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  Rent Control

Big Al

The small room seemed crowded. It was no bigger than a large walk-in closet. Out of the window a brilliant summer’s blue sky being accented by the New York skyline could be seen. Other than the window, the only exit was a plain
white door that matched the dimly lit plain white walls. The floor was covered in cheap sea foam green carpet that looked as if it had never been walked on. The one thing that seemed to dampen the icy cheeriness of the room was the evidence table, on it sitting the murder weapon that was brooding in its plastic bag.  Besides the bloody piano string, the other evidence included a blue thread, which seemed to be wool, a purple sequin, and a glass tainted with greasy finger prints.  In the center of the room was a plastic white rectangular table that was about five feet long and four feet wide with chairs on each side. The door opened and a young couple led by an officer entered the room.

“Just wait here please. Mr. Walker will be with you in a moment,” said the officer whose name badge read “Williams.”

“Okay, thank you sir,” the couple answered in unison.  The door shut and Williams’ footsteps faded.

“I don’t even see why we’re here! We didn’t kill the old woman!” the young woman said indignantly. She looked like she was in her mid twenties and the white gold wedding ring on her finger suggested she was married to the young man sitting next to her.  Her skin was tan and smooth, and her cheeks were so pink she looked as though she had just run a mile.  She slowly pushed her sun glasses to rest on top of her head holding back her shiny chocolate colored hair, thus exposing her olive green eyes with gold just around the pupil. Her pink, glossy lips were full and pouty as she shot a look at her husband.

“I know we didn’t do it, Rosie. I’ve heard you say it a million times! It’s just they don’t know it,” he said to her as he gazed out of the window admiring the beautiful day waiting for them. 

Jimmy Franks, Rosie’s husband, was also in his mid twenties. He was average looking with nothing special about him. His sandy blond hair was messy, hanging over his think rimmed glasses. He was contemplating what they had done that night and what their alibi would be.  Just then swift, even footsteps approached the door.

“Yes, a coffee would be fine,” said the man as he opened the door. Realizing that the Franks were also in the room, he said, “Would you like anything before we get started?  Water?  Coffee?”

“No thanks, we’re kind of in a hurry,” Jimmy answered him.

Rosie studied the man that had entered the room. “He must be Mr. Walker,” she thought. She noticed he had deep lines in his face even though he seemed to be only in his early thirties. His hair was dark and styled nicely, and his eyes were a silvery gray.  He was wearing a clean, crisp white button up and black pants. “He seems very professional…” the voice in her head was telling her.

“Rosie! The man just asked you a question. Don’t just stare at him!” Jimmy snapped.

Broken from her trance, she moved her head in one swift movement to move her hair out of her face. “Oh I’m sorry what did you say, sir?” she said.

“No, I’m sorry. I haven’t even introduced myself.  My name is Andy Walker. I’m the detective covering the case,” he told them apologetically.

“Well, my name is Rosie and this is my husband Jimmy, well James, but you know,” she answered equally apologetic. “Now what was it you asked me?”

Before he had a chance to answer, a young woman entered the room and handed him his coffee, whispered something in his ear, and then left just as quickly as she came.

“Sorry. I asked how you knew Ms. Edna Jackson,” he repeated after the secretary left.

“Well I cleaned her apartment for her as a small job while I finished up school,” she told him innocently.

“Is it true you talked about her leaving you access to the apartment after she died or possibly renting it yourself?”

“Yes that is true, but I didn’t kill her if that’s what you’re asking!” she answered obviously getting flustered.

“Calm down, babe. You’re getting too jumpy.  You have nothing to be nervous about,” Jimmy said reassuringly.

“Ah, Mr. Franks, now that you have spoken up, were you and Rosie thinking about renting her apartment after she died?  Seeing that this is the only decent apartment complex with reasonable rent I could see why…,” Mr. Walker said coolly.

“Yes, that’s true. It’s so hard to find something decent with rent control and everything...” replied Jimmy Franks.

“Okay…” he wrote something on a piece of paper and looked back up. “Now for my next question: where were you on January 25th?” Rosie and Jimmy looked at each other nervously and quickly turned their eyes to the ground. “Well?” detective Walker said expecting an answer.

“We were in---“ Jimmy started.

“Rhode Island!” Rosie finished.

“Do you have any proof or witnesses by any chance?” Walker asked. “Gas receipts would work.”

“No we threw everything away, and it was only the two of us that went. We didn’t tell anyone either,” Jimmy said regretfully.

“It’s really hot in here detective…could we take a break?” Rosie asked.

“Sure, I need to look over some things, and when you get back, both of you will need to take a polygraph.”

The couple left the room and detective Walker was alone. “They have a motive and no solid alibi…” he thought as he went through his papers.  As he did this he came across a picture of Edna Jackson that was given to him when he started the case.  She was a gentle looking old woman with lines around her mouth and on her forehead showing she had a very expressive face. Her small glasses sat on the edge of her nose as if they were ready to jump off. Her skin looked like soft, worn leather and her hair was fashioned in tight gray curls framing her round face. “How could someone kill such a sweet old woman?” He thought about the life she probably had.

As he was doing this, the Franks re-entered, startling him, causing him to jump in his seat. First he hooked Rosie up to the polygraph. He asked her basic questions like her name, age, and so forth. Then he asked her things concerning Mrs. Jackson and the day she died. He then followed the same procedure with Jimmy.

“None of this adds up!  Why are they hiding where they were the day she died? Something is out of place,” he thought to himself. “Tell me what really happened the day she died? I know you both must be lying.”

“Well we went to Ms. Jackson’s apartment to pay her a visit...” Rosie began.

“And then killed her?!” Walker yelled surprising everyone even himself.

“No!  We didn’t even knock on the door! A man had just come out, and he said she wasn’t home, so we left!” Jimmy said defensively.

“What man? Why didn’t anyone say this? Describe him.”

“Just a short, balding fat man with a southern accent carrying a bible,” Rosie told him. “He kept wiping his hands and muttering something about condemning Ms. Jackson to the fires of hell. 

“He was wearing a blue sweater too!” Jimmy said excited about finally getting somewhere with this.

“Mr. Walker? I noticed something else. The murder weapon was a piano string, but Ms. Jackson doesn’t have a piano,” Rosie said slowly thinking about what she was saying.

Suddenly Andy Walker’s mind flashed back to the crime scene. Rosie was right. She had no piano, but then something else came to him. The sequin found on the body...where could it have come from – Rosie’s purse! His mind was racing and he started running his fingers through his hair. Nothing made sense. Who killed Edna Jackson?

“Mr. Walker?” the secretary said as she re-entered the room. “A man is here...Timothy Ritter. He says he has information ‘bout the crime.  Can you see him?”

“Sure bring him in,” Andy sighed. A slightly overweight man who looked like he was in his late fifties entered the room. Beads of sweat look like small Christmas lights on his large red face.

“You have information about the crime?”

“Yes, I went to call upon Ms. Jackson a few days ago and a young couple had just left the apartment. The woman had a sparkly purse and...WAIT!  That’s it right there!” he exclaimed.

Rosie and Jimmy looked at each other thinking, “How could this happen?”

“It wasn’t us!! We saw you leave her apartment!” Jimmy yelled in frustration.

“I’m a well respected Baptist preacher!  I couldn’t have possibly killed her,” Mr. Ritter replied.

“Well,” began Mr. Walker, “I have an idea. Everyone hold out your hands.” Everyone did what Mr. Walker said, except for Mr. Ritter.  Rosie’s hands were smooth and so were Jimmy’s.

“Please hold out your hands, Mr. Ritter.”

“Oh...right. Sorry.”

As he carefully studied Mr. Ritter’s hands, he noticed something quite peculiar. There were scars just in the middle of his palms that could have been made only by holding a piano string to strangle a victim.

“Why did you do it Pastor Ritter?” Walker asked him with a confused expression on his face.

Mr. Ritter simply replied, “I wanted her apartment.”