Having broken through the codes with ease, B-kun perused the contents of the man’s phone. He would have frowned had he not already been frowning. Nothing of use. This man was clearly a lower echelon lackey of Evitceted Corp, with access to no information but that which the higher echelons deemed he needed in order to complete his task. After carefully wiping off his fingerprints with his sleeve, B-kun tucked the cell back into the man’s pocket.
“What, you’re giving it back? After we went through all that trouble?” Ben Near asked unhappily. “Shouldn’t we at least, like, take it with us?”
B-kun shook his head. “No. Doubtless the organization will be suspicious that their lackeys have not reported in by now. They’re most likely tracking it. I should be going as soon as possible. No, we should be going.” Then he looked straight into the hobo’s eyes with his clear, dark expression as serious as ever. “You shouldn’t have helped me, but you did, and now they’ll suspect you’re involved with me. They’ll capture you and torture you and try to get information out of you, and when they find out you don’t, they won’t just let you go. The only way for you to be safe is to come with me now. I’m sorry.”
Ben shrugged. “Eh...it wasn’t like my life was all that great before you came along. Besides,” he broke out into a toothy grin that reeked of alcohol, “you owe me a bottle of vodka.”
Twenty minutes later the odd pair was skirting through a backstreet in the business district. B-kun kept alert to any sudden changes in his surroundings, but he moved with purpose.
“I have acquaintances who can help find a safe place for you,” B-kun said to his unexpected companion. “But it will have to wait until morning. The only reason I came out tonight was that a friend asked for my help.”
They came to a well crafted door, above which was inscribed: The law offices of O’Hare, Heptan, Vittaro, and Deltaskos.
B-kun raised a fine-fingered hand and knocked: two long raps followed by three quick ones. There was a scuffling of feet on the other side and the door swung open.
“You came!” the pretty young woman in the doorway exclaimed before throwing her arms around B-kun’s aristocratic neck. Then she noticed his ragged companion and frowned. “...And you brought a friend...”
“Violet, this is Ben Near. The circumstances of our acquaintance are...complicated. Ben, this is Violet O’Hare.”
“College friend,” Violet filled in. She started to hold out her hand, but then, taking in the man’s attire, thought better of it. “I’m at Harvard Law now, where B-kun should be.” She gave him a warm smile but there was lament in her tone. “You were always the best of us, B. If only...”
“I didn’t come here to socialize,” B-kun interrupted. “You said you needed my help.”
Violet nodded, and her baby blue eyes clouded. “My father, Victor O’Hare, the one whose name is on the sign...he died...he...was murdered.”
“I’m sorry...” Ben said slowly. B-kun lowered his eyes.
Violet gestured in acknowledgement and continued. “It happened here, in the kitchen in the back. Dad had this place outfitted with a professional quality kitchen.”
B-kun’s brows furrowed. “The police don’t have any leads?”
The young woman shook her strawberry blonde head. “They think it was perpetrated by an outsider, because, well, it’s probably better to show you.” She motioned for them to follow her. “The kitchen...I mean, the crime scene, has pretty much been left the way it was. None of us have had the heart to go in there since the body was discovered.”
Ben Near whistled when they entered the large room. The stainless steel of the appliances glinted, the hanging copper pots glistened, and the marble of the counters shone.
Violet nodded absentmindedly. “Dad always loved cooking. He fancied himself a bit of a chef. He was a stickler for cleanliness.” She garnered a weak smile as she led them around the center island, atop which a pot sat on a stove, a bowl held the wilted remnants of salad greens, and a greying slab of meat lay on a bamboo chopping board.
There was a sharp intake of breath from Ben as attention was caught by the form on the ground, or at least, the chalk outline of where a form had been.
“Yes, that’s where he was found,” she struggled to keep her voice from shaking. “Poison, the police said. They took samples of everything but left things they way they found them...the way I found them.” Pain surged in her pretty eyes. “I was the one who found the body.”
B-kun’s shrewd gaze stoically surveyed the scene. It alighted on the sirloin, or what had been sirloin, on the chopping board. There appeared to be a letter carved into it: A.
“The police believe that was his dying message,” Violet said, noticing his scrutiny. “That’s why they think it was an outsider. It doesn’t really seem to point to the partners, even though from I gathered, they were having some internal issues.”
“No,” B-kun stated steadily, “on the contrary, it could have implicated any of the partners.”
Violet gasped. “What do you mean?”
The detective pointed to the knife beside the board. “It’s pointing towards where the body is. The natural motion for a person is to put the knife down pointing away from himself. Someone must have used the knife after your father was dead, from the other side of the island.”
“Why? Why carve an A into a piece of meat? It seems risky to alter the crime scene like that for something that doesn’t seem that useful to the perpetrator...”
“Most likely your father already carved something into the sirloin, to implicate the perpetrator, and he used the knife to cover it up by making it into an A when he returned to the scene,” B-kun replied. “Did the police uncover which of the partners were in this kitchen the afternoon of your father’s death?”
Violet nodded, still processing the new information. “They all admitted to being in here that afternoon, but no one can remember the exact time they were in. Neil Hepton came in for a towel, Michael Vittaro for a spoon, and George Deltaskos for a plate.”
“Do the police know how the poison was delivered?”
Violet shook her head. “The lab tests haven’t come back yet. Dad always cooked alone and never let anyone near the island when he was cooking so the killer couldn’t have just dropped the poison in somewhere. He always gathered all his ingredients on the island when he started cooking...mise en place, he called it, and he never told anyone beforehand what he was going to cook.” She gestured to the plethora of pot and pans. “No one would have known what vessel he would have used, and he always randomly chose an utensil from the drawer to use or taste with. The other partners and I sometimes cook things in here too, or make ourselves a snack, so I don’t think the killer would have poisoned everything...”
B-kun nodded. “Unlikely. And I doubt the police will find the murder weapon, the killer had the chance to take it with him when he carved the A.” He frowned and worked the case in his mind. Suddenly an image popped up in his head, a face with a cheshire-cat-that-swallowed-the-canary grin. She liked to cook too...
“I know who the killer is.”