Tabitha felt empty as she fumbled with the locks on the front door, dialing Caleb as she walked to the back door to do the same. She wasn’t sure she could speak when he picked up. “Tabitha?” he asked when he said hello and she didn’t respond. “Are you okay?”
“No,” she said finally. “I need you to come over.”
“I can’t, I’m on duty. What’s wrong?”
“I know who killed Janine,” she said quickly. “I can’t tell you how I know, I just do. I don’t have any evidence to back me up. I just know that it was Danny. Danny killed her, and I need you to come over because he is next door waiting for me to sleep with him and I’m afraid he’s going to come looking for me when I don’t show, and he’s a freakin’ murderer.” She didn’t care what words came out of her mouth, she just needed Caleb there to arrest him or protect her, one or the other.
“You were going to sleep with him?” It was amazing how the murderer part skipped over his head.
“I’m really sorry. You have no idea how sorry. Oh my God—I made out with a murderer.”
“You made out with him.” Caleb’s voice was flat. He was either mad, or he didn’t believe what
she was saying.
“Caleb, focus!” As she spoke someone knocked at the door and she let out a scream straight into the phone.
“My God!” Caleb exclaimed.
“He’s here, Caleb please. There’s no way I can hide that I know, and that means he’ll probably kill me to try to cover it up and then I’ll be dead and who would take care of the animals, because my mother hates cats and—“
“I’m coming,” he told her, and she could hear the sound of a siren in the background. It made her feel better.
“Tabitha?” Danny called through the front window, and Tabitha felt the blood in her entire body stop flowing. All of the windows were open. There was nothing between them except some nylon screen.
Tabitha pressed herself against the wall separating the kitchen from the living room, clutching the phone. “Are you still there?” Caleb asked on the other end of the line.
“Yeah, where are you?”
“High Street. It’s going to be a few minutes. Just try to stay calm, okay?”
“Go away,” Tabitha heard Thistle say, and she hoped Danny’s murderous tendencies didn’t run towards talking cats.
“What was that?” Caleb asked. “Is he in the house? I thought I heard a man’s voice.”
“Tabitha, what’s going on?” Danny called. “Are you okay? Look, if you think we’re rushing
things we can just slow down—I don’t want you to get in trouble. If this Caleb guy is dangerous—“ Tabitha let loose a sharp laugh.
“I just heard you laugh,” Danny said. “Do you think this is a game? If you don’t come out I’m going to have to come through this window--”
“I’m in the German Village now,” Caleb said into the phone. “I’m gonna hang up and be there in a few minutes, okay?”
“Okay,” she said.
Knowing Caleb was close, and not wanting her window busted in, Tabitha stepped into the living room. Danny was peering into the window, while Thistle and Fritz both stood guard under it. Fritz was growling. “There you are,” he said. “Are you going to let me in?”
Tabitha shook her head, not able to speak. She looked around the room and stepped closer to the little table beside the couch and the lamp with the cast iron base on top of it.
“You look like I’ve done something terrible. I haven’t done anything.”
“Not to me,” she whispered. “She was your mother.”
Danny’s face changed expressions, from one of exasperation to a look of fear. “How did you know?”
“She had sex with my best friend in my bedroom. When I was sixteen. How do you think that made me feel? How do you think my father felt? He pays her thousands of dollars a month so she can go sleep with anyone she pleases. I’ve been reading your blog, Tabitha.”
“What blog?” She forgot to be terrified and for a split second she was confused.
“Tails Around Town? A friend pointed it out to me one day and said that ‘J’ reminded him of my mother. I started reading, got a good idea of what neighborhood it was talking about, and sure enough, ‘J’ was my mother. Having sex with high school boys again.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“So you’ll play dumb when I suggest that it’s your fault I came to visit dear old ma. Okay, that’s fair.”
Tabitha held back a gasp when she saw Caleb’s cruiser pull up silently behind Danny on the street. She hoped that Danny would keep talking, but he just stood there, considering. How he’s going to kill me I suspect. “Why don’t you come with me?” Danny asked. “I’m taking an extended vacation.”
Caleb was out of the car and walking across the tiny lawn. When he put his foot on the top step of the porch the wood squeaked, and Danny spun around.
“What are you doing here?” Danny asked.
“Danny Bukowski, I’m placing you under arrest,” Tabitha heard Caleb through the window. She couldn’t see him but a moment later found Danny pressed face against her window screen, Caleb behind him and pulling his cuffs from his belt.
“You can’t arrest me for sleeping with your girlfriend.” Danny struggled, not making Caleb’s job easy.
“Almost,” Tabitha amended, feeling bolder with Caleb there.
“But I can arrest you for murder.”
As soon as Caleb spoke Danny threw his whole weight backwards against him, throwing him off balance. Caleb was on his feet at once as Danny bolted, a cuff around one wrist. Tabitha, caught up in the excitement, rushed to the front door and pulled it open.
Fritz was out the door in a flash, concentrating too hard to even bark as he rushed across the lawn and grabbed Danny by the ankle. Danny screamed and fell, but Fritz only bit down harder. Tabitha, Caleb, and Thistle reached them in moments, Caleb cuffing him the rest of the way while Tabitha grabbed for the dog, forcing her fingers into his mouth to release him and nearly getting bitten in the process. “I want you to bite him too,” she comforted, “but you can’t.”
She hugged the dog tight to her and tried to pay attention to what was going on at their feet. Caleb was straddling Danny’s back, cuffing him properly “…anything you say can be used against you in the court of law. You have a right to an attorney…”
God, I hope Mr. Daws doesn’t want to take this case, Tabitha thought.
Caleb pulled Danny to his feet and shoved him into the back of the patrol car. “You better be right about this,” he told Tabitha once the door was shut.
“I am. He confessed to me. I can testify in court that he did.”
“Well, good. You were going to sleep with this guy?”
“Women don’t cheat on me,” Caleb said. “No one’s ever cheated on me.”
“I was going to break up with you first, honest. It just didn't—“
“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?”
Tabitha shook her head. “Never mind. I’ll just go back into the house.”
Once Caleb left Tabitha collapsed on the couch and gathered Thistle into her arms. Fritz dropped to the floor over her feet. For once, Thistle didn't speak.
“So you see dear readers,” Thistle typed the next day, “crime does not pay.” He glanced over at the couch where Tabitha was curled up in a ball, hair unbrushed and still in her pajamas. She had one arm thrown over Fritz, who looked only marginally less pitiful. “Especially,” Thistle continued, “if you’re trying to have an affair with it.”
He considered not updating any more. He didn't like that Danny had discovered his mother’s activities from his blog, but in the end he decided it wasn’t his fault the man was unhinged. And it made for a great blog entry.
Monday afternoon Maya came to see Tabitha at work. “No visitors,” Mr. Daws crowed from his open office door, but even he shut up when Maya flashed her badge.
“Got a minute?” Tabitha pushed away the phone and the keyboard to give Maya her full concentration. Maya ignored Mr. Daws’ protests when she shut his door. “When we searched his car and apartment it was glaringly obvious. He had a suitcase and boxes in the back of his car.”
“I know,” Tabitha said, suddenly recalling that there had been boxes in the back of Danny’s car when they went over to Janine’s. She thought they were for moving things from the house. “So what?”
“He was going to run. He just wanted to get into the house for any valuables the victim might have had, and he was going to take off. You caught him just in time.”
“But what about me?” Tabitha said, hoping her voice wasn’t shaking. “We were—“
“A bit of fun before he took off, I’m afraid.” Her voice was gentle and less cop-ish, but hearing it still hurt. She’d sat up late the last two nights thinking about what she had almost done, and how charming he was and—she fantasized about having kids with the bastard! “Sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Tabitha said with a sigh.
“I just thought you should know, since you’ve been so crucial to this case, that we have DNA evidence against him. We got the labs back this morning. There was skin under Janine’s fingernails, and some blood on the vase that turned out not to be hers. It’s male DNA, and a close enough match to Janine that it has to be a relative.”
“So we’ve got him for real? Not just my insane ramblings?”
“Your insane ramblings kept him from running. We might not have caught him otherwise. But I have to ask, how did you know?”
“Fritz was acting funny at Janine’s house,” Tabitha said after a long pause. “I knew something was wrong, and suddenly I knew. That’s all. It was…instinct.”
“Some good instinct. You’d make an okay cop. But,” she continued, “you are not a cop.”
“The whole catching Danny thing was an accident,” Tabitha protested. “And I didn't make him confess to me.”
“You questioned every suspect on this case. You kept calling us, trying to tell us how to do our jobs—“
“No I wasn’t!”
“You were,” Maya shot back with her new detective fierceness. “Cut it out. You can get seriously
hurt doing stuff like that.”
“I’m sorry,” Tabitha said, meaning it. If she had just stayed out of all of it—the case, Danny--she wouldn’t be feeling so rotten.
Maya gave her a long look and nodded. “Okay. I’ll—“ she was interrupted by her cell phone. “Excellent,” she said at the end of the conversation. “Meet me at the station.”
“What was that?” Tabitha asked, and Maya gave her that look again. “Sorry, sorry.”
“I sent Caleb dumpster diving for the murder weapon. He found the fireplace poker in the dumpster outside of Danny’s building. He probably panicked and dropped it there right after the murder.”
“You sent Caleb into a dumpster?”
“He brought in my murder suspect. Mine. Do you know what its like to be a new detective and have a uniform catch your perp?”
“Only because of me,” Tabitha countered. “I knew you wouldn’t take me seriously. But he had to—he was my boyfriend.”
“I heard that was in the past tense.”
“Another reason why you shouldn’t have made him flail around in garbage all day. I cheated on him with a murderer!”
“Everyone makes mistakes,” Maya said kindly. “So you’re single now?”
Surprise jolted through Tabitha. “That sounded like you were hitting on me.”
“Maybe a little,” Maya said. “You know where to find me. I have to go do paperwork on our murder. I’ll see you later.”
“As long as it’s not another crime scene.” Maya was laughing as she left. Tabitha wasn’t sure she had any humor left. She’d hoped the ‘you know where to find me’ was a joke. She was so done with cops. Or any anyone else who wanted to sleep with her. It was time to be single for a while. After all, she had a talking cat and a crime-solving dog. What more did she need?
More apologies for the lateness. It was raining today too, but I braved the weather--just for you guys. :)
Okay. That was my first murder mystery. How did I do?