fresh in his mind, Joe quipped, “What is she, a fortune teller?”

“Yes,” Tammy whispered.

“Let me get this straight. Derek’s ex-wife tells him he’s in imminent danger and he believes her?”

“Yes, Derek said she’s very good,” Tammy explained. “Derek was convinced that he was in danger. We thought you’d be the most likely suspect.”

“I don’t know if you’re conceited or stupid,” Joe quipped. “Maybe you’re both!” Tammy looked stung by his words. “Have you talked to Derek today? Alive and well, is he?”

“He told me yesterday that he’d be by tonight. I’m expecting him anytime,” Tammy answered.

Joe stood and started to leave. “Don’t let me stand in your way.” He hesitated by the door and asked, “What’s the name of Derek’s fortune telling ex-wife?”

“Jean,” Tammy answered.

***

“Joe, it’s Steve. Can you stop by and see me?” said the voice on the other end of the phone. “Sure, what’s up?” Joe replied. “I’ll explain when you get here,” Steve assured him.

Steve was an old friend from when they were on the force together. “He must need some help on a case,” Joe thought.

When Joe arrived, Steve handed him a coffee. He took his seat and motioned Joe to the chair beside his desk. “So what can I do for you?” Joe asked brightly.

“Do you still carry a 9 mm Beretta?” Steve asked.

“Sure,” Joe answered. “What’s this about?”

“Did you check it in downstairs?” Steve continued.

Joe could see how serious Steve was. “Of course I did.”

“Where were you Thursday night, between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.?” Steve asked.

“I was at Tammy’s,” Joe explained. Steve had looked deadpan up to now, but he raised his eyebrows. “Tammy’s?” Steve clarified.

“One time thing, not a big deal,” Joe replied. He wasn’t going to share Tammy’s version of the night with Steve and hoped she wouldn’t either.

“I’ll give Tammy a call to verify,” Steve said.

“Are you going to tell me what this is all about?” Joe asked almost pleadingly.

“We got a call from a Mrs. Roberts yesterday morning stating that her ex-husband was not answering the phone. We told her that was not a police matter. She said she felt something terrible had happened to him. We told her to come by in three days and then she can officially report him as missing. Later Mrs. Roberts called 911 from her ex-husband’s house. He’s dead. He was shot with a 9 mm Beretta. We’ll run ballistics on your gun,” Steve explained.

“Steve, lots of people have 9 mm Berettas. What’s this got to do with me?” Joe asked.

“What’s the story with you and Tammy?”

“I told you, nothing, one-time thing. Why?” Joe responded.

“Well, then it won’t bother you to know that she had a boyfriend?” Steve asked.

“I know she has a boyfriend. Guy’s name is Derek. How do you know that anyway?” Joe inquired.

“Had Joe; past tense. Derek is Mrs. Robert’s ex-husband and now Tammy’s ex-boyfriend.”

***

“Joe, I need to speak with you again,” Steve said.

“Sure Steve. Do I need a lawyer?” Joe quipped.

“Get in here right away.” The line went dead.

Joe took his coffee from Steve and sat in the now too familiar seat.

“Tammy said she hasn’t seen you in weeks. What’s going on Joe?” Steve asked.

Joe sat there stunned. A million reasons went through his head, most of them were thoughts he didn’t want to have and he did his best to block them out. It was time to come clean with Steve. This was getting way too complicated.

Joe recounted the story to Steve of the warning from Jean, how Tammy drugged him and how she hid his gun. It sounded even crazier to him coming out of his own mouth. Steve looked skeptical. He remembered that look. He had that same look so many times when he didn’t believe someone.

“Why would she lie Joe?” Steve asked.

“I don’t know Steve. Talk to the old biddy, Mrs. Parker next door. Nothing happens without her knowing. I’m sure she’ll vouch that I was there.”

“Steve, there is one more thing that you should know. I met Jean Roberts this morning.”

***

“Alright, keep your shirt on!” Joe exclaimed. He looked for his robe and couldn’t find it. The knocking became more persistent. “Screw it!” Joe rushed downstairs in his boxer shorts and t-shirt and opened the door.

Tammy grabbed him and started sobbing into his shoulder. Joe stood there, arms down waiting for her to pull away.

“He’s dead Joe, Derek’s dead,” Tammy cried.

“You drug me, you pretty much frame me, then lie about my alibi and you expect me to give a damn that you’re upset?” Joe shouted. “Why Tammy, why did you lie to Steve about us being together?”

“I didn’t want Steve to know that I had given you sleeping pills and hidden your gun. How would that look on me?” Tammy yelled back.

“You’d prefer that I look like a suspect? I told them to check with Mrs. Parker. What do you think the chances are that she didn’t see me at your place? You know how much suspicion you’re putting on yourself by lying?”

“I wasn’t thinking,” Tammy sobbed.

“You’ve got that right,” Joe retorted. “I shouldn’t even be part of this mess, but I’m right in the middle of it now. Derek was killed with a gun like mine. Is there something you want to tell me Tammy?”

“I’ve told you everything Joe.”

“Tell me about the nice house you can suddenly afford. You get a promotion at work? Head secretary now, are you?” Joe scoffed.

“Derek bought the house for me,” Tammy whispered.

“He bought you a house?” Joe was dumbfounded. “He must be rolling in it. What did you have to do for a house?” Joe asked.

“I told him I’d marry him,” Tammy said.

“I hope to hell that the house is in your name,” Joe exclaimed.

“It’s in my name. He called it my promise ring. He said as soon as he got his divorce, he’d buy me an engagement ring,” Tammy explained.

“Divorce? I thought Derek and Jean were already divorced.”

“No, Derek and Jean have been separated for years. They’ve stayed great friends. They never got around to divorcing. Derek told Jean about our marriage plans and they were to go to the lawyers and sign some papers.”

“Tell me Tammy; was it after the divorce discussion that Jean warned Derek of the imminent danger?” Joe asked.

“Yes, Jean was always looking out for Derek,” Tammy answered.

***

“Joe, it’s Steve. I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. Mrs. Parker confirmed she saw you on Friday morning. We’re still waiting on the ballistics report, but at least this transfers the suspicion from you to Tammy. That’s the bad news, we arrested Tammy. You should probably come down here.”

“On what grounds?” Joe asked.

“Well in addition to her lying to us, we found her bracelet at the crime scene,” Steve explained.

“I’ll be right there,” Joe said and hung up.

Joe continued the conversation where they had left off. “C’mon Steve, her bracelet could have been in the house. It was her boyfriend. I’m assuming she frequented the place.”

“That would be a logical explanation, except for the fact that it had gunpowder residue on it,” Steve explained.

Joe sat there stunned. He didn’t know what to say.

***

“Tammy, I’ll call my lawyer right away. How could your bracelet have gunpowder residue on it? Now is the time to be straight with me,” Joe warned her.

“I’m not hiding anything from you and I don’t even know what bracelet they’re talking about. I have lots of jewellery. Sometimes I leave stuff at Derek’s. Can you tell me what the bracelet looks like?” Tammy asked.

“I’ll see what I can find out,” Joe reassured her.

***

“I really was expecting you this time,” Jean said as she let Joe in her house. “Let’s have that cup of tea.”

Joe sat down at the kitchen table. “You were expecting me?” Joe clarified.

“It would make sense. Tammy has been implicated in Derek’s murder. Of course you’d want to speak to me, see what sort of light I can shed on things.”

“So enlighten me,” Joe said.

“Well first of all, I should explain my comments on the morning we met. I could see that you were distraught. I guessed it was woman trouble and no offence, but it seemed likely that a private detective had an ex-wife. I read people quite well,” Jean explained.

“Thanks for being honest.” Joe was starting to feel a bit more confidence in Jean’s sincerity. “What about the warning to Derek of imminent danger?” Joe asked.

“I felt quite strongly about that. I didn’t know where the threat was coming from. I didn’t know if it was you or Tammy, but I had good reason to think it could be either.”

“Really, why us?” Joe inquired.

“Derek told me that you were pretty broke up about Tammy, said you were seeing a psychologist. Derek was worried you might be insanely jealous, quite literally and he knew you carried a gun,” Jean explained.

Joe felt shocked that his private affairs weren’t so private.

“Tammy is subject to extreme mood swings and an expert at manipulation. I see through stories that Derek tells me. I don’t lecture, I just listen,” Jean said.

“I don’t disagree with you,” Joe said, “but I find her completely incapable of murder.”

Jean smiled a knowing smile. Joe imagined that same smile on her face as Derek told her his stories.

Joe decided to come straight out with his biggest question. “Tammy said you weren’t divorced from Derek. Were you upset about getting a divorce so that they could marry?”

This news seemed to stun Jean. “Marry?” she said. “Derek didn’t say anything to me about remarrying. I would have been thrilled for him to get on with his life, but to be quite honest, not with Tammy,” Jean explained.

“I expect you will inherit everything as you don’t have any children,” Joe commented.

“Yes, it won’t change my life much though. I expect I’ll donate much of it. I like my life the way it is. Derek made his money after we separated. We never got around to a divorce or changing wills; it never seemed necessary. Our relationship was good.”

“Offering too much information,” Joe thought, “It was always a sign of covering up.”

“Thanks for your time Jean and I am truly sorry for your loss,” Joe said as he got up to leave.

***

“Thanks for posting bail Joe. I can’t believe you did that for me after all I’ve put you through,” Tammy said.

“Yeah, me neither,” Joe replied. Joe and Tammy were having coffee in an all-night diner. “I have some questions for you and I need to get some straight answers.”

“I’ve been honest with you Joe.” She recognized that disbelieving look on Joe’s face and muttered, “Go ahead.”

“The bracelet that the police found at the scene was the silver and turquoise one that I bought for you on our honeymoon. Did you leave that at Derek’s house?” Joe asked.

A confused look came over Tammy’s face. “It was my turquoise bracelet? I gave that to Derek to give to Jean a couple of months ago. He hadn’t given it back to me yet.”

“Why would you do that?” Joe asked.

“I guess you don’t know much about fortune telling. If you can’t be there in person, you can give them a photo, but a piece of jewellery that you wear a lot is even better. They can pick up on a lot of things when they hold that jewellery,” Tammy explained.

“Okay, let me get this straight. The last time you saw that bracelet is when you gave it to Derek,” Joe confirmed.

“Yes.”

“Did Derek know your plan to keep me, uh, occupied the night that he was killed?” Joe asked.

“Sure, I told him. I always told him everything,” Tammy admitted.

“And Derek always told Jean everything?” Joe asked.

“Most likely,” Tammy replied.

“Tammy, is there anything else you gave to Derek to give to Jean?” Joe asked.

“Sure Joe, I gave her a photo of you.”

***

“Hi Joe, this is a pleasant surprise,” Jean said as she led Joe back to the kitchen.

Joe took his usual spot at the kitchen table. “I’ll get right to the point Jean,” Joe said. “Tammy tells me she gave the bracelet that was found at the crime scene to Derek so that you could tell her fortune.”

Jean laughed an uncomfortable laugh, but said nothing.

“She also told me that she sent a photo of me along,” Joe continued.

“I don’t tell fortunes that way Joe. I need to see someone’s face, watch their expressions,” Jean explained, “and I had never lain eyes on you before that day you came here.”

“That’s right; you’re really good at reading people. You knew nothing about me that day when we first met.” Jean didn’t respond, just stared right back at him with a slight smirk on her face.

“Well Jean,” Joe continued, “the way I see it, either Tammy lost that bracelet when she shot Derek or you purposely left it there when you shot Derek. I’m leaning towards the latter.”

“I’m leaning towards the former,” replied Jean.

“I thought you’d like to know that the ballistics report proved the gun used to shoot Derek wasn’t mine. I’m going to prove your guilt Jean. I’m going to bring you down,” Joe said menacingly.

Just as menacingly, Jean replied, “Try it Joe and you’ll be the one that goes down.”

***

“Tammy, you need to tell me everything you can about Jean,” Joe pleaded. “What do you know about why they broke up, why it was so amicable, why they never divorced?”

“Well, it wasn’t anyone’s fault Joe,” Tammy explained without explaining a thing. “She couldn’t very well stay married to Derek once she realized she was gay.”

“She’s gay? Is she in another relationship?” Joe asked.

“Yes, but I don’t know who it is,” Tammy said.

“I was glad that she had got on with her life,” Tammy continued, “Derek said she suffered from depression quite badly.”

“Did she seek help?” Joe asked.

“Sure Joe, she went to Catherine.”

“I thought you recommended Catherine, because you had seen her when we broke up.” Joe attempted to clarify.

“Yes, but I got her name from Derek,” Tammy replied.

***

“Well Joe, I have to admit, I didn’t expect to see you back after our last meeting,” Catherine said.

“I want to apologize. I was having a really bad day. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. I’m really sorry,” Joe replied.

“Apology accepted. What would you like to discuss today Joe?” Catherine asked.

“Jean Roberts,” Joe replied.

Joe noticed the fleeting panic on Catherine’s face, the way she looked off as if searching for her reply, then the forced smile. It happened in very quick succession. “Joe, you know I don’t discuss other patients.”

“Oh, was Jean a patient?” Joe asked.

This confused Catherine and it showed on her face. Joe continued, “I don’t think it would look very good to the Ethics Committee if they knew that your lover was a former patient.”

Now unmistakeable anger showed on Catherine’s face. “Don’t go there Joe. You’ll regret it.”

“I guess you didn’t get that business card for Jean on the street like you said,” Joe said.

“I’m surprised you went,” Catherine replied, no longer trying to hide the connection. “I meant it as a joke.”

“If I can’t connect you to Derek’s murder, I can at least at least make sure you lose your license,” Joe said.

“You don’t want to do that Joe,” Catherine said threateningly.

“Really, why’s that?” Joe asked.

“If they investigated, they might find your confession from the day after Derek’s murder,” Catherine replied.

“I didn’t kill Derek; Jean did,” Joe replied.

Catherine’s smugness was her downfall. She made the fatal mistake. “Yes, Joe, but you’ll never prove it,” Catherine laughed.

“I just did!” Joe replied.

Joe opened the door and Steve entered the room. Joe handed him the tape and Catherine was arrested. Jean was arrested shortly afterwards.

***

“Joe, I went to see Derek’s lawyer today. Seems he changed his will after we became engaged. He left everything to me,” Tammy explained.

“Wow, I’m happy for you Tammy,” Joe responded. “I guess that was one secret Derek didn’t tell Jean and it cost him his life.”

“You know Joe; our problems were more money related than anything else.” Tammy let the words hang in the air.

“Hmm, let me think on that one for a while,” Joe chuckled.

“Screw it!” Joe said and took Tammy in his arms.

5 comments

  1. Joanne Majury

    I thoroughly enjoyed this short story! I couldn’t wait to get to the end. Nice work Nancy.

  2. Diane

    I really enjoyed this short story!! Good job Nancy! Looking forward to more stories…

  3. johanne boyce

    Nancy, really enjoyed the story……I too couldn’t wait till the end.
    Look forward to the next one.

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