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Julia Nielsen

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Tricks of the Trade: Part Four
By Julia Nielsen
Saturday, June 28, 2008

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Closer to the truth, closer to solving the case


Ring!  The phone blared in the silence. O’Shay, who had just climbed into bed, plucked it from the receiver. It was past midnight and he was exhausted.
"It's midnight, what do you want?" He sat on the bed listening, his eyes shut.
"Hey Rick. Uh, I mean O’Shay, sorry to bother you. I've been thinking about this case all night. I want your thoughts on something." Sampson sounded excited.
"What's on your mind?" He began taking off his shoes and rubbing the soles.
Well, the only person I know who would have gardening string is a gardener, right?" 
"Yeah…" O’Shay waited for Sampson to continue.
"The only place we have been that would have a gardener..." 
"James Neely." O’Shay finished the sentence.
"Exactly. I know it's a long shot, but suppose someone in the house, a staff member, or James Neely himself used that to bolt the door." O’Shay perked up slightly.
"That could be possible. I don't know…. Let’s go visit Mr. Neely in the morning." O’Shay couldn't see straight, let alone think about the case right now.
 "Sure. I’ll pick you up around seven." O’Shay told him that would be fine. He pulled the covers over him and lay there. Maybe Sampson wasn't all that bad. He stared at the popcorn ceiling. He couldn't sleep. For months now, it had taken him hours to fall asleep. When he finally did, nightmares of Mason's death came to haunt him. He wanted to forget about that night forever and he thought he did, when Terrance died--but now, it seemed like his dreams wouldn’t let it go.
The morning dawned with patchy sunshine and a brisk wind. O’Shay finished the last of his coffee and opened the newspaper. It was 6:30 AM. He flipped through, scanning the latest news. On the second to last page, he stopped. A large picture of a mansion in Scottsdale grabbed his attention. The words popped out at him. 
"The home of Mr. James Neely, Prominent member of the NACCP, was robbed late last night. Two masked men came in, looking for cash and jewelry. In the process, Mr. Neely was shot. It was rumored that they walked away with rings, a gold watch and $5,000 in cash. The butler of the home described the men as "frightening and out for revenge."
O’Shay almost spilled the steaming coffee. He threw the paper down and dialed the precinct.
"Yeah, we got some men over there now, talking to the butler." The sheriff said.
"What about Mr. Neely? Where is he and how badly was he shot?" O’Shay was pacing back and forth.
"He’s in University, the hospital there. Whoever it was, didn't want him dead, because they shot him in the leg." O’Shay was thinking, just enough to take him down, so they could get the goods.
"Sampson and I will be there shortly. We questioned Mr. Neely about his son's murder. This should be interesting."  Someone was after something. James Neely Junior had been in trouble and now, his father was paying, just as he had.
Sampson honked the horn fifteen minutes later. O’Shay climbed in.
"So, I'm sure you heard."
"Yeah. I was already over there earlier." O’Shay stared at him, his eyebrows furrowed.
"Why didn't you call me? As your senior partner, I needed to be there. This could be very important for our case!" 
"Sorry. I just thought I would let you sleep and then we would go." Sampson had done it again. O’Shay silently counted to ten. Keep it together… 
They arrived at Mr. Neely's place. Yellow tape cordoned off the area. O’Shay and Sampson showed their badges and were let in. The first thing O’Shay did was talk with the butler. He found him staring out the window.
"Excuse me. Do you remember us? I'm Police Detective O’Shay and this is my partner, Matt Sampson.”
The butler turned around, a cold stare bore into O’Shay.
"Yes, I remember. Look, I already told the other officers everything I know. I don't have anything to tell you." O’Shay knew he had been questioned, but this was still his case. He would do the asking now.
"I understand, Mr.-"
"My name is William Bennett," he spat at O’Shay.
"Mr. Bennett, whatever you can tell me would be very important to this case." The butler just sighed. O’Shay continued. "We found out how James Junior was killed. Does or did Mr. Neely have a gardener?" 
"Yeah, but not anymore. He left after James Junior fired him because he caught him taking money from his father's safe. James told him he wouldn't contact the police, if he never came here again. He was a foreigner, somewhere in Mexico. Anyway, he took off, but not until after he managed to steal a few more things." O’Shay listened intently.
"Did he threaten James that you know of?"
"No. Well, he spoke in Spanish. I don't know. I don't speak that language." O’Shay didn't think that was motive enough for murder. No, there was more to this story.
"Mr. Bennett, in the time he was working here, did you ever notice him outside tying plants?" O’Shay questioned. The butler looked at him, confusion in his eyes.
"Tying plants?" He scratched his chin. "Well, I noticed he had a gardener’s belt and equipment--but I never saw rope with him, if that is what you mean." 
"The reason why I asked is that at James' apartment, we found thin, green gardening string left at the door." O’Shay stopped. He had an idea.
"Mr. Bennett, when was the gardener fired?"
"Oh, couple months ago." The pieces were coming together.
"Can we take a look outside? My guess is the string might still be around the plants." The butler motioned them to follow him out back. They stepped into a gardener's paradise. Green grass spread from front to back. Rose Bushes lined one side of the house, flowers ranging from tiger lilies to petunias, surrounded a giant fountain. Two doves perched, spitting water. O’Shay glanced around and found what he was looking for. The other side was a vegetable garden. Everything looked to be blossoming. He saw bright red tomatoes, rows of peas, carrots and potatoes.
"It was too bad he was fired. He kept the grounds perfect," the butler said.
O’Shay squatted down at each row. At the very end, he noticed thin, green string wrapped around a stake of tomatoes. The same string found at James Neely's apartment.
"Here's the stuff." He held it for Sampson to see. 
Sampson nodded. "Mr. Bennett, did the burglars say anything that would lead you to believe they weren't done with their revenge rampage?"  Sampson asked.
"I couldn’t understand them. They spoke in Spanish." Bingo! O’Shay just landed on a gold mine—if only he knew where they were.


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