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Caught red-handed

August 22, 2006|by LYDIA HADFIELD

In Pulse's first serial fiction story, a sketchy private detective on his first big case pursues clues found in a trash bin.




Chapter 4: On the scent

The mysterious noises from the Waskotts' third-floor apartment, the crates transported from their room to a truck, the requests of french fries "for testing," the strange smell emanating from their room and growing stronger - clues buzzed in my brain.

My first case was coming together with astonishing speed. I had to sit down for a moment to collect myself. My stomach gurgled. I hadn't eaten since I discovered the diamond ring, along with a tangle of red-stained sheets, inside the Waskotts' trash can this morning. I inhaled deeply. I noticed the smell the landlady had described to me. It was strangely familiar.

I feared I would lose the scent if I took a lunch break. I resolutely climbed the second flight of stairs in my apartment building and found the Waskotts' apartment.

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My knuckles barely rapped the wood when the door swung open.

"Ralph I - oh," the woman who opened the door, recoiled in surprise. I was obviously not who she was expecting.

"Hello. Mrs. Waskott?"

"That's me," she said shortly.

"I'm the new tenant. I live in the basement," I introduced myself truthfully, but did not disclose my profession, "I just wanted to say hello to my new neighbors."

"Yeah, well, I'm kinda busy -"

"What do you do for a living? I hear you and your husband work from home."

Mrs. Waskott began to close the door, "Right. We're organic tomato farmers. We have a greenhouse on the roof."

"Really?"

"We have a permit," she added defensively.

My keen sense of observation led me to realize that Mrs. Waskott wasn't wearing a wedding ring on her left hand.

"I have some things to do," Mrs. Waskott said.

"Can't I come in for a moment?"

"Sorry. I don't let strangers wearing pith helmets and striped vests just walk into my apartment. Even if they're 'neighbors'."

The door slammed shut. I heard a lock click.

It wasn't the first time my unconventional uniform had been noted, and I was barely perturbed. I hurried downstairs, determined to get a look at the Waskotts' greenhouse.

Minutes later, I stood on the roof of the next-door building, a bank, and scanned the glass greenhouse on my apartment building with binoculars.

Just as the police officers arrested me for loitering atop a private building, it hit me. The case was solved. I was glad to have the police close at hand.




(To be continued next week)

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