Julius Katz and the Giftwrapped Murder
by Dave Zeltserman
Art by Jason C. Eckhardt
“What do you know,” I said as I checked the outdoor webcam to see who had rung the bell. “You’ve got none other than Thomas Lind standing outside your front door.”
If it had been anyone else arriving unannounced at Julius’s Beacon Hill townhouse at nine-thirty in the morning making a nuisance of himself, it’s doubtful Julius would’ve let him interfere with his morning newspaper and coffee; he’d most likely have had me disconnect the doorbell so he could enjoy his morning rituals in peace. But Lind was an entirely different matter. Four days earlier Lind’s business partner, Andrew Connogher, was found shot dead in a Cambridge apartment, and subsequently Lind went missing. With the police requesting information about the whereabouts of the missing multimillionaire businessman, the news had been abuzz with rumors regarding hostility between the two men, caused by Connogher’s attempt over the last three months to have Lind removed from the company he had built.
Julius put down the front section of the newspaper. “Archie, if this is some kind of ploy—”
“Nope. This is no ploy. And in case you’re wondering, I had nothing to do with Boston’s, or I guess I should say, Cambridge’s most wanted standing outside your door looking kind of gamey. Do you want me to call the police and let them pick him up? There might be a reward in it for you.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
As I said, Thomas Lind’s a different matter, different enough for Julius to break his cardinal rule against potential clients showing up at his townhouse without appointments.
Since Julius wears me as a tie clip, the first thing I noticed when he opened the front door was how dirty Lind’s overcoat appeared to be, and the next was how disheveled the man. Lind was fifty-seven, and from the online photos I had found of him he was good-looking in a rough sort of way, with a ruddy complexion, strong jaw, broad shoulders, and carefully combed blond hair that had started to show some gray. The man standing in front of Julius looked haggard, his eyes bloodshot, his skin gray and unhealthy, his hair in the same disarray as if he had walked through a windstorm. It took me two hundred milliseconds to reconcile this with the photos and decide the man really was Thomas Lind, and it was only then that I noticed something heavy dragging down his overcoat pocket. Enough of an outline showed that I was able to figure out what it was. Julius noticed it also and asked Lind if he was there to use the gun he had brought.
Lind shook his head. He looked anxious standing out there in the open, as if he were afraid a cop would come by at any moment and nab him. “Katz, can we talk?” he asked.
Julius stepped aside so that Lind could enter his home. After Julius closed the front door, he led the fugitive millionaire into his office, and motioned for him to take the large cream-colored leather chair that was opposite his desk. Lind sat slumped in it, his shoulders looking anything but broad at that moment. When Julius took his chair, he leaned back and considered Lind silently, while the other man seemed to wilt.
“This is no good,” Julius said at last. “If you want to confess to killing Andrew Connogher, you should go to the police. And if you’re here instead to hire me to concoct an airtight alibi for you, that’s no good either. I suggest that you leave here at once and consult a lawyer.”
The muscles along Lind’s jaw tightened, and one of them began visibly pulsating. “I’m not here for either of those reasons,” he said. He pushed a hand through his hair and over his scalp, which did little to help its messiness. “I don’t know whether or not I killed Andrew.”
“No, it’s true.” His jaw muscles clenched tighter. “That’s why I’m here. I want to hire you to find out if I killed him.”
I could tell Julius was dubious about what Lind was telling him. Not from his expression, which showed nothing, but because Julius was usually a gracious host and he wasn’t offering Lind the coffee that the man so clearly needed. The thing is, Julius hates feeding murderers, or even providing them beverages, and seldom does so. The fact that he sat there gazing blandly at Lind told me everything I needed to know.
“If you wish to explain to me why you don’t know whether you murdered Connogher, with the gun that you brought here, go ahead. But I should warn you that you will be doing so at your peril.”
Lind nodded, more to himself than to Julius. “That night I was home drinking several more glasses of scotch than I should’ve. Sometime around midnight I must’ve blacked out. The next thing I was aware of was lying in an alley with this in my pocket.”
Lind pulled a .32-caliber pistol from his overcoat pocket and placed the gun on Julius’s desk. The police hadn’t released what caliber gun had been used, but when the story broke I was curious enough about it to hack into the Cambridge police computer system, and yeah, a .32 was used. At the time I’d told Julius about it.
“What time was this?” Julius asked.
“Six-thirty in the morning. The alley turned out to be off Tremont Street in the Inman Square area of Cambridge. I can’t tell you how I got there or where the gun came from. I just don’t know. When I took out my cell phone to call for a cab I saw the messages from my wife and found out about Andrew and that the police wanted me for questioning.”
“So you ran.”
Lind’s mouth weakened as if he took Julius’s comment more as an accusation than a statement of fact. “I was confused,” he said. A slight pink, which I took as embarrassment, broke through the dead-fish coloring of his cheeks. “I had no idea where I had been or what I had done, and after finding out Andrew was murdered and that I might’ve had the murder weapon in my coat pocket, I wanted to go someplace where I could be alone and try to remember what had happened. I certainly didn’t want to be questioned by the police right then, being as clueless as I was. I think anyone else would’ve felt the same under the circumstances. And yes, I ran. I used one of the company cars to drive to Maine, where I spent the last four days holed up in a cabin racking my brain trying to remember what I did.”
“Again, this is utterly preposterous.”
Lind waved Julius’s statement away with a tired hand. “It’s what happened,” he said. “Look, all I care about is knowing the truth. If I was trying to get away with murder, I would’ve tossed this gun somewhere deep in the woods of Maine. But that’s not what I’m after. If I’m the one who shot Andrew, then I’ll take what’s coming to me. I just don’t know if I did it, and as much as I hated the guy, it’s hard for me to imagine murdering anyone. Even him.”
“If not you, then why’d you have the gun?”
“I don’t know. It’s very possible I did it. I could’ve gotten my hands on a gun and somehow found out where he was.” Lind looked away from Julius and for a moment his jaw clenched even tighter than earlier. In a voice that sounded almost as if he were being strangled, he added, “Or maybe it was something else. I could’ve called someone who despised Andrew as much as I did. Maybe I ended up being picked up by this person and then passed out completely. Maybe that gave the person the idea to kill Andrew and plant the gun on me.”
For a good ten seconds Julius sat motionless as he stared at Lind, and then he slowly began drumming the fingers of his right hand against the surface of the desk. I knew what he was thinking. Since rebuilding his townhouse after a bomb destroyed everything he owned, friends, former clients, and celebrities had sent him an impressive collection of wine to stock his new wine cellar, but he was still missing some of his favorite vintages, and to replace them was going to cost the type of fee that Thomas Lind would be willing to pay. So at that moment he was trying to decide how badly he wanted those missing vintages. The drumming stopped as he came to a decision.
“Mr. Lind, as much as I see this case having the potential to cause me a worse headache than the one you supposedly woke up with four days ago, I will take it on under the following conditions. First, my fee will be one hundred thousand dollars. This will be whether my investigation lasts one minute or one year.”
Lind nodded resolutely. “Agreed,” he said.
“My assignment will be limited to discovering whether you murdered Andrew Connogher, and I will report my findings to both you and the police. If you did not murder Connogher, and in the course of my investigation I stumble upon the identity of his murderer, I will report that also, but I am under no obligation to solve his murder.”
Lind swallowed hard, but again he agreed.
“That gun will not be destroyed or tampered with. And it must be turned over to the police, at least by the time I’ve finished my investigation. If not before then.”
“I will not be hired by you directly, but by a lawyer representing you,” Julius said, stating his final condition. “If you haven’t already hired a criminal-defense attorney, I can recommend Henry Zack. I’ve used him many times in the past, and he is very good at keeping the presumed innocent out of prison.”
“I’m not hiring you to build a legal defense for me,” Lind stated, his jaw jutting out. “I don’t care about that part of it.”
“I do care about it,” Julius said. “I cannot offer the same client confidentiality that a lawyer can, not that I care to. Whatever I discover if I am hired, the police will know it. But the confidentiality cuts both ways. If you were to hire me directly, I would be forced to tell the police about the gun, which at this time could damage my ability to investigate this matter. I would also be subject to harassment from the police, and possibly subject to a material-witness charge. No sir, this final condition is nonnegotiable.”
Lind’s jaw jutted out another half of an inch, but he nodded his agreement to Julius’s terms.
Julius must’ve had a change of heart regarding Lind, because as he waited for Henry Zack to arrive he left Lind alone in his office so that he could make coffee and put together a tray of pastries. Since I communicate to Julius through an earpiece, I could’ve told him this without his prospective client overhearing me, but I waited until we were alone in the kitchen before mentioning how he chose an interesting amount for his fee. “What’s left after taxes from a hundred grand should just about cover the cost of all the lost vintages that you’ve been pining for.”
“Indeed,” Julius murmured distractedly as he sliced up an apple strudel into smaller pieces.
“Yeah. You might have enough left over to dine once at Le Che Cru, but not much more than that.” I paused before adding, “I’ve been studying his mannerisms, and I’ve been unable to find his tell. How about you?”
Julius was an expert poker player, and while I could usually quickly pick up a player’s tell—those slight mannerisms that indicate when a player is bluffing or lying—Julius was better at it than me. If Lind had revealed a tell that I had missed, Julius would’ve picked it up, but Julius shook his head and murmured that he didn’t spot it either.
“So he’s either got as good a poker face as you or he’s been telling the truth,” I said.
“There are other alternatives, Archie.”
“Yeah, well, I think he’s been telling the truth. Maybe it’s because of the Cornell Woolrich novels used in building my knowledge base, but the idea that Lind could’ve blacked out and called someone to pick him up at his home and not remember anything about it, or what he might’ve done later, doesn’t sound all that far-fetched to me. I hacked into his home phone records and three calls were made after midnight the night Connogher was killed. Maybe he made those calls. Or maybe his wife did. Whichever of them it was, it’s worth checking out.”
Julius’s lips tightened into a thin grimace as I gave him the names of the three people who were called. Again, he remarked that this was all preposterous, although with less certainty than before.
“Maybe,” I said. If I had shoulders I would’ve shrugged, but since I don’t, I just imagined doing so. “But forgetting the Cornell Woolrich novels, there are plenty of case studies documenting where people have done things in an alcoholic blackout that they can’t remember later.”
“Not precise enough, Archie. These are cases where the individuals claimed to have blacked out, and further claimed that they couldn’t later remember what they had done.”
So he was going to be that way. Before I could argue further, the doorbell rang. I checked the outdoor webcam feed, saw it was Henry Zack, and told Julius this. He left the kitchen to fetch Henry. Once he’d brought the attorney back with him, he filled Henry in while he finished preparing the refreshments. Henry was sampling the strudel when Julius told him about Lind claiming to have woken up in an alley with what was presumably the murder weapon stuck in his pocket, and the attorney almost choked on the pastry.
“I know,” Julius said, after handing Henry a glass of water. “Utterly preposterous.”
Maybe I had heard Julius use the word preposterous once too many times over the last few minutes, but I couldn’t help myself from offering him a wager. “If your investigation shows Lind didn’t black out like he’s saying, then I’ll agree not to pester you for a month, even if you badly deserve it. But if it turns out that he did black out, like he’s saying, then you have to give me half the credit for solving the Jasper Quayle murder case.”
Julius rubbed the side of his nose, which was a signal that the bet was on. Of course, all I was asking for was what was right. It might’ve been Julius’s genius that uncovered Quayle’s murderer, but if it hadn’t been for a nifty trick on my part, Julius would’ve given up on the case, so as far as I was concerned, I was equally responsible for that case being solved.
Henry, still red-faced from his earlier choking, showed Julius an incredulous smile. “You certainly make life interesting with the legal matters you bring my way,” he said.
Julius finished loading up a tray with coffee and pastries, and with Henry following along, he led the way back to his office. Lind had slumped down even further in his chair, his face folded into a gloomy frown. He barely perked up when Julius offered him coffee and food.
“The strudel and linzer torte came from Glaser’s, the rest of the pastries are from Melborn’s.”
Lind nodded bleakly, but didn’t seem much in the mood for anything other than coffee. After introductions were made, Henry consulted with Lind in hushed whispers while Julius sat behind his desk with his eyes closed as if he were napping. The two men talked in low enough whispers that Julius probably couldn’t hear them, but I had little trouble picking up every word that was said and I filled Julius in on their conversation. It didn’t amount to much. First Henry tried to dissuade Lind from hiring Julius, as any competent lawyer would given Julius’s demand that he report his findings to the police, whatever they turned out to be. When Henry failed in that, he next worked out an arrangement for his own fee. After Lind and Henry came to an agreement, Henry informed Julius that they were ready to begin, and it was only then that Julius opened his eyes again.
“Against my legal advice, my client has insisted that I hire you to undertake the investigation that the two of you discussed earlier,” Henry said formally.
“And this would be under the conditions that I had outlined?”
Thomas Lind took a check from his wallet, but Julius stopped him before he wrote it out and asked instead that Lind have the money transferred directly to his bank account. Lind then got on the phone, and ten minutes later I told Julius that his bank account was now a hundred grand fatter.
“Very well, then,” Julius said to Henry. “It’s a shame that Mr. Lind waited this long to come forward. If he was drugged, any evidence of that would’ve left his system by now. You’ll arrange to have whatever is remaining of his scotch tested?”
So that was it. That’s why Julius accepted my wager. It wasn’t that he thought Lind was lying, but that he’d been drugged. I felt a jangling sensation in my neuron network as I realized that I could very well be losing this bet.
Henry was in the middle of telling Julius that he was planning to do exactly that when Lind interrupted him. “You don’t need to test anything,” he insisted, obstinately. “I wasn’t drugged.”
“You know this for a fact?” Julius asked, unconvinced.
“Yes. It wasn’t the first time I’d blacked out,” Lind said. He showed a pained face, as if he had tasted something overly bitter, and with his voice lowered to just above a whisper, he added, “It happened two other times. Once when I was in college, and once before I was about to marry my second wife. I think all three times stress was as big a factor as the alcohol.”
“Were you stressed about anything four days ago other than that Connogher was trying to remove you from your company?”
Lind shook his head.
“Humor me for the time being and assume the hypothetical scenario where the scotch was tampered with. Who outside of your wife would have had access to the bottle?”
“I’m telling you that’s not what happened.”
Henry knew Julius well enough to understand, from the way Julius began drumming the fingers on his right hand along the arm of his chair, that he was seconds from being done with both the case and Thomas Lind.
“Answer Mr. Katz’s question,” Henry snapped at Lind. At sixty-three, Henry was maybe a half-inch shorter than the five feet six inches indicated on his driver’s license, and he couldn’t have weighed more than a buck forty soaking wet, but when he flipped a switch like he did then, he could be imposing. This time Lind answered the question and told Julius that the night before Connogher’s murder he had three people over at his house, and any of them could’ve doped his scotch. When Lind gave the names of these three people I felt a tingling in my processing cycles, which I recognized from past experiences as a sensation akin to excitement. The reason for this was that these were the same three people Lind had called after midnight the night Connogher was murdered.
“Janice Martin is Lind’s Vice President of Sales,” I told Julius. “Sebastian Nygren, his Vice President of Marketing. From what I was able to find in recent business articles, Connogher was trying to force them out also. I can’t find anything about Daniel Slattersby being affiliated with Lind’s company, but seven years ago Connogher was responsible for costing Slattersby millions.”
“What was the purpose of this meeting?” Julius asked Lind.
“Andrew was trying to have the board remove Janice and Sebastian too,” Lind said. “Dan Slattersby had contacted me a few days earlier and offered his help since he’d had his own dealings with Andrew years earlier. We were meeting to strategize how to keep Andrew from screwing us over.” Lind offered a sickly smile. “We never got around to discussing killing Andrew as one of our options, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
The last was said as a joke, but it didn’t keep Julius from asking, “Why didn’t you?”
“Be serious, Katz.”
“I am. The man was trying to steal your company, had already severely financially damaged one of you, and was attempting to do the same to the rest of you. As you said earlier, you despised him, as I’m sure the other three did also. Why wasn’t murder discussed?”
Lind stared open-mouthed at Julius for three point two seconds before clamping his mouth shut. “I’m not going to dignify that question,” he said.
I knew what Julius was trying to do. Rattle Lind in the hopes of getting him to reveal his tell. If he succeeded, I didn’t spot it. In any case he didn’t pursue that line of questioning and instead moved on to Lind’s current wife, and while he did this, I filled Julius in on what I could find out about Alice Lind. At twenty-eight, she was seven years younger and several shades more blond than Lind’s second wife, whom Lind had divorced three years earlier so he could marry his newer, shinier trophy wife. Lind was adamant that Alice wouldn’t have any reason to murder Connogher, and further that they had a good relationship, and that Julius would only be wasting his time looking at his wife being involved in the outrageous scenario Julius was considering, although he was no longer using the word outrageous.
“Where was your wife that night?” Julius asked.
Lind showed another of those pained looks, like he had sipped vinegar. “She might’ve been home. I don’t know. That night I went straight to my den and the forty-year-old bottle of Macallan. The same one I broke the seal on the night before.”
Julius tried a few more lines of questioning, but if he got anywhere I couldn’t tell. Finally, he and Henry left Cambridge’s most wanted alone in the office so that they could plan out their next steps. When they were done, Henry let out a low whistle. is going to set off fireworks . . .”
# # #
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"Julius Katz and the Giftwrapped Murder" by Dave Zeltserman. Copyright © 2015 with permission of the author.
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