the short story project



The Desk

It was just after my last investigation as a police Lieutenant. Twenty-eight years and most of that spent in rented hotel rooms, cheap apartments, and friends’ guest houses. At fifteen years, I decided to put aside what WOULD have made up a decnt rent, and socked it away, no matter what, every 15th of the month. Just last month, when I was casually and abruptly requested to set a retirement date. Why I blurted it ou, I’ve no clue, but recall hearing very clearly in my voice, “Should be able to get out by next month, the 15th.”

Without even looking up. could tell by the silence Captian Jamison was standing there, with his mouth open, in shock. He fiddled with his keys in his pocket, , then reached up into his jacket pocket for that damned Vix inhaler he was never without, took a deep huff, nodded, and walked on. 

“You devil, you know a shock like that could have killed the old coot outright!” Sergeant Murphy, walked in betwwen our desks, plopped down on the edge of his desk and spilled a group of files on my desk. “Lucky sot! Wish I had a month of leisure to sign paperwork and eat off a tab!”

“You didn’t complete a 2-year dirty political investigation and arrest 3 lawyers, a judge and a phony physicion, either.” I picked up the lot of papers and sifted them all into  “Pending.” I leaned back in the creaking seat. “And I just put in the money for a house that needs nothing,.. I am, as of 10 am thursday, a homeowner.”

“So where is it? Did you buy that fishing camp in Michigan?” Murph got up, walked around his desk and sat down. 

“Your old haunts, It’s that brick monstrosity of Norwich, Aenue, by the Park we used to run hookers out of, near the college.”

“We ruined a lot of freshman hopes in those days! Wonder how many wayward teenagers we corrupted into celibacy? When do you move?”

I took the key out of my pocket and tossed it on the desk. leaned back and took out my massive set of keys, and put it on the ring. Now.”

Murphy looked at his watch. It’s now 2pm and I had NO lunch, mind if I tag along, we can eat at thet dreadful place Captain Michealson opened when he retired, at least the coffee is free.” 

I waved him on and we walked out the investigations office to the parking garage, signed out my assigned patrol unit and drove the 22 minutes to the house, had forgotten was only four blocks from Michealson’s blae plate special palace.

“You really did it,” Murph said, “you bought a hideous Victorian mess with a tower, no yard to speak of, and floor to ceiling ghosts, no doubt.” 

Parked in the middle of the driveway, on purpose, for maybe the second time in my life, got out and walked to the FRONT door which would soon be MY front door!

The door creaked open with a shaking of glass, and the teel-tale rattle of a door which had been swinging longer than Teddy Roosevelt had been dead.

“Do you have to pay extra for the lived-in effects?” The entryway was narrow, contained a huge stairway, wood paneled hall, and was lined in replica wallpaper. “Unelievable, do you get a Mrs Hudson to clean up the cobwebs and show clients up to you?”

“Be spending most of my time trying to find furniture for it, and fixing broken pipes I am sure. As to continuing to do investigations, no, I am through with that headache.” 

“Awwww, no deerstalker hat, and tobacco in a shoe?”

“Bummer, I know, but there is a pool room with a 1910 Brunswick pool table,  enough bedrooms to allow kids and grandkids to sat no more than a week a year, and a basement winerack for 250 bottles, WITH a locking door.” We walked around for ten minutes and the place DID look twice as big as I recalled it, and so we wnt back to Michaelson’s and then returned to work, with at least three self-invitations to visit once i had retired.

Retirement is the worst part of any job, you can recall at least a dozen things left undone, and everyone else reminds you of the things you did too well and made them look bad. I was relieved when the last round of hanshaking and headshaking went on, it made the inital week of caulking, painting window cleaning, accidentally waking up  and getting ready for work seem fun.

Actually, it wasn’t so much the shopping for antiques that was not fun, what was not fun, was buying glue, paintbrushes, paint, clamps, and tools from people who did not know what you were looking for, because they had never repaired furniture. 

Antique stores can be a waste of time, if you go in and find half the furniture painted, just keep walking, find a good excuse, get out quickly and never go back!I went to an auction, and one of the people I recognized from my UNsuccessful furniture shopping told me that someone had a desk and chairs which had come from my house, so I took the name, and called within the week.

One of the things that was amazing about the house was the quiet, tall rooms, thick walls, heavy windows and curtains, all blocked sound well, with the exception of the very fronnt of the house, which still needed some plants, maybe trees, and more caaulking to make them more soundproof. The only thing I even THOUGHT I heard was the soft clink of pool balls from the third floor, which was above my room. This was laughed off as imagination and put down as a mental note along with noisome pipes, window-slapping treelimbs and wind blowing through the attic.

Within a month the routine was set, not repairs and odd jobs by Tuesday, cleaning Wednesday, and then the inevitable budget for a housekeeper two days a week. By my fifth week, I had Mrs. Jorgenson, who also cooked Monday and Thursday, and her son, who mowed once a week. More than two days a week were now for leisure!

After feeling remiss for a week about the furniture which was from my house, I looked up said antiquer, who also told me about the house, it was built by banker-turned Mayor, and the second owner was even more unusual, a Church Deacon who also taught at the university, in Geography and Philosophy, who had a rumored past in WWII in intelligence. The items were a desk, two chairs and a VERY old kitchen stove, which I passed on, immediately having a perfectly good stove at home, and also a part-time cook. The Desk was obviiously european, many cubbyholes, glass doors, shelves, secret panels, and seven keys, although I could only, at first, find 6 lockable drawers.

The seventh appeared in time, one had to remove the two central secret drawers, shaped like pillars, then press a lever behind the opening, and a small, round hole, big enough for this long key appeared under a flip up floor. Upon opening the drawer, it looked empty, initially, but a small, folded, dirty paper was pushed into two sides of the floor at the corners, so that you had to pry up one end to pull it free.

Upon opening the paper, it said “Billiard room, rt side  BLUE DIAMOND  THEREUNDER

Take one, add to it three, Change then, the first, for the last

Read reverse

Truthfully, for a moment, I grew excited, then rushed up to the Billiard room, checked all the marker diamonds on the side bumbers, and, sure enough, the fourth diamond was NOT ivory, but a glass blue faceted stone! I pressed it, tried to pull it, but then looked at the leg beneath it. Right there in the wood marquetry on the leg, which matched on all sided but one, there was, on that one odd panel, another blue stone, when it was pressed, the stone gave way, and the panel lifted off easily, to reveal a drawer, in the drawer was this note:




A code? For the next four days I tried all the codes I could think of, and there wasn’t enough letters to go with the most commonly occurring letters, it did not work. I was sitting there, at my desk, defeated, when Mrs. Jorgenson came in with Murphy, who looked a bit distraught. 

“Murph, you look like hell warmed over,…what is it?” I slid the note in my pocket.

“To be honest you look a bit worse for wear, yourself. I came to ask a slight favor, but if you are busy,…”

“No, of course not!” I lied, having lost much of the last three days sleep.

It’s about Michealson he’s been killed, it was murder, and we need to solve it.” Murph sat down. and started to talk.

“It’s this, we got a call Tuesday, and his wife was on the phone, half out of her head, she said that the Cap had not come in from the night before, and so they went to the reataurant  to check on him, her, her son, and his partner who is is brother, and so they find the door open, and Cap on the floor, shot. Money taken, nearly $3,400 in cash, and no one saw a thing.”

“So where was everybody, including the brother and the son?”

“Wife at home, so was son, the brother says he was an hour away, and has one witness who saw him in a cab half hour before the murder was supposed to have happened, a half hour before the death at 12am. he says he got back home at 12:30 , he lives 2 hours away, was seen near his home at 12:45. problem is the retaurant cleased early, at 10, due to a party, last staff left 10:15,  Place was half cleaned, looks like Cap did much of the work, then started to put things away at 11:40, killed at 12 Midnight. My problem is this, both the son and wife could be telling lies, a conspiracy, and if the brother got there just after the staff left, killed him, put in freezer an hour cleaned place then put out the body, it’s plausible he did it, but the burglar theory is just as plausible as any of them.” Murph looked down and said, “Frankly are all as puzzled as hell, because everybody profited, they all get a cut, and the place was not doing so hot. the recession.”

“From what I know, the wife and son gets 2/3 and his brother gets 1/3, they had kinda paid the brother off I had heard,” I looked at Murph, anything else said by them?

“”Yeah, funny thing you should ask, all the wife and son could do was complain and whine about how little time he spent at home, and how much he failed to retire, and here I am, tryi’ to drag you back in. It’s a puzzler, I’m tellin ya, but you calculate it backwords to find the actual time, it turns into a real Agatha Christie A,B, C murder.”

“From the reverse? I read it wrong,…”I ripped the paper out of my pocket. Murph looks at me like I was a madman. You take the letter and subtract 3!!!!” Within three minutes, I had both solved, and wondered why it was I was given this opportunity to find a clue from long ago.


“Murph, make sure the cab driver got the right times, and then check and see if the walk-in freezer has a recorded temperature, if it dropped about 11:30, the brother is guilty.”



answer DVNWKHRQBZKRGRHVQRWFRPSODLQ= ask the one who does not complain

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