Ellen Tishler was killed in her home in Hampton Township, about twelve miles north of Pittsburgh, but still within Allegheny County. My team works out of Zone 3 in the city, so in the normal course of events, we wouldn’t have had anything to do with the case. We were called in because the chief of police in Hampton thought it might be something SAS should be handling.
The chief’s name was Benjamin Roberts. He was a shade under six feet, with dark hair cut very short and the beginnings of a little potbelly, but still in good shape for a guy chasing sixty. His uniform was neat and clean, his tie perfectly knotted, his shoes spit-shined. Ex-military, I was guessing. Roberts had a reputation for being old school all the way. He even conducted inspections at the start of most shifts. He also had a reputation as one of the sharpest cops in the county.
It was three o’clock on a sunny September afternoon when Henry and I arrived at the two-story brick colonial on Edgerton Drive in the upper-middle class neighborhood. The chief greeted us at the door.
“Ben Roberts,” he said, shaking my hand. “Thanks for coming, Detective Hayes.”
“It’s Daniel,” I told him. “And this is my partner, Henry Reynolds.”
Roberts nodded at Henry, then motioned for us to enter the house.
“I appreciate you gentlemen driving out here,” he said. “I hope I’m not wasting your time.”
“You’re not,” I said. The three of us were standing in a small foyer. I could hear people talking and moving around in what I assumed was the living room, down the short hallway and to the left.
“When you called,” I said, “you indicated you thought this might be a case for the Special Assignments Squad.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Crime scene’s got kind of a weird look to it. My department doesn’t handle many major crimes, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t your run-of-the-mill homicide. Anyway, c’mon in and have a look.” He led us down the hall and around the corner, and Henry and I got our first look at Ellen.
If it wasn’t for the small hole in the middle of her forehead, it would have been easy to assume that she had simply dozed off while reading that month’s issue of Beautiful Homes, which was lying on the floor next to the large floral-patterned wingchair. Ellen was slumped in the chair, her head tilted to one side, her right hand dangling over the armrest. Her eyes were closed, and there was no noticeable blood.
“Small caliber,” I said. “Maybe a twenty-two.”
Roberts nodded and said, “That’s what I was thinking. Probably a revolver.”
“So no shell casings,” I said.
“And no exit wound,” said Roberts. “Bullet must have bounced around in her head a bit. We’ll find what’s left of it at autopsy.” He shrugged. “Might not be enough to identify or match. We’ll see.”
Henry and I stood for a minute to take in the scene. Ellen appeared to be in her mid-to-late seventies. She was wearing an expensive-looking dark green pants suit, with low-heeled brown shoes. Her white hair was nicely coiffed, as though she’d recently been to a salon, and there was a string of pearls around her neck. I doubted if this was how she dressed for an afternoon at home.
“Who found the body?” I said.
“Next door neighbor, woman named Alice Cloakley. She and the deceased were supposed to go out for lunch today. Ms. Cloakley came over around noon, found the front door ajar, came in and discovered the body.”
“Ms. Cloakley still around?” asked Henry.
Roberts nodded towards the back of the house.
“She’s on the patio. I figured you’d want to talk to her.” He paused, shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “There’s something else. It’s the main reason I contacted you.”
He’d been carrying a large plastic evidence bag, and now he held it up for Henry and me to see.
“We found this on the body.
ABOUT ROBERT GERMAUX:
Both my parents were readers. I’m talking stacks-of-books-on-their-nightstands readers. So it’s no surprise that an early age, I, too, became an avid reader. Everything from sports books (especially baseball) to Nancy Drew to the Hardy Boys to almost anything about distant and exotic places. And although I’ve always enjoyed putting words on paper, the writer in me didn’t fully emerge until I retired after three decades of teaching high school English. I quickly wrote two books aimed at middle school readers, at which point my wife urged me to try a novel for adults. As is usually the case, Cynthia’s idea was a good one. Over the next few years, I wrote several books about Pittsburgh private eye Jeremy Barnes, including “Hard Court.” Along the way, I took a brief hiatus from the detective genre to write “The Backup Husband,” the plot line of which came to me one day when I was playing the What-if game. On that particular day, the question that occurred to me was, What if a woman suddenly realized she might be in love with two wonderful men? After “The Backup Husband,” I wrote “Small Talk,” my first novel about Pittsburgh police detective Daniel Hayes. I then switched gears again with “Grammar Sex (and other stuff),” a book of humorous essays. Now I’m back with “One by One,” the second Daniel Hayes mystery, which will be released on June 1st. You can find all of my books on my Amazon Author Page.
In our spare time, Cynthia and I enjoy reading (of course), seeing Broadway plays and musicals, watching reruns of our favorite TV shows, such as “Sports Night” and “The Gilmore Girls,” and traveling to some of those distant and exotic places I used to read about as a child. So far, we’ve been fortunate enough to walk in the sands of Waikiki, swim in the warm waters of the South Pacific and enjoy a romantic dinner in Paris.
I love interacting with my readers and getting their input on my stories and characters. Please feel free to contact me on my website.