They found Jack Greer with his head split open, brains and blood in the alley. It was horrifying.
Jack was aloof, disagreeable, and mean. The veneer of nicety about him razor thin. It didn’t surprise people who heard Jack was dead, found outside a bar downtown.
There had been a party at the bar. It was Jack’s 65th birthday. His wife was there, his adult children, his sister and brother. His boss, his secretary, a few workmates. There were even a few friends from the United Church he attended, to keep his wife off of his back.
PC Lee Elisabeth came into the bar and looked around. It was dim; she had to squint until her eyes adjusted to the light. The smell of hops hung in the air. Someone had spilled their beer. The atmosphere buzzed with tension. Huddled together were small groups of people, looking uncertain and afraid.
After a cursory examination of the room, the Detective headed back out to get her team; they had to examine the body.
Then, she and her partner Petey went back through the bar to the alley outside, the forensics team following them. It was a chilly night, with a biting wind. Jack Greer lay there, a sorry sight. The forensic team worked, combing the area for clues, for evidence. They were taking pictures too, bright lights flashing.
PC Elisabeth crouched, looking at the victim. No matter how long she had been doing this, she never got used to it. She felt the inevitable rising of acid at the back of her throat when she viewed the victim. It was a tough job. Her reaction, she thought, was a good reminder she was human, that she hadn’t become hardened to the seamy side of life and death. Murder was an ugly business, no way around that.
Petey leaned over and looked, “Someone not too fond of him, eh, Detective?” he said.
“You got that right. Has anyone found the murder weapon?”
“No, not yet.”
She and Petey looked around, spoke with the team and then headed back inside the bar.
She asked for the manager of the bar, “Do you have a room where I can question people?”
PC Elisabeth interviewed Jack’s wife, Stella, Mrs. Greer, first. Stella was white-faced and calm.
“So, Mrs. Greer,” said PC Elisabeth, “You planned this party for your husband?”
Mrs. Greer shrugged, “I did, he’s retiring, or was…”
“How was the mood of the party? Did everyone enjoy themselves?”
Stella snorted, “Maybe, for a while, but it didn’t last. Jack has a way of ruining parties.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because Jack cannot keep his mouth shut.”
PC Élisabeth eyed Stella, she was stiff, her back straight, contempt oozing from every pore of her body.
“Did you not care for your husband, Mrs. Greer?”
Stella’s blue eyes were icy and filled with disdain. “Jack was a conniving, lying two-timer, Detective, whatever affection I had for him is long gone.”
“Then why have a party for him, Ma’am?”
Stella paused for a moment, “I wanted to keep up appearances,” she said,
“Did you notice when Mr. Greer went outside, Mrs. Greer?”
“Oh, I saw him,” said Stella, low and frosty. “I watched him go out there with his secretary. She came back in after just a few minutes, went straight to the ladies’.”
As Stella finished speaking, there was a banging at the door. Tipsy and laughing, Elsa leaned into the room, her speech slurring, “Oh, detective, sooo shorry to interrchup you, Schtella, you donn minnnd, do’you?”
Stella gave her the once over, a glance that both derided and dismissed Elsa.
“Do as you please,” she said.
Elsa looked hurt, “you never pay mucchh attenshun do you, but you sho’ have, yesh should’ve. Too late now, though, too late.” She wagged her finger, hiccupping.
“It’s too late for you too, Elsa.”
Elsa hissed at Stella and lurched forward.
“Ladies, please, stop this now. We have a murder to investigate.”
Stella looked at PC Elisabeth and sniffed, “Good luck with that.”
The door flew open again, Stella’s children, Christopher and Amy crowded in, Amy cried out, “Are you finished with our Mom, Detective?”
“Are you, okay Mom?”
PC Elisabeth stood, barked out, “What’s the matter with you, have you no sense of propriety? Get out!”
But Christopher Greer stood there. “Hang on a minute, Detective, what are you doing with my Mother?” Christopher folded his arms and stared at PC Elisabeth.
“Mr. Christopher Greer, is it? Your Mother’s just fine, sir. I am questioning her.”
“Ha!” “You couldn’t think my Mother did this!” Christopher sneered.
Amy pulled at her brother’s sleeve; she leaned in, said in a quiet voice, “Chris, let it go, let the Detective do her job.”
Elsa laughed with derision, her eyes fixed on Stella, Christopher, and Amy.
“Don’t be fooled, Detective,” she scorned, weaving her way towards the Greers who stood together now. “They hated him. I jushh bet my boootom dollar, one of ’em killed him, the bloodscthirsty savaggeess,” Elsa slurred cackling, picking up the stapler from the desk, waving it in the air. Then she slammed it on the table.
The Greers jumped, startled.
PC Elisabeth telegraphed a look at Petey. Petey went over to Elsa, gentled her out of the room, “Now come on Miss Elsa, shall we get you a cup of coffee? Best stay in the bar, don’t leave until we say you can.”
In the back room, Stella spoke, again, harsh and angry, “Elsa’s the one you should look at Detective, she has been after him for a while, but he wasn’t giving her what she wanted. Despite everything, dear Jack didn’t leave me. That was one of the most peculiar things about my husband; he was a hypocrite. Making promises on the one hand and breaking them so fast your head spins.”
PC Elisabeth cocked her head, sizing up Stella, there was more to the story here. But, get to the bottom of it now? No, she thought, not today.
The Detective looked at Christopher and Amy, there was an odd chemistry between these two. It was as if they could read each other’s mind, as if one was the faucet, flowing, and the other the tap, controlling the flow.
“Could you two, please leave the room?”
Christopher and Amy exchanged a look, weighted and heavy, nodded and left the room.
PC Elisabeth spoke with Stella for a while longer. Stella now, loosed, was talking hard and fast, gesticulating and exclaiming.
When she was done questioning her, the Detective said, “You can go out to the bar now, Mrs. Greer,” she said, “please send Christopher in, in about five minutes.”
PC Lee Elisabeth paced the room, they had said much in those few minutes. The number of possible suspects widening. Human nature, she mused. And she thought of a quote from her night course, “There is no limit to the suffering human beings have been willing to inflict on others, no matter how innocent, no matter how young and no matter how old.” Dennis Prager
Christopher Greer knocked on the door and came in.
PC Elisabeth interviewed the rest of the Greer’s including Jack’s brother and sister, then Elsa and Jack‘s other workmates and friends. Later that night after they had been questioned, and phone numbers were taken; they were instructed not to leave town and sent home.
One by one, or in groups of those they came with, they left.
Finally, she arrived home. She was pleased, felt a fissure of excitement, satisfaction. When she let herself in the door, she sighed, kicked off her shoes, worked her shoulders, and sat on the couch. “It wasn’t how it was planned,” she said, “but it will work out just fine.” She could feel the adrenaline coursing through her veins, so she got up, got a drink and stood there staring out into the dark sky. She practiced her breathing exercises, long and slow.
Her cell phone rang, “Hello?” she said. “Yes, yes, it‘s all right.”