June, 1920: This Campbell and Laforet tale begins with a confession of murder - but no body and no murder weapon, and a doubtful witness. Either this puzzle has too many pieces or not quite enough.
“Are you telling me your husband was living a double life?”
It was a mean little room at police headquarters in the basement of City Hall. No windows, a table with two mismatched chairs and walls the colour of cigar smoke — one of which was decorated with a portrait of the King and a calendar from a local auto dealership.
“Yes,” she said, “my husband had two lives. But you can’t hang me for taking just one of them — not while the other is still out there, prowling around.”
Campbell leaned over the table, inched back his bowler with his thumb and folded his hands together.
Mrs Moxley, that’s the part that I’m having trouble understanding.”
It was nearly midnight. Mrs Raymond Moxley had arrived by taxi about half an hour earlier, still in her bedclothes. According to the staff sergeant she walked up to his desk and told him very matter-of-factly that she had just murdered her husband. The sergeant phoned Campbell right away at home and then dispatched a constable to the Moxley residence to investigate.
“What could be so difficult to understand?”
“Mrs Moxley, did you or did you not murder your husband?”
“And yet you’re telling me that he is still alive...somewhere.”
“Surely, detective you have heard of men leading two lives.”
“I think what we are meant to infer from — .”
She met Campbell across the table.
“There was the life he lived with me as my husband, and then there was the life he lived out there with other women. Clearly one life — our life — wasn’t enough for him. He had to go behind my back and invent another one for himself.”
Campbell wasn’t quite sure what to make of her. He thought it best to stick close to the facts for now.
“And is that why you killed your husband? Because he was having relations with other women?”
Campbell flipped through his notepad.
“You said you struck him with…”
“A sledgehammer, a short-handled sledgehammer. I had finally mustered the courage to confront him about his dalliances. We were arguing and it became very heated. I told him that I wasn’t afraid to go to the lawyer and that was when he became crazed. He grabbed me, started shaking me, and was preparing to strike. I managed to break free. He came at me again and that was when I reached for it.”
“And where did you get this sledgehammer?”
Mrs Moxley folded her arms across her chest and said,
“People have sledgehammers, you know.”
“Usually not in their study, Mrs Moxley.”
Campbell set his hat on the table. His suspect’s head was already bare: wavy shoulder-length chestnut hair that looked as if it might have begun the day with more of a bounce to it. She had elegant, almost aristocratic features contrasted by wide, dark eyes and a soft mouth. She looked to be about thirty years of age.
“Mrs Moxley, what evidence do you have of your husband’s infidelity? Were there phone calls? Are there letters?”
“They communicated in their own language through the classified section of the newspapers. Their messages were to do with his schedule and rendezvous destinations, those sorts of things. The fool saved clippings in a stationery box in his desk. He may have thought he was the clever one but I had him figured out,” — a slender hand surfaced and began poking a spot on the tabletop — “and I swore to myself I would make him eat his words.”
Her expression kept changing. It was like watching the sky over Lake Erie before a storm.
“It’s different from being unwed or a widow,” she said. “It’s sharing your life with someone but then finding out they are actually not truly yours or not whom you thought they were.” Looking down at her lap she said, “I never thought I could feel so alone.”
“Mrs Moxley, what originally gave you cause for suspicion?”
“If there is such a thing as woman's inuition — ."
There was a knock at the door and Campbell went to it. Recognizing the constable he joined him in the hallway.
“Blood on a carpet in a room on the main floor,” said Brumpton.
“And the body?”
“What do you mean, no body?”
“I mean there is no body — no corpse on the premises.”
Not something that Campbell was expecting to hear.
“By any chance did you happen to come across a sledgehammer?”
“A sledgehammer?” asked Brumpton.
“Yes,” said Campbell, “a short-handled sledgehammer.”
“Look again. Is there a desk in the room?”
“Check it for a stationery box full of newspaper clippings. Will Begg will be finished dusting any time soon?”
“He should be.”
“Tell him to leave his kit; I’ll be arriving with Mrs Moxley shortly.”
The detective was about to re-enter the room when Brumpton asked if Mrs Moxley was not under arrest.
“Constable, unless you can produce for me a corpse and a murder weapon we don’t have much of anything to go on — despite her confession.”
Campbell wasn’t inclined to share his thoughts on Mrs Moxley’s state of mind and he was fairly certain Brumpton wasn’t prepared to hear them.
Thus concluded their hallway conversation. Campbell opened the door and found his suspect slumped in her chair, staring at the wall.
“Mrs Moxley, are you feeling all right?”
She sat up and gathered her robe tightly across her chest.
“Yes, of course. Why do you ask?”
"Mrs Moxley, where is your husband’s body?”
“Why, just where I left it.”
Campbell sat down.
“I was just speaking with the constable who searched your house. He didn’t come across your husband’s body or any sledgehammer. Only some blood on the carpet in the study.”
She seemed genuinely perplexed.
“Mrs Moxley, you came here by taxi.”
“I don’t operate any motor.”
“But you have a car.”
Campbell was guessing.
"My husband has a car.”
"And it's at your home."
“Where is it?”
“He took it. I watched him drive away in it.”
Campbell leaned across the table again.
“You watched who drive away in it?”
Campbell pulled his notebook back out of his pocket.
“What kind of car?”
“He never spoke to me the way he spoke to those women in the papers, you know.”
Campbell had lost her.
“Perhaps that’s my fault,” she continued. “But I was never that kind of woman. I would ask about some little thing and he would get cross with me. And then I would start crying, feeling sorry for myself. He would remind me that he loved me and then say things like, ‘you couldn't begin to understand.’ I swore to myself that if I ever heard him say that again I would…”
“You would what, Mrs Moxley?”
She pulled a handkerchief from somewhere. Campbell repeated the question while she dried her eyes.
“You would what, Mrs Moxley?”
"He drives a Dodge,” she said. “The four-door sedan. Copper-coloured.”
Campbell glanced over at the calendar on the wall. It was a year old and the wrong month, but he liked the scene. No matter the time of year, it always looked like somewhere else.
“Tell me, Mrs Moxley, when you picked up the telephone, why is it you asked for a taxi rather than a constable?”
“Naturally I didn’t want anyone to see the house in that condition.”
Campbell was feeling the need to put down his butterfly net.
“I think what we both could use, Mrs Moxley, is a good night's sleep.” He stood up. “Earlier you mentioned a lawyer. Have you contacted him?”
“No,” she replied. “Do you think I should?”
Campbell replaced his bowler on his head and said,
“Let me take you home.”
He led Mrs Moxley out the building and to his car which was parked around the corner on City Hall Square. Once he got the Essex in motion he relaxed to the rhythm of the engine.
Campbell didn’t encourage a word and Mrs Moxley didn’t offer one. He rolled down his window which helped take care of some of the fish-fly problem but he'd still have to chisel the rest off tomorrow. It was a sultry June night and the air was like bathwater. All the same, it cooled him off. Turning left onto the Avenue, he ran the intersections all the way to Erie Street where he hung a right. The Moxley house was two blocks over on Victoria, just around the corner and on the west side. Brumpton greeted them at the door.
“Mrs Moxley, I’d like to have a few words with the constable in private.”
“Of course. I was just going to get myself a glass of water from the kitchen. Can I get you anything, detective?"
“No, thank, you.”
After watching her go down a short hallway leading to the rear of the house, Campbell followed Brumpton into the study where he examined the bloodstain on the carpet.
“What else do you have for me?”
"That’s the stationery box over on the desk.”
Before Campbell pulled the lid off, the constable pronounced it empty. Indeed, there was not a shred of paper inside.
“I’m guessing there’s no sledgehammer either.”
“Not in the house or anywhere on the grounds.”
Mrs Moxley returned from the kitchen.
“Ma’am, is this the stationery box that you said held the newspaper clippings?”
“Yes,” she said, “yes it is.”
Campbell turned it upside down and gave it a shake.
“Constable Brumpton here has double-checked and found no sledgehammer on the premises. Where was the sledgehammer when you reached for it?”
“On Raymond’s desk.”
“And where did you say you left the sledgehammer after you struck your husband with it?”
“On that chair,” she said, pointing at the Morris chair in the corner nearest the foyer. Campbell examined the chair closely but saw no traces of blood on it.
“So,” said Campbell, “the newspaper clippings, the body, and the murder weapon were all removed from the premises following your departure?”
“Do you have a photo of your husband that I can take with me?"
“Yes…let me go and get it.”
She went upstairs. Campbell meanwhile took a turn around the study, looking for something that wasn’t there in a house where everything was in its place. There was no dust and therefore no dust shadows, and other than the bloodstain on the rug, the place appeared to be spotless. His eyes fell on a decorative wooden box on an end-table in the far corner. He picked it up. It measured about six inches on each side and gave the impression that it might actually open, though it was impossible to tell how.
“This is the only one I have,” she said as she regained the foyer. “He hates having his picture — here, what are you doing with that?” She went up to Campbell and took the box out of his hands.
“I’m sorry — it’s a beautiful piece.”
She relaxed a little.
“It’s a souvenir of Raymond’s from somewhere.”
“The Far East by the looks of it,” said Campbell. “Does it open?”
“I wouldn’t know anything about that,” she said and gently set it back down on the table. She gave the photo over to Campbell. “Please be careful with it.”
The detective opened the small cardboard folder. It was a studio portrait, taken in Montreal. Moxley had straight, dark hair parted down the centre.
“Are his eyes blue or green, Mrs Moxley?”
Low forehead; clean shaven; thin-lipped; a square jaw.
“About five-foot nine.”
“I don’t know…smaller than you.”
“What was he wearing last night?”
She thought for a moment.
“His dark grey suit, waistcoat, brown shoes — they were new.”
“I’ll return this to you when we’ve found him.” Campbell had meant to say, ‘recovered the body’ but for some reason it didn’t come out that way.
“One last thing, Mrs Moxley: I need to take your fingerprints.”
The colour completely drained from her face and she pressed her hands against her stomach.
“We need to distinguish yours from your husband’s.”
Campbell set himself up at the desk; it only took a moment.
“Now get some sleep, Mrs Moxley. Constable Brumpton will remain here and keep an eye on things until I return in the morning.”
“What do you mean, the constable will remain here? Is that really necessary?”
It was a little out of the ordinary.
“It’s for your own safety, Mrs Moxley — in case your husband returns.”
“Oh...yes of course. Thank you, detective.”
He watched her go up the stairs and then said to Brumpton who was looking sideways at him,
“Make yourself comfortable. I’m taking a look outside.”
Campbell poked around the front yard and back garden with his flashlight but found nothing notable or even remotely interesting. Standing on the front walk and facing the house he considered the close proximity of the Moxley’s neighbours. Mrs Moxley had told him that the incident occurred just before eleven and that she phoned for a taxi only minutes later. She said it arrived at the house at approximately 11:15. Campbell would need to verify all of that after he got some sleep. He went back into the house, bade Brumpton a good night and then drove to his rooms at Victor Apartments.
It was a quick trip — the Victor was only a few blocks east of City Hall Square. He kissed the curb with the tires of the Essex, parked and cut the engine. The building was set back from the road and so he had time to find his latch key before reaching the door. Apartment 2b, or the one with the door that looked as if it has been kicked in but never fully repaired. Once inside he turned to have a look through the front curtains. There was moonlight on the river and a few lights still twinkling across the way in Detroit. He left the view and, loosening his tie and unbuttoning his collar, made his way down the hallway towards the glow of his reading lamp.
His bed was right where he left it. He collapsed on it, fully clothed, and fell dead asleep.
Wednesday, 6:37 am
The telephone rang. And rang. He sprang up and ricocheted down the hallway to answer it.
It was police headquarters. A body had been found on a construction site several lots south of the Moxleys’ place, somewhere between Pine and Grove streets.
“I’ll be right over — have someone wake up Dr Laforet and tell him to get down there as soon as possible.”
Campbell threw some cold water on his face, ran a comb through his hair, put on a fresh collar and headed out.
It was a bright June day; the first sun after a solid week of overcast and rain. Campbell climbed back into the Essex, performed a neat U-turn on Chatham Street and headed west, turning left onto the Avenue. The only difference between this and last night’s journey was now he was slowing at the intersections. Turning onto Victoria, he glanced over at the Moxley residence. There was no visible activity.
More than one piece of real estate was being built upon here; the city was on a slow march south towards Tecumseh Road. Campbell stopped in front of the lot featuring all the commotion. He reached behind his seat for his galoshes and, with his legs hanging out the open door, pulled them over his shoes.
He had to weave his way through piles of sand and gravel before he noticed the drag marks running through the mud and puddle from the curb towards the gaping pit. A constable met him half way.
“The body’s down there,” he said, pointing with his thumb. “The crew were about to start leveling the earth for the pour when they found him.”
There was a ladder tipped at the edge of the pit and Campbell didn’t hesitate to climb down it. The constable followed.
Everything was covered in a thick film of yellowish mud. There were footprints everywhere, cigar ends, some bread crusts, and there was the faint smell of urine. Pharaoh’s tomb it wasn’t. Someone had turned over the body, leaving a wet impression in the muck.
“Who found him?”
The constable gestured up at one of the men standing around the hole.
“Red kerchief around his neck, holding his hat to his chest.”
Campbell acknowledged and then pulling a pair of leather gloves on he said,
“Deacon, isn’t it?”
“You seem to know a little about this sort of work.”
“My in-laws are in the business.”
“We might need your help getting him out of here. Are your hands clean?”
Deacon showed him and, satisfied, Campbell pulled the photo out of his breast pocket and handed it to him. The detective then crouched down, wiped the mud from the victim’s face and pulled one of his eyelids back. He glanced back and forth between the face and the image Deacon held. Even in this condition there was little doubt it was Raymond Moxley in the mire.
“Other than whoever turned him over,” said Campbell before he stood, “has anyone else touched the body?"
“Not to my knowledge, sir.”
“Tuck the photo back in my pocket. Did our man have anything to say?”
“He doesn’t speak English.”
“Do you speak Italian?”
“Good enough. After you take his name and address, I want you to go back up and watch for Dr Laforet — and keep anyone else from entering the site.”
Campbell picked up a spade and started poking the mud, hoping to find a similarly half-buried murder weapon. Towards the end of this futile exercise he heard Laforet’s voice above him. No doubt the doctor was complaining about the hour and the wet. Campbell shouted up,
“Laforet — is that you?”
“Of course it’s me. Who else would — ?”
“Come down the ladder.”
Campbell watched the doctor, camera slung over his shoulder, make his descent.
"And you brought your galoshes.”
“I live behind here; I can see the condition of the site from my bedroom window.”
"Then how is it that I came to arrive before you?”
“Did you sleep in those clothes?” asked Laforet.
“As a matter of fact I — .”
Laforet held a hand up.
“No need to explain. Now, who is this?”
“Raymond Moxley of 207 Victoria Avenue. Murdered last night in his home.”
Laforet popped open his Kodak VPK and managed to snap a few frames before his audience became too much of a distraction. He tilted his camera up at the workers. Several turned and walked away.
“Camera shy,” he said and got back to the task at hand. He bent down and wiped the rest of the mud from Moxley's face with an oversized handkerchief before taking a few close-ups. Then he began his cursory examination.
“A serious blow to the left side of his head…top of his ear absorbed some of the impact…and…”
Laforet was examining the victim's mouth and throat.
“I need to examine the body in my lab, after that I’ll elaborate.”
"Did you see something?”
Laforet folded his handkerchief so that the soiled parts were on the inside.
“I see mud, refuse and foul water contaminating a perfectly good corpse, a crime scene being trampled upon by leering workers, and a constable standing at the roadside selling tickets. You can visit me at the hospital if you want a full and accurate report.”
“You’re really not a morning person, are you, Laforet?"
“I like the morning just fine. I just don’t get sentimental over it.”
Campbell stepped a little closer to Laforet. His galoshes made a sucking noise in the mud.
“I want Deacon to escort Moxley’s remains to the hospital for you.”
“Because I want you to meet Mrs Moxley.”
“Unusual...but if you insist.”
There was a winch, crane and pulley contraption waiting to be used to lower the cinder blocks once the foundation was set. It was commandeered by Deacon and wheeled into position. Laforet acted as foreman while Moxley’s remains were placed in a makeshift gurney and lifted to the surface. Campbell meanwhile took the opportunity to poke around the site, still searching for a murder weapon. He found nothing.
The ambulance arrived presently from Janisse and the driver helped load the body. After watching it pull away, Campbell and Laforet went to the Essex and leaned against the fender as they peeled off their galoshes.
“Is there anything you want to tell me first about Mrs Moxley?”
“She’s about thirty years of age; widowed during the war; remarried over a year ago to Raymond Moxley — corporate accountant and auditor — no children; lives quite comfortably.”
“Nothing else?” asked Laforet.
“No — I want your first impression. And by the way, I’m stripping you of your medical license for this visit.”
They got in the car and Campbell fired up the motor. He pulled out and turned tight back down Victoria Avenue.
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” said Laforet.
“Putting me to work for you.”
“After that last case the chief made a point of telling me that I should make use of any and all resources at my disposal.”
“I wasn’t aware that I was one of your resources. Should I be flattered?”
Campbell slowed to a stop.
“This is it.”
“We could have walked.”
“I could circle the block.”
Campbell immediately noticed a couple details he had missed the previous night: drag marks in the lawn running diagonally from a point on the front walk to a point on the sidewalk, and scuffmarks across the sidewalk to the curb. He bent down to pick up the morning edition of the Border Cities Star and gave a knock at the door. Brumpton answered, bleary-eyed.
“Anything to report?”
“Nothing, sir. Mrs Moxley is already up and about, just putting the kettle on.”
“Very good. Now go and get some sleep.”
They let Brumpton pass and then Campbell showed Laforet into the study. It looked different in the daylight, as rooms often do. Laforet’s eyes immediately fell on the bloodstain on the carpet. He lifted a corner and examined the floor.
“Considering the nature of the blow, the amount of blood and the shape of the stain suggest either the wound was stanched or more bleeding occurred elsewhere.”
Campbell, mumbling to himself, observed there were no visible scuffmarks on the hardwood between the carpet and the foyer and concluded that Moxley must have been carried out, became too much of a burden and was subsequently dragged across both the lawn and the construction site.
There was the sound of china and silverware clattering in the kitchen. The two followed the noise to the back of the house.
"Good morning, Mrs Moxley.”
“Oh — you startled me.”
“I apologize. I need to have a word with you. This is a colleague of mine: Mr Laforet.”
Laforet removed his hat.
“How do you do, Mrs Moxley.”
There was a big table in the middle of the kitchen and Campbell tossed the newspaper on it. More news about the Irish civil war. He hoped that the final edition would not contain news of another, more local civil war.
Laforet helped the widow with the tea things and then they each took up a chair around the table.
“Mrs Moxley,” started Campbell, “I believe we’ve found your husband’s body.”
She stared blankly at Campbell for a moment before uttering a simple ‘oh dear.’
“There are some houses being constructed up the street,” he continued, “and at the bottom of one of the holes dug for the foundations we discovered what we believe to be Mr Moxley’s body.”
“How did he get there?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. For Mr Laforet’s benefit, I’d like you to walk us through the events of last night.”
“Is that really necessary?”
“At this stage of the investigation, Mrs Moxley, I’m afraid it is.”
Cradling her saucer and teacup in her hands, she led them back through the house to the study. Stopping in the middle of the room, she repeated the story she had already told Campbell.
“Can you tell me what was the position of the body on the floor, Mrs Moxley?” asked Campbell.
"Well,” she said, “he was sort of…flat.”
“I had assumed that. I was wondering if you could tell me was he lying face down or up? And what direction were his head and feet?”
“He was lying…face up, with his head towards the front window.”
Campbell made note.
“Mrs Moxley, last night you remarked how you did not wish anyone to see your home, as you said, in that condition. Now, the room seems to be very tidy and quite undisturbed, which I find strange considering how it was recently the scene of a deadly confrontation. Answer me honestly, did you alter this room in any way between the time that you struck your husband and the time that you left the house?”
After taking a sip, she set her teacup back in its saucer.
“I must admit I’m not entirely comfortable with these questions, Detective Campbell.”
“Please understand that these questions might be the only thing standing between you and the gallows.”
“And I told you detective, you can’t hang me while Raymond is still out there.”
"Mrs Moxley, I must admit I'm beginning to lose my patience. You’ve confessed to the murder of your husband, we’ve discovered his body, and yet you still insist on — .”
“Stop yelling at me!"
“I’m not yelling.”
“You might have raised your voice just a little,” said Laforet.
Campbell turned towards him, closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, and then turned back to Mrs Moxley.
“If I lower my voice, may we continue?” said Campbell.
“I did not.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I did not…as you said, alter things.”
“Very well.” It was time for a new approach. “Perhaps you could tell me a bit more about your husband, Mrs Moxley?”
Campbell and the widow sat themselves down. She settled into the loveseat that faced the fireplace and Campbell dragged over the chair from the desk. Laforet hovered about the study.
She stared into the cold hearth for a moment, as if she were preparing to tell an epic tale. She was calmer now.
"A handsome man,” she began, “and full of Irish charm. He left the country after the Easter Rising in ’16. He had enough of the violence and the politics, he said.
“Why didn’t he go to Britain?”
“He’d had enough of the Brits, too.”
“But he chose to come to Canada — rather than America.”
“Canada was home to many a true Irishman, he liked to say, and respectful to the Catholic Church. He lived in Quebec for a time but then came down this way for other opportunities. He used to tell me how — .”
“Himitsu-Bako,” Laforet exclaimed in a loud whisper.
“What?” said Campbell, looking over Mrs Moxley.
“May I?” said Laforet, quite distracted.
“Please be careful with it,” she said as she straightened up. “Raymond loves that piece.”
“Bako who?” begged Campbell, not a little annoyed at the interruption.
“Himitsu-Bako…Japanese. It’s a sort of trick box; each one is unique. One simply has to know where to apply the right pressure and panels flip open and drawers slide out. Sometimes there are even drawers within drawers.”
Laforet glanced over at Mrs Moxley and noticed she was growing tense. He set the box back down on the table.
“I was wondering,” he said to Mrs Moxley, “if I might use your washroom.”
“I just noticed a bit of mud on my cuff — from earlier this morning.”
“Oh…of course. At the top of the stairs.”
She made sure he was out of the room before she spoke again.
“What exactly is Mr Laforet’s position at the department, detective?”
“He’s a file clerk.”
“He looks a bit old for that.”
“He has aspirations. Now, can you tell me a bit more about your husband’s line of work, Mrs Moxley?”
“As I’ve said, he’s a corporate accountant and auditor. The firm’s office is downtown, in the Huron and Erie Building. He travels when his assignments call for it.” She leaned towards Campbell and whispered, “That’s how he met those women.”
He could tell her mood was altering again.
“What about his friends?”
She borrowed a moment, staring at a clock on the mantle.
“No, none come to mind. It was all business with Raymond.”
“Clients or colleagues over for dinner? Anything like that?”
“No,” she said shaking her head. Her face suddenly became expressionless. “Now if you will excuse me, detective, I have a funeral to plan.” She retreated once more, into whatever safe house it was she kept locked in her mind.
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Mrs Moxley.”
Laforet startled her with his reappearance.
The men showed themselves out and donned their hats as the sun was climbing now. Campbell opened the conversation once they were seated in the confines of the Essex.
“So? What do you think?”
“About what?” said Laforet.
“Don’t be coy; what are your thoughts on Mrs Moxley? Or were you too absorbed by the décor?”
“What you mean to ask is do I think she is of sound mind.”
“You see — I didn’t even have to ask you.”
“Not really my area of expertise,” said the doctor.
“Oh come now; she acknowledges her husband’s death but talks as if he walks among us.”
“That’s typical for a grieving widow.”
Campbell started the engine and pulled away.
“This is different. Where can I take you?”
“Home,” said Laforet. “I should change my clothes.”
“You were poking around upstairs. What did you find?”
“Sleeping pills, some bogus nerve medication — .”
“Nerve medication? Sorry — you’re on Dougall?”
“Directly behind the construction. Pharmaceutically it bears a strong resemblance to cough syrup.”
Campbell made a left at Erie Street.
“But why would she need such medication?”
“It’s not unusual for a woman to have that sort of thing in her medicine cabinet,” said Laforet, “so let’s not jump to any conclusions. You’ve seen the ads in the newspapers, these purported cures for female hysteria.”
And another left onto Dougall Road.
“I’m telling you, there’s something not right about her.”
“Of course there’s something not right about her,” said Laforet, “she’s confessed to the murder of her husband.”
“But do you honestly believe she could have carried out such a deed?”
“I’m right up here, on the left. She could have, depending on the circumstances.”
“A sledgehammer, she said. And there’s no trace of it anywhere.”
“It’s a terrible image,” said Laforet.
Campbell slowed to a stop.
Laforet was about to step out when Campbell snagged him with another question.
“And what about the body?”
The doctor dropped back into his seat.
“Impossible for her to have managed that alone. And a dirty job, too.”
“You noticed how clean the house was.”
“I could have eaten off the floor,” said Laforet. “My compliments to her housekeeper.”
“She is the housekeeper. She told me her husband dismissed the help shortly after they married. Apparently he didn’t want any strangers in the house.” Campbell was looking through the trees in Laforet’s back yard. “You weren’t kidding — the construction site is just the other side of the alleyway.” He turned to Laforet. “Didn’t you hear anything last night?”
“Nothing,” said the doctor. “It was late. I’m a heavy sleeper and so is my wife.”
Campbell pulled a cigar out of his breast pocket. He stopped himself before reaching for his matches and asked the doctor,
“Do you mind?”
“Not if it helps you.”
After a few puffs Campbell said, “She struck her husband either in an act of self-defense or a fit of jealous rage. But required help disposing of the body. Considering the short timeframe, help must have been readily at hand. She’s defending an accomplice, but who and why?”
“Perhaps she’s the one with the lover.”
“I suppose that’s possible,” said Campbell as he stared through the windshield. “I wonder if they’re missing Moxley at work right now.”
“What was it he did?”
“Corporate accountant and auditor.”
“They’ve been known to make enemies,” said Laforet.
“I should pay his supervisor a visit.” Campbell took another drag on his cigar. “And locate his Dodge.”
“And the murder weapon,” said Laforet. “You have some work to do this morning.”
“She exhausts me," said Campbell. "Do you think you can find out who her physician is without attracting the wrong kind of attention?”
“I can try. Meet me at the hospital when you’ve finished your errands. May I go now?”
Wednesday, 8:50 am
Five trucks were parked along the fence in the narrow lot behind the warehouse. There were only supposed to be four. The fleet manager decided to investigate.
Windsor Truck and Storage was located at Shepherd and Windsor Avenue. Like the ad said, they had facilities for assembling and warehousing, and were equipped to move just about anything between the Border Cities and the States. Since Prohibition however, things were becoming complicated. Everything had to be checked twice, three times and everyday there seemed to be more paperwork and another visitor with a badge.
Walking across the parking lot the fleet manager looked up and squinted at the sun. It was going to be a hot one, a day better suited to being out on the lake than in a stifling warehouse.
The first four trucks were empty, as they should have been. Auto parts were late for pick-up from Detroit but he was being paid to keep these vehicles at the ready. In the fifth truck were several unmarked crates. Someone was missing their shipment. Coincidentally, he was missing a driver. George Kostinoy was supposed to report to work early this morning and drive this truck — empty — to a pick-up at the Michigan Central station on the west end of town. The fleet manager double-checked the schedule on his clipboard and then hustled back to the office to fetch a crowbar.
Wednesday, 1:50 pm
“All right, how did he die?”
Campbell, in his usual style, showed himself into the surgery room at Grace Hospital that also served as Laforet’s lab. Laforet was getting used to it now.
"I wasn't certain at first, but now I am — it was the blow to the head. But here, have a look at the wound.”
Campbell leaned in and Laforet outlined with his finger a semi-circular impression between the victim's temple and the left ear.
“Not from a sledgehammer,” said Campbell.
“No, but definitely a heavy, blunt instrument, and it had a bit of an edge to it."
"You said you weren't certain at first. Why not?"
"When I was examining him at the bottom of the pit, I opened his mouth to see if there was any mud or water — of which there was neither — but I did see something else."
Laforet handed Campbell a large, white enamel bowl containing what appeared to be a brown, rather unappetizing-looking tossed salad.
“Newspaper clippings,” said Campbell.
“From the classifieds to be specific. They were crumpled and stuffed down his neck.”
“She said she would make him eat his words.”
“Indeed," said Laforet.
Campbell set the bowl down on an adjacent table. “Why would anyone do something like that?”
Laforet hesitated before saying,
“I gather you’re not used to this kind of murder suspect.”
“You made some comments about her mental condition.”
“Comments only. What I need are facts, physical evidence. Do you have anything else?”
“No, not really" said Laforet. "No distinguishing marks. He was fit, as you can see, well-groomed. He took care of himself.”
“Mrs Moxley made mention of his being in Ireland in ‘16. I inferred from that that he might have been involved in some action. There are no scars or marks on him?”
“None. If he was involved, he was very careful.”
Campbell turned to the loose wads of paper in the bowl and started carefully teasing them apart with two large pairs of tweezers he picked up from Laforet’s instrument table. Some were as small as a calling card while most others were the size of Campbell's hand.
“Did you have a productive morning?”
Campbell glanced sideways at the doctor and said,
“Not particularly. So far no murder weapon and no vehicles seen matching the make and model we’re looking for. However, the driver and dispatcher at Independent Taxi verified everything, and one of the Moxley’s neighbours said they heard an automobile leave just before eleven and another arrive several minutes later, idle, and then leave. They heard nothing from the house.
“And what about Moxley’s employer?”
“I called it a suspicious death. They were shocked and very sorry to hear the news. They said he was an asset to the firm. They also said he was a very private man and knew very little about him. In other words, they were of no help.”
Laforet set his clipboard down on his desk and tucked his hands in his lab coat.
“You should be happy to hear then that I’m meeting with Martha Moxley’s physician in — ” he checked the clock on the wall — “about twenty minutes.”
“Now there's some good news,” said Campbell.
Wednesday, 2:20 pm
“I would like to speak with Mr Harrigan.”
Mrs Moxley carefully scrutinized the little man standing outside her front door. He wore a clean, crisp suit and a straw hat. Neatly-trimmed moustaches ran from one corner of his mouth to the other and his skin had the colour of man who spends his afternoons in baseball parks. She didn’t recognize him.
“There is no Mr Harrigan here. Who are you?”
His face fell a yard and a half.
“Are you sure?” he said.
“Don’t make me repeat myself.”
“My name is for Mr Harrigan,” said the little man. “When will Mr Harrigan be returning?”
He spoke with an American accent that Martha Moxley recognized but at the moment couldn't place.
“I told you, there is no Harrigan here,” she said.
“Well then, who are you?”
“The name is Moxley. What is this regarding?”
The little man squinted at her.
“I think you know.”
“I’m not playing games with you, now go away. I have a very large dog.”
She gently slammed the door on the little man and through the curtains in the parlour she watched him slowly make his way down the front walk with his hands on his hips. When he reached the sidewalk he turned back to look at the house and shook his head.
Wednesday, 5:10 pm
“The King George?”
Laforet had walked up from his office on Wyandotte Street to meet Campbell at police headquarters. From there they made their way down Goyeau towards Riverside Drive.
“There are so few acceptable places to dine in this city,” lamented Laforet. “Unless you prefer lunch counters or what the Chinese have lately been serving up in this town.”
“I don’t prefer the lunch counters, but I don’t mind them either, and as far as the chop suey houses go, where’s your sense of adventure?”
“I have all the adventure I can stand right now.”
The King George Hotel occupied the southwest corner of Goyeau and the Drive and held a commanding view of the river and the train station. It catered to travellers which made it ideal for people-watching. The fare was local and served with a French flare, all thanks to a chef whose great-great grandfather, legend had it, prepared meals for General Brock during the War of 1812. The detective and the doctor entered off the Drive.
“Two this afternoon, Walt.”
Laforet also expressed a wish for privacy and so he and Campbell were shown to a table against the wall at the back of the restaurant. They ordered iced tea that Laforet immediately spiked with rye poured from a large, silver cigar case. Walt looked the other way as he outlined the day’s menu.
“Two roast chicken dinners it is,” he said and then disappeared into the kitchen.
“What can you tell me?” said Campbell.
Laforet took a sip of his iced tea.
“Martha Moxley has been diagnosed with symptoms of schizophrenia — a rupture of the mind. This would explain any displays of paranoia, irrational behaviour and disconnected thoughts.”
“That sounds like a textbook talking.”
“All the same.”
“So why isn’t she being treated somewhere?”
“Because she has money.”
“I thought money bought you help.”
“Money also buys you anonymity, saving you and your family from any embarrassment.”
“But she has no family, and it sounds like her husband already did a good job of cutting her off from the rest of the world.” Campbell paused. “Can that be healthy?”
“No,” sighed Laforet, “no it can’t. Though, it may be a very mild case. There are many varieties, many degrees of mental illness. You see examples every day without even realizing it.”
“You said you knew nothing about this area.”
“I’ve been known to glance occasionally at a medical journal.”
“It all sounds a bit fuzzy,” said Campbell.
“It’s psychology, Campbell, not auto mechanics.”
“And does that include the eccentric, and just plain peculiar?”
"No — that’s the rest of the population.”
Laforet took another sip of his iced-tea before asking Campbell if he had any luck with the fingerprints.
“Not really…I don’t know. After eliminating Mrs Moxley’s prints from the picture there remained two sets of uncannily similar prints, and these two sets were found in the study, the kitchen, the master bedroom, and the bathroom.”
Walt and another gentleman from the kitchen arrived with their plates and set them down. Another gentleman refreshed their water glasses.
“Will there be anything else?” asked Walt.
“No,” said Laforet, “thank you.”
The doctor and the detective cut into their roast chicken.
“For some reason,” picked up Campbell, “this woman wants me to believe that she murdered her husband, and yet there is very little evidence that she actually did. What’s more, she keeps insisting he is still alive. Where is that supposed to leave us?”
“I don’t know,” said Laforet.
The dining room was filling up. The two ate silently for a brief while and then Campbell asked Laforet if had any more rye in his cigar case.
Wednesday, 6:30 pm
Campbell noticed a look of relief on the duty sergeant's his face when he descended the stairs into police headquarters.
“I’ve been waiting for you, detective” she said, near breathless as she rose from the bench. “I telephoned, but you weren’t available.”
“I’m sorry — I had a late lunch.”
“I saw him in the street, detective.”
“You saw who, Mrs Moxley?”
“Why don’t you come this way and tell me all about it.”
“Not that dreadful room again.”
“Yes, Mrs Moxley, that dreadful room again. It’s where I do some of my best thinking.”
Campbell led her through the inside door and down the hallway.
“Now, please sit down and let us start from the beginning.”
She collected her thoughts and then launched into it.
“I was on the Avenue, having a dress sized for the funeral.”
“Your husband’s funeral?”
“Yes, and that’s when I saw him.”
“How do you know it was your…him?”
“Well, at first I didn’t recognize Raymond as he was in disguise.”
“Moustaches, sideboards, and spectacles. And not his usual style of clothing. Dressed, but not as professional-looking.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t just your mind playing tricks on you?”
“I’m sound as a bell, Detective Campbell. How could you even think such a thing? Besides, a woman knows her husband when she sees him.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs Moxley. Please continue.”
“It was obvious he was following me.”
“Why should he be following you?”
“I’m sure I don’t know.”
“Did he speak to you or acknowledge you?”
“No, he didn’t.”
“Well…the next time I turned around, he was gone.”
“Mrs Moxley — .”
“What I want to know, detective, is what you are going to do about this.”
“What I’m going to do about what?”
Campbell paused before asking,
She looked as if she had finally exhausted herself.
“Thank you for coming to see me, Mrs Moxley.” He stood up and opened the door. “What I am going to do is continue investigating your husband’s death.”
The widow followed him out of the room, pausing for a moment in the hallway to let Campbell know that the funeral was set for Friday morning at St. Alphonsus.
“I’ll be there,” said Campbell and then he watched the duty sergeant show her to the door.
The detective turned and retreated to his desk where he resumed picking through the torn, stinking fragments of newspaper clippings, trying to make sense of the communication alleged to have gone on between Raymond Moxley and his mistresses.
Many of the classifieds contained useful information such as street names and telephone exchanges. Some of these entries were subsequently marked with lines, circles or asterisks. Most had dates written on them. Using copies of the day’s papers, Campbell was able to match the typeface and layout against copies of the Border Cities Star as well as the Detroit News and Free Press, but he was at a loss with the others, though he thought at least one may have come from a Chicago paper.
Thursday, 10:06 am
“Is there a reward?” asked the white-haired boy.
“What do you mean?” said the officer.
“Usually when people find something, they get a reward,” said the other boy.
“I told you, there ain’t no reward,” said the farmer, tired of listening to the boys’ banter. They weren’t yet teenagers.
The white-haired boy’s companion punched his companion in the arm while the two kept walking, leading the old man and the Provincial Police officer to their find. Just west of Kingsville, Cedar Creek was a treed area, featuring a rocky ravine and gentle, twisting waters. Some of it backed onto farmland while the rest was still a bit wild or skirted by marsh. It emptied into Lake Erie.
“There it is,” pointed the white-haired boy.
“You sure it’s not Virgil’s?” asked the officer.
“I’m sure,” said the farmer. “Virgil drives a Ford.”
“And what’s this?”
“She’s a Dodge.”
The officer turned to the two young explorers and he gave them each a look. “Either you boys touch this car?”
They turned to face him. “No, sir,” chimed the two.
“There,” said the farmer. “Now who’s she belong to?”
“That I don’t know,” said the officer, “but I do know who’s looking for it. Stay here and keep watch for me.”
Thursday, 10:32 am
“I’m looking for Mr Harrigan.”
“I already told you, you horrid little man, there is no Harrigan here. Who is your friend?”
There was another, much larger man standing behind the littler one, sort of framing him.
“The other day, Mrs Moxley — if that’s your real name — you told me you had a dog. I now know that’s not true. I however have brought mine and we have come to deliver this message to Mr Harrigan since he has stopped replying to my communications: I have clients in Chicago awaiting delivery and if the product doesn’t leave the Border Cities by the end of the week, that is, tomorrow, I’ll be back with Jones here to collect my deposit. Good day to you ma’am. Oh, and I wouldn’t go to the police again if I were you.”
“But I didn’t tell them — .”
“Good day,” said the little man and the two walked away.
Thursday, 10:52 am
“Did you get any sleep last night? You look wretched.”
The detective had just entered Laforet’s office on the second floor of the IOOF building on Wyandotte Street.
“These newspaper clippings, they’re not love notes but they are arrangements for various rendezvous. It's a smuggler’s code — while Moxley was traveling on business he was moonlighting as a bootlegger. This is information on orders, pick-ups and delivery destinations.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m positive — look.”
Campbell had the clippings arranged in one of the albums that the department used for crime scene photographs. Laforet flipped through the pages, indecipherable to him, and said,
“You told me she was convinced these messages between her husband and his alleged mistresses were evidence of his infidelity, in other words her motive.”
“She was mistaken,” said Campbell.
“Perhaps tragically so.”
The phone rang at Laforet’s assistant’s desk outside and Annie popped her head in the door.
“There’s a telephone call for Detective Campbell.”
“Put it through,” said Laforet.
The detective picked up the receiver.
“Campbell here…he’s sure about this?…All right, phone the Kingsville detachment and tell them I’m on my way.”
“What is it?”
“I think they’ve found Moxley’s car.”
The Ontario Provincial Police office in Kingsville was at least a forty-five minute drive into the county. Campbell followed Highway 3 through Essex, cutting south on Division Road into Kingsville, a small rural town where the population was outnumbered by chickens. The OPP office was above Main Street.
“I hear someone found a Dodge sedan,” said Campbell to the first uniform he saw.
"You Detective Campbell?"
Campbell pulled out his badge.
"It’s closer to Arner,” said the officer, “right off the town line. You can follow me out.”
Campbell did just that. As he drove, he glanced over at the waving carpets of cool, green tobacco. He didn’t know the interior of the county all that well but right now he kind of wished he did. When they got to their destination they found the old farmer still watching over the Dodge, keeping the boys away from it.
“Looks like they drove along the edge of the field,” the farmer speculated, “followed the windbreak until they found a gap, and rolled her into the ravine.”
“Have you ever seen this vehicle before, sir?”
“Does the name Moxley mean anything to you?”
“Probably not. Did you hear anything last night?”
“The house is up at the main road and I’m in bed after sundown. To answer your question, no, I didn’t hear a thing.”
Campbell approached the vehicle with his fingerprint kit in hand. There were some small branches caught in the front bumper and the fenders but other than that it was still in pretty good condition. He circled it once before opening the driver’s door.
There was mud on the floor, yellow like the mud in the foundation on Victoria Avenue. There was also a blanket in the back seat with bloodstains on it. Campbell took his time dusting the steering wheel, stick shift and controls for prints.
The boys got bored and started poking around the immediate area, picking up where they left off exploring the wilds of Essex County. While Campbell worked, the OPP officer took the opportunity to pick his brain about procedure, but they were interrupted when the boys started shouting about something.
“I saw it first so it’s mine!”
“We said we'd share the treasure!”
“If it was money or gold, but you can’t share this.”
The farmer intervened, wresting from the boys the object over which they were having their tug-of-war. He marched them over to Campbell who was just stepping out of the Dodge.
“What did you find?”
The farmer handed it to Campbell. It was a bronze statuette, an exotic-looking female dancer in mid-step with the ball of one foot fixed to a bloodstained marble base with a sharp edge.
“That’s good detective work boys.”
"I’ll be taking this back to Windsor with me.”
Their faces fell.
“Why?” asked the white-haired boy.
“It’s evidence in a murder case.”
That didn't impress them.
"Say — have either of you boys ever been fingerprinted?”
That perked them up a little.
Thursday, 4:12 pm
“Hey, Campbell, how’re you fixed for rye?”
Detective Samuel Morrison was just coming out of the washroom at police headquarters. He was almost as wide as the door.
Campbell thought Morrison knew something about the bootleg that he and Laforet shared yesterday over the roast chicken. One never knew.
"You probably haven’t heard since you’ve been too busy playing in the dirt. Some unmarked crates of whiskey were discovered in a truck parked outside a warehouse at Shepherd and Windsor.”
“Any idea who it belongs to?”
“Funny, no one’s stepped up to claim it,” wheezed Morrison. “Though it’s their truck, the warehouse says they know nothing about the crates. All they know is they’re missing a driver.”
“Missing a driver?”
“Somebody called Kostinoy."
"I don't think we've had the pleasure," said Campbell.
"He'll turn up. My guess is he was a link in someone’s supply chain and now he’s lying low somewhere while the Mounties are sniffing around.”
“I’ll try and stay out of their way.” Campbell paused. “Did you shave?”
“I’m due in court.”
“Sorry to hear that. Have you seen Begg around?”
“He’s back at his desk.”
Campbell found Begg trying to mop up spilled coffee with note paper.
“That better not be my fingerprint report under there.”
“No, I managed to save that.”
Begg handed Campbell a folder with his dry hand.
"You know those two near-matching sets of prints?” he said.
“Yep,” said Campbell.
“Both sets are on the car and the statuette.”
“And Mrs Moxley’s prints?”
Campbell was only into the first page of Begg’s report when a secretary approached the latter’s desk.
“Detective Campbell, there’s someone here to see you.”
“Attractive brunette, about 5-foot 6, slightly hysterical?”
“How did you know?”
He slipped the report back in the folder.
“We have a standing appointment. Is anyone in the spare room?”
“No, it’s free.”
Campbell went over to his desk and filed the report.
“Mrs Moxley, what can I do for you?” She was indeed panicked and near hysterical.
"I saw him again.”
“My husband — in the same disguise.”
In what was quickly becoming a ritual, he led her through the doors behind the sergeant’s desk and down the hall. She sat down at the table and Campbell closed the door.
“Where did you see him?”
“Right in our neighbourhood. He’s getting bold, detective and I’m very frightened for myself. You said you were going to do something.”
“This time he looked right at me. He followed me as I walked up Victoria but when I reached our front walk and turned around to look, he was gone — just like the last time.”
“If this man is your husband, Mrs Moxley, what do you have to be afraid of?”
“There’s something I haven’t told you.”
“A strange man has already come to my door.”
Campbell’s head was spinning.
“A little man looking for a certain Mr Harrigan.”
“I haven’t a clue,” said Mrs Moxley. “And he had another man with him — very large — who goes by the name Jones.”
“What did they want?”
“Well, the little man asked for this Harrigan and I told him there was no such person at this address. After that he seemed quite upset and said that he expected delivery by tomorrow — .”
“Delivery? Delivery of what?”
“He didn’t say. He just said that failing that, he would be back to collect his deposit. His words. He told me not to go to the police. I don’t know what to do.”
“Mrs Moxley, isn’t there a friend or relative who can come sit with you? I’m trying to conduct an investigation, and you have a funeral tomorrow. Have you contacted your lawyer by the way?”
“Yes…I think I did.”
“Give me his name.”
Thursday, 8:38 pm
“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”
Phillip Nesbitt was partner in a downtown firm, but would sometimes see clients in his home at Chatham and Janette.
“This is about Martha Moxley?”
“Yes it is.”
“Please, sit down.”
Nesbitt’s desk was the size of a barge and either it was assembled in his office or the house was built around it.
“I’m going to tell you right now, I’m not saying anything that I feel will incriminate my client.”
“Understood,” said Campbell.
“What is Martha Moxley worth, now that her husband is dead?”
“Less than you think detective."
"You know what I'm thinking?"
"That’s all I’m prepared to disclose regarding Mrs Moxley's personal finances.”
“Does she have any family?”
“Her mother died of influenza shortly after giving birth to Martha’s younger sister. Her father was an American business man, much older, and only lived long enough to see Martha married, not long enough to see her widowed.”
“And the younger sister?”
“She was institutionalized for a while in Detroit. The family later moved to Kingsville where the old man owned some waterfront property. One night Martha’s sister decided to go for a walk and they found her in the morning, washed up on the beach.”
“When did you last speak with Martha?”
“May I ask about the nature of the conversation?”
“You may, but I won’t answer.”
“Mr Nesbitt, professionally-speaking, would you say that Martha Moxley was of sound mind?”
Nesbitt finished stuffing his pipe and said,
“But mental illness runs in her family.”
“And I am not the family doctor and so I wouldn’t know anything about that.”
“Fair enough. Mr Nesbitt, is there anything you care to ask me, regarding Mrs Moxley and the murder investigation?”
Friday, 9:47 am
Father Corcoran made time to see Campbell before the funeral, in the residence next to St Alphonsus. Over tea in the library he told the Father that he was investigating the death of Raymond Moxley but made no mention of the fact that the grieving widow was a suspect. Campbell buffered his questions with small talk and whatever bent cards he still kept up his sleeves, eventually winding his way through to what he felt was at the heart of the matter.
“Father, has Martha ever seemed troubled to you, I mean before her husband’s death?”
“What do you mean?”
“She is a regular worshipper here at St Alphonsus, is she not?”
“Martha has attended mass regularly since her she converted to our faith.”
Campbell continued to test the waters.
“And in that span, has she ever come to you?”
“Detective, I’m not entirely sure what it is you are trying to get at, but you very well know I cannot discuss any matter that, as her parish priest and her spiritual advisor, may — .”
“I respect that, Father, but I was wondering, have you ever observed.”
“Detective, is Martha in some kind of trouble?”
“Father, I’m just trying to learn more about the Moxleys.”
“You seemed most concerned with Martha.”
“Has she ever been involved in any of the church’s social activities? Perhaps there is someone I could talk to that — .”
His face became a closed book.
“I’m sorry, detective, but I have a mass to conduct.”
Campbell picked his bowler up off his knee before he stood up.
“Thank you for your time, Father.”
He had pushed too hard.
The funeral was held in the chapel adjoining the church. Campbell took a seat in the back where he could observe everyone who entered. He counted about a dozen people. The majority looked like regular church-goers, old women and members of the parish that regularly went in for this sort of thing. Campbell recognized a few men from Moxley’s firm, but other than that he saw no one else of note.
When things settled down and he thought everyone had arrived, the door of the chapel opened again. Campbell turned and, squinting at the daylight, saw two silhouettes, one large and one small.
The larger man remained at the door while the smaller one, a man in a clean, crisp suit and a straw hat, made his way directly up the aisle towards the casket. Mrs Moxley seemed to recognize him — she had a noticeable reaction to his presence but remained in her seat. The man bent over to take a close look at the deceased, turned and then made his way through to the church proper. Campbell suddenly heard the door behind him, looked back, and saw that the larger man was gone. Campbell stood up and, trying not to draw too much attention, made his way up the side aisle through the chapel in pursuit of the smaller man.
The church was empty. Campbell ran down the aisle and out the front door to the corner of Park and Goyeau streets. There was no sign of either of them in any direction. He considered returning to the funeral, but decided to walk back across the square to police headquarters instead.
Friday, 11:43 am
“I really don’t know where to begin.”
“What is it, Mrs Moxley?”
“He was at the cemetery. I thought perhaps it was my imagination because he looked different…but it was just another disguise.”
"Your husband again?”
“Yes...I recognized him by the way he walked.”
“Did he approach you, or speak to you or anyone else?”
“He spoke to me with his eyes. Do you know what he said? He told me he wanted to live.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Detective, I’m so confused.”
She seemed desperate now.
“Mrs Moxley, at the funeral this morning I saw a man enter and then walk up to the casket while his companion, a much larger man, waited behind. Were these two the men that you said came to your door?”
“You saw them!” said Mrs Moxley.
“Remember, they said they would come tonight to collect their money if they had not received their delivery or whatever it was.”
“Mrs Moxley, it is these two men that I am most concerned about right now. With your permission I would like to assemble a watch at your home this evening.”
Friday, 9:03 pm
They had the house looking like it did any other evening at about this time: the floor lamp in the study; a table lamp in the parlour; darkness upstairs. Mrs Moxley was sitting in a tall wingback in the parlour, pretending to be reading a book while Detective Morrison was waiting behind her in the dining room, behind the French doors. Campbell positioned himself in the study and was peeping though the curtains and Brumpton sat low in an unmarked police vehicle parked across the street.
It wasn’t long before Campbell spied someone coming up the walk. There was a firm knock at the door and the detective gave Mrs Moxley the ok. She went to the door, opened it, and let out a gasp. Campbell saw her step back slowly into the house.
Campbell dashed to the foyer and stepped between the door and the invader before he had a chance to turn and run. Morrison had already entered and grabbed the stranger by the arm, pulling him into the dining room and closing the doors behind them. Everyone resumed their posts.
Brumpton was signaling frantically from across the street. Sure enough, Campbell saw two figures silhouetted by the streetlight coming up the front walk. Once more there was a knock at the door and Campbell gave Mrs Moxley the nod. This time however she seemed pinned to her seat, fearful of whatever might come next. Campbell waved her over. She finally approached the door and opened it. This time Campbell could hear a man speak.
“I know for a fact the delivery is lost — I've found Kostinoy. I’m here for my money and I’m not leaving until I get it. As you can see, I’ve brought Jones.”
Mrs Moxley did as she was instructed and invited them into the house. As soon as rearguard Jones crossed the threshold, Brumpton jumped out of the car and bolted across the street. Campbell pushed the little man into Morrison and then turned to help Brumpton who was trying to restrain Jones. As soon as Jones looked as if he might break free, Campbell delivered a solid right to the big man’s jaw. Jones staggered and hit his head on the doorframe before collapsing unconscious on top of Brumpton. While Campbell shook the pain from his hand, the constable handcuffed the giant and everyone else took a deep breath.
“All right,” Campbell said, “let’s get to know each other a little better.”
Morrison sat the little man, who was now also handcuffed, down in a chair adjacent to Mrs Moxley who had resumed her seat in the wingback, and Campbell pulled a chair in from the dining room for the stranger. Brumpton stood sentry near the front door.
Campbell moved into the middle of the triangle. “Let’s start with you,” he said to the stranger. “Who the hell are you?”
He had long sideboards, spectacles, and the suit of a man who worked for a living. Knowing he was cornered, he came clean. “My name is Moxley.”
The little man scoffed and said,
“His name is Harrigan.”
“Are you really that naïve?” grinned Moxley. “The business you’re in and you think your clients actually use their real names. You’re an even bigger fool than I thought."
Morrison, still standing behind the little man, put his meaty hands on his shoulders and said,
“And what line of business would that be, Mr…?”
“Am I under arrest?”
Morrison leaned in close to the little man’s ear, and said, “I have a feeling that you’re trying to cleaning up a mess before your boss finds out about it. I have a feeling,” continued Morrison in the other ear, “that no one knows you’re here. Now,” said Morrison squeezing the little man's shoulders, “what’s your name?”
“All right, Wersky,” said Morrison, “who’s Harrigan?”
Wersky raised his cuffed hands and pointed at the man calling himself Moxley.
“Him,” he said.
“And this woman seated here,” said Campbell, “where do you know her from?”
“Nowhere,” said Wersky. “I was getting a bad feeling so I started making inquiries. My sources sent me here. I came knocking but I was informed there was no Harrigan at this address. I know I’m not the one supposed to be asking questions right now, but can someone tell me who the hell is Moxley?”
Campbell stepped out of the triangle.
“A quick word, detective”
Morrison followed him into the study.
“I’m not interested in Wersky,” said Campbell. “You can have him and Jones.”
"Suits me fine. How do you want to write this up?”
“You’re senior here; you can report it however you see fit. I only ask that you show it to me before you hand it in to the chief. I want to at least make sure we’re singing from the same score.”
Morrison hesitated, rubbing the chin from which his other chins hung.
“All right. I’ll come looking for you tomorrow.”
They noticed Jones sitting up in the foyer.
“I want a chair too,” he said.
Morrison lifted a thick leg and pushed the sole of his shoe into Jones’ face until he was lying on the floor again.
“That’s all the chair you need.”
Campbell walked up to the stranger that called himself Moxley, removed his spectacles, grabbed him firmly by the jaw and turned his head from side to side to get a better look at him in the light. He then pinched a corner of the man’s moustaches and yanked them off. There was some blood and the man howled.
“I suspect those sideboards are fakes too. I’ll spare you the agony.”
Mrs Moxley stared. Wersky stared.
“Twins,” said Campbell. “Raymond and…”
“Desmond,” said the stranger after a hesitation.
“Is the accent real?” asked Campbell.
"Yes,” he said.
“All right, now tell me your game.”
“Perhaps I could jog your memory with the bronze statuette in my car.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
Desmond Moxley took a moment to organize his thoughts.
“The brother and I, we got into some trouble back home…in Ireland. This was back in ’16. We didn’t hurt anyone, just made things difficult for the Constabulary.”
“I think it would be safe for you to skip ahead a little,” said Campbell.
“Right,” said Moxley. “Well, when the dust settled, justice was swift and hard. We lied low for a while but there was no use; we were marked men. We headed north and in Belfast negotiated safe passage to Quebec. But we always felt like we were being chased, so we kept moving west. After stopping to catch our breath here in the Border Cities, we decided to stay and try to make a life for ourselves.”
“A life in what?” asked Campbell.
“Smuggling. It was back home we learned how to run guns. This seemed like the perfect place to ply our trade.”
“But you had day jobs.”
“One of us did. For security.”
“And for the contacts,” said Campbell and he turned to Wersky, asking him from where he knew Moxley.
“I seen him around.”
Morrison slapped the back of Wersky’s head again, hard enough to change the part in his hair.
“Jesus — I was handling some auto parts into Chicago and I noticed this guy,” gestured Wersky, “whatever his name is, getting cozy with the warehouse manager during an inventory. This warehouse manager somehow got the idea that I was doing some work on the side. Anyway, he vouched for him and told me his name was Harrigan. Harrigan and I had a conversation. He passed me a bottle and I gave him a three-hundred dollar deposit for another two hundred of the same. It would have worked out to about two-fifty a bottle. Pretty good — I know people in Chicago paying three.”
“I think we've heard enough,” said Morrison and he pulled Wersky up out of his chair. “Let’s go.”
“I don’t want to send you home before you’ve had a chance to see some of the sights here in the Border Cities.”
It was quite the procession. Brumpton pushed Jones out the door first, and they were followed by Wersky and Morrison. Campbell closed the door behind them. He then took up Wersky’s chair in the parlour and said,
“Mrs Moxley, how did you come to meet your husband?”
Her hands were loosely gripping the arms of the wingback. She looked over at Desmond with an expression that suggested she was trying to piece it all together for her own benefit as much as Campbell's.
“A society fundraiser…for injured soldiers and war widows.”
“War widows,” repeated Campbell and then he turned to Desmond. “Were you and your brother prospecting?”
“It was his idea,” he said.
“Are you living in the Border Cities?”
“I have a place in Detroit — an apartment on Jefferson Avenue. That was the arrangement: one of us lived in Windsor while the other lived in Detroit. It worked. If one of us ever got into any trouble — roughed up, extended visits, that sort of thing, then the other would stand in, at work and at home.”
Mrs Moxley suddenly had a look of horror on her face. It just occurred to her that she had been sharing her life — and her bed — with two different men.
“Earlier you said start a life for ourselves. A figure of speech but you really meant one life, didn’t you?”
“It’s been that way as long as I can remember,” said Moxley. “It started as a game when we were kids. Later it was a dare with the girls. When we got into business we learned the benefits of being in two places at once. One time it got us recruited into a vaudeville act. After a while, the gimmick wears out and one is forced to move on. But that was a long time ago.
“The last few months, here in Detroit and the Border Cities, we worked less, did fewer jobs. At the same time I felt like I was being pushed aside. Sure enough, the brother started hinting how he wanted to settle down.”
Moxley turned to Campbell and looked him straight in the eye.
“Detective, can you even begin to comprehend what that meant?”
And then he turned to Martha.
“My brother married you but he didn’t love you. I fell in love with you, truly, deeply in love. Why do you think I’ve been following you? Risking my life by coming here? If I surface, who am I? He’s dead, and now I am dead — worse, I’ve sentenced myself to a life in purgatory.”
Campbell leaned across.
“Then you admit to killing your brother?”
“I was determined to have it out with him," said Moxley. "I came knocking. He led me into the study and drew the curtains. Martha was already in bed. He repeated how we were through, and if I didn’t like it he was going to contact the police. I told him it wasn’t fair and I shared with him my feelings about Martha. He didn’t care. He claimed to have evidence that would put me in jail for the rest of my life. We started arguing and it became violent. He said he wouldn’t let me ruin his life — our life! — and that’s when he attacked me. I threw him off but he lunged back. My hand reached out, I grabbed the statuette off the desk and blindly swung at him and he fell. Our noise must have awaked Martha because she immediately came down the stairs. Of course she was shocked to see me — us.
“I had to do something with the body. I ran outside in a panic, looked around, and then remembered the blanket we always kept in the car. I went back in the house with it and found Martha kneeling over his body. When she saw me again she ran upstairs, hysterical. I quickly wrapped my brother in the blanket, dragged him out of the house and shoved him in the back and drove off. I slowed at the construction up the street. I managed to get the body to the foundation pit and roll it in. It was a clear night so I could just make out the ladder and climbed down it. I buried him as best I could, though I was still in a panic. I climbed back up, got in the car and sped off. I headed out into the county and drove until I was almost out of gas. I found a spot to abandon the car and that’s what I did. Afterwards I walked to Kingsville and in the morning I took the first train back to Windsor and then on to Detroit.
"The next day...I felt lost. All I could think of was Martha, and how on earth we could ever be together after I had done what I had done."
A few days later.
Campbell slid into the booth and placed the box on the table in front of Laforet.
"It was a gift."
"For what?" asked Laforet.
"I'm not entirely sure," said Campbell. "But she wanted me to have it."
Laforet had agreed to meet with Campbell over coffee at White City Lunch for mostly clinical reasons.
"What did you call it?"
"Himitsu-Bako," said Laforet.
"Right," said Campbell. "So do you know how to open it?"
"I have no idea. Have you tried?"
"I'm afraid I might break it."
The girl behind the counter recognized Campbell and came over with a coffee mug and the carafe. Campbell stirred a couple sugar cubes into his coffee.
"I want to thank you for your help with Martha."
"Spending time with those volunteers at the Great War Veterans' Association might be a good first step for her. The mind, for all its wonder and acheivement, is still a fragile thing, and despite all of our modern theories, largely unknown."
"She remembers less and less about that night."
"It may be a case of the mind defending itself."
Campbell removed his hat.
"When I first met her, first interviewed her, she reminded me of a kind of storm. The wind would change direction, it would be calm for a moment and then pick up again."
Laforet only nodded. Campbell continued.
"The image of the sledgehammer, what she did with the newspaper clippings, everything else..."
Campbell started absent-mindedly playing with the box.
"Yes," said Laforet, "a storm, turning on itself as much as it turns on the world around it. There are questions with ready answers, questions that defy answering, and questions with no answer at all. So, what was it about Kingsville?"
"Nothing," said Campbell, working the box in his hands. "Sheer coincidence. There is no connection between Martha's family and Desmond's ditching of the Dodge."
"Another one of life's mysteries."
"I said coincidence."
They glanced out the window for a moment at the pedestrian traffic moving along Pitt Street, and then Laforet said,
“I understand the case will be going to trial. Congratulations."
"Thanks, I guess."
"You've closed a case."
"Part of me still sees Desmond as a victim. Wasn't he in a trap, much the same way Martha was?"
"Of his and his brother's design."
Suddenly the box popped open in Campbell's hands, the lid and a side panel.
"Hey," he said, "look at that."
There was another panel, unlocked, and tiny drawers, and drawers within drawers as Laforet had described.
"You see — you apply the right kind of pressure in the right places."
"I don't remember what I did," said Campbell.
Several days later.
"Moxley. Are they treating you well?"
Moxley rose and came to the jail cell bars.
"You were probably looking forward to this," he said.
"This isn't exactly something one looks forward to," said Campbell. "It's simply justice being served." Campbell paused. "You said were."
"The case isn't going to trial," said Moxley, grinning.
"What do you mean?"
"The murder of Raymond Moxley? It can't."
Moxley stepped back.
"What are you talking about?" said Campbell, gripping the bars.
"Because I'm Raymond Moxley, and what's more I can prove it.
copyright Michael Januska, 2012