“You can’t be serious, officer,” John said with a laugh.
“Detective,” Peirson corrected,”and, yes, I’m quite serious.”
John took a step closer to Peirson, using his considerable height in an attempt to intimidate. “Look, detective, I’m not telling you how to do your job or anything, but why the hell would I kill a girl in my own damn house?”
Peirson, stepping over to block the doorway, shrugged his shoulders. “You tell me.”
John shook his head. “This is ridiculous. I can guarantee you that it was not me.” Then John’s voice grew very quiet as he leaned towards Peirson. “What can I do to help you wrap this investigation up quick and quiet like?”
“You can answer my questions,” Peirson stated.
John looked around the small bathroom and nodded at the blocked exit. “The bird’s already caged, might as well sing for you, too.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “But seriously, I need this kept as quiet as possible. Your boys have already lit up the neighborhood with those gaudy strobe lights. I run the biggest business in the city, my deceased father’s business. I sure as hell don’t need this kind of publicity. I think we can help each other out on this one.”
Peirson stared in disbelief at John for a moment before confirming what he just heard, “Are you offering me a bribe during a murder investigation?”
“No,” John barked an overzealous laugh, “of course not, detective. That would be illegal and immoral.” He dramatically placed a strong hand on Peirson’s shoulder and bared a toothy grin. “A bribe? Come on, I’m a respectable man.” He made a show of composing himself after Peirson squirmed under the weight of John’s grasp. “We’ve gotten off topic. The matter of the poor girl’s death needs to be resolved.”
“When was the last time you spoke with Irma?” Peirson asked in a flat tone to reflect his disparagement with this arrogant moron.
“A few hours ago,” John answered immediately, “in the kitchen.”
Peirson dropped his head with a furrowed brow. “Where she was murdered?” The sentence crept out, emphasizing the irony of John’s statement. Was this guy seriously this dumb?
“She was alive when I left her.” John retorted. “She was getting Jack some juice. I guess I kept her too long ’cause Jack started crying upstairs. The kid’s got a hell of a shriek, like nails on a chalkboard.” Peirson’s mouth slightly gaped open in shock at that last statement. “Anyway, I told her to calm down then I took the juice up to Jack myself.”
Peirson stopped scribbling halfway though the explanation to watch John’s body language. John’s arms remained crossed in front of him as he stared towards the hallway beyond Peirson during his explanation. “Would you like to elaborate on any of the details you’ve left out?”
“Damn, you’re good, detective. Fine. I was flirting with her. She was a hot piece of–”
Detective Peirson cleared his throat to steer John back on track.
John continued as if he was not interrupted, “…shame, really. But she got all pissy about me being ‘too forward’ and a ‘chauvinist pig’,” John explained, offering air quotations and a dramatic bob of his head. “Obviously, I didn’t need another whistle blower, so I took the juice upstairs and left her to sneak one of her cigarettes.”
“Sneak?” Peirson asked.
“She leaves her purse in the kitchen. I see her sneak in there all the time then out the back door.”
Peirson pressed the line of questions, “But you never saw her leave the kitchen or smoke?” This guy was going to have a legitimate alibi, son of a…
“Nope. She was heading for her secret stash when I rushed off to silence the screaming banshee,” John explained. “I was on the phone with a manager from the plant while walking Jack around when the police sirens announced their presence to the entire neighborhood.”
“Very well,” Peirson said and stepped back into the hallway, allowing John to move back towards the sitting room. “Anything else?”
John stopped halfway between Peirson and the police officer. He glanced over his shoulder. “Carol was adamant about having Linda and Charlie over for dinner tonight. You might want to lock them in the bathroom and see what you can detect, detective.” Then he continued towards the sitting room.
The police officer closed the door behind John and nodded at Peirson. “Did the asshole do it?”
“Detective,” the brunette photographer called from the other end of the hallway. “I’ve got something for you. I found it in the victim’s purse.”
Peirson quickly took the evidence bag. “Thank you, Allison.”
She shook her head. “Nope. But keep trying, sir. You’ll figure it out eventually. It’s your job,” and with a playful wink she turned and walked away.
Peirson sighed, “I am definitely too old for this,” and he turned the evidence bag over. It contained a single sheet of paper. A copy of a birth certificate for Jack Carmine, and at the bottom of the sheet was a black and white photograph of a familiar face with the curving letters of Irma’s handwriting: “Charlie?”.
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