A death in Avedon

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
A wealthy man is murdered and his only son looks good for it a smart detective figures it out.

Submitted: March 24, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 24, 2015




A death in Avedon

By J. Joseph Massingill



 When I walked into the crime scene at Briarwood, the palatial MacArthur estate on the edge of Avedon, Indiana. It was two o'clock in the afternoon. The MacArthur family, owned most of the commercial real estate. And housing property, inside the city limits of Avedon. The MacArthurs had been in the area since Avedon was a jerkwater stop on the Monon-Pennsylvania railroad line.  In 1847; outside of the original Avedon city limits. Fergus MacArthur, the first family member to settle in the area bought a foreclosed farmstead before the bank could chop up the property and sell off all the parcels. MacArthur then proceeded to build his spacious manor house and the lengthy fieldstone fence that separated the front acre, from the back acre. Out of the entire twenty acre estate only the house, the front and back acres were under Avedon police jurisdiction. When Avedon started growing because of the railroad’s importance in national commerce. Fergus MacArthur’s negotiating tactics managed to keep the majority of his property out of the city’s expanding limits and its tax reach, and because the negotiation abilities of Fergus’s namesake descendants are as formidable as their ancestor’s skills were. The remaining eighteen acres of the original estate remain under the La Porte county sheriff’s jurisdiction.

Rookie uniformed patrolman Danny Gibson was on scene as the first responding officer. He had since been joined by uniformed officer Kate Smyth and the crime scene techs. Seeing the worker bees of police work made me feel less conspicuous of my Wrangler jeans, sneakers and button down blouse in this display of wealth I was walking into. The fanciest things I own is a scrimshawed heart pendant made of bone. My dad gave me.

 “You've got an open and shut case this time. Detective Wells,” Gibson said as soon as he saw me walk into the room.  Hearing Gibson address me caught Officer Smyth’s attention.  Wanting to leave a good impression on one of the few women to break into the boys club that was Avedon P.D.'s homicide division. Officer Smyth quickly spoke up.

“We have witnesses identifying Fergus MacArthur the sixth. As the perpetrator.  His father, Fergus the fifth, is the victim. The whole family is here for the elder Fergus’s birthday party. And Fergus the sixth was nowhere to be seen. When it happened.”

 I waved a calm down gesture at her with my left hand.

 “Just let me do my job, guys. I got to say getting killed at your own birthday party. That’s ironic and tragic.” I said, walking further into the room to get a better view of the crime scene.

 The room I walked into was decorated with medieval weapons of war. Numerous long handled pikes and/or spears and a couple of round shields with brass center protrusions called bosses decorated the East wall.  Hanging on the North wall was a two handed claymore broadsword flanked by a couple of antique basket hilted swords, and a war-hammer with a medium length handle. The display was set against a green and black tartan pattern. I assumed the pattern belonged to the MacArthur clan back in Scotland. From the faded outline visible on the tartan. I could tell a war hammer was missing from the display.

 The memory of a local TV newscast showing Fergus number five. And Fergus number six, screaming at each other over a failed business deal. At the funeral of Evelyn MacArthur, Fergus the sixth’s mother. Flashed through my mind. Fergus number six was the only son and was publicly assumed to be the MacArthur heir. Out of five kids. The daughters would all be left out of the family business according to the family’s history, and town gossip. The coroner arrived when I did, so the body hadn't been removed. I took a quick look at what remained of Fergus MacArthur the fifth. Someone had plunged the spiked end of the missing war hammer. Into the old man's chest. Antique or not the weapon was still deadly. Fergus number five’s slicked back gray hair wasn't messed up. So the attack was a surprise, or he didn't put up a fight. I thought that was unlikely for such an aggressive business man.

 I spotted Doc Wainwright the M.E. coming into the room.

“Hey Doc, How much force does it take to punch a hole in a guy's chest?” I asked.

 “With the right weapon, an average sized adult man or woman could do it easily enough. But they would have to break through the breastbone to reach the heart,” he answered. 

After I saw the body and got Doc's answer. I went in search of the witnesses in this supposedly open and shut case.

 My first interviewee was Robert Webster, husband to the former Sarah MacArthur and the eldest daughter of the MacArthurs. I met up with Mr. Webster in the back yard. Where the Gazebo was still decorated with balloons and streamers. He was dressed in a gray Armani suit that fit him a bit too snug across the stomach. Somebody’s been skipping his workouts I thought. I watched his eyes look me over as I approached him. I read his evaluation of me. In the way his posture changed, when he spotted my gold shield clipped at my waist. He thought I was another daddy’s girl looking for approval. It was approval I never felt like I needed. My father likes me as I am. 

 “Excuse me, Mr. Webster, I'm Detective Alice Wells with the Avedon Police department, were you on site when the crime occurred, sir?” As I got closer to the man I noted that he was rather narrow shouldered and stood about five seven, he was just an inch taller than me.

“We were. And by we, I mean the family and myself. My sister-in-law Rebecca, she’s daughter number three. Just got married last month. To Dr. Thomas Jackson.

 “Is Dr. Jackson a M.D or a PhD?” I asked interrupting his monologue. I thought of Doc Wainwright’s comment about breaking though the victim’s breastbone to reach the heart.

Webster was silent for a moment as if my interruption threw off his thought process.

 “I believe the good doctor is a medical man. He performs rounds at Avedon Medical center,” Webster finally answered. Then he picked up where I stopped him.

“I was the first outsider to marry in to the MacArthurs, and the way the family has accepted me. I feel like I was born into the group now. We were all in the back yard, Except Five, and by five. I mean Fergus the fifth. Five was how he wanted family to refer to him. He was waiting in the house. The cake was going to be surprise.”

 “Did you see Fergus the sixth, leave the party?” I asked, ignoring his self-indulgent recounting of a party that never happened.

“I saw “Six” as we call him. With his cellphone in his hand, like he had just gotten a text. Then he headed toward the main house. That’s when I heard Six and Five shouting about money, and a business deal,” Robert answered.

I decided to talk to one of the sisters to see if she could corroborate Robert's story. On purpose I avoided Sarah, Robert's wife it’s been my experience that spouses tend to be either; oblivious of, or complicit in their mate’s criminal tendencies.

 I found Brianna MacArthur the second oldest child at the estate's horse barn. She was saddling up beautiful chestnut brown stallion.

 “Excuse me, Miss MacArthur. I'm Detective Wells with A.P.D's homicide division. There's an active homicide investigation going on and I have questions.  Ma’am, you can't leave,” I said, waving my badge. To get her attention.

 “My horse needs his exercise,” She said as she swung a leg over the saddle she had just finished cinching on the animal.

 I grabbed the horse's bridle. To prevent Brianna from taking off. She glared at me. From atop the horse but didn't fight me.

“Six did it. We all know he and Daddy never got along.  Six was broke after his latest business venture failed. We all heard them yelling in the house,” she said.  She was a little quick with that accusation, I thought.

But she corroborated her brother- in- law's story. So I left the barn and looked for the two sisters I hadn't talked to yet. Mary, and Rebecca I was still avoiding Sarah Webster.

When I found and talked to them. Both sisters backed Robert Webster's claim that Six and Five were heard yelling in the house.  When I asked Rebecca if she knew where her husband Thomas was when the crime occurred. She couldn’t be sure of his whereabouts, but he wasn’t with her.

After talking to the sisters I decided to talk to Fergus the sixth. Or number six as I thought of him. While I was looking for number six I ran into Dr.  Thomas Jackson.  He was over six feet tall and heavily built.

 “Dr. Jackson where were you, when your father- in- law was killed?” I asked.

 “I was helping the baker bring the birthday cake around to the Gazebo, the estate’s stone fence was built before cars and delivery vans were so common place. So there’s no vehicular access into the back yard,” He answered

 “I’ll have to ask the baker verify that.” I said.

 Dr. Jackson calmly shrugged his shoulders, “You’ll have to call her, she’s already left the property,” He said.

 I silently cursed Officer Gibson’s rookie mistake of letting a witness leave the crime scene early. Hopefully it won’t come back to bite me. I needed to talk to Fergus MacArthur the sixth now.

  I found Number six on the back patio he sitting amongst several planter boxes all sporting tall bushy plants. That both shaded the patio, and blocked the patio's view of the back yard Number six was sweating even though it was a cool afternoon. He acted jumpy, and nervous.

 “Your brother-in-law Robert said you got a text and left the party,” I said.

 “Yeah I got a text from Dad. It said meet me in the front parlor, but he usually called it the weapons room. A second later, he sent another text that he wanted to meet in the upstairs office. I went up there, but he wasn't there. Then I heard him yell something unintelligible downstairs. I went downstairs. And I found him in the weapons room dead,” Six said, rubbing his face and avoiding eye contact.

As he spoke I noticed several wireless speakers disguised as rocks, placed in the planter boxes on the patio.

 “Are the patio's outdoor speakers connected to the house's internal audio system?” I asked.

 “Yeah, they're great for outdoor parties,” Six answered with a quick nervous grin. It was the first sort of smile I'd seen all day.

“Can I see your phone please?” I asked.

 He handed over his phone without questioning why, and still avoided any eye contact.

 I did a quick run through his call log. Both claimed texts were in the log.

Six looked good for it. And to me, outside of the quick grin.  His body language read guilty, but the speakers placed in the planter boxes and the blocked view of the back yard. Put a shadow of doubt on the evidence in front of me.

 I walked back into the house with an idea forming. The crime scene guys were still on site. And a few more uniformed officers had joined the investigation. Perfect, I thought to myself. I found the home entertainment system on the first floor. In a sunken room the size of an actual movie theater, complete with a ceiling mounted television projector. And a screen that would make an IMAX theater owner jealous.

 I didn't touch any of the buttons I just called the techs in to dust for prints.

 Once the techs were done. I turned on the projector, searched through the saved recordings in the DVR, I found the one recording I suspected would have been useful and had been saved for later use. I pressed play on the DVR's remote. The projector lit up the massive screen with the news footage of Numbers Five and Six. Arguing at Evelyn MacArthur's funeral two months ago. Outside on the patio the pair on the screen could be heard shouting.

 “Get those prints processed, pronto! Find and dust Fergus number five's phone!” I said to the techs. As I bolted from the room. I ran upstairs and found Five's office. It was furnished with an antique carved black walnut desk. And several antique wooden filing cabinets. Luckily the filing cabinets were unlocked. After a ten minute search. I found Five's will, and in it. The name and motivation of my prime suspect. Feeling the thrill of a successful hunt in its end stage. I ran down stairs, and told several uniformed officers to follow me. I led my fellow officers outside to the backyard. Where I placed Robert Webster under arrest for the murder of Fergus MacArthur the fifth’s murder.

He fought me putting the cuffs on, but that was why I asked the uniforms to follow me out there. I didn't make Detective by being stupid. I let the uniforms wrestle him to the ground and into the cuffs. I have to admit, I enjoyed seeing that Armani suit getting grass stained.  That’s when I thought of how the suit fit him too tight.

 “Check his car trunk for bloody clothes,” I shouted.

 “My car is private property! You can’t search it without my permission!” Webster yelled. I’m usually professional. When I’m on duty, but I couldn’t help smirking when he said I needed his permission.

“We have probable cause. You're mentioned in the will as the sole inheritor of MacArthur real estate holdings Inc. upon the untimely demise of Fergus MacArthur the fifth. We can hold you until the fingerprint evidence is processed. And you're cleared,” I explained. Unexpectedly a set of keys on aMercedes-Benz key fob landed at my feet.

“It’s in my name. It’s the silver S550. And you have my permission,” said Sarah Webster. She gave her husband the cruelest smile I’d ever seen a wife her husband. Mr. Webster was going to be roasted in divorce court when he was found guilty.




© Copyright 2020 Joe Massingill. All rights reserved.

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