Chapter 12 Salt & Seagulls on Pier 54

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Victoria stepped up to the fish counter and placed her order. Deep fried oysters, chips, and a black coffee. A returning ferry was just docking at the next pier and the seagulls where circling and squawking. The wind had picked up so Victoria carried her flimsy cardboard dish to the sheltered picnic area. She sat at an isolated wooden table in the corner, doused the salty, rich oysters with malted vinegar, and watched the ferry unload.

The ferry whistle blasted and a few minutes later, Victoria watch the two plain clothes policemen approaching from the direction of the terminal. After they ordered some food, they joined her at the isolated table. Riggs had a cup of steaming clam nectar with his cod and Fisher's lunch, whatever it was, was concealed under a mass of tartar sauce.

Victoria picked up an oyster and asked, "Have you had an update from Dr. Hara?"

"Loretta Newcastle was definitely strangled," Riggs said, quietly enough that no one else could overhear them. "The marks on her neck matched the glove."

"You said it was under her body," Victoria said. "What did it look like?"

"Just a plain old gardening glove," Fisher said. "The kind that you can buy at every hardware or gardening store in town. Doc Hara says the murderer wore both gloves, but we haven't been able to find the other one." Fisher used a chip to move some tartar sauce into his mouth.

Victoria considered. "And how many men were at that party?"

Riggs counted on his fingers. "Woodrow Kent, his secretary Jerry Tannenbaum, and the musician, Bernard Rompier. There was also an old man who apparently never got off the couch and an even older couple who everyone swears was present the entire time. We're eliminating them because none of them had ever met Loretta Newcastle and none of them were strong enough to strangle her."
"So our murderer was either an outsider, her husband, or one of the three men at the party that night."

Riggs nodded. "And Elsbeth Snupter swears that Jerry Tannenbaum never left during the film."

Fisher frowned and looked at his boss. "Do you trust her?"

"For the most part," Riggs said, "but I think she's hiding something."

Fisher tapped his fingers on the weatherworn table. "What about that note that Rompier claims to have found in Jerry's Tannenbaum's pocket?" Fisher asked.

Inspector Riggs pulled out a sheet of pink paper. It had obviously been crumpled at some point. He passed it over and Fisher and Victoria leaned in to read it. The writing was elegant and smooth.

Dear J, I've been thinking things over and we need to talk. Let's find a quiet time, maybe tomorrow night we can find a chance. We'll need to very discrete. -L

"It sounds like Loretta may have been after Jerry, not the other way around," Victoria said. "What did Jerry say about this?"

"Jerry said he found the note the day before. But he insists he has no idea what it meant and that hadn't seen Loretta all day."

Fisher looked doubtful. "That doesn't seem likely."

Riggs folded the note and put it back in his pocket. "Bernard was so angry he actually threatened to kill Jerry."

"Maybe he meant to kill Jerry and Loretta," Fisher said with a grimace.

"And even though Mrs. Kent denied seeing or hearing anything unusual," Riggs said. "when she found out there was a crime, she assumed it was a gun."

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