I began studying the notes I’d taken at the station. Cindy suffered a blow to the head before she was dumped in the canal. She died by drowning, though, indicating she’d still been alive when she hit the water. Her body had floated to the surface after a week or so; consequently, time of death couldn’t be determined accurately.
The canal was the crime scene. I needed to check it out. I pulled my gold Saturn onto the street and headed east. The canal had been the dream child of the mayor and city council. They’d decided that if they cleaned up an old waterway that ran through the city, landscaped it and made it attractive for businesses to locate on its banks, they might be able to re-energize the downtown area. The plan had worked until Cindy Kagel’s body floated to the canal’s surface one morning.
I always enjoyed walking along the canal during the daytime. The wide paved walkways on both banks made strolling easy. I studied the terrain carefully, conscious that it might contain clues. Grassy slopes with trees and flowers led down to the walkways. Bridges spanned the canal in various places so people and cars could easily get from one side to the other. Once buildings, businesses and apartment buildings all co-existed in a pleasant blend of brick, concrete block, and glass structures.
I examined the water. It was a murky four to five feet deep. Cindy’s submerged body could easily have gone undetected. The canal water flowed from a boat landing at one end to a park at the other end, but the current wasn’t strong enough to move a corpse.
I had to give the killer an A plus for disposing of Cindy’s body. It would have been easy to come out at night and dump her from a bridge or roll her down one of those green hills. He might even have lived in one of the apartments at the time. The convenience would have been beautiful-only a few steps from his home to the canal. There were lots of possibilities. I had to narrow them down.
I decided to go back to the offce and study the list of people Don interviewed. Maybe I could pick up a clue somewhere as to what that piece of paper meant.
Of course, Don had talked to the Seabolds several times. He’d also questioned Cindy’s boyfriend, Bobby Spears. A man named Harold Carpenter was on the list, too. He headed up a food bank. Seems Cindy was trying to turn her life around, as Betty had said. She’d been working at the food bank up until her death. The boyfriend looked like a good place to start. I decided to do some checking on him before I approached him.
As I started making notes, I glanced at my watch. Oh, boy. Time to go to the folks’ for our weekly dinner. When I’d moved into my own place several years ago, I’d promised my folks we’d get together for dinner at least once a week. Now it was a command performance every Tuesday at seven o’clock sharp.
Since I was feeling happy about my case, I flipped a Stan Kenton jazz CD in the car player and headed out. My old neighborhood was a quiet two blocks long-a short stretch of peaceful street in the midst of a busy suburban area. Nothing ever seemed to move there. Even the leaves hesitated to stir in the breeze. I liked the timeless feel of the area.
I pulled up to my folks’ ranch-style home. The yard, as usual, was in impeccable order. I always suspected that my dad went out daily to measure the length of each blade of grass. No unruly tufts of green were ever permitted in the Burton lawn.
He was standing in the doorway as I exited the car. His name, Harvey, suited him. He was tall and quiet like James Stewart’s imaginary rabbit friend, but I never doubted my father loved me.
“Hi, Dad. How’s it going?”
He kissed me on the cheek. “Good, now that tax season’s over.”
“Ah, yes. The accountant’s blessing and curse. At least you probably raked in some bucks.”
“What good’s that going to do me if I have to pay taxes on it?” We both laughed.
“Where’s Mom?” I asked.
“Where do you think? In the kitchen, of course.”
My mom was in full battle gear with apron and oven mitt on when I went into the kitchen. She handled spatulas and knives with military precision as she put the finishing touches on dinner.
“Claire! I thought I heard you come in. Look and see what I’ve made for dinner. Don’t think you’ll find too many carbs here tonight.” She waved an arm at the serving plates she was loading. “We’ll be having broiled fish, tomato and spinach salad with low-fat dressing, cooked fresh green beans, and mixed strawberries and blueberries for dessert.” She beamed with satisfaction at her culinary conquest. She’d beaten back the carbs again.
“You’re right, Mom. Don’t need too much insulin for this meal. I’ll save money tonight.”
We began eating. “Guess what?” I said. “I have a new case.”
“Really,” Mom grinned. “Tell us about it.”
I gave them the bare bones of the case. Of course, they remembered reading about Cindy in the paper.
“Wasn’t that Don’s case?” asked Dad.
“Yes, it was. I met with him today.”
Mom was instantly attentive at the mention of Don’s name. “How did it go?”
“Okay. We kept it professional for the most part.”
“What do you mean ‘for the most part’?” Her eyes narrowed.
“He asked me how I was doing. I told him I was fine.”
She threw her napkin on the table. “Well, he certainly isn’t fine. He’s a creep, if you ask me.”
“Ariel.” Dad’s fork clattered on his dish. “We’ve been through this before. Claire’s better off without him, if he couldn’t be patient about what she was going through.”
“I know, I know. It’s just that he missed such a good bet.” She turned to me and took my hand. “Never doubt that you’ve got everything going for you, honey. You’re bright. You’re beautiful. Believe me, someone’s going to sit up and take notice.”
“Thanks, Mom, but I don’t need the pep talk tonight. I’m not interested in getting involved right now. I’ve got enough on my plate with this case.”
“Speaking of plate,” Dad said, “let’s finish eating before everything gets cold.”
I said a mental thank you to Dad and finished eating. Mom and I went to the kitchen to clean up after dinner. She began loading dishes in the dishwasher and started asking questions about everything from when my next doctor’s appointment was to how much exercise I did.
Okay, that’s it. I closed my eyes for a second, then took a deep breath and let it out. “Mom,” I motioned to a chair, “we have to talk about these interrogations I get every time I come over here.”
She sat down, a puzzled look on her face. “What are you talking about?”
“You ask me questions all the time about my diabetes. You make me feel like a little kid. Sometimes I don’t want to come over because I know I’m going to get grilled.”
“What do you mean-‘grilled’?”
“ ‘Is the pump working okay? Are you monitoring when you should? What are you eating? Are you getting enough exercise?’ Mom, it’s enough. Believe me, I’m taking care of myself. I have everything under control. You’ve got to get off my back about the diabetes!”
Mom’s eyes filled with tears. “You don’t need to shout.”
“Yes, you were.” She reached for a handkerchief in her apron pocket and dabbed at her nose. “Do you know what it’s like to get a call from the emergency room and find out your daughter’s collapsed and has diabetes? I was terrified that night, and I’m still scared. I know the risks now, and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
I looked at my mother’s stricken face for a long moment, then hugged her. “I’m sorry. I never thought about how it affected you and Dad.” She sniffled into my shoulder. “Let’s try this,” I said. “I promise I’ll tell you when I’m having problems, okay? Otherwise, I want you to treat me like an adult who can take care of herself.”
She nodded and washed her face at the sink. I said goodnight and went to the car. What an evening. Discussing Don and having a fight with a concerned parent. Doesn’t get much better than that. I went back to the Kenton Jazz CD as I pulled away from the curb. At least I had the Kagel case going for me.
To be continued…