I spent the next day working on my other open case. I had been so involved in Natalie Taylor’s case that I had let the first one slide.
This case involved a potential insurance fraud. A lumberyard had burned down and the official fire marshal investigation couldn’t make a solid determination on the cause. They never ruled out the possibility of arson but lacked evidence confirming it. Eventually the insurance company paid the owners and decided to spend no more resources on it. About a year later, one of the three men who owned the lumberyard came to me suspecting both of his two partners. Although the insurance company had paid him his portion, he was determined to get to the truth.
So far my investigation had turned up nothing new. Both of the businessmen had moved on to separate ventures but occasionally still associated together.
I spent the day wading through records of various business transactions archived at the bank. The bank manager was very cooperative since I solved a case for him a few years back. Most of the transactions seemed legit but I made note on a few that seemed atypical. After about six hours I gave up and headed back to my office.
As I approached the steps of my building Vince waved a newspaper and called out. “Johnny, special edition.” I went over and looked at the paper he was holding. It was the same edition I had bought that morning so I bent close as if to read the print. We’d done this before.
In a quiet voice Vince said, “I think someone went up to your office ten minutes ago. Hasn’t come back.”
“My new client?” I asked softly, still looking at the paper.
“Don’t think so. No roses. No perfume of any kind.”
“Woman?” I asked.
“Not sure,” he answered. This puzzled me. Vince was always sure. He continued still speaking softly, “Johnny, this person is barefoot!”
“You could hear bare feet?”
He shook his head. “No, not when the street is busy like this. But I did hear the door. Since I heard no shoes whatsoever I figure the person must be barefoot.”
I thanked him quietly then took a paper and thanked him in a normal voice.
I then went up the steps with all my senses aware. Before I reached the third floor I heard the rattling of a doorknob. As I stepped into the hallway it was very quiet and I saw no one. I casually reached for my keys as I approached my door. As I was about only two steps away from the door I heard someone step back away from me. In a flash, I lunged.
I was hopping to grab the person but I only managed to slap some bare skin. The figure pushed me aside, seeming to become momentarily off balance in the process, then ran toward the stairs. I followed the sound of feet pounding down the wooden stairs and at the bottom noticed the door fly open by itself.
I ran out and hoped to hear the slap of bare feet on the sidewalk. As I paused a moment Vince called out one word. “East.” I ran off in that direction.
I got half a block when I came along side the Charles Street bus. It pulled out with
a far bit of noise and I lost the sound of the feet. I scanned around where I stood and tried to listen but the person was either gone or standing still nearby. Either way I couldn’t do anything about it. After a while I walked back to the front steps of my building.
I thanked Vince for his help then went upstairs. I immediately telephoned Natalie’s apartment. It took a while since the phone there was in the foyer and then the landlady went to get Natalie. I also knew it would take Natalie a while if she wasn’t fully dressed.
I glanced at my watch. Even if the person I had chased had gotten immediately in an auto she couldn’t have gotten to Green Bough in this much time.
I breathed a little easier when I heard Natalie’s voice on the line.
I told her that I wanted to update her on the case and she insisted that she come over to my office. About 40 minutes later Ã¢Â€Â“ I assume she took the bus Ã¢Â€Â“ she arrived.
When she knocked and I called for her to come in I was surprised when I saw her smiling face and blonde hair.
“Miss Taylor,” I said with surprise, “You have a head!”