O’Shay and Sampson pulled in and rounded the circular driveway of James Sr. Neely. The place looked immaculate with rose bushes hugging the front of the house, along with luscious trees that surrounded the massive estate. The father of James Neely lived in the quiet hills of Scottsdale. The large, twentieth-century brick home sat on at least an acre and held three stories. O’Shay wondered what kind of relationship the family had. This was the hard part for any police detective; having to tell people their loved ones died.
O’Shay got out of the car and stared at the grand mansion. He whistled low.
"It looks like the father is pretty well off. Come on, let’s do the dirty work." Sampson nodded and followed O’Shay to the door. He rapped hard on the deep oak finish. A soft tune of Chimes echoed throughout their surroundings.
The door opened and a man stood tall, looking proper. He wore a coal-black suit, his cerulean blue tie knotted severely at the neck. The very little hair he had was silver-streaked and as he stared at O’Shay and Sampson; deep creases etched his forehead.
"Can I help you?" The man said. O’Shay thought he was obviously the butler of the house. He didn’t look pleased to have visitors.
"Yes. My name is Detective Rick O’Shay and this is my partner, Matt Sampson." The butler raised one eyebrow. "We need to speak with Mr. Neely. It’s about his son." the butler showed them in and made them wait in the foyer. O’Shay turned his head skywards and saw a glimmering chandelier that cast star-like sparkles with large teardrop diamonds hanging down. A large portrait hung gracefully on the wall beside him. No doubt, the portrait was his family; the parents sitting in the front row with two sons in the back. The woman looked beautiful with striking blonde hair and flawless skin. She looked to be no older than her forties. The sons mimicked their father, each with sandy brown hair and ivory skin.
The butler came back in, followed by Mr. Neely. He gazed upon Sampson and O’Shay with a look of confusion.
"What can I do for you gentleman? Tanner that will be all," He said, dismissing the butler. The butler turned on his heel and stalked off, leaving them alone.
Again, O’Shay introduced the two. "Mr. Neely, we have come to talk to you about your son. I’m sorry to say he was murdered last night." The old man’s straight stance quickly softened and his eyes clouded over with sorrow.
"What happened?" He said keeping his emotions in check.
"About 11:30 last night a shot was heard inside his apartment. A fourteen-year-old said she heard one shot and a thud. She called the police. When we arrived, the door was bolted shut and the girl was visibly shaken. At first, we were told it was suicide, but it doesn’t make sense that he would bolt his own door before killing himself. Still, he was shot in the stomach at close range, so the killer had to have known him. We are now treating it as a homicide. There was a single-barrel handgun lying by his side, but no signs of forced entry and the windows were locked." The old man stared at O’Shay. The more he talked, the more Sr. James Neely got confused.
"I don’t understand. He was murdered last night, but the door was bolted shut when you got there and the windows were locked. How did the murderer escape?" O’Shay and Sampson both turned and looked at each other.
"We don’t know," Sampson blurted out. O’Shay jerked his eyes toward Sampson.
He was fuming.
He should have known better that a police detective didn’t tell people they didn’t know something. He glared at Sampson. Sampson continued, "I know this must be difficult to talk about, but we need to know if there is anyone that you might know of that is an enemy to your son. Was he married, any kids, that sort of thing?" Sampson did the asking while O’Shay searched the man’s face for any clues.
"Well, I really don’t know. I haven’t seen my son in three years. The last time we spoke was at his mother’s funeral. He was grief-stricken as we all were. He wasn’t married and had no children. He worked for a computer company, you know Bonneville Software. I can’t give you anymore information." No clues. Nothing. O’Shay knew his father would be of no help.
"Please Mr. Neely, did James have friends, colleagues, anyone he did things with, anyone who he owed money to?" O’Shay asked. He shook his head.
"He was a private man. He didn’t tell me things like that." He lowered his head. "Anyway, we weren’t very close. We only saw each other once or twice a year. He was just busy, that was his excuse most of the time." O’Shay could tell his father wanted more of a relationship with his son. Unfortunately, it was too late.
After they left the building, O’Shay grabbed Sampson by the shoulder and swung him around. "What gave you the idiotic right to say we didn't know who killed Mr. Neely?"
Sampson looked shocked. "Well, it's the truth. I was just being honest with the man." O’Shay could have popped him right then.
"Do you want all our clients to think we are ignorant, stupid detectives that don't know anything? You never tell someone you don't know. How about, 'we are working on a few suspects.' Did that ever cross your mind?" O’Shay stomped off, leaving Sampson dumbfounded.
O’Shay was lost in thought as they slowly pulled away from the driveway of James Neely Senior.
"Well, his father can’t help us. Let’s head back to the apartment building. Maybe there are more clues we’ve missed," Sampson said.
"Not just yet." It was as if he couldn't contain himself. Everything about this guy irritated O’Shay-right down to his coffee-colored suit that looked more like the seventies revolution.
I want to talk to James Neely’s boss. Maybe he has something for us." O’Shay pulled out his pad and gave Sampson the directions.
The huge towering Bonneville building was nestled high on Beacon Street in the Scottsville Valley. Tall, Palo Verde trees, with a line of equally tall Palm Trees shaded the sides of the building and the budding roses, lavender tulips and yellow daffodils stretched long and wide in the front. O’Shay and Sampson stepped out, admiring the vast surroundings.
"Nice building," Sampson said.
"Well, they’re one of the top computer companies around. They can afford to look grand." O’Shay pulled out a piece of paper. "We need to speak to Mr. Crenshaw. He was James supervisor." the two headed to the massive building. Once inside, O’Shay thought back to the beauty of Mr. McNealy’s place. This building made James Neely Senior’s look like a cracker box.
The carpet beneath him was ruby red and the walls were a soft ivory, with a green floral chair rail border. The bottom floor reeked of elegance. O’Shay liked his stuffy office, just enough space for everything. He would feel lost in a place like this. They walked to a desk; a stately woman of about fifty looked up from her computer.
"I need Mr. Crenshaw's office." He flashed her “the badge”. She quickly told him and then stared at the two all the way to the elevator.
It was just their luck that his office was on the tenth floor. Men and women walked down halls in tailored suits and fashionable attire. O’Shay wore jeans and a pullover. His charcoal black hair lay carelessly flipped to one side and his muscled frame made him look more like a bouncer. The faded scar on the left side of his check was a prominent reminder of the night Mason was murdered.
They rapped hard on the door. A man shouted for them to walk in. Inside, O’Shay saw a man, possibly in his late forties, early fifties, and his hair balding. He was sitting at his desk, a pair of glasses sat beside a mound of papers. He looked up.
"Hi, I'm Police Detective Rick O’Shay and this is my partner, Matt Sampson. We’re with the Maricopa Police Department. We need to speak with you about an employee who used to work for you, Mr. James Neely Junior." The man waited.
"Mr. Crenshaw; he was murdered last night in his apartment building. We understand he worked for you for 3 years. Any information you can give us would be helpful."
The man's eyes went wide and he slowly sat back down. "I didn't know anything happened. I guess that's why he's not here for work." He chuckled nervously. O’Shay ignored the comment.
"Mr. Crenshaw, before I look at his file, would you please tell me what you do know of Mr. Neely." Mr. Crenshaw slowly leaned back in his velvety, swivel chair and glanced up at the ceiling. Sampson had a pen ready.
"Well, he worked here for 3 years, as you well know. He was a quiet, reserved man. Came in at seven-thirty every morning and left around six. He wasn't married, had no kids. Heck, I don't even think he had a girlfriend." He hesitated then asked, "Are you sure it was murder?"
“Yeah”, we’re sure." O’Shay said. "Look, we don't have much to go on. His father said the same thing. What about other employees. What was his relationship with them?" They were grasping for anything, a clue, something that would help in this case.
"Like I said he was a quiet man. He did ok with the other employees, sometimes joked with them. I guess just a few days ago he came in looking a little tired and not quite himself."
"What do you mean, not quite himself? Did he say anything to you or anyone else?" O’Shay had to nag wherever he could.
"He came in late. I'd say around eight-thirty. He never said anything to me, except, "Sorry I'm late." Then, he went to his office. I didn't think much of it so I left him alone. Come to think of it, he was like that yesterday too, even more upset, nervous—like he would jump at any slight noise. I wish now I would have said something." O’Shay looked at Sampson. It was a start.
"Mr. Crenshaw, when did Mr. Neely leave the office yesterday?" Sampson piped in.
"Gosh, it had to have been after nine p.m. I left around that time and he was still here." I think he was making up for being late and all.”
"Was anyone else here last night with him?" O’Shay asked.
"No. I was the last one to leave." O’Shay got up and shook the man's hand.
"Thank you. You have been very helpful." O’Shay got up to leave and then said, "Here‘s my card. If you can remember anything else that would be of help to us, please call. Oh, before we leave, could we talk to one of your employees?"
"Sure. Mark Carson's office is next to his. I will let him know you would like to speak with him." Mr. Crenshaw got on the phone and a few minutes later, O’Shay and Sampson were yet in another office. At least they had something to go on. Before O’Shay could open his mouth, Mark Carson said one sentence that blew the case right out of the water.
"So, they wasted him did they?" Mark Carson said nonchalantly.
"Excuse us?" O’Shay said. "What are you talking about?" Sampson looked confused as well.
"Well, something must have happened or you wouldn't be here, right? Mark Carson leaned back in his chair the same way Mr. Crenshaw had. He looked to be in his prime, thirty-thirty-five. He looked cocky. O’Shay despised cocky people. He ran his fingers through his neatly trimmed sandy hair and smirked.
"Yes something did happen. Mr. Neely was murdered last night in his apartment. I'm curious as to why you said what you did about him getting wasted. Please explain," O’Shay said, motioning to him. He glanced at Sampson to make sure he was ready to jot down notes. Mark Carson folded his arms.
"He came in here day before yesterday acting all weird. I asked him what his problem was. He told me he had been gambling a little to pay off some debts. He looked nervous, pacing back and forth, biting his nails as he spoke to me. He said that some guys were angry with him because they thought he was cheating. I told him to blow it off. He went on saying they would kill him, but I thought that was just his paranoia taking over. Guess I was wrong." His eyes went to his desk as he started picking up papers.
"Did he act the same way yesterday?" O’Shay asked.
"Yeah, but he didn't say anything to me yesterday. He came in late and left real late last night." O’Shay wondered how much more this guy knew about the situation.
"Mr. Carson, did he mention anything to you before about gambling?" Sampson asked.
"No. We played a couple hands of poker. He's real good. He wouldn't have any reason to cheat."
"Well, we at least have a motive. Thank you for your time Mr. Carson. Here’s my card.” O’Shay said the same thing to him as he said to the boss about calling if he could recall anything else. O' Shay stood up and shook Carson's hand. It was sweaty. The two exchanged looks and then Sampson and O’Shay left.
In the car, O’Shay's thoughts kept invading his mind.
"I don't trust him," O’Shay suddenly said.
"Who, Mark Carson?" Samson asked.
"Yeah. I think there is more to the story than what he is telling us. Did you notice how nervous he was when I shook his hand? It was sweaty."
"I noticed that too. What should we do now? “Sampson asked.
"Let’s head back to James Neely's apartment. I have a strange feeling in my gut about this Mark fellow. One thing that bothers me is the fact that Mark Carson knew that James Neely stayed late. His boss said he was the last one to leave; also, the part about him cheating. I have a hard time believing that someone would threaten to kill him, but not do it when they had the chance." He tapped his fingers on the car window.
"Yeah, it doesn't make much sense." They drove in silence the rest of the way, each absorbed in their thoughts.
When they got to the apartment, the body of James Neely was gone and only yellow chalkboard outlined the body. O’Shay bent down and stared at the spot. He went further down on his knees and scanned the area. He wasn't sure what he was looking for, but he kept looking with a keen eye.
"What ya doing O’Shay?" Sampson squatted down.
"Just looking for any clues. Check the window and see where it locks. Also, check the door and see what kind of lock it has." O’Shay kept thinking about the door being bolted shut when they found him. How would the killer bolt a door from the inside and then escape? O’Shay asked the question in his mind. He felt the answer was right in front of him, ready to be grabbed, but he couldn't figure it out.
O’Shay kept going over the conversation they had with Mark Carson. Something didn't feel right. He checked under the old run-down blue couch, the speckled mauve recliner, under the bed. What was he looking for?
He came back into the living room, shaking his head.
"I can't find a damn thing and I’m starving. Let's go get something to eat and then come back. Something has got to surface. You can't have a crime without a suspect." O’Shay went to the front door. As he opened it, he noticed paint marks on the knob. He glanced down. Something caught his eye. What looked to be a few pieces of tiny white string were lying in front of the door. He picked them up, examining the pieces.
"What have we here?" O’Shay motioned Sampson to come closer. He held the string up to the light. "By George, I think we have a clue." O’Shay put up his hand and Sampson, taken by complete surprise, mimicked him and they gave each other a high-five. O’Shay was getting excited. He was still confused as to why there was string left at the door and paint marks were on the doorknob; however, they finally had something to go on.
He took the string he had and went into the kitchen in search of a plastic bag.
"We'll have forensics take a look at this. See if they know what kind of string it is." He took out his cell phone and placed a call to the forensics unit. They still were far from solving this crime, but they were one step closer.