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Murder By Mistake by Ann Stasiak

As Arianna stood by her living room window looking out at the swirling gold and red leaves, she was so immersed in thought that the beauty of the day made no impression on her at all. Night started to descend and a light rain began to fall.

Her preoccupation seemed strange, almost foreboding. She was beautiful and at the top of her modeling profession. She was a slight girl, with hair of velvet and matching eyes.

She had a beautiful smile and people always did a double take and found it easy to remember her.

She was so immersed in her thoughts that she failed to hear the ringing of her doorbell until it started repeating incessantly. Finally it got through to her and she jumped up quickly. She hurried to the door, first looking out of the peephole.

Two men were standing there. She did not know them. Her mind raced as she wondered who they were and what in the world did they want. Automatically she said, “yes?” They answered, “we would like to speak to you.” As these words were uttered, one of the men held up a wallet with a badge on one side and a police identification on the other.

She couldn’t imagine what possible reason they might have to want to talk to her. She hesitated, and then slowly began to unlock the door. Arianna motioned for them to enter and showed them into the living room which was right off the foyer.

The men automatically took in the room. While it was in good taste, it was no different than dozens of other living rooms the officers had occasion to visit in their affluent district.

She motioned for them to sit and the tall one started to address her, “I believe you were engaged to Mr. Alan Wentworth?” Arianna looked at him and wondered why he had used the past tense to ask her that question. Her eyes seemed to get larger and darker as she haltingly said, “yes?” And then, the flood of words tumbled out: why are you here?…What has happened to Alan?….Has there been an accident? Tell me, please and then uncontrollably she choked up as tears began to flow in anxiety. The tall one continued and tried to be gentle but he could see that she needed to know immediately. “Sorry miss, I’m afraid, he’s dead.” A broken cry escaped from her mouth. “How could this be?” Her face held this look of incredulous disbelief, “but I just spoke to him, not more than twenty minutes ago. He said that he was on his way over, just leaving the office he said. You must be wrong.” She wept bitterly, saying over and over, “no, no. no.”

Just then, they heard a key in the door. The officers looked up. Arianna looked up and drew in a deep breath and thought, only Alan has a key to my house! The officers stood up and slowly began to walk toward the door. They motioned Arianna to stay where she was. Fear was on her face. Her hands were clenched together and she looked as if she would faint. The door began to open; Arianna gasped, and began to shake. She moved closer to the officers.

As Alan entered the room, he felt hands grabbing his arms and pushing him toward the wall. He yelled out, “what’s going on?” A slight tussle ensued. Arianna stood there with a look of shock upon her face. Finally she whispered, “Alan!” There was more relief in her voice than disbelief. Upon hearing her call him by name, the officers stopped scuffling with him but still held his arms.

In a firm voice, Alan said, “release me and tell me what is going on?” Arianna could not help thinking how strong and virile he sounded. His dark hair, blue eys and angular features made him very handsome and she rushed to embrace him. She thought to herself, is it any wonder women found him appealing and men too liked him for he was always, one of the boys! He shook free of the officers and took Arianna in his arms and whispered, “I love you. Things will work out.” With those words he turned toward the officers and said, “Now, tell me what is going on.”

The officers told him that a body was found in his apartment and they just assumed that it was he. They asked him to go to the coroner’s office with them in the event that he could identify the body. While he really didn’t feel at all like moving out of Arianna’s house, he said that he would go.

He turned toward Arianna as if to say that he would be right back, but she said that she too wanted to go. After all, she might know the deceased. The officers offered to drive them but they declined the offer as they wanted the car for later.

They arrived at the Coroner’s office and as they entered the room they could see the large glass window through which they would view the body. The body was wheeled in and as the coroner removed the sheet from the dead man’s face, Arianna held her breath and then let out a great big sigh of relief. It was no one she knew! She looked at Alan and saw a question on his face. He was shaking his head from side to side to indicate a, “no” but hesitated because somehow the man looked familiar.

After viewing the body, they went to their favorite restaurant, the Italia, for dinner and a drink. As they sipped their wine, Alan wondered who the deceased was, why he looked familiar and what on earth was he doing in his apartment. He looked over at Arianna, as if she read his mind, as she blurted out, “why was he in your apartment? How do you suppose he got in?” Alan told her that he was wondering the same thing and would get to the bottom of this. Since there were painters in the building to redecorate, maybe the police should talk to the painters. He smiled as he said, “tomorrow we start.” She felt a thrill go through her body as he had included her in this statement.

The police still hadn’t identified the body. The next morning, the fun began. They decided to go to Alan’s apartment and look for missed clues. The police said that they could go there to get Alan some clean clothes, accompanied by an officer. Inside the living room ladders and paint cans were strewn about. Alan was having the place refurbished for the wedding. They entered the bedroom, and the figure of the dead man was drawn with chalk on the rug. They looked around and Alan pretended to get shoes from under the bed. He found a matchbook and wondered where it came from. He didn’t smoke. He took his slippers out from under the bed and gave the matchbook to the policeman. From his closet he retrieved suits, jackets shirts and ties. They didn’t know how long it would be before he could move back in. They thanked the officer and went on their way.

The name on the matchbook that he turned in to the officer was Sydney’s, a famous designer. Sydney’s clothes cost in the thousands and the matches could have come from the person who did the hapless man in. Or, maybe that was the last place the murdered man went. Maybe…..maybe. There were so many possibilities.

They gave a number of people his description but no one seemed to have a clue. Someone had to have seen him.

The next day they rose early as they wanted to catch the doorman on duty. They arrived at the apartment only to find that the doorman wasn’t going to be on duty till later that day. Alan decided that they should go to Sydney’s as there was a fashion show and all the models would be working. Since Arianna was a model as well, she felt that she could mingle without arousing suspicion. She tried to learn if there was anything unusual there, if anyone was missing or if the models recognized the dead man’s description. It was more or less of a dead end except for one girl who thought that the description matched someone that was with Sydney’s wife a couple of days ago.

They looked around for Irene, Sydney’s wife and found her helping one of the girls dress.

They went through their routine, was the description familiar?…was he a customer?….when could she have seen him, etc. etc. What they learned was that someone fitting the dead man’s description was in with his wife just shopping around. But, the important thing was that this man, Taylor James, lived in Alan’s building!

When they got back to Alan’s building, they found the doorman on duty and began to question him. They learned that the dead man lived on the same floor as Alan, seemed happily married and was retired from the construction business. His wife was up there as he had just delivered a package and saw her. The police had also been there to speak to Mrs. James.

They knocked softly upon the door. A gentle voice asked, who is it? Alan told her, that he lived in the other penthouse apartment where her husband had been found. She opened the door and motioned them to enter. She was an attractive blond in her sixties. She was elegantly dressed and introduced herself as Emma James. They offered her their condolences.

Emma had no idea why Taylor was in their apartment. He had left early in the day and wasn’t expected back until dinnertime. When he didn’t return, she wasn’t worried because she felt that business had delayed him. The police notified her of his death the night before.

After they had finished interviewing everyone involved, they returned to Arianna’s home. While fixing dinner they discussed the case. There seemed to be no reason for Taylor James to have been killed by anyone. Yet, he was dead. There was no confusion about that. No matter how they turned on all the facts they knew, they came to this conclusion.

He had to have died of natural causes! Heart, maybe. And, heart it was. The police would realize this in a couple of days after the autopsy.

What happened was that he was returning home, felt the attack coming on, entered Alan’s apartment, since the painters had left the door opened, he went in hoping to sit somewhere. Since all the furniture was removed, he went into the bedroom, stumbled, and fell to the floor. Dead.

Thus it began and ended, a murder by mistake.

Originally Posted on Tuesday, July 02, 2002 - 01:20 PM (182 Reads)


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