As Gladd got out of bed and opened the curtains, he noticed that the skies were covered by a marine layer. Since it was the weekend and Gladd was started to feel the carbs from last night’s pizza, he decided that he should get some running done. Ever though Gladd had a desk job, he figured that it doesn’t hurt to try to keep fit. You never know when you’ll be chasing a bad guy on foot. On the way back from his run, Gladd picked up a newspaper and stopped into a Starbucks. He ordered a latte with light foam, an apple danish, and found a seat. Gladd scanned the front page but did not read anything of particular interest. He then checked the obituaries (its a habit he picked up at the police academy) in the Extra section. At first, he didn’t notice it because he’s a skimmer, but then something told him to back up. There, near the bottom of the page, was the obituary for Eric Posner. Gladd got out his cell phone and called the station. After three rings, Gladd finally got through. The sergeant at the desk then connected him through to the person in charge of the investigation of Eric Posner’s death. Fortunately, Gladd was on good terms with her.
“So, Donna, what happened to Eric Posner?”
“It seems that Mr. Posner may have had a bit too much wine and fell in the swimming pool and drowned. What is your interest in this case, James?”
“Mr. Posner was an employee of William Babble of Cordtex Corporation. I’m looking into Mr. Babble’s death. I had just spoken to Mr. Posner a couple of days ago, so I’m having a bit of trouble accepting that this death was an accident.”
“Well, if you want to stop by the scene, we should be here for another two hours. Do you need the address?” “No thanks. I know where it is. I’ll see you in a bit.”
It’s not that Gladd thought that Donna Henson was an incompetent investigator; it’s just that he don’t like surprises. Especially on a Saturday morning. He headed back to the apartment, changed into jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, let Sasha out for some exercise, and ran down to his car. He was at the scene within twenty minutes. As Gladd was getting out of the car, he noticed a small group of people standing around and whispering among themselves. Fortunately, there were no media around. Gladd saw Henson who, when she noticed him, waved him over. Gladd went under the yellow tape and said:
“So who have you spoken to so far?”
“Well, it seems that the only other people on the property last night were the gardener and his wife. They live in a guest house in the back. Both of them talked to Mr. Posner last night about what belongings of Mr. Babble’s they would give to an auction house. They did have dinner together since Mrs. Jones was the late Mr. Babble’s cook. Mr. Jones said that they shared a bottle of white wine at the meal but swore that Mr. Posner was a light drinker.”
“Have you gotten to talk to any of the neighbors?”
“From what Mr. Jones said, I gather that Mr. Babble didn’t socialize much. Mr. Posner and the Joneses were so involved with getting all the details of the property worked out, that they never really talked to anyone else in the neighborhood. Not even the neighbors’ servants. If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you inside and you can question them again if you want.”
“Thanks, Donna. I appreciate that, but first, if possible, I would like to see the body.”
“Sure thing. Ned is still out back.”
Sure enough, Ned Chang was still examining the body. He looked up at the sound of their footsteps and gave Gladd a slight frown.
“I thought that you were off today?”
“Normally yes, but I saw the obituary in the paper and pulled some strings.”
“How the hell did the obituary come out already? I haven’t even determined the cause of death yet?” “Good question. I suppose that I better check with the newspaper and find out how they knew.”
“Yeah, you let me know.”
With that, the stretcher was brought back and the body was placed on it. Ned then left with the stretcher. Gladd decided then to go and talk to the Joneses. A police office led him into the dining room where the couple were sitting. The Joneses looked to be in their mid-60s and Gladd gathered that Mrs. Jones was a very good cook since they both were, not exactly obese, but “stocky”. Mrs. Jones seemed to be more in control of herself than her husband. He sat there shaking his head and rubbing his thighs. Gladd decided to start with Mr. Jones first. Before he had a chance to say anything to Mr. Jones, Mrs. Jones stood up and confronted him.
“And who, may I ask, are you?”
“I am Detective James Gladd and I am investigating the murder of Mr. William Babble.”
With that said, she became less confrontational.
“Well, what do you need to know about Erik?”
“I understand that you all had dinner together last night. May I ask you if Mr. Posner seemed nervous or distracted in any way.”
“No. We were discussing the disposition of some of the furnishings in this house. He was in a very good mood, until the phone rang.”
“Did he tell you who had called?”
“He just said that a friend had called. He didn’t wish to go into details.”
“About what time did he receive the phone call?”
“We tend to eat dinner early, so it must have been around seven o’clock.”
“Did he say anything to you later?”
“No, detective, he didn’t. He helped me take the dishes into the kitchen and we did not see him after that.” “After you had gone to bed, did you hear any unusual noises in the night?”
“No. We are very heavy sleepers.”
After questioning Mrs. Jones, Gladd went back out to the pool area and asked Ned to give him a call when he found out anything from toxicology. Ned told him that he would. Gladd then went outside, thanked Henson for allowing him access and went to his car. Gladd got on his cellphone and called the LA Times. Gladd knew a guy who wrote the obituaries for them.
“Frank Castro, how may I help you?”
“Hey, Frank, this is James Gladd.”“Oh, James, what can I do for you?”
“I was wondering if you can give me some information about an obituary that you ran in this morning’s paper.” “Sure. What was the decedent’s name?”
“Eric Ponter. Unless someone down there has become psychic, I’m curious how you found out about his death before the police did?”
“If I remember correctly, I received a phone call about half an hour before they were to send the papers to print.”
“Did the caller say who they were or how they knew about the death?”
“Well, at first I thought that it was a sick prank call. My Caller ID showed it as an ‘Unknown Caller’. Just before he hung up, however, he saidjust tell Gladd ‘Babylon’.” In fact, I was just looking up your number to relay the message. James, what the hell was that suppose to mean, “Babylon”?
“Mr. Ponter was an employee of William Babble of Cordtex Corporation. I’m in charge of the investigation into Mr. Babble’s death. I had an interview with Ponter a couple days ago and he gave me some information that was useful in the case.”
“Oh. Well, good luck with that.”
It seems that the mystery caller was at it again. All of these “clues” was starting to get on Gladd’s nerves. He needed something more substantial. What he really needed was to have a face-to-face with this mystery caller and find out why he was trying to help him in this roundabout way. Gladd either had to find a way to contact him or hope that he came out of the shadows soon. In the meantime, Gladd decided to try to relax for the rest of the day.